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Camera Care on the Road

Among travel photographers such as myself, camera maintenance falls into two categories, daily and location specific prep. Daily maintenance during a shoot is the usual: battery check, blow or brush dust off the sensor, wipe down the body to keep it clean, clean the lenses and filters etc. I perform these chores each day, no matter what the conditions.

Specific environmental conditions will also dictate how I handle my equipment. If I am working in a humid, tropical area like the Yucatan Peninsula, photographing Mayan Ruins, I take heavy plastic bags and silica gel canisters. Moisture building up around circuits is a fast way to short out the camera’s electronics and humidity inside a lens can cause the elements to fog. Over time, moisture will allow fungus to grow inside the lens as well.

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© 2007 Chuck Place

Each night, all my camera bodies and lenses go into a tightly sealed bag with a silica canister. Silica gel has an affinity for moisture and will absorb much of the moisture in the bag. These canisters are now built with an attached electrical plug. Each morning I merely plug the canister into a wall socket and a built-in heating element cooks off the absorbed moisture, drying the silica for the next night’s use.

The second environmental condition with which I am very careful is condensation. This creates the same camera and lens problems as humidity, but is a very sudden phenomenon that needs to be anticipated by the photographer.

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© 2007 Chuck Place

Condensation occurs when a cold surface comes into contact with humid air. Stepping out of an air conditioned room into a warm, muggy morning will always cause condensation to form on a camera and lens and, depending on the quality of the seals, even inside the equipment. I try to use air conditioning as little as possible, get out of the room a good hour before sunrise and leave my camera in the bag for the first 30 minutes. This gives my gear time to warm to air temperature, avoiding the problem.

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© 2007 Chuck Place

The same problem can occur if you are stepping into a warm building on a cold winter day, maybe after photographing ice skaters. Your gear is cold from being outside all day and when you pull out the camera to download images, the relatively high moisture of a warm room will condense on the cold equipment.  I merely leave my camera gear in the bag for an hour or two to let it warm up. In both cases, the cure is simple, but the photographer must anticipate the problem. Cleaning your gear after condensation forms can be a time consuming, and occasionally, expensive process.

 

Lumix Camera Care

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