Staying Clean...

January 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

My primary work is based out on location with the men and women of the American West.

Romantic?  Sure!

A hotbed for authentic visual storytelling?  Without a doubt!

Dirty????  Heck yea!

A question came in from CaroLee (@carolleephoto), she asked:

---“I was wondering how you shoot at these events (brandings) without ruining your camera?”

Keeping our equipment clean is essential to creating.  Left alone after a day out branding and you may find your shutter button to be a little sticky, maybe even stuck down when pressed, and let’s not even begin to talk about dust spots!  Now, before I go into my cleaning methods, I’m giving a disclaimer here: what I do may not work for you, and if you’re not familiar with your equipment, you could damage it!  If you’re in doubt, send it to a lab for cleaning.

The lead image here was one of the first I took over the 2017 branding season that started early April and lasted (for me) through late June.  The common denominator to each to branding this year was...THE WIND!  More than any time in the past, nearly 10 years, the wind seemed ferocious at each branding, my eyes took one heck of a beating, and so did my equipment.  The way I shoot, being right in the action itself, tends to cause quite a bit chaos on my equipment!

As I began to write this I took a day off to go out and move cows - strapped with my 5D3 & 4, on a four-wheeler, bouncing, bumping, and jumping sagebrush following the folks on horseback moving the herd.  Not a scratch on my bodies or lenses, at the end of the day I got off my foreign horse, my cameras swang together in front of me and with the momentum of me dismounting, BANG, the LCD on the 5D4 was smacked by the corner of the 5D3 and pushed in. Seriously?  Yup!  Off to Canon Pro Services in the morning.  The first time that’s ever happened.  I attempted to take video while I was out, it really turned into more blooper video than anything...maybe I’ll share that sometime! LOL

Ok, the goods - I use a Black Rapid double harness, the 5D4 hangs on my right side with a 70-200 f2.8 L IS II lens and the 5D3 with a 16-35 f2.8 L on my left.  I don’t use UV filters.  I keep my lens hoods on primarily to prevent the front elements from hitting the dirt as I get up and down from the dirt.  You can see how I’m shooting in this second image.

When it comes to the rain and snow, I use garbage bags (yes, seriously) rubber banded to my wrist and barrel of the lens.  Now, I completely realize this is LOW TECH (maybe even hillbilly) - it works for me, if you’re not comfortable with this, don’t do it.  To date, the only damage my equipment has suffered due to moisture has been from being in “dry bag” following climbers through some slot canyons in Zions.  The last thing I’ll add here, you can buy a Canon Rain Cover for $100.

A couple thoughts on minimizing damage
To minimize damage while out on location, especially at brandings, I don’t change lenses - that’s begging for dust (and maybe even cow poo) getting in your camera and on your sensor. I use those compressed bottles of air to blow off my equipment when I get home, and potentially, my sensor if needed.  When it comes to cleaning my sensors, I’ll do it myself...sometimes, that really comes down to whether or not I want to take the time or just send it in and have it done.  Most times, I send it in if it’s too bad.  Honestly, cleaning your own sensor isn’t as scary as it seems. The last thing I'd add here is, have insurance.  Purchase a Business Owners Policy from a reputable insurance company, mine is from Allstate.  Some photography groups, like the PPA, also offer additional protection.

I had an old Canon body, couldn’t tell you the model, was one from a big box store and the typical kit lens.  Produced fine images, took to a branding years ago and it came home A MESS!  The pro level series of cameras and lenses are built to higher standards, as Canon says they are: ”dust- and moisture-resistant and designed for use in the challenging environments typical of rigorous professional use.”

I encourage everyone to “use” your equipment, don’t abuse it.

Until next time...it’s not just a snapshot, it’s a story.

Chris


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