Several times year I go through my camera bags and replace things that need replacing and clean the bags.
It doesn’t do much good to try to keep your gear nice and clean if your camera bag is dirty on the inside. The outside of the bag doesn’t mean much to me. Makes it look lived in.
I clean the bags by blowing them out with canned air — out-of-doors is best. A damp cloth wiped around the inside is also a good idea.
I carry a lot of stuff with me when I am on the road. Three bags. I bring everything because I don’t know what I might need if I am out for an extended time.
One bag is what I call my “journalism” bag. In it I keep lenses like the 10-22mm wide-angle, a 50mm and an 80-200mm. That last one is really heavy but the optics are worth it. I just don’t like to carry it very far. These are also the lenses I am most likely to need to shoot events, people and the occasional lucky landscape.
In the second bag are the close-up lenses and accessories. Wildflowers are a big passion of mine and I shoot them with regularity for textbooks, field guides and magazines like the Audubon Magazine.
In this bag are the 100mm macro, 180mm macro and the 300mm with a 1.4 teleconverter — which allows me to get closer to a flower than I could with just the regular 300mm. It also lets me shoot out the car window when I am just too tired to get out at the end of along day in the field.
Of course both bags have extra batteries and memory cards.
The third bag is often the most crucial. It acts as a supplement to either of the other two bags. In it are the flash, a softbox for the flash, and a myriad of necessary items which include: large size freezer zip-lock baggies, twist ties and clothes pins. In here are also white garbage bags, a small first aid kit, a fire starting device and lens cleaning supplies — which I carry in, you guessed it, a large zip-lock baggie.
I have been trying to think of anything special I carry because of our desert environment but nothing come to mind. Everything with me could be necessary in all shooting situations and that includes the very essential eye drops or lubricants. Nothing worse than trying to shoot with dry eyes that feel as if your eyelids are lined with sandpaper.
After trying out several different cleaning methods and companies I have narrowed my cleaning options down to a critical few. Most folks keep filters on their lenses so these options are used first on the filters. I rarely ever clean the lens optics. Filters are the first line of protection.
Remember, test any product on a damaged filter or broken lens before you use it on the good gear. Your mileage may vary from ours.
Before you do anything that involves touching the lens filter, just use air. A powerful blower is the first step.
• The Giottos Rocket Air Blower is perfect for blowing dust off a lens that might scratch the lens or filter when wiping with a lens tissue. Their Web site states:
- Natural and environmentally-friendly rubber.
- Air inlet valve design prevents air’s back flow from the air nozzle.
[I think this is very important, a feature regular blowers in cheap lens cleaning kits do not have.]
- Detachable supper air stream air nozzle.
- Special design for optional neck strap attachment.
- GIOTTO’S patented tripod base design provides free-standing function for convenient use and storage.
- Rocket-Air blows off dust particles, even those clinging to items from static electricity.
• I also have a Lenspen which is a retractable lens brush. It doesn’t have a cap on the brush end, so it is exposed which doesn’t make much sense to me — it can get dirty. So we keep that in a plastic baggie.
Removing the cap from the other end of the Lenspen reveals a circular pad.
The pad, made of natural chamois, is embedded with a non-liquid compound that effectively removes smudges and smears. The pens also reduce static buildup.
And if your lens has something just plain icky on it that can’t be blown off or brushed of, there is one more option.
• PecPads and Eclipse optics lens-cleaning fluid: PecPads are micro fiber cloths which are chemical-free and lift dust and oil from a lens. They are antistatic, non-scratching and will not streak or smear the surface.
Always drip the fluid onto the cloth and then wipe the lens; never put fluid directly onto a lens.
NOTE: This item is classified as ORMD. Due to shipping regulations these items can only be shipped via Ground in the Continental United States. ORMD items cannot be shipped to PO boxes.
PecPads and Eclipse are much better than your normal Wal-mart lens-cleaning kit. If you are taking a camera bag on board when flying, check with your air carrier to see if this fluid can be carried on the airplane.The Eclipse fluid evaporates quickly even just sitting in the bottle so I keep my bottle double wrapped in a — wait for it — zip-lock baggie!
These options can also be used on point & shoot cameras, not just dSLRs. But be so very careful with the liquid. You don’t want wet stuff inside the camera. If the camera is small enough, and doesn’t have threads for a filter consider carrying it inside its regular camera bag wrapped in a lint-free cloth or plastic.
Keeping out the ever present dust and sand in our desert environment is crucial not only for good picture taking but for the health of your camera.
After putting together the items I carry with me on a daily shoot, I discovered there were several I neglected in my main story. One you can see is quite obvious — the big plastic box. That box sits on my passenger seat. When in the field, taking lenses in and out of camera bags is kind of a pain. So I keep them in the plastic box, always at the ready. The box keeps them from rolling off the seat in case of a sudden stop or turn. Also in the box is an AC/DC power converter. Even though I have several batteries, I keep the converter for “just in case.” You can plug in your laptop or iPod speakers too.
There is also a large packet of baby wipes for hand and face cleaning. Some sort of heavy duty tape — for taping.
You might be wondering why there is a big gym sock included in the mix.
A sock filled with sand can do a great job of filling in for a tripod for those very low angle shots on the ground. Or for steadying the camera on a car window. Don’t let go of the camera though. It is for steadying the camera on the window, not holding the camera all by itself. It takes a little practice, but for a very low-cost support tool, it is great.
The black bag is the gadget bag. Yes, it is a little worse for wear, but I love that bag — like a comfy pair of sneakers.
Another little note: I always keep my camera batteries in the same pocket on both main bags — the right side. That way I don’t have to go poking around in numerous pockets looking for a good battery. When the batteries need charging they get switched to the pocket on the other side of the bag.
I am in the process of creating another small bag for my Lensbaby and accessories — but that’s a story for another time.