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on Feb 12, 2014 in Gear Head Wed

GearHead Wednesday 14-07


Got a gear question you want answered? I want to help and answer it. Send your gear questions to me at Gear Questions and I’ll do my best every Wednesday to answer as many questions as I can. Keep in mind the answers are just my $.02 worth and you have to take what works for you and your photography and embrace it and ignore the rest. So here’s this weeks questions ….

Shooting in nasty weather
Help, the weather sucks, wet, cold and miserable but I want to shot. How?
I lost count how many emails have come in the last couple of weeks asking this question. I thought I would devote this GearHead Wednesday to answering this question. Now if you wanna see if I really do what I say, just check out this KelbyTraining Class on the Oregon Coast. I’ve been saying for a long time, “The worst weather can make for some of the worst weather.” And to know that, you’ll gotta get out in it and work. Here’s how I do it.


Next to personal comfort, care for gear in these harsh weather is the next big concern. I came to the mantra “The worst weather can make some of the best photos” by taking my gear out in such weather and successfully coming back with it in working order. You can do the very same thing if you remember two key concepts. First, if you can take the weather, you camera gear can. Second, never, ever wipe your gear dry. You must blot it dry! But let’s go over everything so you’re prepared for any scenario and keep shooting and shooting.

If there is one time you need to have a filter on your lens, this is it! That filters performs a number of important tasks in this kind of weather with the main one being, keeping moisture from the front element and internal elements of the lens. At the same time, the filter makes it much easier for us to wipe off moisture that will most assuredly collect on it. We have two forms of moisture to contend with, fresh and salt water (slush, snow, ice being states of moisture). Knowing this gives us a plan of attack for dealing with the moisture while in the field and back in the warmth of our room.

There is one essential tool you want to have with you at all times, tucked safely in the warmth and dryness of your jacket. The white towel is the number one tool you have to taking are of your gear out in this harsh environment. The key to making this tool work is keeping it dry! This mean you don’t drape it over your camera gear while your out shooting in the rain! In fact, I’m recommending that you don’t use any cover for your gear. Since you’re not shooting a football game where you must stay exposed in the elements for hours at a stretch, you don’t need to go to that extreme. I’m particularly recommending you don’t use a plastic bag. Here’s why.

Our cameras of today are truly portable computers, electronics making everything happen when we go click. Electronics and moisture simply don’t get along. Those plastic bag covers folks love to use are good for one application when the camera is first dry and first covered. Once you remove that plastic cover to shoot and then replace it, the moisture from the camera will be transferred to the inside of the bag which will in turn tend to force that moisture into crevices of the camera which will put it in contact with the electronics. Keep in mind, if you can handle the elements, your camera can. If it’s a downpour that makes you seek cover, take your camera with you and you will be fine.

Here’s the variable that will make or break your time shooting, wind! It’s what takes the rain and makes it go horizontal rather than vertical. Now if we were just worried about vertical rain, you could be under an umbrella or tree and be basically OK. But when the rain is going horizontal, these do really no good. In fact, I saw a photographer once with one of those umbrellas that attach to a tripod have a guest of wind take his gear for a Wizard of Oz ride until the umbrella imploded on itself (wasn’t a pretty outcome). So than, what’s the white towel all about?

_DSC1213Your gear will get wet, that’s a given but it won’t melt, it won’t short out with this very simple step. Blot your camera dry. Let the clean, dry, warm towel you have safely tucked away in your jacket wick up the moisture and you’ll have no issues. Now the front element of your lens that is protected by that filter, you can wipe it dry with the towel. There are portions of your lens barrel you can wipe dry but any part of the barrel that has switches, you need to blot them dry. The entire camera body, you need to blot it dry. And with that, you and your gear just keep clicking even in the bad weather.

The one thing I highly recommend you don’t do if you have a zoom lens that expands / contracts with zooming is NOT contract the lens if the barrel is even slightly damp! Any moisture on that portion of the lens barrel that contracts back into the barrel will be transferred inside the lens. The possible problem might occur when the lens with that moisture trapped inside gets warm again. That moisture than can turn into steam. While I’ve only seen it once in a photogs lens, it did require the lens going into the repair shop. So, take that white towel and make sure that lens barrel before contracted back in is dry.

One other side note to all of this, where do we place our gear once back to our vehicle? Yeap, most photographers place that gear back into their camera bag. If that gear is damp to wet, that moisture often transfers into the camera bag and that might not be a good thing. What do you put that gear then if you don’t put it back into the bag? If you’re done shooting, than simply wrap it in the white towel and securely set it in your vehicle. If there is even the slightest, remotest possible you might travel from location to location in this bad weather, have another, larger white towel just for transport. This might seem like a lot of fuss but keep in mind that if your camera goes down, no mo photography for you!

And if you want the best raincovers, I recommend these:
LensCoat RainCoat Standard (Black)
Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia Rain Cover 300-600 V2.0 (Black)
Nikon Lens Rain Cover (Large)
Nikon Lens Rain Cover (Medium)
AquaTech SS-200 Sport Shield Rain Cover (Gray)