I love being an outdoor adventure photographer but it is not always the best area to shoot if you are precious about your gear. Most of the environments I shoot in are not very camera friendly places- beaches, deserts, muddy trails and cliff faces. Over the years I have really put my equipment through the ringer, I have droped a lens 20 feet while photographing rock climbers in Utah, dented the barrel of my 70-200 lens while backpacking in Nepal, and have had my whole camera covered in rain, mud, snow all in the same day. Needless to say my equipment does not look new for very long, but generally the damage is only cosmetic and for the most part the equipment is much more robust and durable than most people think.
Unfortunately, this past Saturday I had my worst accident with camera gear ever. While out at the beach shooting a surf contest I totally killed my 5D mk II and my Canon 16-35 L series lens. I had planned on spending the morning out at the beach shooting the last day of the contest and then heading over to the bike park to shoot the dirt jump competition in the afternoon. But the surf contest got postponed due to lack of waves and I had to choose between the beach and the bike park. I decided to go to the beach since the surf season is winding down and the bike comp was going to be on Sunday also.
When I arrived at the beach I set up on the rocks next to two other photographers shooting for some of the magazines, we all were basically shooting on the same equipment so after one heat I decided to put away my telephoto lens and get out my water housing. I didn’t want to get in the water too early since I figured the best surfing would happen during the final heats so I took my time getting everything ready and then hit the water.
I had just gotten a new port for my surf housing and I did test the seal in my bathtub with no problems. When I got out to the break I knew something was wrong because as soon as I put the housing up all the windows in the port were fogged up. I thought at first it was just from the change in temperature from the beach to the water. It was not until I got back to my car to open the housing up that I saw that there was sand inside the seal and that is when I knew that the camera and lens was ruined. Once I got the port open there was about three inches of water in the bottom of the port and when I took the lens off the camera there were water droplets on the glass on the inside of the lens (the above photo taken with my iphone through the drowned lens).
Fortunately I learned a few lenses ago the importance of having all of my equipment insured and so I was not too upset knowing that I will be able to replace it with out too much paperwork. But if you do ever find yourself in the same situation and don’t have insurance the remedy would be to submerge the equipment into fresh water for 5 min and then put it in an airtight bag filled with rice and leave that in a hot water cupboard for a few weeks and hope for the best.