August 13, 2008

Equipment Disasters

Photo by Scott Bourne

Have you ever lost a piece of camera gear to an accident? Equipment disasters are well, disasters. Here’s some advice from an expert on how to prevent disasters.

I interviewed Clay Wimberley, Co-Owner of Wimberley, Inc. who says, “Test your equipment when you have time and are not in the field. You don’t want to find out you have a problem in the middle of an expensive expedition.” Wimberley also says that your level of comfort with all of your equipment factors in to how well it will work for you. “I find that mechanically inclined people seem to get more out of their equipment than not,” said Wimberley. “I advise folks to practice, practice, practice. Adjusting and matching parts takes practice.” Wimberley also says that knowing the equipment’s limits can make a difference in success or failure. “In my experience, some ball heads will not hold as much weight as others,” says Wimberley. “Slippage occurs because of weight or unusual stresses like the addition of a gimbal. As long as you don’t overtax the head, any head should work fine. You just need to know when it is time to step up to the next level.”

Whatever equipment you choose, make sure that you know its limits and don’t try to use it in ways that the manufacturer did not intend. Practice with your equipment if you are not regularly shooting with it. Constantly check yourself while in the field. Ask yourself over and over again if everything is tight. Don’t overload your equipment and don’t walk away from it for even a minute. Taking an extra second to carry the tripod back to the car when you go get more flash cards will seem like a small inconvenience compared to hours on the phone with your insurance agent trying to explain how your camera system works and why you really do need that 600mm lens.

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Join the conversation! 17 Comments

  1. Oh yes, I can add to this by advising everyone to check their camera straps every now and then. My camera strap slipped open on one side when my camera was hanging from my neck when I was just about to leave from home. The camera fell lens-first on the pavement and shattered the lens. The camera was completely undamaged luckily. My big luck was that the lens was a 50mm f/1.8 and not my 24-105 f/4L IS USM! Now I practically always support my camera with my hand or arm even though the strap is around my neck.

  2. Oh yes, I can add to this by advising everyone to check their camera straps every now and then. My camera strap slipped open on one side when my camera was hanging from my neck when I was just about to leave from home. The camera fell lens-first on the pavement and shattered the lens. The camera was completely undamaged luckily. My big luck was that the lens was a 50mm f/1.8 and not my 24-105 f/4L IS USM! Now I practically always support my camera with my hand or arm even though the strap is around my neck.

  3. Another tip is to protect your gear from accidents through use of protective gear such as rain covers, LCD covers, rubber armor, using the neck strap, etc.

  4. Another tip is to protect your gear from accidents through use of protective gear such as rain covers, LCD covers, rubber armor, using the neck strap, etc.

  5. Sage advice for sure. You would never turn your back on a Rolex for a second would you?
    I heard Joe McNally at a conference say he NEVER touches his camera for any reason without the strap around his arm. I adopted this approach and it has saved me several times already.

  6. Sage advice for sure. You would never turn your back on a Rolex for a second would you?
    I heard Joe McNally at a conference say he NEVER touches his camera for any reason without the strap around his arm. I adopted this approach and it has saved me several times already.

  7. I definitely agree that if you are even slightly mechanically inclined you can get more out of your gear than if not. When I buy mechanical gear I can typically buy the beat up old stuff that no-one else wants because if its broken I can fix it. Most of the time they aren’t even broken. For example I got two tripods, one older pan & tilt head that extends up to about 8′ and a Bogen 3001 with a 3262QR ball head for a total of $38. Neither were broken, just in need of some cleaning and a couple parts replaced. So if you are even slightly mechanically, aren’t afraid of damaging your equipment, and most importantly, aren’t voiding a warranty go ahead and work on your gear yourself.

  8. I definitely agree that if you are even slightly mechanically inclined you can get more out of your gear than if not. When I buy mechanical gear I can typically buy the beat up old stuff that no-one else wants because if its broken I can fix it. Most of the time they aren’t even broken. For example I got two tripods, one older pan & tilt head that extends up to about 8′ and a Bogen 3001 with a 3262QR ball head for a total of $38. Neither were broken, just in need of some cleaning and a couple parts replaced. So if you are even slightly mechanically, aren’t afraid of damaging your equipment, and most importantly, aren’t voiding a warranty go ahead and work on your gear yourself.

  9. The point about “practice, practice, practice” is sound advice as well. When I first started out with my first SLR, I practiced removing and mounting the lenses onto the camera body. I also took a roll of film and practiced threading it on the takeup real. Once I could do these things pretty good, I started doing them in the dark. I finally got to the point where I could change lenses and change film by touch, which comes in handy when shooting in low-light and darkness.

    (Of course, having a darkroom helped to make changing things without lights a necessity).

    Once I got my DSLR, I practiced the same stuff basically (but changing memory cards instead of film).

  10. The point about “practice, practice, practice” is sound advice as well. When I first started out with my first SLR, I practiced removing and mounting the lenses onto the camera body. I also took a roll of film and practiced threading it on the takeup real. Once I could do these things pretty good, I started doing them in the dark. I finally got to the point where I could change lenses and change film by touch, which comes in handy when shooting in low-light and darkness.

    (Of course, having a darkroom helped to make changing things without lights a necessity).

    Once I got my DSLR, I practiced the same stuff basically (but changing memory cards instead of film).

  11. This isn’t as stupid as it seems at first but I always place my camera on the ground when I am in a clean environment – why you ask – because there isn’t much further for it to fall if it gets knocked off the ground as opposed to a 3 foot table / desk

    Also when handling cameras I always ensure that the strap is secure around my neck, if I give my camera to someone to play with for a few minutes then I always place the strap around their neck before I hand the camera over, this has the secondary function of letting them know just how special this piece of equipment is to me.

    My bag is considered a clutter free environment, only the items that are in the bag when I left the house are in the bag when I get back, no sweet wrappers or extra bits of paper or pens, everything has a place and there is a place for everything, if you want me to carry your finished food wrappers then put them in the rubbish bag or in your pocket.

    I clean my bag out regularly, this is my cameras house, dirt will eventually work its way in somewhere if it is left in the bag.

    My equipment goes in the same place when I get home, all packed exactly the same each time and only in the one location I and everyone else knows it is.

    When shooting I shoot for the photo, I will take a risk for the shot, but the risk has to be managed.

  12. This isn’t as stupid as it seems at first but I always place my camera on the ground when I am in a clean environment – why you ask – because there isn’t much further for it to fall if it gets knocked off the ground as opposed to a 3 foot table / desk

    Also when handling cameras I always ensure that the strap is secure around my neck, if I give my camera to someone to play with for a few minutes then I always place the strap around their neck before I hand the camera over, this has the secondary function of letting them know just how special this piece of equipment is to me.

    My bag is considered a clutter free environment, only the items that are in the bag when I left the house are in the bag when I get back, no sweet wrappers or extra bits of paper or pens, everything has a place and there is a place for everything, if you want me to carry your finished food wrappers then put them in the rubbish bag or in your pocket.

    I clean my bag out regularly, this is my cameras house, dirt will eventually work its way in somewhere if it is left in the bag.

    My equipment goes in the same place when I get home, all packed exactly the same each time and only in the one location I and everyone else knows it is.

    When shooting I shoot for the photo, I will take a risk for the shot, but the risk has to be managed.

  13. One thing I just learned. Check the velcro in your camera bags.
    I was opening my bag the other day and my D50 came flying out, and on to the concrete. ugh. I’ve been waiting for Photokina to see what Nikon had in store, but had to rush out and get a D80.

    The velcro had come loose and the camera came out at a weird angle and I didn’t see it in time. Luckily my Nikkor 35-70mm 2.8 is OK. I had just received it 2 days before. phew.

    Very sad.
    I love the D80 (hell, I loved the D50,) but I really wanted to wait and see what was happening with the fabled D90.
    Check that velcro!

  14. One thing I just learned. Check the velcro in your camera bags.
    I was opening my bag the other day and my D50 came flying out, and on to the concrete. ugh. I’ve been waiting for Photokina to see what Nikon had in store, but had to rush out and get a D80.

    The velcro had come loose and the camera came out at a weird angle and I didn’t see it in time. Luckily my Nikkor 35-70mm 2.8 is OK. I had just received it 2 days before. phew.

    Very sad.
    I love the D80 (hell, I loved the D50,) but I really wanted to wait and see what was happening with the fabled D90.
    Check that velcro!

  15. You didn’t really drop your brand new 600 VR did you? Talk about the shot heard round the world. Ouch!

    Oh well. You could always go back to Canon (LOL).

    Jeff

  16. You didn’t really drop your brand new 600 VR did you? Talk about the shot heard round the world. Ouch!

    Oh well. You could always go back to Canon (LOL).

    Jeff

  17. For the non-pros out there, check with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to see if you can cover camera gear. Thankfully, I had “I’m an idiot and I tend to break stuff” coverage which paid for my upgrade to the 30D after I sunk my 20D in the pacific. Photos of dissected 20D here: http://www.pbase.com/gmr2048/20ddissection

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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