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gvallee

Tips on photo equipment care in the tropics

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 I am about to move to the tropics where for several months a year, there is a very high humidity level.

When I lived in the Amazon, I used kilos of silica gel in bags. It was a mega bore to have to cook it every day to get rid of absorbed humidity.

 

Anyone has a tip for more modern methods? I have quite a lot of equipment, including very long lenses. I would hate to get mould on them.

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Gen

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I have a damp cellar and run a medium sized electric powered dehumidifier which works a treat and doesn't cost much to run. But I do have to empty a couple of litres of water out most days. A smaller unit in a cupboard might be the way to go but whether you're cooking silica or sucking the moisture out some other way you must have to do something about the water.

 

I did a quick check on Google for small dehumidifiers and quickly found a couple recommended for cupboards under £50 in the UK which might run several days before needing emptying.

Edited by Robert M Estall
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Silica gel dries in the microwave in a couple of minutes. If you have the variety that changes color when moist/dry, it's super easy.

Spreading out on a black plastic bag in the sun works fine too. I've never cooked it.

Rice and salt are old school alternatives, that are readily available in large parts of the world. Use is the same as for the silica, except you cook and eat it when moist.

I am a strong believer in open cabinets with air flow rather than closed boxes with silica gel. Google solar drying cabinets (for the tropics), and you'll see the principle: heat the incoming air, usually by using a black pipe or duct outside that leads into a cabinet indoors, that in turn has a vent at the highest point. Don't forget to filter the inlet with at least a fine bug net.

 

wim

 

edit: solar

Edited by wiskerke
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I live on the coast in SE Brazil, in and around the Atlantic Rainforest. You do have to take precautions with humidity otherwise within a few months all your lenses will have fungus. What I do is probably the cheapest yet an effective solution. Just get yourself a large transparent plastic box like the one below and put in the blue silica gel and a simple humidity clock to monitor it. Don't cover your lenses, light is your friend. Ideally you should glue eva foam on the edges so that you don't have a lot of outside air coming in. You will need to recharge the silica whenever the humidity gets over 45 or 50% more or less. In my case it lasts around 3 weeks. 

plastic-moulded-box-250x250.jpg

 

An even better solution is if you can find one of these dry boxes designed just for that:

db3226.jpg

 

Another alternative that I also do with part of my equipment is to use a Pelican case. That is completely air tight and the silica will last longer, the drawback is that it's not transparent, so you must open it to monitor the humidity. Also it's said that the darkness is a friend of fungus as well.

 

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4 hours ago, funkyworm said:

A camera shop employee once told me to use a cotton sock with a couple of teaspoons of uncooked rice in it.

 

That's for deterring shoplifters! ;) :lol: (very small ones :D)

Edited by losdemas

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1 hour ago, funkyworm said:

The very small ones here would be off with the contents of the sock:

<Rudi Carrell song>

 

Here's the translation. Actually the Dutch version is the translation and the English is the original.

Original.

 

wim

 

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Thank you all, I will look into the different options. I might pass on the sock as I would need a couple of Christmas sock size ones with all the gear!

Octavio, I like the look of that dry box. I'll see if it's available in Oz. You live in the Mata Atlantica? Lucky you. I participated once in a field project in Ilha do Cardoso.

 

I'm beating myself up for not thinking about the humidity problem earlier, I'll be there in two week's time, just for the beginning of the Wet season! As if I didn't have enough to do with the house move, especially as the removal company has just let us down and I'll have to use my campervan for the move instead. Not peaceful but exciting times!

 

Gen

 

Edited by gvallee

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4 minutes ago, funkyworm said:

A wee follow up question to this one.

 

Has anyone ever had  any problems with bugs and creepy crawlies getting into their equipment? A recall back in analogue days a case of a mosquito in the camera and every image from the role of film had the bug immortalised. But I can imagine a spider stolling through the innards of a laptop could do some damage.

 

Luckily not inside. Only a ladybird crawling between my eyes and the viewfinder while taking macro shots of insects.

I do get jumping spiders regularly jumping on my lens or tripod. They're only a few millimetres long but are not phased by humans. Very friendly they are. Or vain.

 

Gen

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The problem is that to use your camera equipment you have to take it out of all the above precautionary stuff, exposing it to the humidity. Zoom lenses suck in air and therefore moisture. Changing lenses also allows the humid air into the camera body. Probably the only effective answer is to use something like the Fuji x series which are weather proofed and make sure you have the weather proofed lenses. High camera usage also prevents the onset of fungus. Very few high volume pro photogs have a fungus problem possibly due to the constant usage.

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19 minutes ago, Blind Pig said:

The problem is that to use your camera equipment you have to take it out of all the above precautionary stuff, exposing it to the humidity. Zoom lenses suck in air and therefore moisture. Changing lenses also allows the humid air into the camera body. Probably the only effective answer is to use something like the Fuji x series which are weather proofed and make sure you have the weather proofed lenses. High camera usage also prevents the onset of fungus. Very few high volume pro photogs have a fungus problem possibly due to the constant usage.

 

Thank you for your input. As of tonight, I am now leaning towards the dry cabinet. With so many lenses and equipment, it's out of the question to swap for another system.

There's hope with high camera usage. That's me!

 

Gen

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12 minutes ago, DHill said:

How about one of these? http://www.cameras.net.au/index.php?cPath=36

 

A little bit more sophisticated and designed for this specific purpose. A bit more expensive, though.

 

David.

 

Spot on. That's what I'm looking at right now. The advantage is that there is no need to bother with silica gel or emptying water.

 

Gen

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A little over £200, ouch! But if you have expensive kit and the space for one that sounds worth it. Hope its quiet, that's the downside of my dehumidifier which I think cost me about £120. But it's enough to keep a reasonable sized room tolerably dry.

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Probably not applicable as much as you say that you're going to move there permanently, but for trips to the tropics where I'm travelling around, I always take a couple of large waterproof dry-bags (sold in most outdoor shops, photography shops also sell them, for at least twice the cost) and put some small netted bags with rice in one of them. One bag to keep the gear dry from the outside whilst outdoors, and once I'm somewhere indoors, I use the other bag with the the rice to put my gear in there and the rice (I'll try silica next time, thanks for the tip) work in the same way as above, just a bit more improvised for travel use. Once the gear is in the bag with the rice, I'll seal it and it then sucks the humidity away from the equipment.

Edited by imageplotter
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The Ziploc Jumbo storage bags might be useful in some way also as they take up less room than a box.  I use them to throw computer cords and peripheral stuff into when I travel.

 

https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=jumbo+ziploc&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=177782403507&hvpos=1t2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8078985072060881947&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9032280&hvtargid=kwd-26669444920&ref=pd_sl_811mdad54f_e

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22 hours ago, gvallee said:

Thank you all, I will look into the different options. I might pass on the sock as I would need a couple of Christmas sock size ones with all the gear!

Octavio, I like the look of that dry box. I'll see if it's available in Oz. You live in the Mata Atlantica? Lucky you. I participated once in a field project in Ilha do Cardoso.

 

I'm beating myself up for not thinking about the humidity problem earlier, I'll be there in two week's time, just for the beginning of the Wet season! As if I didn't have enough to do with the house move, especially as the removal company has just let us down and I'll have to use my campervan for the move instead. Not peaceful but exciting times!

 

Gen

 

 

Yes I live in the Mata Atlantica of Ilhabela, another island about 300km north of Ilha do Cardoso :)

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Ive heard that leaving lenses out in the sun can kill fungus. So having a few by a window on a sunny day wouldn't be a bad idea if you suspect some fungus has gotten inside. 

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7 minutes ago, Patrick Cooper said:

Ive heard that leaving lenses out in the sun can kill fungus. So having a few by a window on a sunny day wouldn't be a bad idea if you suspect some fungus has gotten inside. 

 

Not sure if there's much sun during the Wet Season in Cairns. It will be a brand new experience!

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5 hours ago, Johnnie5 said:

The Ziploc Jumbo storage bags might be useful in some way also as they take up less room than a box.  I use them to throw computer cords and peripheral stuff into when I travel.

 

https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=jumbo+ziploc&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=177782403507&hvpos=1t2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8078985072060881947&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9032280&hvtargid=kwd-26669444920&ref=pd_sl_811mdad54f_e

 

Thank you for the suggestion. This would be useful for my forthcoming trip to Borneo.

 

Gen

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2 minutes ago, gvallee said:

 

Not sure if there's much sun during the Wet Season in Cairns. 

 

That could be a dilemma!

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9 hours ago, imageplotter said:

Probably not applicable as much as you say that you're going to move there permanently, but for trips to the tropics where I'm travelling around, I always take a couple of large waterproof dry-bags (sold in most outdoor shops, photography shops also sell them, for at least twice the cost) and put some small netted bags with rice in one of them. One bag to keep the gear dry from the outside whilst outdoors, and once I'm somewhere indoors, I use the other bag with the the rice to put my gear in there and the rice (I'll try silica next time, thanks for the tip) work in the same way as above, just a bit more improvised for travel use. Once the gear is in the bag with the rice, I'll seal it and it then sucks the humidity away from the equipment.

 

Thank you for your input.

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We spend a lot of time in Solomon Islands, and are nearly always there in January/February with near 100% humidity. I have silica gel there, but it is wet within hours. My friends who live there have a dry cupboard which they made and has an incandescent globe on in it all the time. They tell me the equipment is lasting much better than it used to.

 

Both my main camera and macro lens have fungus from our time there over the years as there is no air con. 

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44 minutes ago, cbimages said:

We spend a lot of time in Solomon Islands, and are nearly always there in January/February with near 100% humidity. I have silica gel there, but it is wet within hours. My friends who live there have a dry cupboard which they made and has an incandescent globe on in it all the time. They tell me the equipment is lasting much better than it used to.

 

Both my main camera and macro lens have fungus from our time there over the years as there is no air con. 

 

That is what I remember from my days in the Amazon. Once I cooked my silica gel in a frying pan on the hotel's cooker in the kitchen (there was no microwave). It started changing colour again by the time I reached my room on the first floor!

 

Edited by gvallee

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speaking of incandescent bulbs, yes they are very inefficient, and output 90% as heat rather than light but that can be useful for such things as heating up some yogurt in an airing cupboard or popping in an engine compartment on a cold winter's night. Unfortunately, they are almost impossible to obtain now in the UK

 

Anyone out Suffolk way with a stash of old style bulbs, I would gladly take them off your hands; I know they are hopeless as lightbulbs, in fact it may even be illegal to sell them in shops by now.

Edited by Robert M Estall

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