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02-27-2013, 01:32 AM   #1
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Shooting in Death Valley

I will be tent camping in Death Valley in March with my KR and Limited lenses. Neither my camera nor my lenses are weather resistant.

Should I be concerned about fine sand and dust in Death Valley? What could I do to reduce damage to my camera and lenses?

Please do share your shooting experiences within Death Valley too!

02-27-2013, 04:01 AM   #2
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I can't give any Death Valley specific tips but one good suggestion is if there is strong winds and sand (such as deserts or beach etc) put a filter on your lens to protect the elements from being sand blasted.
02-27-2013, 06:05 AM   #3
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Be very careful about conditions around you when changing lenses, especially if the wind is blowing, and try to shield the opening of the camera.
This applies everywhere, but especially outdoors.
Bring a blower to clean the sensor if dust does get on it.
02-27-2013, 06:09 AM   #4
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I can't add better advice than that, other than to enjoy it! March in Death Valley is a photographer's paradise!



02-27-2013, 06:34 AM   #5
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Maybe not Death Valley, but for the deserts of the Middle East.

We all used plastic sandwich bags to put the kit in, even inside camera bags when not in use, cos yes, the sand can and will get into everything.

As others have said get a good blower brush, don't use cloths of any flavour in the field, do all that when you get back to base.

Enjoy one of the most photogenic places on earth, by all accounts.
02-27-2013, 08:33 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by iceshiel Quote
I will be tent camping in Death Valley in March with my KR and Limited lenses. Neither my camera nor my lenses are weather resistant.

Should I be concerned about fine sand and dust in Death Valley? What could I do to reduce damage to my camera and lenses?

Please do share your shooting experiences within Death Valley too!
As everyone has said, watch out for dust. There are several problems there, very fine dust that gets into everything and salts. Parts of Death Valley are alkali salts, which can be corrosive to metal over time, not to mention abbrasive, so at the end of each day you'll want to clean all your gear thoroughly with a brush, especially zoom lenses around the barrels and moving parts and the camera around any opening. Corrosion won't be an immediate problem because it's so dry, but add moisture later and electronics parts can corrode fast. The dust can be very, very fine in some areas, and I would recommend you don't use any sort of air blower to clean your gear because it can push the dust deeper into the lens or camera body, which will slowly grind away at moving parts. A small paint brush with fine bristles (artists brush, not house painting) is a good candidate since it can get into the nooks and crannies easily. If it's really windy out (it can go from dead calm to blow you over in just a few minutes) be very carefull with zooms, they'll suck a lot of dust into the lens as you zoom out.

The park is huge and there are a lot of out of the way spots that few visit, so they are hidden gems if you feel adventurous. Night time can provide some really interesting opportunites too, depending on the phase of moon and weather. If there has been even a mild dust storm sunsets can be very vivid and when it's clear the night sky is unbelieveable. Talk to the Rangers for tips on where are good spots for the time of year you'll be visiting. It's been a long time since I was there last but they provided invaluable advice about places that weren't inundated with visitors, times of day, and weather conditions.

My other suggestions are, in no particular order, LOTS of sunscreen and water. Take twice as much water as you think you'll need, plus a few more bottles. You'll go through it fast if you're even moderately active. The best piece of gear you can take is a very wide brimmed hat, one that you can wear and use with the camera that will cover the camera body as you're using it. That will help with using the view fiender, especially if you wear glasses, by cutting down the glare from all around you (hard to compose and focus if you're scquinting all the time.) If you visit during the summer, have something bright and reflective to cover your camera with so it doesn't heat up in the sun. I was using film back when I was there and I kept it in a small cooler with a cold pack so I didn't cook the film but didn't chill the camera too much at same time (condensation typically isn't a problem there going from cold to warm). You don't need to worry about film but a hot sensor can, I beleive, be noisy and the electronics don't like being cooked much either. I found that after the camera was in the sun for awhile, even carrying it, the dark parts were almost to hot to touch at times, so something as simple as throwing a white towel over it helps (that can also help keep dust off it and still leaves it easy to grab and use).

Have a great trip, hope you enjoy the parkas much as I did!
02-27-2013, 09:59 AM   #7
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Thank you so much for the splendid advice. I will take note of everything!

I plan on just bringing my DA15ltd, DA35ltd and DAL55-300. I am not sure if the DAL55-300 is worth lugging around as it is quite large for my bag. Would the DA15 be appropriate for star photography at night? I want to avoid having the stars trail and am wondering if it is not fast enough.
02-27-2013, 05:29 PM   #8
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It's been too many years since I tried any night shots and I've never used the DA15 so I can't really speak with much authority about how well it would work for you. I think, based on my failing memory, that as long as you keep your exposures to less than a few minutes (obviously using a tripod) star tracking shouldn't be a problem. With no moon I recall the star field to be amazingly clear and bright with no city lights interfering at all.

If you have a 4-wheel drive there are some roads, I use the term 'road' loosely here, coming into the park from the north east that take you by abandoned mines and some water carved canyons. You'd start from Rhyolite in Nevada and head into the park from there. I'd check with the visitors center first to see if its passable, though. It's a long and much slower drive but I thought it was worth it. The times I ventured that way I was by myself the whole trip. You definitely need to let people know you're going that way and what you schedule is in case you have vehicle problems though as there is NO cell phone service in case you run into trouble.

03-02-2013, 08:35 AM   #9
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I've only visited a couple of times, but when I was there wind wasn't an issue at all, and if so it's not nearly as hostile an environment as, say, an ocean beach. So you might not have to worry about dust at all. Temperatures weren't that high when I visited (early spring / late fall.) I remember my second trip there was the first time I'd ever paid as much as (US) $2 for gas - it was much more expensive than in most of the US at the time. On the first visit, in 1990, I left my 52mm Canon polarizer on the roof of my rental car when driving away from badwater basin - if you find it, please send it back :-)

Paul
03-03-2013, 06:59 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by tibbitts Quote
I've only visited a couple of times, but when I was there wind wasn't an issue at all, and if so it's not nearly as hostile an environment as, say, an ocean beach. So you might not have to worry about dust at all. Temperatures weren't that high when I visited (early spring / late fall.) I remember my second trip there was the first time I'd ever paid as much as (US) $2 for gas - it was much more expensive than in most of the US at the time. On the first visit, in 1990, I left my 52mm Canon polarizer on the roof of my rental car when driving away from badwater basin - if you find it, please send it back :-)

Paul
Sure, I'll keep a lookout for polarizers on the desert floor .

On the issue of polarizers... would it make a lot of difference for my photos on my DA15?
03-03-2013, 07:36 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by iceshiel Quote
Sure, I'll keep a lookout for polarizers on the desert floor .

On the issue of polarizers... would it make a lot of difference for my photos on my DA15?
It would make a difference, but the 15mm would be wide enough that you'd have to be very careful to avoid inconsistent polarization effect across the frame. This problem can be particularly evident in horizontal photos that include the sky.

Paul
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