Alexander Husarek is an Ohio-based freelance photographer who manages the official photography for Color Run events. Having traveled all around the US to capture these vibrant races in all of their glory, he has certainly had the chance to perfect the way in which he not only shoots the event, but keeps his camera kit safe during his shoots.
Alex suggests that whether you’re renting or using your own gear, (lensrentals insurance no longer covers damage from color powder getting on lenses) you should ideally wrap it up. A cheap solution he has found is by using plastic wrap.
“The first place I wrap a couple times is where the lens mounts in the camera. Usually doing this prior to the event stops dust from going straight into my camera sensor when it’s time to switch lenses.”
This would seem to work fine, but as someone who is shooting professionally, there are likely times when you need to get a different look, so using multiple lenses becomes a necessity. Rather than switch lenses in a minefield of colored specks, why not use a second body for that other lens?
“I frequently see people swapping lenses on the course like they are playing street craps. These are the people that are covered in powder, with hands that look like they got in a fight with a smurf. Instead of chancing it, pick a lens and just shoot with it. If you have the luxury of a second body and lens, hey, great. But protect it.”
A few kit accessories help Alex when he needs to do something like change batteries or memory cards in the field. Since he can’t always take the time to get to a safe area, Alex uses some cheap, but highly effective solutions.
“When I am on the course I always have compressed air on me. Picture an uncool version of Iron Man, complete with a belt of compressed air, Ojo wipes, and purel. All batteries should be placed in plastic wrap or zip lock packs. When I am ready, a quick shot of compressed air and a battery swap or cf/sd card (and I’m) done! I always shoot compressed air on the area I am about to open.”
Another way to not only protect your lenses, but to keep shooting when getting blasted by direct throws of powder, is to utilize cheap filters, and have several on hand so you can easily switch when wiping just doesn’t cut it.
“I have found putting cheap filters on my lens and wrapping plastic around the seal really keeps dust off and out of the glass. While in the race, people throw the powder at photographers constantly. If someone tosses a soft ball of color I can’t wipe off quickly, I pop the filter off, toss a new filter on, shoot it with a pocket rocket (not-compressed air) and place and wrap the new one. Easy three minute fix.”
When the day’s shoot is over, Alex takes each piece of gear runs it through a cleaning process which includes the following:
“Step 1: Shoot compressed air to knock off any dust that’s dangling on the unit
Step 2. Slowly pull the plastic wrap off the sections of the camera and wipe down with a semi-moist, warm water rag.
Step 3: lenses get properly pulled and both ends cleaned with proper supplies. I normally do any mechanical check at this time.
Step 4: We shoot pocket air up on the CMOS to make sure no powder will affect the next shoot. (Do this away from where you were wiping down all other cameras)
Step 5: Grab the bottles of Mcguires high gloss detailer for cars and rub it all over the body. Why??? Well, that powder is corn starch and when you are constantly getting hit with it and it sits on the gear, it dries out the plastic. You have to rejuvenate the rubber or will see cracking. I do not know if I am doing long term damage to the body but I do it anyway. However, since I started taking this step, I haven’t had any grips or plastic pieces crack. So to me it works well, plus it makes your camera look sexy new again and ready for another shoot!”
Lastly, Alex mentioned the health issue that has started to stir a bit. While reports claim that it is totally safe to breathe in, Alex would rather not take any chances since he is shooting multiple races and subject to a lot of dust inhalation, so he chooses to wear a mask and even gloves sometimes.
Other photographers I spoke to have suggested Q-tips and canned air are your best bet for cleaning them out.