When is it Safe to Take Your 'Baby' Out?

I got my first 35mm camera (Minolta) when I 'borrowed' it from my father when I was around 22. It had been sitting in a bag, unused, long enough. I convinced him to let me take it to an event, and it never went back. It should be no surprise that I used that camera a lot. It was not uncommon for me to take 20 rolls of film at a time to the drive-up development booth in the shopping center parking lot (...oh, you young'uns have no idea!). I used that camera for about 15 years. They sure don't make things like they used to.

When I purchased my very first digital 35mm Canon, it went everywhere with me. I made a mistake though, when I took it to an outdoor music fest. I safely tucked it away in it's bag when a thunderstorm hit. Following that heavy rain, I kept the camera in it's bag and sat the bag on the ground. As I enjoyed the music, the camera slowly absorbed moisture from the ground and humidity. The next day, I took it out of the bag to take some shots, and it was dead. I was crushed. The camera was out of warranty and I didn't have $400 to buy a replacement. This was before the phone camera technology put a camera in everyone's hands 24/7, so you can imagine how bad my 'cold turkey' withdrawal pains were.

As our faithful God makes good out of ALL situations, I was blessed when several of my friends, who appreciated the photos I had been taking of their kids at Scouts, church and school, got together and collected enough money to buy me a replacement. I was shocked that other people would spend that kind of money on ME. There were much greater needs in the world than poor, pitiful Pam who had been pouting because she couldn't take any pictures. How humbling it was that these friends cared enough to do this. That was a life-changing moment. From that point forward, I made a personal commitment to always "give back" with my photography.

So, back to the weather. Once I had my prized possession destroyed by humidity, I had to change my thinking about when it is or isn't safe to take my equipment outside during heat, humidity and rain. In fact, during a session yesterday I noticed some fogging, so I cancelled a shoot scheduled for tonight because of the threat of heavy thunderstorms and the high humidity.

Many of you now have not only expensive phones, but your own dSLR cameras that you've invested a pretty penny in. So, here are some tips:

WHEN IT'S HOT: Keep your gear as cool as possible. Cover your camear with a towel or shirt, put an umbrella over you or stand in a shady area while you're shooting. Keep the camera out of direct sunlight wherever possible and never leave it sitting in a hot car. When temps are in the 90's, keep the amount of time you spend in the heat to a minimum. Give your gear some rest breaks to cool down for 5-10 minutes. The camera sensors do not handle constant extreme temperatures very well at all.

WHEN IT'S COLD: One of the issues with extreme cold is that your batteries will drain rapidly. If you have a spare battery, keep it close to your body in a warm place, but not where moisture/sweat will create condensation. When you come back inside from an outdoor shoot in freezing weather, you'll have to watch out for condensation. The rapid rise in temps will cause things to get foggy.

WHEN IT'S WINDY: Be extra cautious when changing your lens, your SD card or battery. Dust blowing in the wind can sweep into the cracks and wreak havoc with your sensors.

WHEN IT'S WET (...and humid): You can get very inexpensive disposable camera 'raincoats' on Amazon, or buy a non-disposable heavy duty cover. However, with whatever you use - watch for condensation!!! Never change your battery or SD card in the rain. Move into a dry location (your car, a building, etc). If you're caught off guard and don't have a raincoat, you can always use a large ziplock bag with a hole cut into it for the lens, and put a rubber band around the bag to keep the majority of the water out. Just remember, one of the biggest dangers for your equipment is AFTER a rainfall. Don't sit your equipment near the ground. It will absorb wetness and humidity and sneak up and destroy your prized camera - as with what happened to me.

The hot and humid days of summer have just begun. Hopefully, with a little care, you can avoid the crushing blow of a damaged unit. By the way, you DID get a warranty with your camera, right??

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