Photographing in wet or damp conditions is a mixed blessing. The opportunities are often enormous; in a constantly damp area, the flora can be beautiful. A good example is the Inside Passage of Alaska, where lush, old-growth forests are common. Or a photo journey to a place like Costa Rica (I’ve never been there, but it’s on my “bucket list”).
But, working in these conditions requires some additional care so that our photography equipment will not be affected by the constant moisture.
So what are we to do?
Play Weatherman… Will it Rain?
Before heading out (especially to an unknown location) check out the weather conditions as part of your pre-trip preparation. Using a website like Weather Underground, you can find out what the typical temperatures, rain/snow amounts, etc. are for the area during the time of your expected visit, as well as the actual weather forecast. If rain looks likely, prepare for the trip with rain in mind.
Keep Your Equipment Dry
First, regardless of conditions, use a photo backpack or shoulder bag that is waterproof… you never know when rain may develop! When shooting in wet conditions, I always use some kind of protection to keep my camera/lens dry. I usually use a waterproof nylon cover that fits over my camera body/lens. It has adjustable elastic at both ends, allowing me to tighten it down in heavy rain, or to loosen it to make adjustments on my camera or lens.
But, no need to get fancy, or spend a lot of money. You can easily use small trash bags to keep the equipment dry (I always keep a spare handy in my photo backpack); and you can punch a hole in the closed end of a small trash bag so that it will slide over the lens. Just add a rubber band to keep it firm around the lens hood and you’re in business!
Storing Equipment in Damp Conditions
When I’m in a damp location (i.e., along Alaska’s Inside Passage, on a weeklong boat trip) and the equipment is not being used, I always store my equipment in my photo backpack, along with a moisture-removing “mini-dehumidifying” canister. These canisters are small, lightweight and work around-the-clock, pulling moisture out of the air (or off delicate equipment).
These devices are inexpensive, work well, and can be regenerated (i.e. moisture can be pulled back out of them for re-use) when placed in a convection oven for the required time. These can be purchased where gun safes are sold (I get mine from Cabela’s, but most gun dealers should be able to get them).
Drying Wet Equipment (Exterior Surfaces)
Ok, so you’ve worked at keeping your equipment dry, but still managed to get water on the body or lens. What do you do? Well, the first thing is to use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away the excessive moisture on the exterior surfaces. I always carry some clean, dry pieces of old cotton t-shirts in my “cleaning supply” bag, and use these for both removing excess water and for cleaning the glass on my lenses (with a suitable lens cleaner). Most anything that will absorb moisture can be used in an emergency.
Oops, Water Inside My Equipment!
What should you do if you get water inside the camera or lens? This is much more serious and it is likely that you will need professional services from either the manufacturer, or from a reputable camera serviceman. But there are some immediate things that I would recommend you do:
- First, remove all the exterior moisture that you can
- Remove the camera battery and memory card (dry them off, if they are wet)
- If excessive amounts of moisture may have entered the camera body or lens, place the body or lens inside a sealable plastic bag, along with a dehumidifying canister (see above). Be careful to not introduce additional substances (dust, particles, etc.) inside the camera.
- As soon as you can, have the manufacturer or qualified repair service person assess your equipment
Don’t Let the Weather Stop You!
Some of the most wonderful landscape images are made in inclement weather, so don’t decide to stay indoors because “it looks like it could rain.” Instead, go outdoors ready to shoot, but be prepared for bad weather! You might even capture that ever-elusive shot that others won’t get (because they stay indoors)!
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About the Author: Jim Braswell is a lifelong resident of Missouri, photographing nature in Missouri and beyond. His photographic passion is wildlife and wildflowers. When working with wildlife, his goal is to capture animal behaviors and actions. Besides photographing nature, Jim teaches photography and Photoshop at a local career center and participates in several art fairs/festivals every year. View more of his work on his website at: http://www.showmenaturephotography.com/