Tech Tuesday: A Day at the Beach

9 Aug

Summertime means beachy weddings, portraits and if you’re lucky, a sunny vacation too. Along with the cool ocean breeze, however, comes humidity, sand and other hazards that can wreak havoc on your gear. Here’s some tips to be smart, safe and prepared for your next seaside jaunt:

Be Minimalist

If you have to change lenses, batteries or memory cards on the beach, do so with extreme caution and as few times as possible to prevent dust, salt or debris from getting into your gear.

Shoot Smart

– Keep as far away as possible from water (to avoid splashing) and be mindful of people around you who could accidentally kick-up sand or water in your direction.

– Shorten your camera straps(s); if you shoot with two bodies and kneel down to take a shot, you don’t want your second body grazing, or dipping, into the sand.

– Be aware of your terrain (dunes, dips, etc.) and be careful of flip-flops which can kick sand up, and possibly into, your gear.

– When not in use, keep your camera out of direct sunlight.

– Avoid placing your bag on the ground and don’t leave it open. In the past when I couldn’t hold my bag (for example while lying in the sand or shooting in the water) I asked someone out of frame to hold it, or placed the bag, in its rain cover, on the center of a large reflecting panel to keep the sand as far away as possible.

Keep It Clean

– If you get your hands wet in the ocean, rinse them with fresh water and dry well to prevent salt from getting onto, or into your camera.

– Applying sunscreen and insect repellent will likely be a necessity. Afterwards be sure to clean your hands well to protect your camera from oil and chemicals. Keep a travel-size pack of baby wipes in your bag as back-up.

Helpful Gear & Accessories

– Carry a camera bag that keeps your gear easily accessible and comes with a rain cover for extra protection when the wind kicks up.

– UV filters are a no-brainer for some, although I’ve actually had a camera store rep (who will remain nameless) tell me that they’re a waste. From an image quality standpoint, they absorb ultraviolet rays from the sun to help your photos come out looking clearer and more natural. True, you don’t need them, but when you’re battling sand, grit and air-borne salt, $40 for a filter beats hundreds for a new lens.

– Rain covers, like Kata’s Elements Cover, are ideal for a windy beach, steady downpour or heavy snow.

– Cases or skins, like those made by Camera Armor, are “rugged, lightweight skins, molded from specially-engineered silicone that fit your camera like a glove [and] help protect…from everyday bumps, abrasion, dust and fingerprints. [They] allow full access to all controls, compartments and ports.” Covers are available for Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony dSLRs (as well as lenses, battery grips and more).

Underwater dSLR Camera Housings are quite obviously, for submersion, and require an investment of a few thousand dollars. If you’re planning an underwater session (or want some cool partially-submerged shots) this is great addition to your kit.

Other Things to Bring

– A cleaning kit for post-beach shooting, which includes microfiber cloth, dust blower and soft brushes to help get rid of all the exterior sand and debris – and prevent it from getting inside. Take the time to clean your gear thoroughly before opening compartments or removing the lens. And beware the spray can of air, which accoring the Gadgetwise is “a little too forceful” and “could cause sand and dirt to scratch the camera’s lens… [as well as] blow sand particles further inside the camera through seams, dials, buttons, [the] LCD screen or other places where parts are joined together.”

– Toss a few Silica Gel Packs (you know – like the ones in shoes boxes) into your bag to prevent moisture from building up.

– Quart- and gallon-size freezer grade plastic bags are great to store lenses and bodies, protecting from dust/sand/water. They can be used to avoid condensation build-up in your camera (more on that a bit later). I’m a big fan of this style of Hefty bags which have a zip-lock top that’s quick and secure, for me extra peace of mind and less fiddling. I always keep a few of each size in my bag just in case. And this leads me to the very last tip…

Beware Condensation

Condensation is when water forms “on surfaces that are significantly colder or warmer than the air surrounding it.” So, if you change between a very cold, air conditioned environment, to a hot and humid one (or vide versa), there’s a danger that moisture will cause condensation to form inside of your camera. It’s apparent through your viewfinder since your lens fogs, and your images likewise are foggy and unclear. But more importantly, this can affect or damage your camera’s sensor and electronic functions. It’s scary – and can be avoided.

In a perfect world, you’ll want to take the time to warm your camera up naturally and slowly. Here’s how:

1. Place the camera and attached lens inside a gallon-size freezer bag, removing as much air as possible, and seal tightly.
2. Transition from cold to warm (or warm to cold) in as many stages as possible.
3. Condensation will form on the bag’s exterior (instead of the camera) as the air and camera gradually equalize to the new environment. Wait until the camera feels temperate, and be sure to wipe-off moisture on the bag’s exterior, before removing.

There you have it. Tips, gear and random extras to arm you against whatever the beach throws your way. If you have additional ideas please leave a comment. Happy Summer Shooting!

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