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Photos at the beach, Part 1 (08/29/2004)
By Tom Hirsch

Nothing is as enjoyable as a day at the beach, and nothing can be as devastating as having something happen to your camera while you're there. Believe me, things can happen. The possibilities include dust, sand, moisture, heat and theft, and there are probably several others that I've forgotten.

When preparing for a trip to the beach, don't leave your camera at home in order to avoid the possible dangers. Just remember that the camera must be protected at all times, and make your plans accordingly.

Pack the camera and film so they will never be left in the open when not in use. A white or silver colored case reflects sunlight. A dark case will absorb sunlight, and this can rapidly heat the contents. Regardless of its color, keep the case out of the direct rays of the sun as much as possible.

The camera should be placed inside the case when not in use. Of course you would never lay the camera down in the sand, but you should also never place it on a beach blanket or towel, or on anything else that might collect sand, or that could be picked up with the possibility of dumping the camera onto the sand.

Dust and sand are the most common causes of camera breakdown at the beach. Even a small amount of dust getting inside the camera can shut it down. Shooting in a gentle breeze may be okay, but a brisk wind can force dust or sand into the unprotected crevasses of a camera or lens.

When going to the beach, take along a dry, lint-free cloth in a zip-type plastic bag. With it, you can lightly brush dust and sand off the camera before it can get inside. Use a flicking motion to remove the particles. Brushing can rub the stuff right into the camera casing.

A critical time at the beach is when you want to change film, or switch to a different lens on a single-lens reflex (SLR). While making a change in which it's necessary to expose the internal parts of the camera to the open air, get away from the dust, sand and activity. It's best if you can be inside a car or building, but if this is not possible, be extremely careful. Never make any changes outside in windy conditions. A digital camera with a memory card that has lots of memory is a better camera choice at the beach than a camera that might require a change of film.

Water can be another problem. Any moisture on or inside a camera can cause rust, or it can short out the camera's electronic mechanism, and salt water can speed up the process. If you come in from a swim and decide to take a few pictures, dry your hands before reaching for the camera. Also, wipe your face and hair if there is any possibility of water dripping onto the camera. If your dip has been in salt water, rinse your hands in fresh water, if at all possible, to prevent the possibility of depositing any salt from your hands onto the camera.

There are several water-resistant cameras on the market that are ideal for beach photography. Some of these are single-use (disposable) cameras. Others are water-resistant, but can also be used for any general purpose photography. Although many of these cameras are not waterproof to the extent that they can be dunked, they will endure a substantial amount of spray. This makes them fun to have at the beach when you want to get close to the water where most of the activity takes place. Incidentally, these cameras also take very good pictures.

When you get home from the beach, carefully brush off or vacuum the outside of the camera to remove any dust or sand before opening the back or changing lenses. Also vacuum the inside and outside surfaces of the gadget bag.

More next time. 


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