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Thread: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

  1. #1
    mortensen's Avatar
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    What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    Hi everyone

    Until now I've shot the impressive amount of 7 LF pictures - so we're in the league of a complete novice.

    I'm off to Morocco in a week and I am thinking of bringing my Chamonix. That means shooting not only in Marrakech, but also in the Sahara, ie. in the dunes.

    So, apart from the obvious threat of theft in the country, how do I deal with sand with regard to both bellows, lenses and film holders? Which precautions should I take?... or is what I am planning so plain stoopid that it is a secure way of ruining my equipment?

    Any knowledge, recommendations or thought are much appreciated!

    thanks,
    lars

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    Re: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    I've used cameras in Jordan, Israel and Egypt, including in the deserts, and have not found it necessary to take any special precautions. Unless you are planning to photograph in a windstorm, the sand pretty much just sits there. Yes, there can be dust, but it isn't any worse than the particulate (aka grime) in the air in Paris or New York. If you're going to roam far from a vehicle, which is unlikely unless you're going on some kind of camel expedition, take along a few ziplock bags or big garbage bag and/or a rucksack just in case the wind kicks up.

    Here's a snapshot of a couple of friends at Wadi Rum, on the Jordanian/Saudi border. If you've seen the film Lawrence of Arabia, which was shot in this desert, you'd think that we'd be gasping for air. As you can see, it was a pretty nice day

    P.S. Yes, the sand at Wadi Rum really is this colour.
    PP.S. A jeep, like the one in this snapshot, is a really good idea. This one was a gift from the King of Spain to the local Bedouin.
    PPP.S. The gentleman on the extreme right - the one wearing a heavy coat in the mid-day sun - worked on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails wadirum.jpg  
    Last edited by r.e.; 28-Sep-2009 at 16:34.
    Cheers!

  3. #3
    mortensen's Avatar
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    Re: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    Thanks for the info - good to know, that it's ok

    ... great picture btw.

    We'll be spending one day on a camel back and the rest in a Land Cruiser - sure will be nice.

    /lars

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    Re: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    Lars,
    I have been in Egypt for the last 3 months, and spent weeks in the Sinai and the Sahara. Don't underestimate the dust, the wind can be substantial, and your gear will get coated with a fine layer of dust. I would rather be safe then sorry in this situation. I did not bring LF gear on this trip (and I regret it) so I can't comment on protecting LF gear specifically, but I can tell you what I do to protect my DSLR. I keep my gear in the bag until I am ready to shoot. I use a Canon G10 for framing and only shoot with the DSLR if I feel it's worth it. In the white desert I chose not to shoot with the DSLR at all because the wind was bad and the dust is fine and powdery in that area. (Although, I did discover that even keeping the gear in the bag didn't completely protect it from the sand) A second layer of protection for your film holders might be a good idea. Don't know if you shoot quickloads, but they might also help. Either way be safe and have fun. The weather is perfect in this part of the Sahara right now.
    Good Luck,
    Tony

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    Virtually Grey Steve Gledhill's Avatar
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    Re: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    Lars,
    Dust is the obvious thing to try to protect against. I’ll describe one specific thing that I suffered from earlier this year after a hot, dry and dusty couple of weeks as it was something I never thought about until I found out about it too late. I was using 5x4 sheet film in film holders and changing the film in a calumet changing tent. All that worked fine. I stored my film in empty film boxes. On processing the film I found that some of the inevitable specks of dust caught between exposed film sheets in the box had caused severe abrasion and scratching. I then realised this was because the sheets were rubbing against each other in the box as the vehicle bounced along the dusty desert tracks. The worst instances of this abrasion were from the start of the trip whilst those at the end had far less abrasion, having had much less shaking and bouncing. Had I secured the sheets so that they could not move against each other (with elastic bands for example) then this problem would not have occurred or at least have been minimised. If it had been possible to eliminate totally the desert dust then this wouldn’t have been an issue. But I guess no one knows how to do that do they?

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    Re: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    I guess my perspective on this is that I'd rather photograph in good weather than try to fight the elements when the wind is kicking up and the air is full of sand and/or dust. I want to enjoy myself, not spend time worrying about my gear.

    If you are going to shoot large format, I would suggest that you keep the holders in Ziplock bags, which is something that I do regardless of where I am shooting. Better yet, if your base hotel or whatever has a Foodsaver or equivalent, maybe they would be willing to vacuum seal your loaded holders. If you don't already have UV filters protecting your lenses, that would also be a good idea.

    Hopefully, your biggest problem will be sand in your shoes
    Cheers!

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    Re: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    r.e. that is a great picture.

  8. #8
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    Re: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    Thanks, all of you - valuable! If it wasn't for this forum and your detailed answers, I simply wouldn't be shooting LF

    UV filters are probably a very good idea, regardless of the desert.
    /lars

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    Re: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    ok a bit of military experience and deserts. You will not be able to protect yourself from the sand/dust...It will get in everything. In some places the sand is so fine it is like talcum powder or finer than talcum powder. I have had stuff in zip lock bags have dust in them, they werent opened, used etc. Stuff is magic. Use multiple bags, ziplocks, garbage bags, etc. Whatever you bring will have that sand in it for the rest of its life. I had sleeping bags that I took to a desert that 15 years on, multiple professional cleanings...sand still falls out of them.

    Have fun. good luck. multiple bags.

    Erick

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    Re: What precautions to take shooting LF in the desert? (Morocco)

    Morocco is one of those countries which doesn't have a state charge on check-out plastic bags - they are provided free with the smallest of purchases. And the vast majority of these are black. So about 10 miles downwind of any settlement almost everything that sticks up in the landscape has its own collection of plastic black bags stuck on branches and thorns (of which there are a lot). It is the thorney bushes that survive because of the grazing goats that really do climb trees! They make a single great image (the black plastic bag "fruits") but it gets a bit tedious in the long run. So search upwind. Remember that culture may make people who appear in the frame either angry or mercenary. Public transport between towns works well - every town is own central bus square. Be careful when standing in crowded buses etc. - there are professional pick-pockets who ply the popular routes.

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