Tuesday, March 27, 2012

To Beach Or Not To Beach

It's not rocket science to realise why taking your camera to the beach might be a bad idea. I can pretty much sum it up in one word: SAND. Well... maybe two: SAND & WATER. There is an abundance of both of them, which makes taking your camera to the beach kind of dangerous.

The danger of water is two-fold. There is the water that makes up the ocean (ie. Do not take your camera into the water with you unless you have a waterproof cover for it) and then there is the mist that is thrown up by the wind that can cause about as much damage as, well, mist! Moisture is not a good thing for your camera. You don't want it!

The danger of sand is slightly less obvious, but makes sense if you think about it. Sand gets everywhere. Anyone who has spent any amount of time at the beach will have realised this. You spend the days after visiting the beach discovering the new and exciting places where the sand has hidden itself. And you do not want your sand to hide itself anywhere near your camera. A grain of sand, as small as it is, can cause a lot of damage when it gets into the wrong place and, with the addition of wind, can be really harmful to your camera. You don't want the sand to get into the zoom mechanism. You don't want it blowing against your lens or getting into the crevices of your lens cap. When I say you don't want sand, I really really mean it! Keep it far far far away!

And yet, the benefits of taking your camera to the beach are clear. Just look at the amazing photos of the beach and you will see what they are. Those aspects that are a threat to your camera are a dream for your photography! So, the real question would be: Is it worth the risk?

I decided to take my chances last week when a public holiday presented itself and I found myself with nothing to do. The weather was supposed to be perfect, so some friends decided that it was the perfect opportunity to drive to Kenton on Sea, about an hour outside of Grahamstown, and take advantage of it. I hmmed and haaed about whether to bring my camera along and eventually decided to go for it. I packed it in my small bag (not wanting to take my full kit with me) along with a spare lens and headed off.

At first, there was no doubt in my mind that bringing the camera had been a great idea. The sky was the perfect shade of blue, the water was stunning and everything was just coming together to create great photo opportunities. We walked up dunes, down sand banks, around cliffs and eventually found ourselves in a secluded paradise. The water was turquoise and relatively warm considering the time of year. We found ourselves a nice spot out of the way and left our stuff behind while we ran into the open arms of the ocean. (Which reminds me - another negative about taking your camera to the beach can be safety if everyone you know is heading away from your stuff, leaving it susceptible.)

And then, from nowhere, the weather turned. The wind picked up into a minor storm and people raced from the beach as fast as they could manage. Having driven an hour to get there and only having had about 5 minutes of beach time, we were reluctant to give up. Instead, we wandered through the sandstorm trying to find a shaded spot. Which we eventually found. But, remember what I said about your camera + sand + wind? Not a good combination! I tried to keep it in the shelter of my handbag, but alas there was sand in there too. Once the wind died down a bit, I retrieved the camera once again and, lo and behold, there was sand on the lens and pretty much everywhere else. And yet, that didn't stop me. I managed to wipe off most of the sand from the camera itself and used my blower to get rid of the grains that were residing on my lens, and I kept shooting. And I got some great shots! I was really happy with the photos that came out of the day!

So was it worth it? To be honest, I am in two minds. I am thrilled with the pictures that were taken, so much so that I want to go back as soon as possible. And yet, I am still worried about my camera and the wear and tear that it may have taken from the outing. Taking your camera to the beach with you is a risk. If you are prepared for that risk and for anything to happen, then I would highly recommend taking it, particularly if you are heading somewhere picturesque. But don't take your camera with you unprepared. Bring your cleaning kit, bring an extra (sand-friendly) bag and if any dangers present themselves, run like the wind. Or hide your camera and keep enjoying yourself. Either way will work :)

What dangerous circumstances has your camera faced recently?

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