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sound-proof camera housings

Andy Hay , Jan 13, 1999; 06:19 a.m.

Hi. Does anyone know of any sources for sound-proof camera housings for use in at-nest photography, or for that matter has anyone made use of them? They are sometimes used by stills photographers on movie sets I believe, and when used on cine cameras they might be known as 'blimps' or 'barneys' (a web-search on the latter brought up numerous sites relating to a certain purple dinosaur!).


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Ilkka Haapavirta , Jan 13, 1999; 09:15 a.m.

I have no personal experience, but B. Moose Peterson describes those devices and their usage in his book "Nikon Guide to Wildlife Photograpy".

Ellis Vener , Jan 13, 1999; 01:51 p.m.

Here you go: Jacobson Instruments Mark Jacobson 11491 Chandler Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601 818.752.7910 fax: 818.752.7913

I have used blimps for shooting on movie sets and during symphonic performances. To the human ear, they ae dead quiet from 18 inches away. You need to talk with Mark about your specific cameras and lenses

Andy Hay , Jan 14, 1999; 04:43 a.m.

Thanks very much for the info guys. Ellis: what kind of camera were you using within the blimp - does the blimp allow you full control? How bulky/heavy is it, and would it allow the use of remote releases and attachment to a tripod? How expensive are they - and does anyone know of any outlets in the United Kingdom?

Ellis Vener , Jan 14, 1999; 10:21 a.m.

Andy, you really need to talk with Mark Jacobson about your needs but re: your last post. I was using a Nikon N90s, with these lenses: 20mm AF, 35mm AF, 85mm f/1.8 AF, 180mm f/2.8 AF, and a 300mm f/2.8 manual. The blimp comes in two parts, a body and interchangable lens tube, it is not I believe, waterproof. I used mine (rented from Jacobson's) in AF & aperture priority mode. You have to take the camera out of the housing to change film. It works best with cameras with a high eyepoint viewfinder. The blimp is configured differently for different cameras. You have access to shutter release, AF lock, and AE lock. Cost was about US$700.00. The body blimp is opaque (black PVS) and lined with foam conforming to the specific camera body. You fire the camera via a trigger button about where you'd expect one to be. This button connnects via cable to your remote socket on the camera. the overall size is about that of a shoebox, I cant recall if there is a tripod socket, but as these things are custom made, why not? The lenstube is capped in front with a removable glass cap. Have you tried any of the big film production or professional rental houses in London?

Andy Hay , Jan 14, 1999; 01:19 p.m.

Thanks Ellis. Sounds like a pretty well-designed piece of kit, but it must be a bit of a monster with a 300 2.8 on the front! I should think at that sort of price rental, or attempting to build my own might be the best options. It's good to talk to someone who's actually used one!

Ellis Vener , Jan 14, 1999; 02:40 p.m.

Well actually there is no lens tube for the 300mm lens. I detatched the tube from the body and stuffed a padded Domke wrap around the lens barrel to dampen the sound somewhat., a lot still comes out of the end of the lens strangely enough. you should rent first and see if it works for you before buying one.

Bob Atkins , Jan 14, 1999; 03:06 p.m.

I'm just wondering why you need a blimp for nest photography? What sort of equipment are you using and how close are you to the nest? While minimizing impact on the birds is (or should be) the #1 priority of any photographer doing such work, the noise of the camera is typically fairly low on the list of sources of disturbance. Just being there is #1 by a long shot, followed by the use of flash, with shutter noise being a distant 3rd (assuming you're not using a Pentax 67!)

Andy Hay , Jan 15, 1999; 08:03 a.m.

What I had in mind Bob was using a 35mm body with a wide-angle lens attached, fired remotely. Using a wide-angle would necessitate the camera being within a yard or so of a smaller bird: the idea being to get 'bird on nest within breeding habitat' - the wide-angle being set to a small aperture and at hyperfocal setting in order to get as much of the environment focussed as possible - the complete opposite of the telephoto treatment of nest photography. The shutter could be tripped either by using a long electronic remote cable with extension or via an infra-red/radio transmitter/receiver from a hide/blind at some distance. To some extent disturbance to the bird is reduced by the fact that the bulky hide looming on the skyline is further away than might otherwise be the case, although no doubt the bird will still be perturbed by the arrival of a small box on it's doorstep. And no doubt this box has to be introduced gradually in the same way that a hide is: during the process of moving the camera in it would no doubt be possible to get the bird used to the sound of the shutter by occasionally firing the camera empty. Of course some species are more or less sensitive to noise than others - likewise even individuals within a species, and it is amazing what birds will get used to, particularly if there's no obvious source (e.g the 'crash, tinkle' of someone dropping a teleconverter INSIDE their hide, and the associated muttered curses! Hypothetically). But as you say, the major priority is to minimalise disturbance, particularly to a nesting bird with eggs/young, and if it's possible to reduce noise, why not? Other advantages of using some kind of blimp might be that you could camouflage it to reduce visual impact for the bird, and so that it doen't attract unwanted attention to either the nest or the camera. Also it would of course be a bonus if it in some way weather-proofed the equipment. Of course this is by no means a new technique - I'm sure it must have been tried by yourself or one of your subscribers before? In fact it was suggested by Ilkka that Moose has made use of it (I haven't yet seen the book in question). I have previously attempted to improvise an amateurish kind of blimp by adapting the polystyrene block packaging that each camera body arrives in, wrapping the whole in camo tape and trying to break up the resulting boxy outline with rocks. The sound insulation was surprisingly poor (witness Ellis's last posting about lens tubes). I deposited the gizmo at a known wader/shorebird roost when the birds were away feeding (not having the luxury of time needed to move it in gradually). The body was an F4 set to 'continuous silent'. The birds clustered around it, but at a slight distance (evidence that the visual impact was a little too sudden or great) - just a little further away than I had hoped for! When the shutter was tripped they moved further away (audible impact), although it didn't create panic. Perhaps with time they would have habituated, but I would rather not have created even that small stir. Manufacture of blimps is obviously something of an art, hence my questions.

Bob Atkins , Jan 15, 1999; 02:29 p.m.

Sounds like an interesting project. A couple of thoughts come to mind. First would be a digital camera. No shutter, no mirror, no winder. Very, very quiet. The trouble would be finding one that could be fired remotely, had the right lens, could be "fix focused" etc. Second would be a Leica M6! Very quiet, but I'm not sure how loud the autowind would be...

Given you want a wide angle lens, I'd have thought that putting the whole thing in a box would do the trick, given enough insulation. You don't need the ergonomic features of a blimp if you are triggering remotely.

Good Luck

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