Dramatic weather makes for dramatic photos, but you need to protect your camera for the conditions
By Jon Sienkiewicz
At the opposite end of the spectrum lies danger from heat. This is easy to avoid in most cases by simply keeping the camera out of direct sunlight. If ambient temperature in the shade is still too hot for your gear, it’s probably too hot for you, too. On the other hand, it’s virtually impossible to protect your equipment from the ravages of humidity unless you keep it sealed within an airtight case. Humidity will haunt your gadget bag, too, especially if it’s the canvas type. It doesn’t hurt to give your empty bag a once-over with the hair dryer after a hike through rainforest-like conditions.
Snowflakes and rain, particularly wind-driven rain, can damage a camera faster than you can say "weather forecast." On those occasions when you know beforehand that you’ll be facing risky or inclement weather, a rigid underwater housing is the most reliable solution—it’s also the most expensive, and they’re generally incompatible with D-SLR cameras and long lenses. Flexible housings and rain covers—specially made waterproof camera bonnets—are the perfect alternative.
Most serious gadget bags and photo backpacks come with form-fitting rain covers of their own. If yours didn’t, buy one. Without a rain cover, your gadget bag or pack can’t provide full protection from the elements. Because precipitation isn’t always predictable, it’s smart to carry extra emergency protection with you at all times. Mine is in the form of two 13-gallon plastic garbage bags. They’re stuffed in the end pockets of my gadget bag and perform the dual function of emergency shelter for my equipment when it’s raining and additional padding when it’s not.
Protective Gear Crazy Creek Products manufactures an interesting assortment of specialty items that help people stay comfortable, including a full line of portable chairs. Of particular interest to photographers is the Crazy Creek Umbrella and Clever Clamp combination. Choose between an attractive 60-inch windproof or 64-inch vented umbrella and attach it to any flat surface up to 1.25 inches thick. The umbrella can be maneuvered into just about any position so you can enjoy maximum protection from the sun or rain. Estimated Street Price: $36 (60-inch); $44 (64-inch). (800) 331-0304 | www.crazycreek.com.
To keep photographers’ hands warm, Crazy Creek offers the Crazy ThermaBand with Hot Pad. The Hot Pad produces heat by chemical reaction. The ThermaBand wraps around your wrist and holds the Hot Pad in position over the ulnar and radial arteries to assure warm fingers on even the coldest days. Estimated Street Price: $7 (set of two). (800) 331-0304 | www.crazycreek.com.
From OmegaSatter come the Popabrella and its big brother, the Probrella. The concept is terrific: Imagine an umbrella attached to a fully adjustable bracket that slips in between your camera and tripod head. The umbrella provides shade as well as protection from rain and wind. The Popabrella is great on those bright days when it’s impossible to see the LCD on your camera or camcorder, but serious shooters will find the Probrella, with its 22-inch wingspan, more suitable. And since it weighs in at a scant 4.5 ounces, it’s a natural to keep on hand at all times, just in case. Estimated Street Price: $20 (Popabrella); $30 (Probrella). (410) 374-3250 | www.popabrella.com.
For mobile shooting solutions, including full submersion in water, Ewa-MarineU-AXP underwater housings fill the bill. They’re manufactured from double-laminated PVC and are equipped with an optical glass port through which you shoot. The can be safely used to a depth of 150 feet, so it’s ideal for snorkeling and other underwater activities. But even landlubbers will love it when they work in humid, dusty, grimy or other inhospitable conditions. It’s designed to accommodate full-sized digital SLRs. Estimated Street Price: $329. www.ewa-marine.com.
For lighter duty, Aquapac offers adequate protection at an attractive price. Based in the U.K., Aquapac supplies waterproof cases for electronic gear of all sorts, including MP3 players, cell phones, PDAs and cameras. The product resembles an extra-thick, zip-type bag that has a clear window made from a proprietary material it calls Lenzflex. Aquapac’s large camera case is guaranteed submersible to 15 feet and safely floats if dropped in the water, so it’s a favorite for backyard pools, canoeing and the beach. Estimated Street Price: $45. (866) 929-0639 | www.aquapac.net.
The Kata E-690 Elements Cover provides full protection for mid-sized D-SLR cameras and compacts. Think of it as a large, flexible waterproof bag that keeps the weather out but allows you in to access all camera controls. It weighs less than four ounces and is worth its weight in pure platinum when an unexpected cloudburst erupts. The larger E-702 accommodates a professional-sized D-SLR. A useful accessory, the Kata E-704 GDC Lens Sleeve Kit is designed to be attached to a Kata E-702 Elements Cover when shooting with extra-long zoom or tele lenses (up to 650mm). Estimated Street Price: $39 (E-690 Elements Cover); $49 (E-702); $59 (E-704 GDC Lens Sleeve Kit). (201) 818-9500 | www.bogenimaging.us.
The Tenba RC18 Rain Cover is constructed of a waterproof-coated nylon cloth. It extends from the lens hood to the viewfinder and wraps around the camera to provide protection from foul weather. It’s comfortable to use either handheld or on a tripod and will fit cameras with lenses up to 300mm. The RC26 will handle lenses up to 600mm. Estimated Street Price: $40 (RC18); $66 (RC26).