Two amphibious cameras, my old Nikonos III and the recently
introduced Époque ET100+. Submergible cameras can
allow you to continue shooting even when conditions deteriorate
to the point where other strategies for protecting equipment
That escapade happened a
dozen or so years ago and although I have biked, hiked, and kayaked
in inclement weather many times since I've never repeated the
experience. Well, at least I am trainable. I'd also like to help
you learn from my folly. So, here are some of my strategies for keeping
things dry when shooting in wet conditions.
I live in a relatively arid part of California so I really don't
have to be concerned much with snow or frequent hard rains but I do
shoot around breaking waves, in and among tide pools and blowing spindrift
can be much worse due to the salt content. When the spray or rain really
gets heavy I prefer a waterproof camera. There are a number of point-and-shoots,
also called lens-shutter cameras, that will do a very professional job
in extremely wet conditions (see "Surviving The Storm: Six Weather
Resistant Cameras" in the April '97 issue of Shutterbug
for more details on some of these cameras) and my personal choice is
the amphibious Nikonos. I currently use the long discontinued Nikonos
III for a variety of reasons but it lacks the built-in light meter of
the current Nikonos V and this can be a problem. One possible solution
is to place a light meter in a plastic kitchen bag or one of the small
EWA bags, but the recently reintroduced Sekonic Marine Meter model L-164c
is an even more elegant solution. The submergible L-164c is a direct
reading meter, which means that you dial in the shutter speed, point
it at your subject, and the needle indicates the correct f/stop. This
is really convenient when shooting in rain or snow or when you're
Although amphibious cameras are highly water-resistant they lack many
of the features and lens options that we expect from our more sophisticated
SLR or larger format cameras. Let's look at some methods for working
in adverse conditions while protecting our more versatile cameras and
lenses from the elements.
Many manufacturers make special weatherproof or resistant
cases and backpacks. The large backpack shown is from Hakuba
USA and it will hold my entire 4x5 field outfit. It also
boasts a well designed shoulder harness system complete
with a sternum strap and lumbar padding.
Another piece of equipment
I like when shooting in wet or muddy conditions is the Benbo tripod. It
features a leg design that puts the larger telescoping section on the
bottom. This section is sealed from the elements so it can be submerged
to a depth of a foot or more, depending on the model, and the muck stays
To ensure the continued health of your equipment a very important consideration
is post-shoot maintenance. As soon as I get home the tripod gets a thorough
freshwater rinse to remove any salt or mud. An occasional wipe with a
rag dampened with WD-40 is the only other attention the tripods normally
require. Cameras and lenses will receive an exterior wipe down with a
soft cloth dampened, not soaked, with freshwater to remove residual salt
spray. Submergible cameras get a soak in a bucket of freshwater to dissolve
salt or muck and are then dried with a soft chamois. This is done before
I unload the film to prevent getting salt or mud inside the cameras. Bags,
cases, covers, or any other protective gear that is muddy or covered with
salt spray also gets a freshwater rinse and is air-dried so that it will
be ready for the next shoot. No matter how tired you are after the day's
shoot, don't put the maintenance off. It should be done as soon
as possible after the equipment has been in the wet.
No matter how much care we exercise we can still get snake bit so what
do you do if the worst happens? Whether your camera gets soaked with salt
or freshwater the first aid is the same. Wipe off as much of the external
water as you can, take out the film and batteries, then place your camera
in a plastic kitchen bag. Zip the bag almost all the way closed and then
evacuate as much of the air as possible before sealing the bag completely.
If you have an ear syringe you could try to suck as much moisture out
of the camera's interior as possible prior to sealing it in the
plastic bag. Exercise extreme care using compressed air however, as you
could actually blow the muck farther into the camera's innards.
You should then get the camera, still sealed in the bag, to a repair facility
as quickly as you can. In the past the predominant wisdom was to flush
saltwater out of a soaked camera with freshwater or alcohol. If done soon
enough this was effective with older mechanical cameras but it is probably
not a good idea with the electronic cameras most of us use today. As with
everything else, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
You can, of course, simply stay indoors when the conditions turn sodden
but, for me at least, there are too many exciting opportunities for great
photographs when the weather turns nasty. So, if you use common sense
and apply the precautions we've discussed I'm sure your camera
will stay nice and dry and you'll bring home some dramatic images.
Oh yeah, wear your rubbers, after all, you wouldn't want to catch
Laird Rain Hood, Laird Tri-pads,
and Photographer's ground cloth; Hakuba cases and backpacks, Velbon
tripods, dry boxes, desiccants, and lots of other nifty stuff; Nikonos
cameras, flash units, and accessories; Pelican waterproof equipment cases;
EWA Marine Housings, Epoque ET100+ camera, Graf Studioballs, and Culmann
tripods from R.T.S.; Benbo tripods, Domke Outpack cases, backpacks, and
Dri-Safe from Saunders.
A. Laird Photo
PO Box 1250
Red Lodge, MT 59068
Hakuba USA, Inc.
10621 Bloomfield St., Ste. 39
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
fax: (562) 799-1316
1300 Walt Whitman Rd.
Melville, NY 11747
fax: (516) 547-0362
23215 Early Ave.
Torrance, CA 90505
fax: (310) 326-3311
40-11 Burt Dr.
Deer Park, NY 11729
fax: (516) 242-6808
The Saunders Group
21 Jet View Dr.
Rochester, NY 14624
fax: (716) 328-5078