What to take into an area with volcanic ash

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by javkin, Aug 3, 2011.

  1. I'll be visiting an area of Southern Argentina affected by the eruption of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano in Chile, to the extent that, although people can visit or stay, airliners cannot fly, because volcanic ash is harmful to jet turbines. The purpose of the trip is not primarily photography, it is to visit family. I am trying to decide between taking

    (a) my older D50 with a single lens, a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (without vibration reduction) or
    (b) a fuller photographic kit, including a D7000 and an SB-800.

    I am leaning toward (a) to avoid cleaning volcanic ash out of my stuff for the next six months. I realize that the D7000 and my good lenses are weather-sealed, but that is a relative term. I might be more comfortable with a camera which, if it gets too full of ash, I can write off. I recently picked up a lovely used Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8, so that the Tamron 17-50mm, as nice as it is, has become expendable. I've gotten many photos I'm very happy with using the D50, it's just much less expensive to replace.
    What would you suggest?
  2. pge


    Personally if I would take my lungs to an environment I would feel safe taking my camera there.
  3. Very good point, Phil, and I appreciate it, but I have to go. I am going to other places in Argentina, and I won't say to the relatives that live there, "Just for a few days, get out of the ashes and meet me in Buenos Aires."
  4. Lungs can clean themselves of a little volcanic ash far better and with far less damage than can precisely-machined mechanisms such as cameras. Volcanic ash is just about the worst in terms of abrasiveness. I would play it safe and take the D50 and the Tamron.
  5. sounds like a corrosive environment. the only thing you'd be missing with the d50 is the ability to crop or print excessively large. but if ash can't get in to your camera, you don't have to worry about getting it out. i'd just think about getting a sealed waterproof plastic bag you can shoot out of which should also be ash-proof. you should be able to find one at adorama or B&H.
  6. For a single ash-laden stop on a trip, I would take a waterproof P&S for family pictures and back-up, and the D7000 and lenses for everything else. The P&S will also be handy at things like the beach or very bad weather.
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If you can, I would say bring both cameras. The chance is that if you can survive, the camera will likely be ok. Keep the D7000 in a camera bag and only take that out when you feel that the conditions are suitable. Otherwise, the suggestion to bring a P&S, especially one that is waterproof, is a good idea.
  8. How 'bout something like this:
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/741525-REG/Aqua_Tech_1315_SS_200_Sport_Shield_Rain.html or
    And use good practices / common sense before you open the enclosure to change batteries / lenses / cards / etc.. I would suggest storing your camera in an old dedicated (ie, "dirty") camera bag without removing the cape, just shake it and dust it off first.
    Tom M
  9. Whichever camera you decide to bring, be sure to attach at least a clear filter on all of your lenses. If the volcano is active, or the landscape is windswept, volcanic dust will accumulate to some degree on the front of your lens. If you try to wipe this dust off an unprotected lens with a cloth or brush, you will ruin your lens coating. Use a blower to remove as much dust as possible while shooting. Later, when it is convenient, wash the filters in a sink of soapy water. Do not rub the glass surfaces until after a freshwater rinse. Then, dry with a soft cotton towel.
    From a health standpoint, if you will be exposed to volcanic gasses, I would bring a respirator half mask with filter cartridges rated at least for dust and sulfur dioxide.
    I wouldn't change lenses if there is dust falling or blowing around unless you can find shelter in a vehicle or building..
  10. A canon!!
  11. tom, that storm jacket thingamajiggy looks like it would be great for rain. but i would think for a volcanic ash situation, you need a hermetic seal. reason being, anything which isn't completely sealed isn't completely dustproof. and when you're talking about corrosive ash and delicate electronics, that's not a good combo. i was thinking more like something like this, which has even less potential points of contact. a little more expensive, but then volcanic dust bunnies are no joke. that's nat geo territory.
  12. You might check KEH for a old(er) AF 28-70mm Nikkor zoom and a somewhat of a beater D50 body for the trip over the ash area. It would be a total write-off after a couple of days exposed to the grit in the ash and dust. One lens, no lens changing needed, and maybe a couple of plastic bags to help control the ash if the wind kicks up....
    Good luck!
  13. i'd bring both and let the situation dictate what to use. if you are skilled enough using two non-zooms and no lens swapping, better. it's an important shoot. make the most of it.
  14. Hi Eric - I understand your concern, but the 1st sentence of the 1st paragraph of the 1st page of the stormjacket.com website specifically mentions sand and dust:
    "...Storm Jacket Camera Covers are the fastest and easiest way to protect professional cameras and lenses from inclement weather conditions such as snow, sleet, wind, rain, sand, dust, and harmful UV rays..."
    and, the higher priced versions come with sealed optical ports for the lens and viewfinder.
    That being said, I've never been in a volcanic dust situation we are discussing. The closest I've come was shooting with a similar cover many years ago in a blizzard at a ski resort. It did a superb job of kept everything inside the cover dry, even when I went into the hot humid lodge where water was just dripping off the outside of cover because of condensation.
    Just my $0.02,
    Tom M
  15. Having survived covering the Mt. St. Helens eruption, I highly recommend you don't change lenses, but do a thorough cleaning before taking the camera apart. Ash is very very fine, and very abrasive. Make sure you have either an air compressor to blow out your equipment, or canned air. Some of us used Nikonos cameras and washed them down, but I don't care for the resolution above water with the 35mm lenses.
    You should also use lens filters to protect the front element, but do not use traditional methods for wiping down lenses or filters. They will get scratched.
  16. A minor aside to Michael: As it happens, I was camped half way up the south side tourist route on Adams when Mt. St. Helens blew, and I had a small camera with me. Until 10 or 15 minutes passed and I could see that we weren't going to get any of the ash, I was never so scared in my life. It never even occurred to me to take it out and use it. All I could think of was to get below the tree line, get back to the car, and get the h*ll out of there in the opposite direction to the way the ash was headed.
    ...back to your regularly scheduled programming...
    Tom M
  17. I'm actually with Michael and Tom. I was caught in the ash of St. Helens on that May 18th. It got everywhere -- no exceptions. It had two very bad qualities: It was potentially very abrasive and it was electro-static and clung to everything. If it was on the outside of something and you opened it, it was now on the inside.
    For camera gear I would do the best job I could to protect it: shoot with only the lens face protruding from a plastic bag.
    Maybe more important I would think about how to clean and how often. I would take a lot of compressed gas to blow off the fine ash from the outside of the bag first and then the camera. I would never open the camera to change lenses in an area where it might get contaminated.
    I would take tacky cloths to clean things with.
    If I could, I would take disposable camera gear. The throw away film cameras -- depend on the post processing for better images.
    I might consider buying some very used gear for that part of the trip.
    I would not risk new gear or my best gear.
  18. Thank you all for your advice and discussion. It has been very helpful, and I appreciate it very much. I'm still wrestling with the decisions. I am very grateful that those of you who were at risk from Mt. St. Helens are with us.
  19. I have lived in extremely dusty environments in the past and I still, from time to time get into not so clean environments with my gear. I know volcanic ash is a different matter but what Phil said stands. If you can take it, chances are your camera can.
    My recommendation is to take with you the best gear you have since it has the most chances of survival and of getting you the results you probably want. A couple of months back I went deep into the woods with a group of friends, here's how my ancient D2x looked like after I cleaned it a bit. Prior to this picture I couldn't even see the top display.
  20. higher priced versions come with sealed optical ports for the lens and viewfinder.​
    that would be the minimum for volcanic ash, i would think, which is different from a bit of rain or normal dust. it's electrostatically charged, for one thing (as noted above), and its particles are dense and fine, plus it's wind-borne, and possibly not visible to the naked eye until after the damage is done. the point i'm trying to make is that without a sealed optical port, minute fine specks of corrosive electrostatically-charged volcanic ash particles could penetrate your camera and destroy its electronics from the inside. that's an altogether different scenario from a bit of water, which usually doesn't come at you from all directions and may have a predictable fall pattern (depending on the wind). water also drys out, unlike volcanish ash. basically, extreme conditions requires extreme gear -- there's a reason why the Nat Geo volcano shooters wear envirosuits and go through a lot of (high-end) cameras. me personally, i would much rather sacrifice a d50 to the volcano gods to get good shots than a d7000. YMMV.
  21. I would definitly bring the less expensive of the two cameras. I had no idea of what volcano dust was like till I went over the responces. If it was me I would also bring a good quality point and shoot. I would rather replace that camera if it got damaged and they take some great images. If you have your heart set on taking the better of the two cameras. Would you consider one of the underwater housings. I would ask the other photographers what they think of that idea before making a purchase
  22. The biggest pain in the arse when travelling is lugging lenses and flash units around. Are you travelling to take photos, or are you travelling to visit friends and enjoy yourself? I'd take the D7000 or D50, much of muchness really, and the 17-50mm zoom.
  23. I got a 3100 for travelling etc. Took it to Venezuela and met traveller lugging a D700 and one even with a D3.
    I have the better camera on the volcano because it was 2 hours climbing up and one down.
    It was light and has great IQ.
    Those guys had sore necks.

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