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Saturday, September 23 2017 @ 02:26 AM CDT

Lighting

The White Rock #1 site wide angle camera showing the IR lights on the nestPrevious: PCs + Encoders - Next: Archive Video

If your subject is “interesting” in the dark – or you don’t know but would like to, then you need light when the sun goes down.

Here you see the HWF White Rock #1 nest wide-angle camera view with the Infrared LED lit nest.

I’ve used everything from LED Christmas lights to specially crafted sets of infrared LEDs to commercial light sets, depending on what I wanted lit and what power (and budget) I had. On our Chehalis platform we set up some garden-style solar-powered LED lights as well as some that ran from the fuel cell. Both worked to a certain extent but only the 110 volt ones really lit much.


Today you can purchase cameras with built-in lights, either consumer video-cams with LED white lights, or industrial cameras with Infrared LEDs. Most subjects object to white light but can’t see infrared.

To the left you see a prototype of the board used on the HWF White Rock #1 and Port Moody PCT nest sites this year.

There are some instances when on-camera lights simply won't do the job – they're either not powerful enough or they are too directed for a tight space. In these cases you may want to build or purchase small light panels or even sets of individual LEDs that you can install where they'll perform best.

I've found at least one manufacturer of a kit from which you can build small panels of lights, or from which you can, through a little bit of light-weight wiring, make an array of separate LEDs that you can for example fit into holes drilled in a nest box.
There are also manufacturers of large arrays of infrared lamps used for industrial applications. They can be fairly expensive but they'll give more than adequate light quite a distance from a camera if that is what you need.

If you check in the automation section of the overcoming distances chapter you'll find some suggestions for turning lights off and on at various times or conditions.

Commercial kits that produce similar results:

The HWF Port Moody PCT nest is seen to the right under it's IR lights.

One thing to note is that it is difficult to aim IR lights since you're likely to be doing the aiming during daylight, and you really can't see the IR light. Prior to getting into your critter's path, use a consumer video camera (or the actual IR camera you'll use) to map the IR light pattern so you know where it shines. We typically create a paper template that can be placed below and in front of the light showing the angle of best light spread. During installation, we put the paper in place and try to ensure the light will spread enough by moving it closer or farther away, so the edges of the angle on the paper fall somewhat outside the edges of our camera angle of view.

It is also good to try to balance the amount of light from the IR source with any ambient light around the camera. You can see in the above images that we seem to have gotten the balance pretty good here, more by luck than design in this case though.

Getting the lights right when you can't actually see them is an art. Practice it before you get into the wild.

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