2 min read

Camera In A Body Bag

Camera In A Body Bag
David Zlutnick’s camera and lens, recovering at the rice spa.

David Zlutnick: The last few weeks have seen an unprecedented number of whale sightings off the coast of San Francisco as an unusually large amount of krill has created a feeding frenzy. Huge numbers of humpbacks, blue, and fin whales have been spotted between the Golden Gate and the Farallon Islands. I went out to see for myself, along with a couple friends, hoping to capture some great photos of these amazing animals.

Our vessel was a small but sturdy boat, captained by a veteran of these waters, who insisted the conditions out on the open Pacific were supposed to be perfect: sunny, warm, calm seas. He proved to be quite wrong.

After a relatively smooth ride through the Bay, and passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, the waters quickly became considerably rougher a few miles out to sea. The winds suddenly picked up and large swells were battering our boat. While I don’t think anyone feared catastrophe, our leisurely cruise had certainly become more adventurous than we’d intended.

My desire to take photos was soon overtaken by my need to keep dry. But no matter how small I tried to make myself, the water crashing over the bow drenched me through — and it was of no use trying to protect my poor camera. Soon it wouldn’t even turn on, just uttering sad, desperate beeps.

Once home, I did my best to dry the camera and wipe off the salt. With the battery and memory card out, I put the camera and lens in bags with rice (pictured), aiming to extract the moisture from the nooks and crannies. Hoping to solicit a miracle cure from friends and colleagues on Facebook, I asked for advice, but the responses were far from optimistic.

Several days on, the camera is now completely dry — but still won’t turn on. From what I understand the salt is the main problem, leaving residue and causing corrosion. While losing a good camera is certainly an unhappy event, this unfortunately doesn’t rank among the biggest equipment losses of my career. I have Canadian riot police and a West Bank rain storm to thank for those…

My last ditch effort to save the camera will involve carefully applying isopropyl alcohol (99% alcohol vs. the 70% found in rubbing alcohol) to its insides. I’ve read that this can sometimes successfully cut through the salt residue that prevents the circuits from functionally connecting. At this point it certainly can’t hurt.

Wish me luck.

David Zlutnick is a documentary filmmaker and video journalist based in San Francisco. His work has been featured in The Guardian, Al Jazeera, MSNBC, USA TODAY, NPR, Colorlines.com, among other outlets. He works through Upheaval Productions.