Friday, January 2, 2009

Butterflies, a cautionary tale

We've all got our concerns about 2009 and the Tucson Botanical Gardens is dealing with a few butterflies of their own this year... I dropped by the gardens today to take a few snaps of world butterflies in their Butterfly Magic exhibition. Click on pics for larger views...

The Tucson Botanical Gardens import crysalids under USDA rules from butterfly farms around the world. The butterflies then emerge and live out their lives in the controlled greenhouse, full of lots of plants and nector.

...including carnivorous plants like the one above (yep, you could see some butterflies down inside). Lucky they are plants, otherwise they would really have some butterflies in their stomachs.

Quite a few seem to hang upside down when resting... Less effort to just let their wings hang down?

Impressive colors! Neatly coiled proboscis.

Here are some of the crysalids in the window of the "nursery" being unpacked and setup for eventual emergence. I had no idea that they come in so many colors.

Wandering around out on the grounds to cool off after being in the humid & hot butterfly greenhouse, I found a few blooming flowers such as the iceplant above.

Its been a number of years since I last visited the Tucson Botanical Gardens -- I like it and will be back much sooner. I stopped for lunch at their little cafe and had a Mediterranean chicken salad which was quite good and reasonably priced.

One of the impressive things of note with the pics above is that they were taken today with my Canon G9 P&S camera which was fully submerged in over a foot of water on new year's eve -- sigh.

I was sitting above one of the fountain pools listening to a cool psychobilly band called the Mission Creeps. While juggling a hot chocolate, sweater and program guide, I somehow managed to knock my camera soundly off the edge and into the fountain below. Since I didn't have the shutter set to "bulb" (smile), the camera promptly sunk to the bottom. Not good, not good, not good at all.

Usually when I've heard of folks having this kind of accident with a P&S camera, the results are catastrophic & repair not worth the delta with a replacement camera. I assumed the worst, tried not to make matters worse by kicking myself for my carelessness, and chose to stay downtown for the rest of the celebration (hence my missing event pictures). When I pulled the soggy camera out of the fountain, the front green focus assist beam was on, even though the camera was off. Hmmmm. I pulled the battery, memory card, and poured as much water out of the soggy camera as possible.

When I got home I decided that since things were pretty grim anyway that taking action was probably slightly better than not. So I shook out more water, blew some compressed air around in the battery, memory, and usb slots and ... [WARNING -- I DO NOT RECOMMEND taking these actions as they could certainly make things much, much worse; I'm just describing the procedure/risks that I chose to take.] ... put it in my clothes dryer.

No, no tumbling. My dryer came with a removable shelf that could be inserted in it for, I think, drying shoes? Never used it before. So I put the camera on the non-moving shelf and set the dryer for its delicate lowest temperature setting. I checked the temperature inside after 5-10 minutes and it seemed reasonable; after all, our cars get really hot in Tucson in the summer.

After about 90 minutes of this, I pulled the camera out. Hmm, a little too hot I think. Outside was certainly dry, nothing melted (!), but the rear LCD screen had either a condensation fog or the LCD had crystallized from the temperature... Still, not a lot more to lose, so I popped the battery that had been in the camera back in and powered it up (another not recommended to do so soon after soaking in case there is still water present). The front lens opened and, no surprise, there appeared to be some condensation inside the lens elements somewhere, God only knows what happened to the sensor. Rear LCD display showed image, but very hazy from the fog mentioned above. Ok, well that was pretty much what I was expecting anyway, one last sigh and time for bed.

In the afternoon yesterday, New Years Day, I checked back on the camera and powered it up again. To my amazement, the internal lens condensation had cleared, leaving a couple of faint water marks on an internal element. Slightly less surprising, but a bet I wouldn't have made, was that the rear LCD display was now also looking normal. Hmmm. Out to the yard to take some test shots to see how bad those dried water spots would affect images. Not bad. The sensor seems to be undamaged, amazing.

So today, rather than taking my older S400 to the Botanical Gardens, I took my formerly waterlogged G9 and took the snaps above. Can you say lucky? I have the distinct impression that if I was to repeat the accident and my twisted recovery method multiple times, more often than not I'd end up with an unusable camera...

I've still got to give some thought on the trade offs of contacting Canon to pay for full refurbishing versus continuing to use as-is and eventually move it into a back up camera role for more at risk activities (like bicycle mounted time lapse videos). One of the wild cards is not knowing what was in the water and what that might do over time... Thankfully this was not a DSLR, in which case I'd have been simultaneously contacting the manufacturer and my bank.
I've heard other people say this many times, but I obviously wasn't practicing it -- "when around water, camera around neck or firmly around wrist". Lesson learned.

Sorry for the long story, but I thought I would suck up my pride and share my story. Had I known I was going to blog about this I would have taken some pictures that would have been truely disturbing, from a camera owner's point of view.

Oh, did I say those were butterflies above? Those are hummingbirds... (smile)

[2009 new to me #1, successfully dried out a water submerged camera; #2 visited the Butterfly Magic exhibition at TBG.]


  1. *wonders if dunking Sony in fountain will get better photos*

    Amazing pix! I am surprised turning it on with the moisture evident did not fry it at that point...I accidentally left a sega genesis on a dryer exhaust vent once (yes the dryer was going)and was amazed it still played after it dried out(it was soaked) and cooled off. And a ps 2 still worked after having a rootbeer dumped into it-although it was off at the time. Sadly the TV did not survive the glass of water down its innards...LOL

  2. oh I meant game cube not ps2. still a little sticky though..:)

  3. Congratulations on your scientific experiment and it's results. The photos are stunning!

  4. tree ocean, catalyst -- thanks! I think I was practicing an old axiom: "If it jams, force it. If it breaks... well, it needed fixing anyway."

  5. Awesome pictures!

    And I'm so glad your camera is okay. Trent very recently spilled an entire glass of juice in our laptop, and it was like he aimed for the keyboard beacuse that is where all the juice went, lol! Damian placed it outside in the sun for a few hours and amazingly enough, it turned back on with no problems. Our laptop before this one...umm not so lucky ;)

  6. lilmantrent -- yep, that was a close one! Glad you like the pics!

  7. Enjoyed your dazzling photos at the Tucson Botanical Gardens as well as the cautionary camera story. It is so so so easy to -bop- instantly cause disaster with these small electronic miracles. I'm afraid to touch cameras after having caused hundreds of dollars damage to one.

  8. Greetings, Sir.
    Congratulations on your camera-rescue success but the stint in the dryer 'bout stopped my heart! ;-)
    I wanted to offer a suggestion of something my Dad used to do when we jumped in the pool with not-water-resistant watches. I don't know that it will work on serious electronics, but it might be useful to folks that sit near fountains.
    My dad would save the silicon packets that come in boxes and such - you can also use the ones that come in vitamins. They're there to absorb any stray moisture. Seal the dunked watch in an air-tight container with a reasonable number of the silicon packets (enough to handle the water ratio). Leave overnight or for a day or so. The moisture inside the watch is drawn into the silicon. You might have to switch out for a second round of silicon if the dunking outweighs the absorption. It works with watches - I rescued my husband's this way earlier this year. I'd prefer not to experiment with my digital camera, but you are obviously more adventurous than I am.
    Your pictures are lovely and I'm glad to find another blogging Tucsonian that enjoys our local treasures.

  9. Oy. Sigh.
    SILICA. Not Silicon.
    Going to bed now...Apologies.

  10. Vita -- it only takes a moment... at least it was my own! Glad you like the pics!

    KiniaCat Crafts -- thanks for the silica suggestion. I had thought about that but didn't have any on hand, it was New Year's day, and I thought it might take quite a bit as wet as everything was. I do plan on getting a kind of large silica dessicant bar that they sell that can be dried and recharged in an oven, just to have on hand should the need arise or for use after being out in the rain.

  11. Drying out stuff locked in tupperware with some silica packets simply doesn't have the "oomph" and interest that putting a camera in the dryer does. (wry grin)
    Grateful thanks for the compliment on my frost pictures. Coming from a photographer such as yourself, that is a heady compliment.
    Have a lovely weekend!


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