Weather Protection for your Gear (Part II)

In this part we’ll finish up with the rest of our ‘constant’ weather conditions.

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Snow

Ideally the same rules apply for snow as for rain. In the case of rain, water droplets, being more viscous, will ‘stick’ to the gear. Snow should just fall off, being much drier. A plastic sheet wrapped around the lens is all you need, or you could go for one of these if your setup is particularly expensive:

Aquatech Sport Shield 300

Wind

When I mean wind I don’t mean a soothing romantic breeze. I mean at least an 8 on the Beaufort scale. That’s about 72 kmph or 45 mph minimum. A life-threatening situation is an 11 on the Beaufort scale (108 kmph or 67 mph). Above this you are in twister land.

Are there any serious concerns that need to be addressed when working below 10 speeds? Yes. If you are recording sound, even small winds will ruin your day. For microphones, you need these:

K-Tek KR50180 Fur Windsock

Sennheiser MZW66 Grey Foam Windscreen

For slightly stronger winds, you can protect yourself with this:

6 ft Solar Guard Dual Canopy Beach Umbrella

What about storm winds? An umbrella won’t really hold, and one item to consider seriously is:

Coleman 6-Person Instant Tent

At really high winds, the wind speed might match the resonating frequency of your tripod setup, and cause vibrations while recording. Keep in mind, never protect yourself from only two or three sides – you will be creating a wind tunnel and make it worse. If you leave only one side open, you will create an outward pressure on you and your equipment. It’s one side or four sides. Remember that.

Dust/Sandstorm

Sand and dust is dangerous – not only for your gear but also for you. You have no choice but to fully wrap everything. Consider the tent:

Coleman 6-Person Instant Tent

No tent? Let’s talk about gear first. For DSLRs, you can use something like this:

Pro Underwater, Waterproof, Rain Sand Proof Marine Housing Case

For bigger cameras and gear, you’ll need something like this:

Portabrace QS-2 Quick Slick

For audio gear, try this:

Portabrace QSA-2 Audio Quick-Slick

Make sure your lenses have filters on them, and it’s a great idea to have lens hoods as well:

Fotodiox Dedicated (Bayonet) Lens Hood

To protect yourself, you’ll need these:

Oakley O-Frame MX Goggles with Clear Lens

Lightweight Arab Tactical Desert Keffiyeh Scarf

Howard Leight by Sperian 154-1013461 Folding Earmuff – Wire

Survival Air 2985 Dust Mask

Remember, if you are caught in a sand storm, stop and get to high ground. When in doubt, cover everything and wait.

Industrial Dust

If sand is dangerous, then industrial dust can be deadly. Different chemicals react to gear components differently, and corrosion is the greatest danger. You’ll need these for sure:

Portabrace QS-2 Quick Slick

For audio gear, try this:

Portabrace QSA-2 Audio Quick-Slick

To wipe your equipment (and yourself) clean, you will need these:

Zwipes Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

Digital Survival KIT

Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster Large

D-SLR Sensor Cleaning Brush

Black & Decker CHV1510 Dustbuster

Always cover your nose and ears:

Survival Air 2985 Dust Mask

MSA 454-10061535 Xls Cap Model Earmuff

Before you get into an industrial environment, know what you’re dealing with. Is it fine metal particles? Is it chemicals? Is it radioactive or toxic? Is it corrosive? Is it poisonous or allergic? When in doubt, follow the safety precautions recommended by the safety engineer/manual for that particular environment.

Volcanic Ash

Volcanic ash is not something to take lightly. It can be abrasive and chemically corrosive. You need protection similar to what was outlined in Industrial Dust above.

Always vacuum to remove ash. To clean up ash residue, it is first good to moisten it a bit, but too much moisture will make ash stick rather than come off. When in doubt, send in the gear for professional servicing.

Low Pressure/Altitude/Flying

Low pressure specifically affects moving parts – especially motors or drives. Instead of recording on spinning drives, it will definitely be better to use SSDs. DSLRs record on solid state media anyway – so there aren’t many issues. High altitudes have negligible effects on manual shutters, too.

Fans on high-end video cameras are usually for cooling, but that isn’t an issue at high altitudes. For hills, follow rain protection advice. For mountains, follow sub-zero protection advice.

High Pressure/Underwater

Waterproof cameras can be submerged in a bath tub or swimming pool – though you wouldn’t do that with professional gear unless it is housed in waterproof gear. There are two scenarios here: within 150 feet and deeper.

Sea level to 150 feet
All you need is an underwater housing solution for your particular camera. Good products must support at least up to 150 feet. For DSLRs, you can use this:

Ikelite eTTL Underwater Housing

If you are using a camera like the Arri Alexa or the Red Epic, etc, you’ll need a high end solution like this:

Hydroflex Remote Aqua Cam

Professional underwater solutions also account for lighting, monitor, battery and cable support among others.

Deep sea diving
You’ll need a custom-made rig in a pressurized mini sub.

Mist/Fog

Mist and Fog are water particles suspended in air. It is fog if the visibility is one kilometer or less. Otherwise it is known as mist. For misty conditions follow advice as outlined under high humidity. For fog, follow rain protection guidelines.

Haze

Haze is dust, smoke and other particles suspended in air. If it is brownish it is haze. Follow advice for dust protection.

Airport Scanners/Radiation/Solar

Airport Scanners have negligible effects on gear – it isn’t something you can completely avoid or do anything about. Solar phenomenon effects on cameras during air flights are negligible for infrequent fliers. Frequent fliers can ‘ship’ their gear instead, but there’s nothing else that can be done reliably. Cosmic radiation doesn’t affect most commercial flying.

Radiation affects everything. It can ruin your sensor – but if you are in such an environment, your gear is the last thing you should worry about. Anyway, to shield from radiation, especially particle radiation, use a dense material – the denser the better. The traditional material used is lead:


Other acceptable materials are steel and concrete, but you need a much greater thickness. Any material will shield from radiation, as long as it is thick enough to absorb it.

Lightning

Cameras cannot usually withstand direct lightning strikes, and they are not designed to. Most cameras can withstand minor secondary voltages due to the large electromagnetic fields produced by a lightning strike in close proximity – but there are limits.

To take care of secondary voltages, you need a surge protector between the power supply and the camera:

Belkin Surge Protector

You need to properly ground the camera but a camera in motion is not likely to have proper earthing protection. A lightning air terminal – like the ones found on tall buildings – can also be used, but are not practical for a moving camera.

The best that can be done, if lightning threatens and you feel you are threatened outdoors, is to get into a car and wait. For your gear, a properly grounded metal container should protect your equipment.

Space/Cosmic Radiation

Radiation cannot be avoided – the sensor must have a clean line of sight during exposure, and NASA usually uses one camera per mission because that’s the most a single sensor can withstand.

Certain gear, like flash units, will need to be enclosed in thermal blankets to use as they are designed to. Lubricant modifications are also made to withstand the temperature and pressure conditions in space. Click here for more info on how NASA does it.

Here’s a piece of gear that will tell you exactly what kind of weather you are experiencing:

Davis Instruments Vantage Pro2 Weather Station

That’s it for constant weather conditions. In the next part I’ll cover varying conditions.

Next: Part 3
Previous: Part 1