It's hot. It's summer. We turn on the air-conditioning, wear less clothes, and don't leave pets in locked vehicles. What about our cameras?
Heather Avec Camera, Photograph by Jennifer Wade
In 1992, I was lifeguarding at a small pool. Someone had left a box of books in the pump room and I read every single one of them. One of them happened to be Bridges of Madison County (don't laugh, I thought it was about a National Geographic photographer!). All I can remember about this book was that it was an extremely hot summer and the photographer packed his cameras in a cooler with ice. This was when I first realized camera gear is heat-sensitive and needs to be protected. I haven't left my cameras in the car, since.
Expanding on last summer's Keeping Gear Safe from Summer post, here are a few more points to help keep gear in tip-top condition:
Brian Avec Cameras, Photograph by Jennifer Wade
Clean Hands: Insect repellent, sunscreen, watermelon, barbecue - our hands don't stay very clean and dry in the summer. When our hands are sticky, they make our camera gear sticky, turning them into magnets for dirt, dust, sand, and more. Sticky residue on the lens or LCD screen is often hard to clean, leading to potentially damaging efforts to remove it. Components within insect repellents and oily sunscreens could, over time, cause rust, corrosion, discoloration and/or deterioration of plastic and metal parts of cameras and lenses and anything leather, like straps and bags. Before handling gear, be sure to wash hands after applying sunscreens and insect repellents or nomming on sticky foods or use hand santizers or wipes if a sink is inconvenient.
Sand, Salt & Dust: As you already know when showering after a day at the beach, sand gets everywhere. Gritty, abrasive, and super-small, sand penetrates seals and lenses to wreak major havoc on moving parts and sensitive mirrors and sensors, not to mention cluttering control dials causing them to grind and grate. Unless the camera bag is air-tight, on a windy day on the beach, sand will get inside, even if closed up tightly and covered with a towel (just trust me on this one, ok? don't ask how I know....). Same goes for dusty fields in drought-ridden areas - be careful photographing Little League or soccer games when the ground is dry and all the action kicks up a cloud of dust. Salt will cause even more damage by causing rust, corrosion, oxidation, decomposition and decay of electronics parts and, as a conductor, may short out electrical circuits. If possible, pack gear in sealable plastic bags and for the love of all your gear, do not change lenses in these situations. Use a soft cloth or brush to wipe away any particles and if sand, salt or dust do end up throwing a raging party inside your camera, consider having it professionally cleaned (do it yourself only if you are absolutely sure of what you're doing).
Condensation: Extreme changes in temperature, like from an air-conditioned building or car to the humid outdoors, can cause condensation to appear on lenses and view finders, as well as mirrors and sensors inside the camera. Excessive moisture eventually leads to water spots and environments perfect for damaging fungus growth. Other hazards include short circuits, corrosion, and rust. Even weather-sealed cameras are vulnerable. To prevent condensation, allow gear to adjust to warmer temperatures gradually. Air-tight plastic bags will also help by allowing the condensation to form on the outside of the bag; make sure all the air is squeezed out before sealing, just like packing a sandwich for lunch (just don't open the bag until the condensation has started to dissipate from the plastic bag). Silica packs, like the kind in the box of a new pair of shoes or are sold in camera stores, can help absorb moisture and keep gear dry, so throw a few of those in your bag for good measure.
Batteries: When the acid inside batteries gets hot, it expands, compromises seals, and leaks out into your camera causing all sorts of problems. To prevent this, check batteries regularly and remove them for long-term storage, particular in hot and humid environments. And, never leave a camera (or any gear, for that matter) in direct sunlight.
I hope these tips help!