Wet or dry – Be Prepared

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We have been having some rather inclement weather of late (spoken with an upper-class British accent)!  Or as they would say here, fon tok maak (a lot of rain), which then leads to a “nam tuam” (flood) and we had enough of that last year.  Fortunately the government has all this under control and like King Knut (also known as Cnut and Canute) will order the tides to recede.

However, despite the inclement weather it can be a time to go out and get some different photographs – but you must be prepared.

“Be Prepared” has always been the motto of the Boy Scouts Association, and a concept that they have zealously guarded.  In fact, popular rumor has it that the Association took the American satirist Tom Lehrer to court after he sang a ditty with that title.  For those of you who missed it, the final verse included:

“If you’re looking for adventure of a new and different kind,

And you come across a Girl Scout who is similarly inclined,

Don’t be nervous, don’t be flustered, don’t be scared.

Be prepared!”

So what has that got to do with photography?  Quite a lot actually.  Look at the photograph with the column this week.  It had rained very heavily in Chiang Mai, and Doi Suthep was covered in mist as well as the rain.  This photo opportunity was just wonderful and I had the waterproofed camera, spare memory chip, fully charged batteries, and I was ready to shoot.

I took about a dozen shots, and here have published the one which I particularly like.  It is a Cartier-Bresson style, the ‘decisive moment’, with the subject in the raincoat about to step down the stairway.  But to get these shots it was necessary for me to “be prepared”.

Being prepared is having your camera ‘waterproof’.  To do this 100 percent you can buy a Nikonos underwater camera at the cost of many thousands of baht.  These are a wonderful underwater camera but for this instance – totally impractical, unless you want to stand at the side of the road in a full wet-suit!

The second way is to purchase a fancy plastic underwater housing for your own camera.  Now these can range in price, depending on complexity.  Built like a perspex box to house your camera, you can operate all the adjustments from the outside.  These are not cheap either, and the cheapest in the range is literally a plastic bag with a waterproof opening and a clear plastic section for the lens.  You open it up and literally drop your camera inside it and seal the bag.  These can be purchased from major photographic outlets and I did spot one in a photo-shop for B. 750.

A third way is a waterproof disposable camera (yes, they do make them).  Good for about three meters, so perfectly suitable for rainstorms.  If you can’t get one of those, then even the ordinary cheap disposables are a better option than getting your good camera gear doused.  I must admit to having dropped one of these overboard one day and the boatman retrieved it and the final photos were fine – but that was in the days of film, and not fancy electronics.

So you are left with an even simpler way of making your camera waterproof.  And cheaper.  It consists of a couple of plastic bags, such as you get with every item in 7-Eleven, and a handful of rubber bands.

Do the camera body first, inserting it into the plastic bag, but leaving a circular hole in the front so you can screw the lens on afterwards.  Some rubber bands and the body is protected.

Now pop the lens into the other plastic bag, making circular holes at both ends and fixing it in place with a couple of rubber bands.  Use large bags, so there is slack to move the focusing ring/aperture settings.

Your waterproof camera for less than one baht.  Go out and get wet and shoot!  But it is a simple case of being prepared and just jumping in to get the shots, don’t stage manage, and lots of luck!  Look out for photo opportunities, even when it is raining.