Don’t be deceived. If you immerse your digital camera in water, there is no ‘may’ about it, it will malfunction! (Don’t ask me how I know.)
But digital camera owners in the Pacific Northwest face the prospect of never being able to use their cameras outside if they don’t come to terms with humidity in the form of precipitation.
It’s been raining in the Columbia River Gorge for about two straight weeks now and I’ve been thwarted by ‘humidity’ in two ways in my efforts to get pictures at Oneonta Gorge. The first way is by high water that confines me to the mouth of the gorge. The second way I’ve been thwarted is by raindrops on the lens which I don’t notice until I unload my images to the computer for review.
I thought the solution to my first challenge would be hip-waders, but the helpful outdoorsmen at work suggested neoprene bib overalls with built in boots. In fact, Bob had a pair he was willing to let me borrow.
I then set about devising a means by which to protect the camera from rain.
2. Get a rubber band.
3. Poke a hole in the sack.
5. Fasten the sack to the lens with the rubber band (be careful not to interfere with the focus ring).
6. Fold the sack back over the rubber band, creating a plastic-sack-housing for the camera and lens.
7. The sack will help protect the camera from rain. Finally, put a hood on the front of the lens to minimize the number of raindrops that will land on the glass.
Feeling a little bit like Jacque Cousteau, I step into the flowing water and search for a shallow route upstream. I manage to get to the large boulders in front of the logjam, but to get beyond the boulders will require some graceful jumping on slippery rocks over deep fast running water. Though my brain - clinging to idealized memories of my body’s athletic capabilities - suggests that it would be easy, my body reminds me that it hasn’t forgiven me for the snowshoe adventure yet, and my wallet reminds me that a single misstep will likely result in financial hardship, either in camera replacement or medical costs, provided I survive.
Though I know there is a waterfall at the end of this gorge, I settle for this view beyond the logjam.
Even though I have taken steps to protect the camera from water (keeping it in the camera bag, wiping the lens regularly), picture review time on the computer shows me that there continues to be a high correlation between the degree to which I like an image and the number of raindrops which appear on the lens – that is, the more I like an image, the more raindrops it will have.
As a last resort, since I have taken multiple exposures, I am able to use imagery from similar pictures to save the shot I prefer by cutting and pasting to layers within Photoshop.
Detail: Before Photoshop / After Photoshop
Final repaired image of logjam
Neoprene bib with built in boots
Pros: These things work. I stayed dry and warm even when I sat on a rock in the middle of the stream to fiddle with the tripod. Also, I'm told that if you should fall into the water, they float (as opposed to hip-waders which act as water anchors).
Cons: You have to have the skills and agility of Harry Houdini to get in and out of them. This has scary implications if you should fall into the water. I felt clumsy with the big boots. They are so comfortable in the water that one tends to become reckless. I think if you ever get a hole in them, they would become instantly useless.
Plastic sack rain shield
Pros: Works briefly to keep rain off camera body
Cons: In practice, after lengthy exposure to rain, the inside of the sack becomes as wet as the outside of the sack. An invaluable tool to have is an old T-shirt to periodically wipe the camera and the inside of the sack. Keep the camera in a camera bag until you're ready to shoot.
Wet/dry bag (Used in rafts and canoes)
Pros: As long as the camera is in the bag and the bag is closed, you don't have to worry about immersing your gear.
Cons: These bags don't have shoulder straps so you have to carry them by hand. In practice, this means that you almost always have the bag open, and when you are using your camera and trying to set up the tripod, the wet/dry bag has a tendency to migrate down river with all of your extra batteries.