Solving night photography problems: Three ways to keep dew off a lens

Dew on your lens can ruin an evening of night photography. No one wants to get home to find that their photos are completely fogged up.

I photograph in mostly arid regions, so condensation on lens is typically not a consideration. Because of this, I can be caught off guard if I photograph near the coast or on the East Coast, as you can see below. Dew can set in quickly — these photos were only taken 10 minutes apart. Below, I’ll discuss three ways to keep dew off your lens.

When does lens fog occur?

Your lens can build up condensation if the glass is colder than the air around it and there’s some humidity in the air. There’s more to it than that, of course. These factors are tied to dew point and air movement, all of which also affect condensation. 

Three ways to avoid dew on your lens

Keeping the lens hood on your lens is the easiest way to keep dew off your lens. Covering the front element helps protect it from the outside colder air for just a little longer. However, this only works up to a point, so we’re not going to count this as one of the three ways. I’ll begin with the cheaper, lower-tech methods and work my way forward.

1. Hand warmers

HotHands hand warmers. They’re not just for warming your hands.

Hand warmers work well at, well, keeping the lens warm. Wrap a couple of hand warmers around the lens or lens hood. A lot of people use some cloth to try and insulate them.

A West Virginia Mountaineers beer cozy around a lens to hold hand warmers in place. For many lens, you might need to cut this and either apply Velcro strips to close it back up, tape it with gaffer's tape, or tie rubber bands around it.
A West Virginia Mountaineers beer cozy wrapped around a lens to hold hand warmers in place. For many lens, you might need to enlarge the cozy by slicing it and applying Velcro strips to close it back up, taping it with gaffer’s tape, or tying rubber bands around it.

An alternative to only using rubber bands is to use a beer cozy. Now, this won’t fit all lenses, so you may have to modify the cozy or even cut it open. But this, coupled with a couple of hand warmers, works rather well due to the cozy’s insulation properties. Plus, as a bonus, it looks really fun.

LensMuff on a 28-105mm Pentax lens. Perhaps a more elegant if less beer-friendly solution to keeping dew off a lens compared to a beer cozy.

Even better is a LensMuff. This is specifically designed to wrap hand warmers around the lens and can accommodate very large lenses and is easy to put on quickly in the dark. It has pockets for up to three hand warmers, so there’s less likelihood of them slipping around. And you can use more than one Lensmuff and attach them together for larger lenses or telescopes.

The upside: This is cheap, lightweight, requires no power and is easy to do.

The downside: They are not always quite so reliable in very cold conditions. They also create waste.

Because I rarely photograph in environments where there will be dew on my lens, this is the method I use. However, I’ll discuss a couple of other methods I’ve seen people use.

2. Dew heating strips

These look somewhat like the LensMuff. However, the difference is that instead of stuffing hand warmers into the wrap, the wrap creates heat via a power source, typically USB. 

These used to be rather expensive. However, as of late, they have dropped to a very reasonable price. This example here, a USB lens warmer, is rather inexpensive. If dew heating strips such as this were this inexpensive years ago, I may have opted for this route instead of the LensMuff.

If I were to use a dew heating strip, I would most likely power it with a reasonably powerful USB power bank. I believe most USB lens warmers, certainly the one I linked to, are 5V, and so are most USB power banks. Velcro the power bank to the leg of your tripod, and you should be good for the evening. 

The upside: You may regulate the heat, and they are a continuous source of reliable heat. You may also use it to warm up other things such as baby bottles, making it multi-functional.

The downside: There’s more to set up, it’s more expensive and it requires power to work.

3. Fans

I suppose you could continually wave a fan in your hand. That would show serious dedication. But here, I’m going to propose using an electric fan. 

I’ve never actually seen anyone use a fan. However, if you look around on photography and telescope forums, you can always find an enterprising DIYer who uses something such as a small computer fan, clamping it to an arm so it blows air on the front element of the lens. 

This, however, would likely require a heavier-duty power source and require effective positioning during every setup. You might also need to be careful of vibration. However, if you connect the arm to one of the tripod legs, I doubt there would be any issue.

Of course, the issue I would probably have is banging into the arm or the fan in the dark. Because of this, perhaps attaching it to the camera’s hot shoe might work.

Perhaps if you didn’t mind carrying extra equipment, you could purchase a rechargeable portable fan, such as this 8-inch clip-on USB fan. I say “extra equipment” because a fan this large would almost necessitate mounting it on another stand due to vibrations, it seems. 

How do I check for the likelihood of dew?

If the night-time ambient temperature starts creeping close to the dew point, you are more likely to get moisture on the lens. Check a meteorological site for dew point. Or if you have been reading some of my articles, you might remember that one of my favorite apps and websites, Clear Outside, provides the low temperature and dew point for specific locations along with other very useful information.

This information is good to know in advance. After all, using heat (or the fan) would be considerably more effective when begun before dew sets in. You want to stop the lens from dropping to that evening’s dew point, after all.

What I dew (pardon the pun)

I’ve used hand warmers in all combinations. I found that the LensMuff and hand warmer combination has worked remarkably well so far during summer and fall evenings. 

If I photographed in colder environments, I would look into one of the dew heaters and have a couple of USB power banks ready to go.

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MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

VIDEO INTERVIEW:
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern California’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

 

 
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Photo: The Chapel Of Santa (long exposure light painting night photo, Santa’s Village)

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The Chapel of Santa (0109)
Santa’s Chapel in Santa’s Village near Lake Arrowhead, CA was originally built in 1955. It closed in 1998. The village survived a nearby fire in 2003. Now, a new owner is creating an environmentally friendly action adventure park, with hiking trails, zip-lining, and many other activities. And, yes, Santa’s Village. The owner granted me permission to photograph Santa’s Village at night. I wanted to photograph by the full moon, but the skies were very cloudy and foggy instead. I photographed anyway, and the fog created some very eerie images.
This photo was taken at night. Illuminated by a ProtoMachines LED2 flashlight and a full moon. 264 second exposure. This is not a post-processing creation. No pixels were harmed during the creation of this photo. 😀
~~
Capilla de Santa en Santa’s Village cerca del Lake Arrowhead, CA fue construido originalmente en 1955. Se cerró en 1998. El pueblo sobrevivió a un incendio cercano en 2003. Ahora, un nuevo propietario es la creación de un amigo de la ecología parque de aventura y acción, con rutas de senderismo, tirolesa, y muchas otras actividades. Y, sí, Santa’s Village. El dueño me dio permiso para fotografiar Santa’s Village en la noche. Quería fotografiar por la luna llena, pero el cielo estaba muy nublado. Fotografié todos modos, y la niebla creado algunas imágenes muy misterioso.
Foto tomada en la noche. Iluminado por una linterna LED 2 ProtoMachines y una luna llena. 264 segundos de exposición. No es una creación de post-procesamiento. No hay píxeles fueron perjudicados en la creación de esta foto. 😀
Nikon D610, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, 264s f/8 ISO 200 2016-05-21 20:54
Ken Lee Photography
Santa’s Village, CA, USA/EE.UU.

#lightpainting #fotografianocturna #pinturadeluz #kenlee #nightphotography #MyRRS #kenlee #nightphotography #california #mountain #night #noche #nightscape #nocturna #astrophotography #feisol #ProtoMachines #nikon #largaexposicion #santaclaus #santasvillage #lakearrowhead #christmas #forest #fog #awesomeearth #awesomeglobe #beautifuldestinations #WeOwnTheNight_CA #shutterbugpix #capilla #chapel

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like), on 500px, or my Ken Lee Google+ Page. We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

Photo: The Gingerbread House of Fog – Night Photo

0122kenlee_231sf8iso200-4000k_2016-05-21_2139_santasvillage-gingerbreadhouseinfog-lightpainting-fog-1000px

The Gingerbread House in Santa’s Village near Lake Arrowhead, CA was originally built in 1955. It closed in 1998. The village survived a nearby fire in 2003. Now, a new owner is creating an environmentally friendly action adventure park, with hiking trails, zip-lining, and many other activities. And, yes, Santa’s Village. The owner granted me permission to photograph Santa’s Village at night. I wanted to photograph by the full moon, but the skies were very cloudy and foggy instead. I photographed anyway, and the fog created some very eerie images.
The security guard told me that he recently took his wife to Santa’s Village while he was working. She walked up to the Gingerbread House, and to his surprise, suddenly began crying. Puzzled, he asked why. She replied that seeing the house brought back memories of when she came here with her father long ago.
This photo was taken at night. Illuminated by a ProtoMachines LED2 flashlight and a full moon. 156 second exposure. To the left of the image, you can see the lights of a car streaking on the mountain road nearby. This is not a post-processing creation. No pixels were harmed during the creation of this photo. 😀
~~
La Gingerbread House (casa de pan de jengibre) en Santa’s Village cerca del Lake Arrowhead, CA fue construido originalmente en 1955. Se cerró en 1998. El pueblo sobrevivió a un incendio cercano en 2003. Ahora, un nuevo propietario es la creación de un amigo de la ecología parque de aventura y acción, con rutas de senderismo, tirolesa, y muchas otras actividades. Y, sí, Santa’s Village. El dueño me dio permiso para fotografiar Santa’s Village en la noche. Quería fotografiar por la luna llena, pero el cielo estaba muy nublado. Fotografié todos modos, y la niebla creado algunas imágenes muy misterioso.
El guardia de seguridad me dijo que recientemente llevó a su esposa a la Santa’s Village mientras trabajaba. Se acercó a la Gingerbread House, y para su sorpresa, de repente comenzó a llorar. Desconcertado, le preguntó por qué. Ella contestó que ver la casa trajo recuerdos de cuando vino aquí con su padre hace mucho tiempo.
Foto tomada en la noche. Iluminado por una linterna LED 2 ProtoMachines y una luna llena. 156 segundos de exposición. A la izquierda de la imagen, se puede ver las luces de un coche en la carretera de montaña cerca. No es una creación de post-procesamiento. No hay píxeles fueron perjudicados en la creación de esta foto. 😀
The Gingerbread House of Fog (0122)
Nikon D610, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, 231s f/8 ISO 200 2016-05-21 21:39
Ken Lee Photography
Santa’s Village, CA, USA/EE.UU.

#lightpainting #fotografianocturna #pinturadeluz #kenlee #kenleephotography #nightphotography #MyRRS #nightphotography #california #mountain #night #noche #nightscape #nocturna #astrophotography #feisol #ProtoMachines #nikon #largaexposicion #santaclaus #santasvillage #gingerbreadhouse #casadepandejengibre #lakearrowhead #christmas #forest #fog #awesomeearth #awesomeglobe #beautifuldestinations #WeOwnTheNight_CA #shutterbugpix

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like), on 500px, or my Ken Lee Google+ Page. We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!