I enjoy fly fishing and I enjoy photography and frequently enjoy them together.  Some of the time that involves bringing my digital SLR along with me.

One of the keys to good fishing pictures is keeping the camera lens clean which is pretty straightforward although having a camera around water does pose some challenges.

Another problem one encounters is dust and not dust on the outside of the lens but dust inside the camera where it is not nearly so accessible.  Dust on the internal sensor plate is a fact of life with digital cameras although some seem prone to it more than others.  Notice the black blob in the lower right corner of this image?  That is caused by dust on the imaging sensor – or more accurately on the glass anti-aliasing filter or optical glass cover protecting the sensor.

A challenge – but not an insurmountable one.  The difficulty is that the sensor is not easily accessible and can be damaged if care is not taken in its handling. However cameras have been designed to help you with this.  If you have a camera with an in-camera sensor cleaning function, use that regularly as your first line of defense in dust management.  Failing that, check your camera manual to determine how to set it in “sensor cleaning mode”.  This varies from camera to camera but essentially what it does is expose the imaging sensor in a way that allows you to carrying out your cleaning activity.

Once you have exposed the sensor the next step is to take a careful look (doing so in a well lit environment helps) which should reveal dust on the sensor.  And how do you remove the dust you observe? Not with your finger or with your breath.  The finger can scratch or displace the sensor while your breath can deposit moisture on the sensor – none of which are good.

Your first approach should be to use an air blower – either a manual one or a compressed air variety which does not emit propellants which can gum up the works of your camera.  With either air source be sure to keep the end point of the applicator well away from the sensor plate.

In talking to my local camera store, they indicated indicated that a burst of air was almost always sufficient to remove any pesky dust bunnies.  If that doesn’t work then it is on to the next level of cleaning where you will actually clean the sensor with some form of brush or sensor swab designed for cleaning camera sensors.

My DSLR happens to be a Nikon.  Thom Hogan has a great article on his site describing in detail how to clean Nikon image sensors.  He goes into a great deal of detail about choices of sensor brushes and swabs and their correct use.  Even if you have another brand of camera, the process he outlines is extremely helpful.

Cameras are made to be used and that implies wear and tear and dirt but the bottom line – a bit of careful maintenance will keep your camera in top shape and put you in a position to capture images to match those quality fishing experiences.