In our post with tips on taking digital images at the beach I mentioned that taking photographs at the beach is not only a place of wonderful opportunity but one of challenges.
One of the major challenges of a place that has lots of sand, salt and often wind is keeping your digital camera protected from the elements.
Following are a few tips on how to care for your digital camera in the extreme conditions that a beach can throw at it.
Protective Filters – If you’re using a DSLR use a UV filter – in addition to the optical benefits it might offer a UV filter (or any other type in actual fact) offers another layer of protection to your lens both in terms of sand, grit and salt but also if it’s bumped or scratched. I’d much rather scratch a $50 filter than a $1000 lens!
Protect your Digital Camera’s Insides – Changing Lenses, batteries or memory cards should be done with incredible care. Try to keep the times that you open your camera up in any of these ways to a minimum while on the beach and if you have to do so make sure you’re well away from the water and if possible away from others in a sheltered place where sand will not find it’s way into the innards of your camera.
Clean Your Hands – After swimming try to rinse your hands in fresh water – salt from the ocean isn’t a good thing to introduce your camera to.
Clean Your Camera – After you day at the beach carefully clean your camera. At a minimum give it a good wipe down with a soft cloth (I use a micro fiber one which means I don’t need any cleaning fluid) to wipe any residue from the day and to get rid of any salt, sand, dust etc. It is probably worth investing in a camera cleaning kit for this purpose to utilize the different tools they give you (soft brushes, compressed air etc). Be very very careful in cleaning your cameras to use quality cleaning products because you can end up making them worse by spreading dirt around – especially when you do any cleaning on the inside. Be especially wary of anything that blows air – while this can get dirt out it can also blow it in!
Camera Bag – Obviously one of the main things to think about is how you’ll cary and store your camera when it’s not in use. On the one hand you want it to be secure and leaving it in a car might not be a wise move (partly for the security but also for the high temperatures in cars on hot days) but on the other hand you don’t want you camera sitting out on a beach all day, even in a bag, as sand tends to get into everything. Ideally a camera bag that allows you to seal your camera in will be ideal. Zip lock bags can also be useful for storing some of your gear (batteries, memory cards, filters etc). My motto for packing a camera bag when heading for the beach is to ‘pack light pack right’. Choosing to take a few useful items and leaving the rest at home can really save you problems later on.
Battling Condensation – My last trip to the tropical northern parts of Australia where it was incredibly humid presented me with the problem of condensation. The majority of the time my camera was in the air-conditioned, cool and dry confines of our hotel room (where it was inside it’s bag – even cooler) but this meant that when I took it outside to shoot that the lens and view finder immediately fogged up. It’s very difficult to combat this – although I found that the best strategy was simply to let the camera acclimatize before shooting. Some people suggest putting it in a sealed plastic bag when moving between temperatures – this might work well but is not particularly practical in many situations, especially when you have a large camera. Ideally you want to warm your camera up naturally and slowly – taking it out of it’s bag and allowing it to naturally warm up tended to fix the issue most times while I was away. I also travelled with a soft cloth which I used once the condensation had mainly gone to clean any marks it had left and to remove any last moisture that remained. One strategy that I have seen friends use is to use when visiting humid places where their camera can be exposed to condensation is to use little silica gel packs in their camera bags. These little packs absorb any moisture in your camera bag.
Set aside time for Photography and Fun – One last tip that I often do these days when I’m on holiday, especially to places like the beach where there is always the worry of camera damage. Often in these situations I take special visits to the beach just for taking photos and keep the ‘fun trips’ with family separate (and quite often leave my main camera at home). This way I have defined periods for photography where I can keep track of my gear and make sure it’s ok and then can truly relax when I head to the beach for fun. Of course when I go to the beach for fun I take my point and shoot with me for those fun shots – but I leave my more expensive gear at home where I know it won’t be damaged. I find this also means less frustration for those around me who can get sick of me always off taking photos when they want to relax with me.