Saturday, 16 March 2013

Protecting Your Camera in Harsh Desert Conditions

2014 is the "Year of the Greatest Deserts in the World" for me! I hope you consider joining Jim Zuckerman, Deborah Sandidge and Denise Ippolito when they join me on one of my workshops to three of the worlds greatest deserts in Africa and Asia... the Gobi, the Namib and the Sahara!!!
photo courtesy of namibia safaris

When you are in harsh conditions like the desert you will quickly realize that there is always some kind of suspended material in the prevailing winds. The sand and dust will quickly get onto your lenses and effect your final images... so how do cope with these conditions?

At a minimum you need a good UV filter. A good UV filter can run you as little as $20. I would much rather replace a UV filter than replace the front of a lens... When dust and grit get on the filter, a blower will clear the particles away from the lens. I would not use a cloth... it will scratch the filters.
But the best tip I have read is probably also something we wouldn't normally think about... and that is an underwater housing... Since you’re essentially waterproofing your camera equipment, you can be sure that fine grit, dust and sand won’t be able to get to your precious gear, either. I will say, "It is definitely not as user friendly to use an underwater housing on land but you will have the ability to walk into some pretty harsh weather and get some shots that few others would ever attempt to capture."

As for changing memory cards, batteries or lenses... it is a MUST that you want to do this in a well protected area. You wouldn’t believe the amount of damage a few grains of sand can do to your camera.

When I will be traveling to Namib desert in Namibia, the Gobi desert in Mongolia and the Sahara desert in Morocco I will be bringing two camera bodies, a different lens on each body. One camera will have a wider angle telephoto and the other will have a longer focal length like a 50-200 or 120-300. I will also bring a battery grip to extend the battery life and minimize the need to change batteries. In regards to memory... I will be putting in a 16gig or 32gig card in each camera... all this designed to minimize exposing my cameras to the harsh conditions.

But sand and dust are not the only issues in a desert workshop. The heat and bright sun are also a consideration. When shooting in any hot and sunny situation you should always cover your camera with a blanket when not using it. Or better yet, put it in the shade and cover it. The blanket will help eliminate sand and dust, plus keep the camera cool... and putting it away in your camera bag, or in the shade will also minimize heat stress on the DSLR and lens.

Despite some harsh conditions, a desert photo shoot or workshop can be a very rewarding experience. The images can be stunning, You just have to take more care of your gear in the environment.

Check out these desert workshops that the Photographer's Lounge has planned.