Saturday, May 25, 2013

When Mahindra Thar Goes Off Road, Dust Does Not Simply Settles Down!

Few months back, in January 2013, I was hired by Western India Sports Association to shoot an event, the Off-Roading Trophy 2013 by Mahindra Adventure, held at a open plot besides the Mahindra R&D Plant near Igatpuri. You can watch the video here;

I was really excited, as I like cars, especially the mighty SUVs and 4x4 Off Roading vehicles, and I knew that as much challenging it was for the contestants to overcome the hurdles, it was equally challenging for me to capture them in action. I kept my rig simple and light in weight, as I knew the event would be running from morning to evening under harsh sunlight, so I used my 5D Mark III (Missed the GoPro a lot here.) with only one standard zoom lens, Tamron 28-75mm f2.8, to cover the whole event, to avoid frequent changes. I took 90% shots in hand-held\run&gun style using the shoulder rig to avoid vibrations\jerks and give it a 'action' feel, I completely avoided tripod during main event to eliminate wasting energy in mounting\dismounting and carrying the heavy tripod here and there. Shot mostly in 1080p at 25fps and some high action shots in 720p 50fps for slow motion (though the editor did not use it the way I imagined.)

One of the major challenge that I did not think of in advance and had to face during covering this event was dust! Fine-dry-red-devil DUST! As the land there was dry, deserted and dusty, and on that the gigantic 4x4 tires of Thar's rolling at high speeds, every time the vehicle was overcoming the hurdles it felt like an Apache has landed there, dust storm every where around the vehicle, which ultimately settled on me and my camera. The matte black surface of 5D looked like the surface of a old parked car that was not used for ages, but this happened on my 5D in just few seconds. So on Day 1 I experienced this challenge and applied some simple solutions to fight the dust and protect my camera from it as much possible on Day 2.

Here are the quick solutions (nothing fancy);
  • The moment the Day 1 ended, I cleaned my camera thoroughly.
  • On Day 2 I kept a cloth with me in my pocket to kept dusting the camera body as dust settled.
  • Also kept blowing air on the UV filter to blow off the dust so the image quality is not affected.
  • Used a LCD Viewfinder, as the dust settled on the screen made it difficult to watch under bright Sun.
Now there was dust and then there was this artificially made mud pit in one of the challenge, since i did not had any quick solution for that, i just stayed away from the area where the vehicle's tires were spraying the mud.

Here are some points that I learned on this shoot and will implement in future whenever face similar shooting conditions;
Rain Cover
  • Clean the camera before and after every shoot.
  • Use UV Filter to protect the lens glass.
  • Keep a rag\cloth handy to clean camera body whenever possible during shoot.
  • Don't use a cloth on a dusty UV Filter glass, just blow air on it to dust off.
  • In case there is going to be slight spray of water or mud during shoot I would suggest to get a camera rain cover.
  • If using your camera more than frequently in such conditions, then do full periodic clean ups from experts.
And yes its not just about protecting your camera, the camera is nothing without its operator, so taking care of yourself is also important (trust me you don't want to get ill during the first day of shoot itself.). Here are some things that I would implement;
Hydration Pack
  • I would keep myself hydrated as much as possible. In fact get a hydration pack for more supply of water without any hindrance in the work.
  • Stay under shadow as much as possible.
  • Wear a fishing cap\hat and keep an umbrella handy.
  • Sun-screen of course.

Well i guess that is all I learned from the experience of this shoot, hopefully not missing something. Ah! Yes, this is the project where i lost my phone, the old Nokia 5700 express music, how can i forget that!

Anyways I hope this article helps some of the people preparing in advance for such shooting conditions.

Thank you for reading! (bcoz...genratn dis days is very lazy.....)
Stay stoned!



  1. Mahindra Thar Review according is Cheap, appalling interior quality. Fit, finish and rough edges are a let down. It is offering comfortable ride quality which stays compliant even on bad roads & jungle trails.

  2. wow! That's a great article, thanks for sharing.
    Agreeing with all the points, i am wonder does wearing a sun screen really help? Certainly no.
    Everything apart, off-roading on a thar is definately a helluva experience! One just cannot forget the bumpier rides and going to places where not all can go.
    I got roll cage, side step, 4x4 accessories installed a on my Mahindra Thar, My beast is all set to roll on the off-roads! Thanks to Bimbra 4x4. Our holidaying adventures are only offroads!