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5 Tips To Protect Your Camera Gear At The Beach

I love photographing at the beach. Give me a stretch of coast and a camera and I’m a happy guy. If you have spent any amount of time on my site, you already know that. If you’re visiting for the first time, check out my seascapes for examples of my work.

As beautiful as it is, the beach can be a harsh environment for our gear. Sand gets into our tripod locks. Salt spray will corrode your camera and lenses. A healthy splash of water will devastate a camera. A splash of ocean water is the bad news trifecta. Ocean water carries sand and salt, too!

None of these hazards will keep me from photographing the ocean. However, I do take steps to protect my gear. Here’s 5 tips to help you keep your camera, lenses and tripod protected from the sand and surf.

1. Cover Your Camera With Rain Gear

It's obvious advice - the best way to prevent moisture from damaging your camera is to keep your camera and lenses dry. In a pinch, I've used plastic bags or a hotel shower cap to keep ocean spray off my camera. Cover as much of the camera body and lens as you can.

2. Protect Your Lens With A Filter

Protect the front element of your lens with a filter. If you're already shooting with a polarizer or neutral density filter, you're good to go. If not, use a UV filter, especially on windy days. Sand in the air will scrub away at the protective coating on your lens. Salt isn't good for it either. Over time, your filters will degrade but replacing them is far cheaper than replacing good glass.

3. Minimize Lens Changes

Each time you change a lens it's an opportunity for sand, salt or water to get into your camera body or on the lens contacts. Dust on sensors can be cleaned. Corrosion on the contacts is a whole other problem.

It's not always possible to avoid changing lenses in the field. When you do, shield your gear from the elements. Using your rain gear or a plastic bag as a cover is one approach. Also, make the lens change quickly. Don't rush - you don't want to drop your gear - but don't prolong the lens swap. Have everything ready and limit the time your camera body is open and contacts are exposed.

4. Wipe Moisture Off Quickly

If you are shooting close to the ocean, at some point your gear will get splashed with ocean water. When that happens, quickly wipe up the large amounts of water. You don't want beads of water finding their way into your camera and lens. Having a set of microfiber cloths or PecPads in your bag is a wise choice.

5. Clean Your Gear After The Shoot

After your beach visit, use a damp (not dripping!) cloth and wipe down your camera body and lens. Pay attention to any white spots on your gear. If you see some, that's probably salt. Clean again until the salt is gone.

If your camera took a hit from a wave, disconnect the lens, remove the battery and let your gear air out overnight. Check for salt deposits in the morning. If I see salt deposits inside the camera body, I have it professionally cleaned. That's a rarity when I follow my own advice. :-)

Also, at a minimum, rinse your tripod in fresh water and wipe it down. If you submerged any of the tripod locks in salt water, do a full cleaning of your tripod. Extend and collapse the legs and the locks a quick twist, too. If they sound "crunchy" you have sand in your tripod. Grounds for a full cleaning.

Bonus Tip: Use A Hair Tie

A hair tie? Yes. It's a makeshift way to provide extra protection for cameras that aren't weather sealed, like my Sony A7R. An elastic hair tie around the base of the lens mount is another barrier to prevent sand and salt spray from getting in. And you can use that hair tie to snugly hold plastic around your lens, too.

However, if the hair tie gets wet, take it off! You don't want to have a salty damp cloth pressing against your lens mount. And you can choose a more subdued color like black. The bright orange makes it easy to illustrate. :-)

What about you? How do you protect your gear during a shoot? Share your knowledge with a comment below.