Tips & Tricks – What to do when you drown your camera

In Tips & Tricks on February 12, 2009 at 7:20 am



Let’s face it shit happens, to some more than to others. Drowning cameras is one of those things I actually seem to be quiet good at. In fact over the last 15 years I have drowned one Leica, a Nikon F3, several point and shoots and my trusted Canon 20D backup camera. In fact the image above was taken with my 20D just before it totally got submerged right next to the fish – now that would have been a picture 😉 The amazing thing is that of all the cameras I drowned over the years, the Canon 20D was one of the very few I was able to save, despite the fact that it was submerged the longest and had the most electronics in it. 

So here is the story: In 2005, I was fishing on the Trinity and had finally found a promising hole with some fish rolling in it. It was getting dark and in order to get to the fish I had to cross the river.  To make things worse I had to switch to a nymph rig, as swinging a fly was totally out of the question. Once I crossed the river, I hurriedly switched my rig and found myself balancing on a small ledge of a big boulder. Fish were getting really active and I could feel my adrenaline starting to kick in. After missing a few strikes I was getting somewhat frustrated when suddenly, on the retrieve, a steelhead decided to ram into my fly. The take was awesome and after 7 leaps and a good 10 minute fight I finally landed this little wild beauty. I had my camera ready, positioned the fish, took the fly (golden rubber leg crystal flash stone) out and shot a few exposures. Now I have to admit, my adrenaline was still flushing through my veins and my heart-rate was way above normal; in other words the part of my brain in charge of reason was effectively shut off . Before getting ready to release the fish, which till this moment had been a real trooper, I balanced my camera on a small ledge right next to my rod.  When I reached down to get the fish ready for release it suddenly hit my rod, which in turn hit my camera, which nicely rolled right down next to the fish and was fully submerged in about 7 inches of water. I immediately grabbed the camera, took out the battery and managed to release the fish unharmed, while cursing at myself — now that’s multitasking. I went through my normal procedure to save the camera. The next week I popped in the battery and ta-da it worked again!


Here are some tips on how to potentially save your camera:

  1. If your camera gets submerged or wet take out the battery immediately, this will prevent the electronics from shorting out. 
  2. If you are shooting digital take out your media card and start draining the camera by carefully shaking out any excess water. Make sure you keep wiping the camera dry too. Also dry your media card. 
  3. If you are shooting film, rewind the film and open the back. If you can’t rewind the film  manually open the film back, since you most likely won’t be able to save the film anyway. 
  4. If you are shooting a SLR, you might also take off the lens. The more water you can get out in the beginning the better. 
  5. Getting water out of the lens is more complex and might require you to have it serviced professionally. 
  6. Once you get to a dry place get the camera in front of some heat source. In the car you can place it close to the vent for example, you get the idea. Important: do not put the battery back in till you are sure you have dried out the camera. 
  7. Be patient! Let the camera dry out for at least 2-3 days, or longer. In fact I recently revived a flash that was submerged at least 1 minute and it was brought back after two weeks of drying.  Make sure you keep open all compartments and flaps. 
  8.  In case you get your camera submerged in saltwater – you’re screwed. 
  9. Also try to keep your camera dry in the first place. If you are carrying a point-and-shoot in your vest, keep it in a good zipplock bag or two, this will keep it dry in case you take a dip. 
  10.  As for bigger cameras, I always keep my camera and gear in a dry bag in my backpack. I also carry a towel. 
  11. And finally there are a variety of weather resistant and waterproof point-and-shoots available.


If you have any additional tips please post them below. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: