Serving Breakfast On Your Lens

My friends make fun of me. They call me names. “Anal” is their favorite. I don’t really mind because, well, they’re nuts. They’ve totally lost their gourd and I don’t want to make their lives any more miserable by getting upset with them over petty little things. So I let them have their little fun at my expense, smug in the thought that they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

Case in point: Lens caps. Recently, I noticed one friend stuffing a camera and lens into his pack without putting the lens cap on. After catching my breath, I asked him what in the heck he was doing. So began another episode of me taking the psychological high road and letting this nut case, I mean, my friend, carry on about how anal I was and how I needed to loosen up a bit. Now, for those who don’t know me, I’m plenty loose. As a goose. Plus, I manage to stay loosened up just fine while my lenses stay well protected with their caps securely attached, thank you.     

Another situation occurred recently at a dinner function when a different friend showed up with a camera and lens slung over his shoulder. The lens—capless, of course—was banging on everything in sight. But that wasn’t the worst part. That lens was the dirtiest piece of glass I’ve ever seen. I swear I could tell you what the guy had for breakfast that morning by looking at his lens! But how do you suppose my friend and the others in the party took my low-keyed, casual and thoughtful remarks? They all reveled in yet another opportunity to tell me how anal I am. See, I told you they were nuts.

To me, the only time a lens should be exposed to breakfast or anything else is when you are taking a picture. Ready to shoot? Take off the lens cap. Finished shooting? Put that lens cap back on. Pretty simple, I think. Of course I understand that when you are walking around shooting grab shots and you need to get the shot as quickly as possible, you have to leave the cap off. But for Jiminy Cricket’s sake, you can put the cap on before you reach for the Log Cabin Syrup.

I see this all the time, though. In the field, on YouTube videos, at breakfast. Beginning photographers as well as veterans. Men and women. Black and white. Which leads me to an inevitable and irrefutable conclusion: Everyone is nuts but me!

For those of you who would like to reform—I know none of my friends are in this category— I’ll offer a few suggestions for how to make lens cap life easier. Of course, some of you might not have any problems to worry about in the first place. If you use standard lens filters and you don’t keep your lens hood attached when the lens is packed (you DO use a lens hood, right? Please don’t make me have to write another blog post!), then you can probably get by with a standard lens cap most of the time. But if you like to pack with the hood extended, as opposed to reversed on the lens, you might have problems. Some hoods make it very hard to remove the lens cap. The caps that have the grips in the middle of the cap as opposed to the rim will usually solve this problem , but if not, you’re going to have to make Harris Teeter your friend. If you don’t have a Harris Teeter in your town, most any grocery store will do. I find Ingles to be good, and Food Lion is okay if I’m in a pinch. Carry the hood in the store and try out all those plastic caps on everything you see until you find one that fits snugly over the hood. Be nice and buy the product, even if it’s something you don’t eat. It’s a small price to pay for protecting your lens. Back when I had metal lens hoods for several of my lenses, Pringles potato chips and Planters nuts always seemed to have something to fit and I didn’t mind buying them. However, I do still have a 20-year-old can of lime-flavored chili sauce sitting in the pantry. I think that one outfitted a metal hood for an old 75-300.

Jasmine rice cap used to protect slim polarizing filter
Jasmine rice cap used to protect slim polarizing filter

Try to be discreet on your lens cap shopping excursions. I carried a telephoto lens into the local grocery store right after 9/11 and was stared down in every aisle. My response of, “Hey, what’s the matter? Haven’t you ever seen an unshaven, long-haired guy in dirty clothes walk around a grocery store carrying a 300mm lens looking for a lens cap?” didn’t seem to help calm anyone’s nerves.

If your lens is a wide-angle and the hood is one of those petal-shaped designs, you probably won’t be able to find a suitable cap for it. As long as you use standard lens filters on the lens, you can get by perfectly fine with the standard lens cap on the lens or filter. But try screwing on one of those slim polarizing filters and see where that takes you. Yep, it won’t accept a regular lens cap. In their infinite wisdom, the company that makes the one I bought included a nice friction-fitted plastic cap to go on the outside of the filter. Trouble is, it’s a piece of crap. It won’t even stay on the filter when the camera is sitting still; the instant you stuff it in the pack it falls off. One of my friends solves this problem by taking his filter off before packing the lens away, then putting it back on for the next session. Like I said, my friends are nuts. If I think my next session will require the filter, no way am I going to take if off.

So what’s the solution? Depends on what lens you’re using. If the front filter thread is 77mm, H.T. Traders jasmine rice is what you need. The cap is about a half inch in depth, which is perfect for completely enclosing the polar filter, and the diameter is just right for resting on the outer rim of the lens. (True for my Nikon 17-35; your lens may be different) Glue a strip of Velcro over the cap with a an inch or so hanging over each side and glue a matching piece of Velcro on the outer edges of the lens hood. Now you have a really cool cap that covers the slim polar and provides solid protection against pancake syrup. I was afraid that the glue might not hold in cold weather, so I added a couple of rivets for extra security. (Can you believe my friends even made fun of me for that?) Oh, in case you were wondering, you don’t have to use jasmine rice. Any of the other flavors will do; I just like the purple color of the jasmine cap.

So that’s me free advice for the day. If anyone feels compelled to send me money, no need. I’m just doing my part to protect lenses everywhere. But I wouldn’t mind it if someone would take that can of lime-flavored chili sauce off my hands.

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2 Responses to “Serving Breakfast On Your Lens”

  1. TomDills Says:

    Kevin, I’m with you on the lens hood part. I always use one. But for me, the lens cap stays in the bag. Otherwise I just lose them, and I hate having to buy new lens caps, even if they’re the kind that come on Pringles cans or jasmine rice. Sometimes if I’m at the beach or the breakfast buffet I’ll leave it on the lens, then when I want to take a photo I take it off and put it in my pocket with my nekkid polarizer. Yes, as you know I carry my polarizer in my pocket when it’s not on the lens. And yes, I just wrote that ’cause I know it drives you crazy.

    I know that anal is a popular term to describe you, but I want to do you a favor. How about if we just call you “excessively fastidious?”

  2. admin Says:

    Oh, I love it! Think we can get it to stick? Maybe I’ll write something about being an “Excessively Fastidious” photographer. Leave it you, Tom, to figure out a polite way to call me anal. Thanks, my friend!

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