Words by Dave Williams
Edited by Eryka Bagwell
"My fingers hurt, my camera glitched, but my Platyball worked perfectly – Platyball Ergo for the win with a flawless performance in the extreme cold"
I’m a travel photographer with a deep love of the cold and the northern lights. I just finished spending three months exploring deep within the arctic circle and visiting as many Nordic countries as I could. My mission was a success, albeit sometimes an uncomfortable success. Unlike many previous adventures I wasn’t limited with baggage space, so I was able to bring all of my gear with me. That gear haul included my Platyball Ergo, which I decided I would have to test in Finnish Lapland one evening when the temperature plummeted to -40˚. In fact, I can confidently say that at one point the temperature dropped even lower than -40˚, but my thermometers stopped working at that point. Fun fact, for those of you that don't know, -40˚ is the point where both Fahrenheit and Celsius are the same.
First of all, let me tell you what that extreme cold feels like. I’m comfortable in temperatures below freezing and regularly venture out in all conditions. In Norway, they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. This implies that we should always be prepared and failing to prepare sets us up to fail. I agree with this somewhat, but nothing really prepares you for -40˚!
Which brings me to my point about wearing the correct attire; it’s very important that we dress properly as photographers. As many of you may already know, being dressed incorrectly has strong negative implications on our shoots. When we’re well prepared, we shoot for longer which allows us to get different light and different compositions. If we’re too cold, too hot, too wet, or otherwise not relaxed when we’re shooting (because of failure to prepare), all we’ll want to do is leave. We’ll miss out on those extra compositions because we’ll just be thinking about how uncomfortable we are. By taking measures to ensure we've dressed correctly (waterproof clothing, shoes, warm layers or all of the above) will ensure we're more comfortable and able to withstand temperatures similar to Lapland or up in the mountains where conditions change on a dime.
Another point to consider, we also need to know our gear will work properly in extreme conditions, and I know the Platyball has been real-world tested in extreme heat but there was no extreme cold test… until now!
I had my Platyball Ergo out in the cold at -40˚ for a little over an hour and I was amazed at how it handled it with no side effects. I was using a Nikon Z 6 mounted on the Ergo to shoot stills and time-lapse. I’m used to camera batteries draining fast in the cold, but a full battery was lasting 20-25 minutes and on top of that, the screen on the camera was glitching and lagging. Every time I accessed the menu features I could still see the viewfinder preview image on the screen and it took a couple of seconds for the screen to react after pressing any button. Cameras and other electronics really don’t like the cold! Our non-electrical hardware also doesn’t often do well in such cold conditions, either. Metal parts can seem welded together, lubricants can freeze or gel, and if we aren’t wearing gloves we can even get our hands stuck to things! To my surprise, my Ergo was doing just fine. The strange thing about it is that at first I didn’t even notice it was doing fine – it was only after thinking about it. I had pressed all the buttons and twisted all the grips on it to reposition my camera several times and only after thinking about how my camera was struggling did I realize that the Ergo was performing without any issues.
This made me think... there’s a little saying floating around that you don’t notice the things that are right, only the things that are wrong. If something does its job well, we shouldn’t notice it. Well, the Platyball Ergo performed perfectly when I needed it most!