Locations; Rust And Swollen Film; Avoiding Destruction In The Rain Forest Page 2
Film also needs protection. When subjected to humidity, film swells, creating spots, haze, or worse, jamming the camera to the point where it will not function. I spent an unpleasant evening in the jungle trying desperately to remove a jammed roll from the camera. After nearly breaking the rewind mechanism, I carried the camera far out into the dark forest and turned off my headlamp. There in the cave-like darkness of the Amazon, I opened the back of the camera, gripped the swollen film in my sweaty fingers and yanked it from the camera. The camera survived for the rest of the trip, but despite taking precautions to keep it in the dark, the film was destroyed. The lesson? Always store film in its canister and avoid leaving any one roll in the camera for long periods. Unlike our more durable equipment, even small exposure to moisture will permanently destroy film, so protect it.
I spend most of the year in Alaska; when I return indoors after shooting on a cold winter day, the camera instantly fogs as condensation forms on the cold equipment. Condensation, like all other moisture, is a hazard to our gear. Though you will never encounter subzero temperatures in the rain forest, you may have to deal with air conditioning. If you are staying in an air-conditioned hotel and step immediately out into tropical heat and humidity the same condensation effect can occur. Placing your camera and lenses into Zip Loc bags until they warm to the ambient temperature will solve the problem. Remember to get outside well in advance of the shooting light to give your cameras time to warm up, or you may spend more time de-fogging lenses than making images.
What if the worst happens? Despite your care, a lens gets internally fogged, or a camera takes a plunge into the river, what then? Don't panic, not all is lost. A fogged lens may only require a few hours in the sun or a few days in a desiccant-equipped Pelican case. A drenched camera on the other hand needs extreme measures.
Immediately remove any batteries from the equipment, open up all the hatches
and covers and remove lenses from cameras. Find a dry, clean place; a case with
desiccant, or a sunny spot, and let the equipment dry out completely before
replacing the batteries. With a little luck, and a quick response, your equipment
can survive, but should be sent in for cleaning and repair as soon as you get
home. Remember, never, ever, let batteries remain in a soaked piece of equipment,
it is sure to short out all the electronics and wreck the item. Old-fashioned
manual cameras are a great defense against these eventualities; if they get
soaked they will often work just fine after they dry out. And without electronics,
are much less vulnerable to humidity damage. If you are a film shooter, or use
a film camera for a backup, a good old manual SLR is just the thing to carry.
Rain forests across the planet are steadily being cleared to make way for development, and the unique plants and animals that dwell within are disappearing with the trees. We, as photographers, have the opportunity to share the wonders of tropical forests with the public. Through our images, people who will never see a rain forest themselves can be persuaded to care. This opportunity, beyond the protection of our equipment, should serve as incentive to bring our images back intact.
David Shaw is a wildlife biologist and free-lance writer/photographer. When he is not wandering through the rain forests of South and Central America he lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. Check out his website at: www.wildimagephoto.com.
Contact Info For Products Mentioned
Pelican Products, Inc.
23215 Early Ave.
Torrance, CA 90505
(800) 473-5422 outside CA
(310) 326-4700 within CA
W.A. Hammond Drierite Co. Ltd.
PO Box 460
Xenia, OH 45385