For the best protection…

January 23, 2010


Nikon 12-24 lens and HB-23 hood

(C) Copyright 2010 Kevin P. Mick. All rights reserved.

…attach the dedicated lens hood that has been specifically designed for the lens being used.  

Two stories:

I have already established in previous posts that most of my early photographic adventures involved being out in snowy and icy conditions.  I enjoyed the crispness to the air and the fact that, most of the time, there were not many people out and about.  The pristine quality of the scenery was enticing.

I also tended to use fingerless gloves to be a bit more dexterous when working the camera.  

Single tree in snowy field

(C) Copyright 2007 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

One frigid morning in a February long ago I was out after an ice storm.  It was maybe five degrees and the sun had not quite risen enough to warm the day.   When changing a lens, I dropped it as my fingertips were quite numb.  The lens landed flush on the attached hood and bounced once back into the air before I was able to catch it (adrenaline is a wonderful substance.)  There was no physical damage and I quickly shot the remaining frames of film working through various apertures and focal distances as a test.  Since this was pre-digital, I did not have a LCD screen for immediate feedback so I took the film to my favourite photo lab for rush processing.  Fortunately, the lens continued to work as before the drop.  Without the lens hood, the front element would have been severely damaged. 

UV filters are often sold as a “protection” for the front element of the lens and many photographers use these instead of the lens hood.  In this case, a UV filter would not have helped as it most likely would have shattered upon impact with the shards being driven into the front element.  The hood prevented any damage.

The second story involves very different environmental conditions and subject matter. 

B-17 Bomber landing

(C) Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I also enjoy photographing World War Two aircraft and so visit airshows and/or tours when possible, such as those offered by the Collings Foundation.  This incident occurred on a blisteringly hot August day-the temperature was in the 90s with nary a cloud in the sky.  Being fair-skinned, I had purchased a new, state-of-the-fabric-art, long-sleeved, white T-shirt to wear as protection from the sun.  Wore a hat, too, as my male-pattern baldness was continuing to advance.

While photographing under the wing of a B-17 bomber, I looked down and saw a series of black dots trailing down the length of one of my new sleeves.  Oil.  The engines, as they tended to do, were leaking.  Initially, I was bummed about the shirt.  I then looked at the camera.  The lens hood had several well-placed drips running around it.  A quick look revealed that none of the oil was on any other part of the lens, and I was able to breathe again.  I should mention that this was a borrowed lens.  

Given the angle of the drops, it is conceivable that the oil would have dripped on the front element were it not deflected by the lens hood.  Since one must use the proper fluids for cleaning lens elements so as to not damage the coatings on the glass, and used airplane-engine oil is not on the list of recommended substances, I can only conclude that oil on the glass would have been a problem.  I wiped off the hood and continued with the shoot.   Once again, the lens hood provided the much needed protection.

Lens hoods certainly can block stray light from hitting the front element and thus causing unwanted optical effects and will also, depending on the angle, protect from rain and snow.  Both of these are the original reasons for why I started using lens hoods in the first place.  However, the above two experiences convinced me that for the best “protection”, always using the lens hood makes for good practice.

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