Gadget Bag: Weather Tamers

Dramatic weather makes for dramatic photos, but you need to protect your camera for the conditions

 

Gadget Bag: Weather Tamers

Raindrops on roses—no problem. But rain, snow or condensation on camera equipment can mean disaster. Likewise, low temperatures can impede battery performance, and very low temperatures can impair human performance as well. High temps are hazardous, too—direct sunlight can make black lenses excessively warm and prevent proper operation. It’s safer to stay indoors when the climate becomes extreme.

But that would be boring, wouldn’t it? Instead, keep things covered up and protected. Let’s start with cold weather protection, since two-thirds of our nation is plagued with freezing temperatures every winter.

Three things must be protected from extreme cold: any moving or flexible part of the camera, the camera batteries and your fingers.

To keep your hands warm, find a balance between flexibility and comfort by wearing thin silk gloves inside heavier leather or fabric gloves. If you must remove the outer protection to adjust your equipment, you’ll still be protected—at least for a short time—from frostbite. Or line your pockets with the Japanese photographers’ secret, hokaron, a disposable bag-like hand warmer that produces heat through a chemical phase change. Break the seal, mix it up and it stays warm for up to 10 hours. This product is available in the U.S. at many sporting goods and ski shops under a variety of brand names.

The molecular activity of the energy-producing chemistry inside batteries slows down as temperatures fall. Keep an extra battery in an inside pocket, or better yet, use an external pack if your camera maker offers such an accessory. Make sure you carry the external pack in an inside pocket.

Crazy Creek Clever ClampThe camera itself presents a more difficult challenge. In most cases, cameras
don’t actually "freeze up" except at the lowest temperatures. But that’s not where the danger lies. The real threat is condensation. Condensation occurs when water vapor changes from a gas to a liquid. Moisture quickly collects on glass or metal surfaces that are cooled to a low temperature and then transported into a warm, humid environment—the way your sunglasses fog up when you go inside a warm building on a cold day. If your camera does get extremely cold, don’t attempt to warm it up quickly. Instead, move it into an area that has low humidity and only slightly warmer temperatures. One such place is the trunk of a car that’s parked inside an unheated garage. Also, remember to protect the front element of all of your lenses from condensation by using a UV or skylight filter.

If condensation disaster strikes, try removing the battery and memory card and gently warming the camera with a blower-type hair dryer set on low. This is a delicate procedure, so proceed at your own risk! Silica gel, a desiccant that can be purchased at large hardware stores and online, absorbs moisture. Seal the dampened equipment in a one-gallon plastic bag that contains a large dish filled with silica gel and leave it for 24 to 72 hours. Don't allow the chemical to touch the camera or dust may infiltrate through a seam. Silica gel is sometimes available in vented canisters or permeable bags that make it easy to use without directly exposing the chemical.

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.

Aquapac Camera CaseSnowflakes 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.


 

Ewa-Marine U-AXP100At 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.

PopabrellaFrom 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.

Kata E-690 Elements CoverFor 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).


 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Main Menu
×