One of my main concerns when traveling to extremely humid locations for photography, such as swamps and rainforests, is safeguarding my camera equipment from the humidity. In the tropics and other similar environments, your camera equipment is susceptible to lens fogging, fungus growth, and water damage. Equipment frequently stops working after prolonged exposure to humidity. I’ll outline how to take care of your camera equipment in humid conditions in this article.
Will the Humidity Damage Your Camera Gear?
Despite not directly harming photography equipment, humidity is still a problem that needs to be addressed. The most obvious reason is that if you store your equipment in humid conditions for an extended period of time, mold and fungus can develop on it, especially inside your lens.
Another issue, though less of a long-term problem, is that if it’s very humid outside, your lens or viewfinder may fog up and become temporarily inoperable.
You should be worried about the condition of your equipment if you’re traveling to humid areas like the tropics, especially the rainforest. Fortunately, there are methods that lower the likelihood of humidity-related problems.
Camera and Lens Fogging
Consider yourself in a tropical setting. You lift your camera to capture this amazing moment as you spot a jaguar that has just caught its next meal. However, as the camera tries for focus, all you can see via the viewfinder is a blur with little contrast. You notice that your lens is cloudy. Despite your best efforts to remove the fog, it quickly reappears and is now inside your lens. Once the chance has passed, the jaguar returns to the trees with its food.
You should never be in this circumstance, I assure you. Condensation might be difficult to avoid when the air is particularly humid. Let’s explore the causes of condensation on lenses as well as possible solutions.
- Why Does Fog Condense on Camera Lenses?
When the lens itself is cooler than the dew point of the environment, a camera lens will fog up. The temperature at which condensation will happen on a surface is known as the dew point. The dew point rises with increasing air humidity, increasing the likelihood of lens fogging. Because of this, camera fogging is common during hot, humid summer days in the tropics.
- Avoid Air Conditioning
Going from an air-conditioned place to a hot, humid setting is one of the most frequent ways photographers experience lens fogging. Since the camera is significantly cooler than the outside dew point in this instance, condensation quickly forms on the lens and camera. It won’t go away even after you wipe it off; it will build up until the camera warms up enough to be above the dew point.
When you leave an air-conditioned area, you may prevent fogging by keeping your camera in a Ziploc bag until it warms up to the ambient temperature. You can open the bag once you’ve become used to the temperature because fogging won’t be a problem.
- Persistent Fogging
There are occasions when there is no change in temperature, but your camera may appear to fog up on its own. This has happened to me many times when there has been a lot of water buildup, either in my camera bag or, worse, in my equipment. In these circumstances, it appears that the equipment’s fogging is being caused by the evaporation of the moisture that is already there.
It is advisable to avoid fogging difficulties altogether, as with any other issues. Simply keeping your camera equipment as dry as possible can accomplish this. Rather of heating your camera if it does get wet, let it dry carefully. If you can find a bag of rice big enough for your camera, you can also try the tried-and-true “place it in a bag of rice” trick (and its variations) for unsticking moisture.
Lens Fungus and Mold
As terrible as lens fog can be, lens fungus and mold are a much bigger long-term danger. There is no real method to repair damage done to your lens once fungus begins to grow there. Typically, repairs are both expensive and extremely complicated.
The typical appearance of lens fungus is a white mat that covers the glass:
Your images may appear soft and washed out if the fungus is really bad. In backlighting situations, such as when the sun is in your frame, it will also significantly increase lens flare in your photographs.
It’s important to keep your camera equipment dry to stop mold or fungus from ever forming. In high-humidity areas, that could be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are some suggestions for keeping your equipment dry.
Tips to Keep Your Camera Dry in the First Place
- Stay Aware of the Conditions
When photographing in humid weather, extra care should be taken. Even if it seems obvious, I must emphasize it.
A splash on your camera might not be a major concern if the weather is dry because the water droplets would rapidly dissipate. The opposite may be true in humid environments, where water may settle in the crevices and cracks of your equipment and remain there permanently. These tiny stray droplets are what most increase the risk of mold.
Be cautious around splashes, rain, and droplets that fall from trees more often than not. As far as you can, keep your equipment inside your camera bag, and avoid changing lenses in the rain or even in dense fog. It may seem excessive to be so cautious, but bear in mind that activities that would not normally cause fungus or mold in dry climates can do so in the tropics.
- Use Ziploc Bags and Silica Gel Packets
I keep my camera and each lens in its own Ziploc bag with a few silica gel desiccant packets when I’m shooting in a rainforest. This helps my equipment dry out after each use and keeps it dry when I’m not using it. The goal is to store your equipment in a low-humidity space that absorbs any water that may be present.
On the market, desiccants come in a variety of forms. I like the packets of silica gel, particularly the color-changing silica gel that changes color as it absorbs moisture. A saturated packet must be replaced since it is unable to continue removing humidity from the air (or dried out again). If microwaved, the silica gel I use can be used again. Even so, I advise packing a lot of packets in case you consume them rapidly and are without access to a microwave.
Desiccating salts, for example, begin to sweat after they become saturated, so you should be careful to keep them away. They devolve into a liquidy mess, which is disastrous for the camera bag (I speak from experience). Keep using the silica gel packets; they are the best.
- Create a Dry Box
When not in use, keep your camera equipment in a sealed box filled with desiccant to prevent mold from forming on it over time. (Air conditioning functions as a very large dry box; the only time you’ll need to pack separately is if you’re staying somewhere without air conditioning.)
Any sealable container that fits your equipment and can be transported in your luggage works. I put silica gel packets in the dry box and use a hygrometer to gauge the humidity. To stop mold from developing, I try to keep the humidity in the box below 70%. Mold might not be a big issue during a journey that lasts less than two weeks. I strongly advise using a dry box if the trip will last more than a few days or if you reside in a tropical area.
The ability of a dry box to function as a camera hospital is another benefit. I’ve now received cameras that had unexpectedly stopped working in the tropics twice from individuals who ignored all of the recommendations in this post. With no other options, I decided to try putting the camera in my dry box for a few days to see if it would work. They then, lo and behold, came back to life.
- Always Bring a Rain Cover and Poncho
Always keep a rain cover for your camera bag on hand because heavy downpours might appear out of nowhere in humid, tropical environments. I’d take extra precautions by additionally purchasing a sizable poncho that can be worn over both you and your bag. You and your gear can withstand even the hardest downpours if you have your items packed in Ziploc bags as advised above and have a rain cover for your camera bag in addition to a poncho.
Ponchos are preferable over rain coats since they may easily fit over your camera bag and be packed extremely tiny. A poncho is also a lot less expensive. Beware of the more expensive ponchos that you might find online. Any cheap poncho will do. In a pinch, even a trash bag will do!
If you live, work, or travel to the tropics, I hope this article has helped you get your photography equipment ready. You won’t have any problems keeping your camera secure in the rainforest, marshes, or other damp conditions if you take the proper precautions. You may capture every moment by keeping your equipment dry and using the advice in this article to lower the chance of humidity-related problems.
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