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The Last Wave. The end of my Sony A7RII and Zeiss Batis 2.8/18

If you take risks, there is a time when things go south...

With all of my photography I’m used to taking risks now and then. Going into places or putting my camera in places where I could potentially damage the gear I’m using. I accept those risks (and try to minimise them), as the gear I’m using are my tools to make what I envision to make. Until now it always worked well, I have been in a  lot of sketchy situations but the most common one just got me down…
I’ve lost my Sony A7RII together with a ZEISS Batis 2.8/18 and a Nisi 0.9 GND filter. Total value: € 3.319 Damn…..

The story.

While storm Ciara was passing by with wind gusts of around 140 km/h the sky was completely overcast so nothing really interesting to photograph. When I was prepping dinner I had a quick glance on the satellite images and there was a small break in the clouds which, if we were lucky, would be arriving exactly during sunset.

So we decided to get into the car and drive to the beach. A few heavy rain showers passed and we waited in the car. Then the break arrived and the sun was setting. Towards the sun, nothing but clouds. But as so often when you turn around the beauty unfolds!
Fantastic looking clouds with the tops being illuminated by the setting sun. I was quickly trying to find some compositions in the very harsh conditions of strong winds and a sand storm in the dunes.

I got some shots on top of the dunes and it was time to head towards the water.
It was high tide and because of the storm the water was reaching the dunes, leaving almost no place to walk. When we headed down the waves were forming some great lines and at the moment they retreated a bit further I went out and into the shallow water.
Placing my tripod low and into the stream of back flowing water and getting my composition, while waiting for the next low wave to come in.

I spotted the next low but fast wave and pressed my time delay, so I could capture the wave crashing into the beach, while I was walking away to stay dry. Like so many times before……

Then when I turned around again to head back to the camera, I saw a very big wave coming in (I didn’t saw it before…) and I saw it catching my tripod and a few seconds later my tripod fell. The legs were pointing towards the sky, so I quickly grabbed everything and headed back to the car.

If you have a chance of keeping your equipment it’s key to act quickly. So I washed it quickly in fresh water, to remove the salt and headed home. Back home I placed the camera in a bowl of rice and hoped for the best.

How could this happen?

I’ve been in these situations countless of times. On diamond beach in Iceland it’s pretty much the only way to get the shots you want. When capturing waves in Cape Verde it was always a running game and it always ended with the camera dry.
This time however we were in a rush and I wasn’t fully paying attention. Distracted by the rain coming in, the high wind velocity, sand blowing around and the foam going everywhere. The thing that I didn’t payed enough attention to was the wave timing. Being a kite surfer this feels like I was really stupid.

This is exactly why I share this story with you all. Take my mistakes and think about them the next time when you are in such a situation. In aviation this is exactly what we do, share the mistakes so we can all learn from them.

Hope for the best

Trying to Rescue my gear

Back home I placed the camera in a bowl of rice, while I was trying to dry the rest of the gear.
My Zeiss Batis was completely dry when I took it off the camera so that was looking good. The ND filter I was using, was broken in half so that could be thrown away. The rest of the filter holder was easy to clean with some fresh water.

So at this time I was hoping for a camera revival and I was pretty sure the Zeiss Batis 18mm would survive just fine…

After 2 days of being in the rice I took the camera out and placed a battery inside. Turing the camera on made the shutter go nuts, firing off like a maniac and then all of a sudden there was nothing anymore…

Now it was time to take the camera apart to see what the damage was and if it was able to repair the camera.

Sony A7RII

Current value € 2.000,-

Trying to rescue the Sony A7RII – The teardown

Searching for any documentation on taking apart or repairing the Sony A7RII, I came across the iFixit teardown. This article provided me with some insight in how the camera was actually build and how I could safely take it apart.
Taking the first screws off and noting where everything belongs so I could put it back together again. I was anxious to see what I could find.

After removing the rear LCD screen and the back plate my worst fear was being acknowledged, the salt water had reacted with the internal components. Destroying the camera. It was like there had been a major short circuit, burning the electrical components.

So now I knew there was nothing to repair, my curiosity took over and wanted to find out how these cameras are build. So I took it completely apart!

Taking the Sony apart, layer by layer

Gear lost in this mistake

While my Tripod and SD card remained totally fine, the rest of my gear was lost.

Nisi Medium GND 0.9

100%

Sony A7RII

100%

Zeiss Batis 2.8/18mm

75%

Zeiss Batis 2.8/18

Current value: € 1319,-

My all-time favorite lens for landscape and cityscape photography, the Zeiss Batis 2.8/18mm.

While the lens was completely dry on the back-end there is something wrong with it. Attaching it to my new camera, it wont turn on.
The ZEISS logo isn’t showing and the lens doesn’t focus. When I open up the back off the lens, all components look okay. Nothing seems to have taken any water damage. The problem should be inside the lens and probably around the focus ring.
Because I don’t want to damage it any further and don’t know how to take it apart, the lens is being investigated by a repair company as we speak.

Expect and update later…

Zeiss Batis 2.8/18 review

How about the last images

Captured with the Sony A7RII and Zeiss Batis 18?

Well…. in the end, the image that I envisioned was captured before the next wave hit the camera.
You see the motion in the sea and the wave is collapsing in front of the camera. Because of the slow shutter speed I was able to capture the motion of the water. Thanks to the medium Gradient ND filter the exposure was balanced between the sky and the water.
I’m actually really happy with the image. But it’s not worth losing my equipment for it…

Storm in Nederland

The Last Wave

Finding a name for the last image captured wasn’t that hard…

How I've lost all of my photography gear

Tips:

What to do when your camera is submerged in salt water

When you ever encounter a situation where your equipment has been in contact with salt water think about the following:

 

Camera

  • Rinse the camera with fresh water to remove salt residu
  • Open up all ports
  • Remove battery and SD cards
  • Dry the external with a cloth
  • Place the camera boy in a bowl of rice, rice will take up the moisture
  • Leave it in the rice for a few days

Lens

  • Rinse it carefully with fresh water
  • Dry the lens and when water is found in the inside of the lens, place it in a bowl of rice
  • When it’s dry again, check the contact points and clean them

Tripod

I’m always using my tripod in salt water and every time I do the following to maintain a well working tripod.

  • Rinse the tripod and tripod head with fresh water
    Normally I do this in the bath tub or shower
  • Take apart all the sections of the legs
  • Take apart the center column
  • Let all components dry
  • With a brush, clean all parts of salt residu and sand
  • If the treads are still greased nothing is required and else I always apply some WD40
  • Put the tripod back together

When you do this every time you had your tripod in sand and/or salt water, the tripod will last way longer and you make sure it continue to operate smoothly.

How I've lost all of my photography gear

Final thoughts

Was it worth it? No
Do I like the image? Yes
Did I learned something from it? Yes.

No matter what, always try to minimize the risk and keep a sharp eye out on your environment. It was a very expensive mistake and by sharing the story I hope it will be a reminder for us all when we put ourselves or our equipment at risk. Always keep an eye out on your environment…

Have you ever had such an experience?
Share your story in the comments down below!

Martijn.Kort

Author Martijn.Kort

Fine art photographer focusing on architecture and cityscapes as well as capturing unique moments from the cockpit. Writing about photography techniques and sharing reviews. Ambassador for both ZEISS Netherlands and Nisi Filters. If you like my work, consider following me on Instagram!

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