There are many photographic equipment predators, especially in the summertime. Some of these include: water, salt, sand, heat, sunscreen, loss, and theft. Here's a few tips, and a few reminders for how to keep these predators at bay, and how to fix any damage that may occur.
* Water- To state the obvious, let's first start with mentioning that it's a good idea not to take your equipment too close to water unless it's waterproof equipment. There's many affordable UW options these days, including disposable underwater cameras, UW housings for both digital point and shoot and DSLRs, waterproof digital point and shoots, and waterproof 35mm cameras.
Now, if you must take a non-waterproof camera near the water, and happen to drop it in the water, here's what you need to know to make the chances of survival the greatest: Immediately turn the camera off! Then, take out/off accessories such as the battery, memory card, and lens. Lay them out individually to dry. "Dump" any excess water out of the camera if it's full. I suggest air drying the camera, but if needed, you can use a hair dryer on a low setting for short amounts of time. The camera will take days to fully dry out on the inside. Do not turn the camera back on until you are positive that it is completely dry on the inside (any left over water could fry the circuitry). If you happened to drop the camera in salt water, then after removing the accessories, before drying, rinse the camera in distilled water to remove the salt. *This is if the camera was submerged, and not just if a little sea spray got on it. Adding silica packs (or rice) nearby your camera, in your camera bag, or put together with the camera body and/or lens in a Ziploc bag will help to absorb any extra moisture. Obviously, you want to try to never drop it in the first place, so use a camera strap or avoid the situation all together.
* Salt- If you live near, or spend a lot of time near an ocean, chances are salt from the water and air will creep into your gear. Salt typically isn't an immediate danger, but over time it can corrode electronics and etch glass. If you are near it often, just take some extra time to clean your gear on a regular basis, including small parts like battery contacts and glass elements.
* Sand- You know how when you go to the beach you seems to bring a ton of sand home with you? Well, your gear is no exception. Be especially careful to avoid sand... it's small and gritty and will sneak into little corners and cling to glass. If your gear comes in contact with sand, get it out quickly, but gently. The best thing to use in a soft brush to remove the sand grains. If you try air (compressed, canned, hair dryer, hand dryer, etc.) you risk pushing the grains further into the camera and scratching the glass. A cleaning cloth can also aid in rubbing the sand into the glass and thus scratching it also. Another easy preventative measure for sand is to keep a protective filter (and lens cap when not in use) on the end of your lens.
* Heat- Extreme heat isn't good for too many things, including electronics or film. Try to avoid leaving gear and accessories in direct sunlight, or in the trunk of a car for extended periods of time. The other issue with heat is the switch from the air conditioned indoors to the outdoor summer heat and vice versa. This can cause condensation to develop inside your camera, and may also cause your lens to fog. The same basic thing can happen to your camera and lenses that you've seen happen to your glasses or car windshield- a fast fog or haze created by a quick temperature switch. To prevent this from happening put your equipment in an airtight plastic bag before taking it from one environment to another. Let the equipment gradually adjust to the new temperature and then remove it from the bag. Do the same thing when going back to the original environment. It may sound like a pain, but it won't actually save you time to skip it. If your equipment fogs, it can take a while to defog. Also, since the moisture from the condensation will penetrate into your equipment, it will cause fungus to grow. If the fungus is not removed in a timely manner, the fungus can etch the glass which will ruin the clarity of you shots for as long as you use that lens. Fungus may be difficult for the untrained eye to detect, and is sometimes costly to clean. The condensation can also cause rust and internal problems in your camera which will affect its functioning.
* Sunscreen- Sunscreen and other oily or liquidy substances can cause problems with your electronics, sure. But it can also make for a huge mess, whether it's sticky, or oily and slippery. If your gear gets slippery, you run the risk of dropping it. If you're traveling with sunscreen, bug repellent, or another non-photographic substance, it's best to keep them in different travel bags. If the two will be in close proximity of each other, place your gear and your bottles or tubes in zip lock baggies when it's not in use. This will help protect it from leaky bug repellent, spilled sunscreen, melted ice cream, daiquiris, salt, water, you name it.
* Loss and Theft- It seems that gear theft is a little more prevalent in the summer months with so many people traveling for summer vacations. There's a bunch of different steps you can take to prevent your equipment from being stolen, and other steps to take if it is stolen. Last summer we went over this topic pretty extensively, so read the article HERE. Many of the same tips also apply for lost equipment, but if you're especially forgetful and tend to put things down and then forget and leave them, you may want to take a few extra steps including wearing your camera on a neck strap, having a traveling buddy look out or remind you to double check that you have everything when moving from one place to another, and purchasing in a loss recovery product such as the ImHONEST System.
Basically, think smart this summer. Take the appropriate gear to the corresponding environments. Pay attention to the elements, and inform yourself of what to do if something goes wrong. Happy traveling and vacationing!