Play Misty For Me

You turn the page to this column, and before you begin reading, a question pops into your head: “What does a cow have to do with high-definition video?” Usually, you’d see a piece of production equipment, or maybe a shot behind the scenes on a shoot, or maybe some pastiche of technical graphs or displays.

Instead, here it is: a cow. Well, first off, I’m pretty sure it’s a bull, but my Midwestern roots are really planted in city dirt, so please, no letters if it’s a steer. Either way, there’s a good reason he or she is here. It has to do with shooting conditions and a handy piece of equipment that you normally may not find in your gear setup.

I was recently shooting in Costa Rica—that’s where this image is from. This guy or gal (I’ll just go with bovine) was on the side of a road near a stand of trees in a fairly dense mist.

Costa Rica is a pretty amazing place with varied topography and climate. And it can be wet—very wet. In case you’re used to shooting only indoors or in nice weather, shooting in damp or wet locations can be tricky. With some equipment, like lights and generators, it also can be dangerous.

In this case, I was shooting with HD DSLR equipment in the rain forest and the cloud forest. I traveled with two setups; the main camera was a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and the other was a Canon EOS 7D. In theory, the 7D was my backup because I knew I might have problems with the damp/wet environment.

The 7D was a backup “in theory” because I also like to use the two cameras to avoid switching lenses. While I’m careful about switching lenses, I don’t like doing it when the environment is challenging. In Costa Rica, even when it wasn’t raining, most of the time, I could see the moisture just hanging in the air. I didn’t want to get that on the image sensor or anywhere else inside the camera.

The 5D had a wide-angle mounted, and the 7D had a longer focal length. Since the 5D has a larger image sensor, I could make more use of the full field of view of the lens. And this way I didn’t have to worry about getting dirt and water in the camera body. But since I actually was shooting with both cameras, they were both exposed to the elements—in this case, a light but consistent mist and some drenching rains.

There are a lot of options for rain gear for this size of camera—both commercial rain covers and do-it-yourself methods. In my case, I used a watertight case for travel between locations and rain covers while shooting. But water is pretty good at getting into equipment. Despite my efforts, one day the 5D stopped working properly. It had the same protection and was in the same locations, but it succumbed to the elements.