Tips on how to protect your precious photographic gear

May 11, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

General Camera Gear Protection.

On a safari trip there may be a host of difficult conditions that can damage your gear from rain, to damp forest, to sand and dust, to rivers and water in the vehicles and bumpy rides! Here are some tips from what I have learnt in my time on safari:

  • Have a UV filter on your expensive lenses to protect the lens glass, and use your lens hoods and lens caps!
  • If you are spending a lot of time on safari game viewing be aware that a lot of your time will be spent bouncing around in vehicles and clambering in and out of said vehicles and maybe even boats! This can lead to bumps and scratches to your camera and lens. It can be a good idea to utilize protection if you have expensive gear you have invested in. To do this use a good padded camera bag that looks compact, doesn’t weigh too much bit fits heaps and will protect your gear during rough rides. In addition, you can get great neoprene covers that also protect against knocks etc and safeguard what can be a significant investment. See LensCoat as an example (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1111065-REG/lenscoat_lc1004002m4_lens_cover_for_canon.html) . They even come in camouflage, this can help these often large and flashy lenses (especially the white Canon L series lenses) to blend in a little better and, depending on what you like, you might find kind of cool! These will give protection to expensive gear from knocks and scratches and will help somewhat with weather and dust protection also.
  • In addition to the regular  a cleaning kit including a rocket blower (this is a really useful item as you can blast dust and sand off lens glasss before using a lens cleaning cloth. If you don’t you may just be rubbing the dust or sand into the lens and scratching the glass.
  • Avoid changing lenses if at all possible especially in dusty, sandy or wet conditions. If you do have to change the lens, turn the camera off (as the static when it is on attracts dust to the sensor) and point camera down (as long as there is no wind) when changing.
  • Keep your camera bag and dust bags clean or there is no point putting a clean camera/lens in them!
  • Be aware than sometimes during deep river crossings water will enter the vehicle so keep your camera bag up off the vehicle floor when crossing deep water!

Specific situations requiring gear protection

Dust – if you go during the dry season and are concentrating on wildlife photography, chances are you’ll be spending most of your time driving around very dusty environments in an open vehicle. Aside from giving you a fake tan that washes off with your next shower this can play havoc with your gear. The dust is fine and gets everywhere – on your lenses, all over your camera, in every nook and cranny of your expensive gear, not to mention into your camera bag and onto your monopod tripod etc. When it gets onto the moving parts of your zoom lens or tripod/monopod the risk is that as you move the zoom of the lens or the legs of your tripod in and out the dust gets inside, never to leave!

Try to protect the camera from dust when at all possible when using the camera but especially while driving around.

Options for dust protection

  • A bag that you can put your camera/lens combo into while you are not using it. These can be bought or made but need to be dust proof so have a plastic or similar lining that will keep dust out (lots of rain covers would suit this purpose perfectly and therefore would serve multiple purposes).

One ready made example is the LensCoat Rain Coat for DSLR and Telephoto Lens set ups:

eg http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1118211-REG/lenscoat_lcrc2sap_raincoat_2_pro.html

  • You should also have something to cover the end of the lens. Again you can buy something, make something or, as a cheap alternative (wont last long but does the job), you can use a shower cap!

One ready-made example is the LensCoat Rain Coat rain cap for DSLR and Telephoto Lens set ups:

eg http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/995774-REG/lenscoat_lcrksm4_lenscoat_raincap_small_realtree.html/prm/alsVwDtl  

Rain Protection

I have learnt by personal experience never to assume it will not rain! Even in the dry season when it pretty much never rains…..it can! The lesson I have learnt – ALWAYS bring some kind of rain protection for your camera gear even if you don’t think it will rain!

Options for Rain Protection

  • The ideal is a ready-made and serious covers such as those discussed above for dust protection eg the Lens Coat Rain Coat. This is best if you know that you will be photographing in wet conditions and this justifies the expense and weight of the purpose made covers.
  • Again something can be purpose made if you or someone you know is handy with a sewing machine!
  • At a pinch you can use a plastic bag. You make a hole in the end away from the handles and fasten the plastic hole your have made around the lens hood with a rubber band. The open part where the handles are then allows you access to the view finer, controls etc but can be tied off when you are not using the camera. This may not work as well as the purpose made rain covers but can be a life-saver. Make sure the bags are sturdy as there is no point if they easily get a hole in them and let the water in! I always keep a couple of large and sturdy plastic pages and rubber bands to seal the end of the bag in my camera bag (big enough to cover the camera and lens combos I am using and one for the bag). A shower cap will function well as a cover for your lens which you can easily take on and off. These are light and cheap options that are readily available and you can take along even if it is unlikely that you will need them.

Serious water and sand protection

It is ideal to take a couple of dry bags if you are planning on taking your gear in boats or very sandy places like the sand dunes in Namibia – these will protect your gear the best if the worst happens!

I hope this brief look at gear protection is helpful to you, it took me much time and trial and error to learn these tips!


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