Somethings are just not meant to be wet.

Somethings are just not meant to be wet.

Quality photo equipment is delicate and expensive, and it has been that way since the beginning. Born of the century before last, the early photographers waited about two weeks before trying to outdo each other with challenging shots. Not satisfied with a mere 8 f-stops and a bit of focusing, these photograph-ists were soon taking their equipment up mountains, down rivers, into caves and across deserts to capture unique images.

It wasn't too long before someone with genius inclinations figured out if you could dress up a man to work underwater, then you could also dress up a camera to work underwater, and underwater photography was born. The next day the term "Camera Flooding" entered into the collective lexicon.

On a recent Black Water dive over the depths of the Cayman Trench, where you are advised to have your camera on a lanyard because in water three miles deep with awesome visibility you can watch your camera and significant investment disappear for a long time, Black Water enthusiast Mickey Charteris showed up packing two cameras. This sort of photography is fast paced with subjects coming at you in the surrounding pelagic current. Your opportunity to capture an image is brief, and the most successful strategy to date is to capture as many images rapid-fire in hopes of scoring a winner. This puts a lot of usage on the flash which creates heat, and can cause the camera housing to fog. Mickey's plan was to shoot with reckless abandon, and when the fogging occurred to come to the surface and switch cameras.

Right on schedule about half way through the dive Mickey surfaces for the swap and submerges to continue the shoot. Minutes later he is back on the surface with every underwater photographer's personal nightmare; a flooded camera housing. Instructing us on deck to keep the camera positioned lens-down keeping the invasive salt water away from the electrical and mechanical components, he grabbed his original camera and submerged once again.

The trip back was a little more somber than usual. The flooded camera was the original one Mickey used for years, and the one that was used to take most of the images in his book Caribbean Reef Life. We all knew this camera and had gone on many dives with it, but for Mickey it was like standing around a good friend's deathbed.

                     Nasty nasty stuff

                     Nasty nasty stuff

Grasping at straws as we do in tragic situations Mickey, Kal, and myself started talking about what possibly could be done to save our old dive companion. Mickey brings up that he has heard that packing the camera in a bag of rice for a month could help. Sounded good but Kal brought up the fact that this is salt water, and even with the moisture removed, salt would remain. (For the purpose of discussion we will acknowledge that salt is nasty nasty stuff when it comes to electronics). The next step it was decided would be a thorough fresh water, fully submerged, and shaken around rinsing.

Next idea brought up was using an alcohol rinse to carry away some of the water, with the idea that alcohol can remove water from gas/petrol so why not? I mean, the camera may be toast anyway. 

The last step in our blossoming rescue scenario was to blow the camera out with compressed air prior to packing it away in long grain jasmine rice (we believe that other varieties may be used). Arriving back at the dock around 10:00 we all part on our separate ways reflecting on the plight of our common friend (the camera).

Two weeks later a prideful Mickey waltzes into the shop (if you can imagine that) to announce that the camera had fully recovered, and was back winking its irises at underwater subjects!

In Case of camera flooding:


1. Turn the camera "down" on its lens to keep water away from the electronics.

2. Immediately remove the battery and memory card.

3. As soon as possible fully submerge the camera in fresh water and shake vigorously to rinse.

4. Blow excess water out gently with compressed air (there is some in your tank)

Irrefutable proof there are other uses for alcohol.

5. Rinse camera with an entire bottle of rubbing alcohol (inside too).

6. Blow out the camera again, of course you are wearing safety glasses and steel toed safety boots.

7. Pack the camera in 1 kg of white long grain jasmine rice. Other types may be as effective, but we would stay away from instant rice.

8. Wait ten days (or more). 

There are no guarantees with this method, but it has worked! At the very least you will have tried, and put off the mourning for a couple of weeks. And, you know the newer model is out at the dive shop, and Christmas is just around the corner.