by Harry Flashman
Looking after your investment
Everyone believes in looking after their investments (I hope). After all,
our financial advisor Graham MacDonald has many tips for you each week to
ensure the viability and longevity of your financial investments.
Unfortunately Graham does not have tips on maintaining your photographic
investments, so here are a few tips on how to look after your photographic
investments - investments that can be quite big ticket investments too.
My favorite lens was a 40 mm Hasselblad wide angle, with a huge bit of glass
on the front that would cost in Thailand over 200,000 baht. Makes you think,
doesn’t it. You can buy a second hand car for that sort of money!
However, even humble point and shooters will benefit from being looked
after. Any camera will give you better and more reliable service, and not
let you down when you are about to take the one shot that will make you
millions of baht in the international news market.
With today’s digital cameras you have a combination of optical hardware and
electronic software all encased in an often plastic case, so there are many
areas that will need looking after.
The first concept is to understand common items that will go towards
destroying your camera. These include dust and grit, moisture and
condensation, battery acid and being dropped. Looking after your investment
is then a simple case of countering the above factors. Let’s look at some of
Moisture and condensation are the easiest ones to counter, but the dampness
comes from more than just being caught out in the rain. Thailand is a hot
and humid environment. How many times have you taken your camera outside
after being in an air-conditioned office and found you could not see through
the viewfinder because it had steamed up? That is condensation. The best
answer here is to keep small sachets of silica gel in your camera bag, or in
the little “socks” you keep the lenses in. When the silica gel changes color
you can pop them back in the micro-wave and rejuvenate them very easily.
Many bottles of medication come with perfect little sachets in the top of
There will also be times when you get caught in the rain, or you may even
want to get rain shots. The camera body is reasonably water proof, but you
should carefully wipe the outside of the case dry afterwards, and especially
blow air around the lens barrel and the lens mount.
To look after the lens, make sure that you do not touch the optical glass
with your fingers. Make sure that you put on the lens cap when not shooting
pictures. To clean the lens, use good lens cleaning equipment. Always use a
good lens brush, lens blower and lens cloth to do the job.
Temperature can kill a camera. You should always keep the camera out of the
sun. Do not store your digital camera in the glove box of your car in our
tropical environment as temperatures there can become very high.
With digitals, you need to keep the camera away from magnets of any form
which can affect the circuitry of your digital camera. Do not place the
camera on top of a computer, for example.
Look after the memory card by avoiding touching the terminals, and always
carry a spare!
Another danger is leakage from batteries. Just about every camera in the
world these days has a battery, even if it is just to drive the needle on
the light meter. Acid leakage from a battery can totally ruin a modern
camera, getting into the electronics so that it never works properly again.
The answer here is to discard the batteries every twelve months, even if
they seem to be fine, and if you are not going to be using the camera for an
extended period, then take the batteries out altogether.
Finally, keep your camera in a soft case that can absorb some shocks. Not
the silly plastic thing it came in. If you have not got one - then go out
and buy one today. They are very inexpensive, especially when compared to
the cost of the camera! Protect your investment!
Wet or dry - Be Prepared
have been having some rather inclement weather of late (spoken with an
upper-class British accent)! Or as they would say here, fon tok maak (a lot
of rain), which then leads to a “nam tuam” (flood) and we had enough of that
last year. Fortunately the government has all this under control and like
King Knut (also known as Cnut and Canute) will order the tides to recede.
However, despite the inclement weather it can be a time to go out and get
some different photographs - but you must be prepared.
“Be Prepared” has always been the motto of the Boy Scouts Association, and a
concept that they have zealously guarded. In fact, popular rumor has it that
the Association took the American satirist Tom Lehrer to court after he sang
a ditty with that title. For those of you who missed it, the final verse
“If you’re looking for adventure of a new and different kind,
And you come across a Girl Scout who is similarly inclined,
Don’t be nervous, don’t be flustered, don’t be scared.
So what has that got to do with photography? Quite a lot actually. Look at
the photograph with the column this week. It had rained very heavily in
Chiang Mai, and Doi Suthep was covered in mist as well as the rain. This
photo opportunity was just wonderful and I had the waterproofed camera,
spare memory chip, fully charged batteries, and I was ready to shoot.
I took about a dozen shots, and here have published the one which I
particularly like. It is a Cartier-Bresson style, the ‘decisive moment’,
with the subject in the raincoat about to step down the stairway. But to get
these shots it was necessary for me to “be prepared”.
Being prepared is having your camera ‘waterproof’. To do this 100 percent
you can buy a Nikonos underwater camera at the cost of many thousands of
baht. These are a wonderful underwater camera but for this instance -
totally impractical, unless you want to stand at the side of the road in a
The second way is to purchase a fancy plastic underwater housing for your
own camera. Now these can range in price, depending on complexity. Built
like a perspex box to house your camera, you can operate all the adjustments
from the outside. These are not cheap either, and the cheapest in the range
is literally a plastic bag with a waterproof opening and a clear plastic
section for the lens. You open it up and literally drop your camera inside
it and seal the bag. These can be purchased from major photographic outlets
and I did spot one in a photo-shop for B. 750.
A third way is a waterproof disposable camera (yes, they do make them). Good
for about three meters, so perfectly suitable for rainstorms. If you can’t
get one of those, then even the ordinary cheap disposables are a better
option than getting your good camera gear doused. I must admit to having
dropped one of these overboard one day and the boatman retrieved it and the
final photos were fine - but that was in the days of film, and not fancy
So you are left with an even simpler way of making your camera waterproof.
And cheaper. It consists of a couple of plastic bags, such as you get with
every item in 7-Eleven, and a handful of rubber bands.
Do the camera body first, inserting it into the plastic bag, but leaving a
circular hole in the front so you can screw the lens on afterwards. Some
rubber bands and the body is protected.
Now pop the lens into the other plastic bag, making circular holes at both
ends and fixing it in place with a couple of rubber bands. Use large bags,
so there is slack to move the focusing ring/aperture settings.
Your waterproof camera for less than one baht. Go out and get wet and shoot!
But it is a simple case of being prepared and just jumping in to get the
shots, don’t stage manage, and lots of luck! Look out for photo
opportunities, even when it is raining.