View Full Version : Desert Travel: Heat and Dust

14-Aug-2006, 18:46
Hello, all,

I'm departing in a week for a two week photo expedition in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, and expect to encounter a great deal of dust (perhaps dust storms up near Pyramid Lake in Nevada) and a great deal of heat. Any suggestions on keeping my equipment (4x5) and film clean, cool, and functional? I fear the film will spoil in the hot car and the camera will become overrun with dust.

Many thanks,

Michael Graves
14-Aug-2006, 18:54
Pick up some anti-static ziplock bags if you can find them in time. 3M makes them, as does a couple of other companies. Use coolers.

Ron Marshall
14-Aug-2006, 18:59
Leave a clear UV filter on the lens, then either stack another filter or switch filters before shooting.

Get a cooler and some freeze packs. Put the film in a waterproof container to prevent contact with condensation.

14-Aug-2006, 19:53
Thank you, both, for your replies. I found some 8x10" anti-static ziplock bags on e-bay and promptly ordered them. I'm also going to get a cooler with a little rack in it that allows separation of film from the cool packs. I may then put the film inside the waterproof bags that rafters and the like often use to store clothes, gear, etc. If anyone has any additional suggestions, I'd love to hear 'em. Will dust-off help with film loading? Or perhaps the best bet is a small vacuum system and an anti-static brush?


JW Dewdney
14-Aug-2006, 19:55
Pelican. Keep you stuff underwater.

Ron Marshall
14-Aug-2006, 20:24
You can use quick/readyloads to help keep the dust off the film.

George Stewart
14-Aug-2006, 20:29
I just returned from such a trip in June. I ended the trip in Death Valley where the heat and dust were greatest. I recall being on the dunes and inserting the 8x10 back into the pack when wome wind blew a bunch of sand on top of the camera. It was literally, like someone just shoveled some on there intentionally. Anyway, I came away with some great shots! My recommendations are: keep the lenses in plastic bags until just before use; have a supply of rags anda brush available to clean the camera, lenses, and holders frequently; and, don't be so anal retentive that you miss a great shot for fear of some dust or sand.

If you're flying out there, try to pickup a can of compressed air when you arrive.

14-Aug-2006, 21:26
I live in the desert and agree with George. Plastic bags and perhaps a plastic food container if you are shooting readyloads. One for exposed film/ another for the readyload holder. They come in sizes close to the size of a readyload box of film.

Keep lenses in plastic, easy to do. Take a compressed air can, if you can.

But mainly, don't worry too much about it. You will find its really not as big an issue as you might think.

Bring lot's of bottled water....:).

14-Aug-2006, 21:27
PS. If you are going near Page AZ (slot canyons and other great shooting) look up Jackson Bridges as a guide. You won't regret it.

Brian Vuillemenot
14-Aug-2006, 22:08
My suggestion to you is that you put the trip off until October. The light will be much better, the attractions less crowded, and the weather much more suitable for being outdoors.

14-Aug-2006, 22:44
I have spent a fair amount of time in the states you'll be visiting. If I may, I'd like to suggest a few things, based on personal experience.

First, you're likely to encounter thunderstorms/rain at this time of year. Be aware the possibility of lightning- Here, from the National Weather Service:

Lightning is the MOST UNDERRATED weather hazard. On average, only floods kill more people. Lightning makes every single thunderstorm a potential killer, whether the storm produces one single bolt or ten thousand bolts.

In the United States, lightning routinely kills more people each year than tornadoes and hurricanes COMBINED. Tornadoes, hail, and wind gusts get the most attention, but only lightning can strike outside the storm itself. Lightning is the first thunderstorm hazard to arrive and the last to leave.

Lightning is one of the most capricious and unpredictable characteristics of a thunderstorm. Because of this, no one can guarantee an individual or group absolute protection from lightning...

You may also be confronted by flash floods. Slots canyons and arroyos are extremely dangerous during or shortly after thunderstorms. More info here (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/abq/preparedness/FFLA/ffwxwk.htm).

(BTW, If you want to see a great example of what can go wrong with cameras in arrroyos, see the documentary Lost in La Mancha (http://www.lostinlamancha.com/), about Terry Gilliam's attempt to make Don Quixote. It's fun to watch $100k cameras destroyed.)

In my kit, I have a couple of 30 gallon, 4mil black "contractor" garbage bags- the type one would find at an orange home improvement retailer. If a storm comes up, I drop one of the bags over the whole camera, wrap a bit of gaffer's around the head, and wait until the shot can be made.

Re film: I shoot readyload neg film (160 VC) and leave it in the (160 F) trunk, where it belongs. If I make it to a fridge, I throw it back in, as long as it doesn't take up any of the beer space. I've not had a problem yet. With the film, I mean.

Best of luck.

15-Aug-2006, 03:35
Remember the counter-intuitive fact that the trunk is cooler than the interior of the car, as it has no greenhouse effect.

15-Aug-2006, 06:19
Thank you, all, for the numerous tips. If I could postpone for a month or two, I certainly would, given the conditions out here in August (I live in Denver, myself). But, so it goes.

You make it all sound entirely manageable -- perhaps another layer of complexity has been added to the process, but that certainly doesn't diminish the enjoyment, especially given that I have no intention of hurrying here and there.

160VC in a 160f trunk and no problems: that's certainly encouraging (even if, sadly, I have no trunk).

Thanks again,

15-Aug-2006, 20:32
Best of luck to you. I am sitting here in my air-conditioned hotel room in Shanghai, having suffered from heat exhaustion yesterday. Remember to respect your human bodily limitations as well! Very few shots are worth dying for...

15-Aug-2006, 21:32
I shoot readyload neg film (160 VC) and leave it in the (160 F) trunk, where it belongs. If I make it to a fridge, I throw it back in, as long as it doesn't take up any of the beer space. I've not had a problem yet. With the film, I mean.

Well, it happens to the best of us, doesn't it.

You from Denver, jkl? I myself am from Denver and I'm heading to the Great Sand Dunes next week to do some 4x5 work and I'm a little worried myself. I'm looking for pointers simply for the fact that I am trying to prevent my equipment from getting hurt to.

I'll be backpacking quite a few miles around the dunes. My friend told me to use 2 gallon zip lock bags to compose through because you can see the ground glass under a dark cloth...

I myself have to find some way to jerry rig the deal because I'll be doing 6 hour exposures during the night.

Best of luck.


John Berry
17-Aug-2006, 00:57
When I went to the slot canyons I kept all my film in one of the coolers that had a 12V power to keep it 30-40 degrees cooler than ambiant. film stayed at 70 degrees all day long. take it out and shoot it.