Abusing Camera Gear in the Field

Photographer Guy Tal photographs The Maze

Photographer Guy Tal photographs The Maze

Outdoor photographers often subject their gear to poor environmental conditions: rain, wind, sleet, snow, blowing sand, and blowdowns. Blowdowns? My camera(s) have been blown over by strong gusts of wind more times than I care to remember. But I’ve been fortunate. I’ve yet to have anything break (beyond use) in the process, and all my gear has continued to work just fine despite its injuries.

About one year ago, while at California’s Amboy Crater, one of my lensboards was not securely fastened to the front standard of my 4×5″ view camera (my hasty mistake), and thus my Schneider Apo-Symmar-L 120mm lens went crashing onto the basalt surrounding the crater. No glass was shattered, but the front element of the lens was pitted in two locations. No worries; I mounted the lens back onto the camera, and proceeded to make this photograph. Don’t let anyone tell you that a scratched and/or pitted front element signals the end of a lens, because it doesn’t.

Moments after making the above photograph of good friend, writer, and photographer Guy Tal, we were in the eye of a thunderstorm downburst. From out of nowhere, winds kicked ferociously through our camp, sending our personal effects in all different directions. Despite having roughly fifty pounds of ballast hanging from my tripod (large rocks stuffed in my backpack), my rig was no match for the swirling winds. Guy and I watched as my Chamonix 045-N view camera, mounted with my already abused Schneider Apo-Symmar-L 120 mm lens, went smashing violently into the ground. A testament to both the camera and lens quality, both survived almost entirely unscathed. No broken ground glass, no additional pits on the front element. One of the rear standard’s rails was slightly bent, but it was perfectly usable afterwards. We then spent the next ten minutes chasing down equipment and effects that had blown in all compass directions away from our camp.

As an outdoor photographer, I don’t believe in babying my gear. They’re just tools to help me create my art, and if the tools get damaged in the process of having great experiences and making great photographs, then I’m all for it! Besides, I’d have no stories to tell around the campfire. 🙂

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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