Dust on my Sensor

The dust rose, swirled around us and then came to rest. It was on my clothes, cameras, hair, in my nostrils and my eyes, tinging everything it alighted upon with a rusty red hue. “Oh no!” I groaned, alarmed at the prospect of dust on my sensors, spots on my images and hours on the computer trying to clean my pictures.”

I was in Darwin on a corporate assignment photographing UD trucks for an international campaign. The vehicles were travelling along a dry, dirt road with dust spraying out from under the wheels and the tail of the trailer. The assignment involved climbing in, under and around massive trucks that hauled cement, gravel and stones across the outback of the Northern Territory. Throw in the heat and humidity and you have working conditions that would challenge any camera gear. I was working with two X-Pro1 bodies and two lenses; an18mm and a 35mm lens. I also had an 18-55mm lens in my Crumpler bag as a back up which I ended up using on one occasion. This is my basic outfit when I’m travelling on corporate or editorial assignments.

My cameras have been with me on many assignments worldwide. They’ve been in the grit of rubbish dumps, charcoal pits and brick kilns. I have also carried them into the sulphuric gasses of an Indonesian volcano. The BBC said their camera stopped functioning while filming in the heart of the same volcano but my two cameras kept on performing perfectly.

In Darwin the client needed a shot of the trucks being loaded and the only highpoint in the area was a mound of gravel. I slung the cameras over my shoulder and started clawing my way up the pile. My fingers were sore, my knees ached and the cameras banged against the gravel as I slipped and slid on my way to the top. The angle was right, the picture worked but I was then faced with the dilemma of how to get back down off the gravel. I started to walk sideways down what was almost a perpendicular hillock. Then I fell, landed on my buttocks and with the cameras clasped to my chest, bounced and bumped all the way down to the ground.

A boatman steers his boat across Blanche Bay in Papua New Guinea

On another occasion, when I working on an assignment in Papua New Guinea, I needed to ride a small boat out to the islands. On the way back to the mainland we sailed into rough weather. We were under a deluge of torrential rain and seawater, which could have potentially had a disastrous effect on my cameras. I lay part way under a tarpaulin, trying to keep my camera gear reasonably dry as I photographed the boatman steering us through the waves. We landed soaked but safe, and after drying the cameras, they too were perfectly fine.

It sounds like I don’t look after my cameras but I do. When not being used, the bodies and lenses are wrapped in soft cloth pouches for protection and I clean the gear every night after I finish shooting. I needn’t have worried in Darwin about dust getting into the X-Pro1 bodies. My cameras are set to Sensor clean when they’re turned on. So any dust that manages to seep in is automatically cleaned away.

While working on a corporate assignment like the UD truck campaign, there are many people involved and a tremendous amount of organisation, which translates into a lot of money. Not only do you have to get your content, composition and lighting right but you also need to know that you can rely on the camera gear, even if it does come in for a good battering.