If you’re planning to be in India for Holi then you’re probably quite keen to ensure you protect your camera and yourself during the big day itself.
Having recently gone through the experience, successfully I might add, I figured it might be good to put together a short blog on how I went about it.
In terms of results, my (much reduced !) collection of shots can be viewed on these two separate blog posts :
The only absolute guarantee is that on day 2 – Rangwali Holi – you will get completely covered in that colourful fine powder, and most probably water as well. It’s not a good combination with thousands of pounds of investment by your side, so here’s how I went about protecting my kit.
Watertight camera housings are hugely expensive, I opted for a far cheaper approach that worked perfectly.
The last thing you are going to want to do is change your lens at any time, don’t even contemplate doing that. I chose my Canon 24-70mm 2.8L for a couple of reasons You will need a good wide aperture for the mix of potential indoor (temples) and outdoor shots, and a versatile zoom range to cater for any given moment. It’s a bit of a no brainer really.
I never usually use any screw on filters, but obviously in this situation you will need one. Just a clear UV filter is fine.
Clearly anything to help prevent getting powder on the front of the lens is a good idea, but this was also useful for attaching the main camera protection sleeve (see later).
I always use a Black Rapid Strap. The benefits of this for Holi are that it’s easier to attach the camera protection (more on that in a moment), but also it naturally hangs quite low and to your side. This means it’s out of the direct line of fire for powder or water, and it’s at just the right length to grab hold of and move out of the way. Throughout the day I was often holding the camera behind me, or in fact high up above my head, just doing that little bit more to ensure the camera and lens doesn’t get a direct hit. Whilst the camera was protected extremely well, anything else you can do to mitigate things is worthwhile.
Protecting The Camera
This is the larger of two sizes you can buy, mostly because at the time I really wasn’t sure what lens I end up using. But buying the larger version does have other advantages that I’ll come to shortly.
This rainsleeve already has three openings, one for your hand to get to the camera, one for the camera viewfinder, and one for the lens itself that is drawn tight via a drawcord by the front element.
You can remove your ‘eye cup’ from the camera viewfinder to snugly fit the hole in the sleeve intended for this. Replacing the eyecup over the top gives it solid protection.
I wasn’t going to risk having any unnecessary openings, so the largest one intended for your hand was completely taped up around the Black Rapid Strap. Ideally this would be with gaffer tape, but I had none. Instead I improvised and used medical tape from my first aid kit, but this was supplemented by couple of elastic bands as well, just in case the tape started to peel off.
The draw cord intended for the end of the lens is not that secure really. I tightened this around the lens hood, added further fixing with elastic bands, and then taped the whole thing to the lens hood.
There was quite a lot of excess bag flapping around in the middle around the camera, but this actually ended up being useful. I was able to pull this back over the lens and effectively double skin the lens protection at the front, by again taping it to the lens hood.
The end result looked something like this (apologies, iphone picture taken in poor lighting!).
Obviously, make sure you have a fully charged battery the night before, you are really not going to want to replace it during the day.
Use the largest you have, for my day it was a 32Gb one.
If you do run out of battery or memory, rather than take apart your carefully crafted camera housing it is possible to apply a small slit to access the battery/SD card slot and replace, and then seal up again with tape. Obviously this would be best done back where you’re staying.
During Holi everything happens at a fast and unexpected rate. You will really not have much time to adjust camera settings. Your best bet is to stay at something like f5, with as high an ISO as you’re comfortable with for your camera. Set and forget basically. For me that was ISO 400 – 800. I did change this a few times, especially when I was in a dimly lit temple (went to ISO 3200), but I had time to do that as things were a little more sedate.
Whilst in the thick of it
As I said earlier, always try and keep the camera out of the line of fire, and the strap I used really helped me quickly move it out of way. I also ALWAYS replaced the lens cap after shooting, just to limit how much powder got onto the front filter. I didn’t find myself needing to wipe the filter at all, just a hefty blow seemed sufficient to get the worse off.
Most people seemed respectful of the fact that I had a camera with me, and I didn’t experience much in the way of water at all during the day.
I had heard many stories prior to Holi about how the powder is hard to get off. I didn’t find this to be the case at all, and after a couple of washes my clothes are just fine. That said, I wouldn’t go in your finest Armani suit, best wear things you’re not too bothered about.
As for your face, I wore sunglasses throughout which avoided getting powder in the eyes. I also covered my face in sun cream/lotion before venturing out. This (I think) acted as a bit of a barrier for the powder, and meant that after just a single shower I was free of the colours. That is, except my ears…I clearly didn’t quite put enough (or any) on the inside of my ears 🙂
Apart from myself and the camera the only other things I took where 500 rupees, one credit card, a business card from the haveli with the address, and a lens cloth. All of these were in a resealable plastic freezer bag that protected them from whatever anyone would throw at me. In the end none of these were necessary, it was just my insurance policy.
I was incredibly apprehensive about how photographing Holi would be. As it turned out it was an amazing experience, and with just a few sensible precautions you can capture the day without having a single worry, and all for the cost of well under £10.
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