The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Protecting Your Camera at the Beach

Again -- I am looking at the blog posts that get the most hits from Googling.  One that is getting a lot of action these days is the post about protecting your camera.  Here is the link to that post.  This post was mainly about colder weather and wet weather.  This time of year many people are heading to the beaches and really need to worry about heat, water, and the real problem; sand.

So what about the Hurricane Hood that I bought for the camera?  It is OK.  I used it once.  I find it clumsy and hard to deal with -- but it does protect your camera.  I suppose if you had to be out in the rain or other bad weather situation -- it would be worth dealing with the hassle of it.   What if you don't want to hassle with this but you do want to have your camera at the beach?  Here are some things to think about to keep your camera safe.
  1. Never expose the interior of the camera while on the beach.  Don't change lenses on the beach.  Choose the lens you wish to use for the time you will be there and keep that lens on while you are anywhere near the sand, wind, sea spray, etc. Don't change memory cards while at the beach.  I don't care what anyone says -- a breezy day at the beach -- your camera does not need to be opened for anything.  If you need to do something like this -- head to your hotel room, inside a restaurant, or car.
  2. Keep your camera safe from the heat and direct sun for prolonged periods of time.  Use a small personal sized cooler to help with this.  Keep the camera and anything the camera is in shaded as much as possible.
  3. Keep a filter on your lens.  I will let you know that I have one circular polarizer that went to the beach with me on a windy day -- it still makes a nice grinding sound when I turn it from small grains of sand that got into it.  
  4. Be careful of sand sticking to the camera body.  This may happen if you have sunscreen on your hands, if the sand is damp, or just from your body oil.  
  5. When you return to an indoor location, brush the outside of the camera thoroughly with a small brush and use a bulb blower before you open the camera or take off the lens.  If you have a zoom lens, be sure you have cleaned it completely -- especially if you had been zooming with it.
  6. Keep micro fiber cloths on hand to help clean the outside of the camera and lens.  These are excellent since they are so good for cleaning things without any cleaning liquid.  When you wash them remember to leave out the fabric softener.
  7. Never throw away the silca gel packs that come in products you buy.  I got a new camera bag the other day and one was already in it!  I put these into my camera bag and would also put one in a ziploc bag with my camera.
  8. Speaking of ziploc bags -- keep them handy.  When we go to amusement parks and have to ride the water rides -- I pop my camera into the bag and put it in my tote to keep it safe while getting soaked on the ride. When you step outside into the heat and humidity from an airconditioned hotel, home, or car -- your camera will collect condensation.  To combat this, wrap the camera tightly in a ziploc bag.  Squeeze out as much of the air as possible. When you go out of the a/c, keep the camera in the bag until it comes up to the temperature outside.
  9. If you live near the water or spend a lot of time near it -- you should consider purchasing a plastic housing for your camera that is watertight.  Maybe you still would not want this for your big DSLR -- how about a smaller digital and the housing for it for those times when your are at, near, or on the water?
Be aware that many of those camera warranties can be voided if the repair service finds any evidence of sand in the camera.

Don't be afraid to get the camera a little dirty -- use it and enjoy it -- but also take care of it.  I brush and wipe down my camera on a regular basis.  I use an artist's brush to get into the tight spots all over the camera.  A lot of the above advice is also appropriate when you are dealing with those days when the pollen count is high.  Pollen can be worse than dust since it is sticky and will adhere to the camera (and your sensor).



Eugene said...

Great informative post. One time I switched CF cards in my Rebel XT during a breezy afternoon at the beach, and I know from experience that sand will get in there, even if opened for just a few seconds.

In general, I tell everyone that is going to the beach and doesn't want to see any degradation to their equipment: leave the camera equipment home. Even without opening up the CF slot, changing lens, etc., the nature of the salty air and the sand blowing around *will* cause (minor) degradation to the camera gear. For me, it's a risk I am willing to take, however.

Donna Rosser said...

Hi Eugene --

Yes it is true, if you want to keep your camera clean and pristine -- leave it home. There is nothing sadder than a camera that looks like it has never been used.

Get out there and use those cameras -- but do so wisely.

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