View Full Version : Dealing with sand?
Having just returned from a costal photography expedition... and after cleaning my gear again... I am wondering how others out there are coping with large format photography in sandy areas... any tips, techniques to be shared...
Small vacuum cleaners, like those used by electronics repair techs, either 12v or 110v with a car inverter, come in handy for in-field cleaning.
I carry a CO2 blower in the bag. Not "canned air" but a blower that uses standard (magnum size) CO2 cartridges. The canned air products can, if used carelessly, spray liquid that may be the death of whatever equipment it hits. Also vacuum everything when I get it home or back to the RV. On the beach, I also lay down a large trash bag as a tarp under the camera bag. Finally, I keep my fingers crossed a lot...
Ralph uses "suction", and Alan uses "blowsion". Either way, it's a good idea to remove the sand (and salt water spray) from your equipment as soon as possible. When I photographed along the Oregon coast, I used clear UV filters to protect my lenses from blowing sand and salt water spray and kept things covered as much as possible. Other than staying off of sandy beaches, all together, there aren't any specific techniques.
"Canned air" is fine as long as you use a couple of precautions:
<LI>Before aiming at your equipment, spray a blast to clear out the nozzle.
<LI>Always hold it upright when spraying. Never tilt it sideways or upside-down while spraying, or it will spray liquid.
The main worry for sand and grit is getting it into your shutters. Sand can enter through the slot that the aperture adjuster slides in.
Sand anywhere else is easy to clean, and the camera will continue to operate fine even with a little sand in the focussing track or other movements. It may sound a little "crunchy" and make you wince, but it won't cause much harm.
I work on the beach a lot.
Like previous posters, I suggest that after every 'sand' photo session, you clean your gear. I use canned air (the 'blowsion' option, I like that word!) and brushes to get the sand off.
Also, it's worth wiping down the camera and outside (not glass) of lenses with a damp rag, to get the salt off. Once there's salt on the equipment, it becomes 'sticky' and any wind-borne sand will be attracted to it from miles away. You can almost watch your camera become a vortex of swirling sand laden air.
Ground clothes under your pack help some. Not opening your pack too often helps a lot, too. I now carry the most frequently used gear in a vest, to avoid having to open the pack. If it's windy, put each lens in a separate ziplock bag. Dump the sand out of the pack at least once daily, and then vacuum the pack at the end of the trip.
Don't forget to clean the tripod and head.
I live on the coast of north east North Carolina. (Outer Banks). Firstly, I don't take the camera to the beach if it's a honkin blow day. Pay attention to the wind dirrection. If it's onshore then the wind will carry a lot of salt. To me that's the worst. If it's offshore or along shore then there is a lot of sand being carried. I can vacume sand out of my rig, but salt has to be removed with a lint free rag that is wet with fresh water., then dried, and that's a tedious process.
All my lenses wear cheap skylight filters. After so many cleanings they look like soft focus or fog filters and can be replaced. If it's a nice day I'll remove the filter right before exposure. Light meter and loop hang around my neck before I get out of the truck. Film holders are in a tupper ware thing in it's own section of my back pack. That way I don't have to open the whole pack to access them. If there is a little wind I'll put the dark slides in my shirt when they are pulled to keep sand and salt off of them.
Dark cloth is shaken out real good and if the wind is onshore it gets washed.
My back pack was purchased at K-Mart several years ago and is a school book bag that happens to work out wonderfully for a horseman 45 FA outfit. Lots of compartments, which allows me to open each section at a time as I need it. And I think it only cost around $14.00! My lenses are in a insulated zippered soft lunch box that I glued some dividers into, and fits in the back pack next to the camera.
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