For those of us that live in dryer climates humidity can be a mysterious factor to account for when traveling. Significant moisture in the air around us can impact equipment in a variety of ways in some instances quite drastically. Not all cameras have the same level of weather protection. Many professional bodies are weather/water resistant, but not water proof thanks to the presence of rubber gaskets. Most cameras lack this type of protection increasing the risk of catastrophic equipment failure if exposed to too much moisture. With that in mind the following 10 tips should be considered when using a digital SLR in high humidity environments.
1. Use Desiccant Packets
Desiccant packets are often found in new product shipments to absorb moisture. As I can, I save these packets to reuse in my camera bag when traveling. If you’re not the saving type it is possible to order new desiccant packets online. While its impossible for these packets to absorb all the moisture in a camera bag that you’re in and out of often, they can make a difference on segments of trips where a camera bag is not opened or opened infrequently.
2. Minimize Lens Changes
In an ideal world having one lens per camera body would the best solution for high humidity environments. In this situation you’d have one lens on your camera body the entire length of your trip so that humid air never enters your camera. Few people outside of the professional circle have this luxury, so it is important to minimze the number of times you change lenses when in the field.
3. Keep Moisture Out of the Camera Body
If keeping one lens on your camera is not possible think about keeping a teleconverter / tele-extender on your camera body at all times ensuring that no moisture enters your body when changing lenses. Teleconverters / tele-extenders are often used with longer focal length lenses and seldom with other shorter focal length lenses. If you’re shooting wide this tactic may not be very practical.
4. Change Lenses At Night
If Tip #2 or #3 is not a possibility reduce the introduction of moisture into your camera body by changing lenses when atmospheric moisture is at its lowest point. This happens when the temperature is coolest often late at night or early in the morning.
5. Avoid Fogged Lenses
Keep your camera gear at the same temperature as the ambient temperature of your shooting environment to avoid fogging. Fog can appear on the front of your lens and in less than ideal cases on the rear element of your lens if your gear is cold and brought into a warm and moist environment. If keeping your gear with you is a necessity (such as being brought into an air conditioned hotel room as opposed to being left in a car) wait for your camera gear to warm up before use.
6. Regularly Wipe Down Your Equipment
The most common ways moisture accumulates on ones gear is from high atmospheric humidity, rain or your own breath as you use your camera. Regularly wipe down your gear in order to minimize long standing moisture on your camera that might seep into unsealed openings of your camera body. Keeping on hand and using a super absorbent camp hand towel can help a great deal.
7. Keep Sensitive Equipment in Ziploc Bags
While not perfect, keeping sensitive equipment in Ziploc bags can also reduce the negative effects of high humidity. Ziploc bags do wear out if opened and closed often, so this tactic might be best for equipment that is used less frequently. Combining the use of desiccant packets and Ziploc bags could be a great hybrid approach.
8. Carry Multiple Lens Cloth
Even with the best of planning fogged lenses happen. If you’re in the field for an extended time lens clothes quickly become damp. For this reason its a great idea to have multiple lens clothes on hand, using one while the other dries out in the sun
9. Don’t Let Your dSLR Slip From Your Grip
Use a wrist or neck strap to keep slick cameras from working loose of your grip. In hot and humid environments the human body will release a great deal of moisture in the form of sweat. With sweaty hands it will be very easy to accidentily drop a lens, camera body or camera body with a lens on it.
10. Dry Your Hands
Dry your hands before changing batteries and CF cards. This will minimize introduction of moisture, inside the camera, that might later condense upon returning home. Keep in mind this will be particularly true the sweatier you are.
Toward the end of your trip utilize a hotel room air conditioners to dehumidify your gear. No need to place your gear too close. Having your equipment out and your camera bag open can be enough to help pull away a build up of moisture.
Do you use your digital SLR in high humidity? Have additional tips? Be sure to add them in the comments and thanks for reading.