The day after a bad day at the pool

When we first went digital back in 1998 there were a lot of lessons that we had to learn for ourselves. There hadn’t been much work done by others and there were a lot of mistakes that we made and learned from. One of the worst things to happen to me wasn’t until June of 2006 – long after we all arrogantly thought that we had learned what there was to learn.

I went to shoot some pictures at a swimming event and the atmosphere was loaded with what smelled like chlorine. My cameras had got steamed up quickly and took a while to de-mist and I thought nothing of it, shot the event on a pair of Canon EOS1D MkII cameras and edited my pictures as normal. Nothing wrong… so far. The next day I went to shoot portraits of a young student who had been shortlisted for a writing award – totally run-of-the-mill. The job went well, the pictures looked great on the back of the cameras but when I imported the files from the first camera into the computer I went as white as a sheet.

Dirt on the chip was a common problem, the odd bit of dust that showed up when you stopped the lens down but nothing had prepared me for the amount of spots that were on these pictures.

A small part of the frame before spotting. ©Neil Turner/TSL, June 2006

Thousands of small, circular bright spots in the same place on every single frame. I was swearing, sweating and worrying in equal measure as I put the memory card from the second camera into the card reader. If they were as bad, this job was going to take weeks to edit and retouch. Massive relief… the second camera hadn’t suffered from the same fate. The tighter pictures shot on the longer lens all had the spots whilst the wider pictures shot with a wider lens had none of them. The bonus was that some frames on the spot-free camera were also shot on a longer lens so I had a few spot-free tight portraits too. The panic was almost over but it was clear that at least two or three of the heavily spotted pictures should be in the edit so I spent most of that evening and night painstakingly getting rid of the spots. One-by-one.

The same image after a lot of work getting rid of the spots. ©Neil Turner/TSL, June 2006

After a thorough clean by FIXATION UK the camera was as good as new. The spots were crystallised chlorine and quite why they were only on one of my two cameras used on the bad day at the pool I will never know. People have theorised about having taken the lens off of one and not the other, damaged weather seals, some sort of coating on the chip of one camera that either attracted or repelled the crystals – who knows?

The morals of this story are these:

  • Shooting with two cameras is always a good idea
  • Using a professional to clean problem dirt off of the chip is a great idea
  • Shooting with some wide and some long lens images on both cameras is a good idea too
  • Be careful when taking lenses on and off in unclean environments
  • Retouching spots is a right royal P.I.T.A

That camera went on to give great service for two more years and was sold on having been cleaned and serviced. These days I use a pair of 5D MkII bodies which don’t have the same environmental seals as the 1D series. If I were a rich man, I’d want to own the new 1DX when it comes out!

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