How to protect your gear at a color festival

Shooting at a color festival is a great occasion top take beautiful portraits, but you must be aware that the color powder is a threat for your lens and camera.  The powder is as fine as flour and will enter through any gap or unsealed join. It is in fact made of rice or corn flour so at least it is not harmful for yourself.  In this article I provide advices to keep your equipment perfectly clean and safe during such an event.

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How to avoid powder

The first way to protect you gear is to actively avoid being close to the powder (but it’s somewhat boring…) :
– Stay away people searching for a target to throw power
– Have some color on yourself already, if you’re perfectly clean you stand out as a very attractive target.
– Take pictures from a distance with a telephoto.
– Behave like you are here for work and not to take part in the fun.
– Change your lenses in a quiet and clean place. Dust your camera and lenses as much as possible before to proceed to the change, especially around the lens mount.
– Always carry with you an air blower and some tissue.

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Anyway you can take all the precaution you want, at some moment there will inevitably be some people throwing powder at you. Because let’s recognize it, it is fun…  They will not care if you have an expensive and fragile camera and lens, they assume that you know the risk and are prepared for it.  Furthermore if you want to take great shoots, you will have to dive in the middle of the crowd and expose your gear to the powder. And if you also want to have fun, you have to be part of it.

How to seal your gear

Here are some practical tips on how to seal your equipment against the color powder :

– Obviously, screw a UV or clear filter in front of your lens and attach the lens hood.

– Seal your prime lens with tape. Whether your lens is a prime or a zoom, you can efficiently and simply protect it by covering it entirely with tape. The lens has to be able to focus internally without to move any external element. You will loose the ability to manual focus but you can shoot without it. Choose a tape that does not leave sticky mark after removal, such as masking or gaffer tape.

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A Sigma 10-20mm sealed with masking tape and blocked at 10mm

– Seal you zoom lens with a combination of tape + plastic. Choose a strong plastic that will not tear, such as a deep freeze bag. The point here is to seal all the rings/buttons you won’t use and leave the ability to turn the zoom ring. In the example below I have sealed with masking tape the manual focus ring and all the buttons (VR on/off, VR active/normal,  Focus full/inf-5m, Focus M/A). Then I have encapsulated the lens in a plastic bag sealed at both extremities. The rubber band in the middle provide a good grip on the zoom ring through he plastic.

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A Nikon 70-200mm with all joints sealed and moving zoom ring

– For your camera, I recommend to seal with some tape all the buttons and joints, including the battery and memory card opening  (you’ll remove it only if needed). Also seal the popup flash and use a reportage flash if needed. You can still use the buttons covered by the tape. You want the ability to turn dials so you cannot entirely cover your camera with tape or food wrap. I recommend to wrap your camera in a strong plastic bag with the only opening being at the lens mount. Then apply a rubber band to firmly seal the plastic against the lens.

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A Nikon D90 camera sealed with masking tape and enclosed into a plastic bag

What other equipment do you need ?

– Carry in your bag some extra tape, plastic, and rubber band. Just in case of…
– Talking about your bag, bring a bag that you can wash in the washing machine. There is no vacuum cleaner, air compressor or cleaning product that will remove the fine dust.
– Do you need a tripod ? Not really, I haven’t seen any photographer using it in a color festival. Unless you want to experiment with long exposure…
– Which lens do you need ? That only depends on your taste… I like a long lens for portraits with blurred background. A wide angle is practical to take pictures when you are packed in the crowd and move backward.
– Do you need a reportage flash? Depends on your taste again. I prefer to seal the popup flash of the camera with tape and use a reportage flash wrapped in a plastic bag. I find it a definitive asset at night.

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A reportage flash is a good asset if you plan to take pictures at night

Conclusion

– If you have the opportunity to shoot at a color festival do not miss it but be prepared for it ! If your gear is well protected there is not risk for it.
– I invite you to have a look at the pics I took during color festival. I show a limited selection on this website but you can see the full album on my Flickr : https://www.flickr.com/photos/damienfournier/sets/72157646901592626/

 

 

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