Harbin Ice Festival
On the day that I am writing this, much of Canada and the USA is in the middle of a deep freeze. Every year, it seems to get colder and more winter storms take place – all over the world. But in some places, the cold weather and low temperatures are an opportunity to celebrate the wonder that is winter. Harbin, in China’s northern Heilongjiang province is one of those places.
The annual festival started in 1963, but took some time off during the Cultural Revolution. It resumed in 1985, and has been growing ever since. Initially, participants were all from China, but now it boasts an international reputation, and attracts sculptors from all over the world. Believe it or not, the teams from Thailand have won the snow sculpting competition every year for the last 8 years.
Can you really take photos?
As a photographer, there were some pretty significant challenges to work around. It’s understandable that if the temperature is too cold for humans, it’s also likely too cold for camera equipment. And indeed it was.
Cameras are capable of working in very cold temperatures, but the batteries are not. We had to keep a spare battery in an inside pocket close to our body, so it would stay warm. And every once in a while, we’d have to switch out the cold, exhausted battery, with a warm one to give the camera some more life.
The other problem was condensation on the lenses. Whenever we took refuge in the warming huts, the lenses could fog up, due to the dramatic change in the temperature. So to combat that problem, we would put our cameras into large plastic zip-lock bags before we entered the warming hut. That way, the same cold air as the outside would surround the cameras, while inside the bag. Once we were back outside, we could remove them from the bag, and it would be still cold, and ready to work.
Given a chance, I’d love to return to the festival. Despite the low temperatures, it was completely worth it. If you ever have an opportunity to be in northern China in January or February, you should really check it out. Maybe you’ll see me there.
If you’re interested the Harbin Ice Festival, check out Private Photo Tours for some personalized photography experiences.