Tom Guilmette and his Zylight F8 after a night on Mt. Washington.
BOSTON—Locals call it “The Rock Pile,” but
the rest of the world knows it as Mt. Washington,
N.H., and home to the world’s worst
weather. There’s a good reason for this—in
1934, the Mt. Washington Observatory recorded
the highest wind speed on earth observed
by a human being at 231 miles per
hour. The mountain is 6,288 feet above sea
level and gets some really insane weather.
This past December I was embedded
with a team of observers and meteorologists
atop Mt. Washington, shooting an extreme
weather documentary at the summit’s observatory.
The work that the people do here
feeds information into weather models that
create accurate forecasts for everyone.
I could hear the wind howling outside
the rebar in the walls of our steel-reinforced
concrete bunker popping. The temperature
was −17 degrees F, and with 75 mph sustained
winds; the wind chill was −61.
One of my goals was to capture the
elusive formation of rime ice in time-lapse
footage at night. Rime ice forms in frozen
fog at high altitudes in heavy winds. Under
ideal conditions, supercooled water droplets
in fog freeze on impact and delicate ice
feather formations grow into the wind on
SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR THE GEAR
To accomplish this assignment, I designed
weather-tight camera enclosures and
came up with a way to heat the embedded
glass lens opening to prevent fogging or icing.
This heater also kept the camera warm.
I used large deep-cycle marine batteries,
and placed these batteries in insulated containers
along with power inverters.
I knew that HMI and tungsten fixtures
would draw too much power, and I had my
doubts about using them in extreme conditions
anyway and decided to call one of
my colleagues, Jeff Hamel, for advice. He has
lots of experience as a lighting director and
gaffer, and is also very familiar with lighting
products. Jeff reinforced my decision to use
LED lighting for this mountaintop shoot. He
especifically recommended the new Zylight
F8 flat LED Fresnel fixture. This compact instrument
is very bright and has a low current
draw. It’s also rated for rugged outdoor
use. I already owned a Zylight Z90 and was
familiar with the quality of the company’s
products. Jeff arranged to provide me with
a pre-release version of the F8.
I needed every part of the system to
work perfectly to get the time-lapse footage.
The camera could function just as it
was supposed to, but if the light flickered
or died in the middle of the night the video
would be dark and unusable.
We finally called it a night and I retired a
little nervously. However on arising
the next day, I found that all of the
gear was working fine.
The camera stayed warm and
the Zylight F8 was still burning
brightly, even though it was caked
I checked my recording and
found that I had nailed the timelapse.
That illusive shot—never before
seen—showed rime ice forming
in thick fog, and the nice thing
was that I captured it on the very
first night I was on the mountain.
Tom Guilmette is a veteran Boston-
based television camera operator
and DP. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
For additional information, contact
Zylight at 978-244-0011 or visit www.zylight.com.