OK … this isn’t about Hazel or Mr. Clean from television fame. But when you consider your camera gear, know that maintenance and regular cleaning is a requirement each time your camera gets used, abused, or any treatment in between.
Every time you head out into the field, there’s a chance that something adverse will happen to your equipment. It is an imperfect world, we are imperfect people so anything is liable to happen. I’ve dropped a camera into a lake in Patagonia, leaving me without my primary body and 70-200mm lens all of 6,000 miles from home. But while we are conscious about keeping a tight hold on the camera body, lens and associated attachments (flash, etc), one element of your camera rig needs to be inspected daily for dirt. Dirt affects quite possibly the most important element of your camera: I’m talking about the sensor in your camera body. The camera body is a different animal, and we will discuss that in another post.
The image you see here is one that I captured a few years ago, and am only now choosing to process. I captured a corner of the image to provide an example of what NOT to do when spending excessive time in the field. I trusted myself to change lenses quickly and out of the wind, shielding the open body with my body to keep shmutz from getting in to the sensor. As you can obviously tell from that image … I failed. Miserably.
So what do we do? Well, there are a number of options. Most SLR bodies now have some sort of sensor vibrating, cleaning feature which will go a long way towards keeping the larger bits off the sensor. This is a great start, but more is often required. Specifically, there are tools and kits available to ensure that your sensor is clean. Visible Dust, Delkin Devices and LensPen make some great products to ensure that you don’t have to spend hours cleaning dust from your images.
It is still a good idea to change your lenses quickly and out of the elements (as much as you can), but be prepared anyway. As photographers, we are often in inclement situations where all you can do is do what you can and hope for the best. Channel your inner cleaning maven and keep your sensor in tip top shape. That way, cloning out those bits of dust doesn’t become your mantra.