Photographing in a Polar Vortex

The recent “Polar Vortex” phenomenon in the media, which covered half of the United States, reminded me of taking photos in similar occurrences in other places on earth… as you go to extreme high altitude.  This time was on Cotopaxi in Ecuador, a 17,000 ft. giant volcano.

Thinking the media created yet another dazzling weather term – I looked it up, the phenomenon is real, repeatable occurrences were observed and first recorded in 1856.  It is basically… really f-ing cold.


Taking photos in extreme climate create real challenges, below zero degrees (F).  Creativity diminishes as the temperature drops, toes and fingers… numb – minimize brain connectivity, condensation on the camera ices instantly, and battery life fades fast.  You fumble, scratch ice off the lens, take a shot, and hope at least one image turns out.

These images are from one of the last roles of 35mm Kodachrome 64 film I shot.  So the elements of keeping film from cracking and breaking from the cold was a concern.  Not so in the digital age.




About mikebeiser

"A freelance photographer with a photojournalistic style" I especially enjoy photographing people and the experiences we share with others.  I started my photographic training not behind the lens but in my high school darkroom. By the time I picked up my first quality camera I knew what made a superior image. This early experience gave me an interesting perspective on finished images. ​ Classically trained in film and darkroom work, I enrolled in several classes and workshops during my early years in college. Later I returned to Washington State University and studied cinematography and video production.  As an Outdoor Educator at the University of Idaho, teaching climbing, mountaineering, white water sports, winter sports, and organizing expeditions around the world, I have always documented these experiences on film and video. Documenting climbing expeditions on the highest mountains and paddling in the deepest canyons on earth - in the harshest conditions - has given me the photographic confidence I can get almost any shot and do it well.  My images have been published in magazines, books, used in marketing and advertising, as web content, and have illustrated many multi- media presentations. I have also enjoyed instructing outdoor photography workshops for many years.  ​The photographic medium still and motion, is the most powerful form of communication in the world, If done well and with purpose. Like a good musician, I try to practice taking images every day and this allows me to see the world a little different.
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