As a wedding photographer I thought my gear took a kicking. 12 hour shoots in all weathers, sandy beaches, salt water, hammering rain, not to mention my lenses getting a regular dousing in hair spray and perfume during the bridal prep. However after my recent trip to Borneo it turns out two days in the rain forest is to camera gear what Dakar rally is to a car’s suspension. The dirt and moisture is all pervasive, managing to find its way into every part of the camera and lens. It is astonishing how quickly the grime builds up. So, in the hope of helping you good people avoid the problem, I have outlined below a few tips that I picked up on my travels that should help keep the dust and dirt at bay.
1. First of all you need to know that it’s damn near impossible to actually use your camera on the road and keep it absolutely clean but there are ways to dramatically reduce the amount of dust you accumulate. Try not to use your camera in windy situations, or if you do protect it as much as possible. It is an idea to use a clear plastic sandwich bag wrapped around the camera with a rubber band to hold it in place. It is possible to wrap it around the body of the camera while leaving the lens and the viewfinder exposed making it makeshift waterproofing. Also make sure you use your lens hood, if does a good job of keeping the worst of the dust and rain off the front element.
2. NEVER attempt to clean your camera’s internal mechanisms, ESPECIALLY the sensor! Just leave it entirely alone. I am serious. Resist the temptation to go anywhere near it. There are dozens of tutorials on how to clean your camera’s innards yourself but it is simply not worth the potential damage. Just find a local camera shop for a professional cleaning or alternatively contact your camera’s manufacturer to receive the name of a recommended camera repairer. Even in Borneo I was able to find someone Nikon approved!
3. Keep your camera and lenses in their bag when not in use. It sounds obvious but if you are swapping out lenses and memory cards a lot there is a natural tendency to leave them lying about. If you invest in a few soft lens cases (which are surprisingly inexpensive) they are always on hand to protect your gear. Also make sure you keep your lens caps on the front and back whenever not in use and keep the body cap on the camera when a lens is not attached.
4. For cosmetic cleaning and to get the dust off of the outside of your camera and lens, use a light, static-free microfiber cloth. They are available on eBay individually or they come as part of a kit that includes other implements to get into all the difficult nooks of the camera. Pay special attention to the focus ring as grit gets in there and you can feel it grinding away when you turn it. Do not use the edge of your t-shirt to polish off the lens surface as it could become scratched. It is always a good idea to clean your gear a little and often. If you give it a quick rub down with a microfiber cloth every time you use it, it reduces the build up dramatically.
5. Try not to change lens in the field. If you absolutely have to try to pick a still environment. If you cannot avoid it then a large pillowcase or bin bag works well to protect the camera during a lens change. Simply hold the camera inside the bag while you’re changing out the lenses and with a little practice, you can learn how to do it by feel.
All images by Adrian Spencer, a professional wedding photographer based Manchester.