DSLR Camera Trapping Part 2 – Making a waterproof flash housing

Leaving out your precious camera equipment overnight or for longer periods is a necessary requirement for DSLR camera trapping. For some this is untenable and that’s fair enough. But there are ways to allay the fear and to protect that expensive kit from the elements and from thieving hands (up to a point). It also makes the setting up quicker and more streamlined, which increases your enjoyment. Its also great for creative types because there are a multitude of ways that it can be accomplished, from cheap and cheerful plastic bags through to well thought out bombproof housings. Here I will describe how my kit protection evolved from simple plastic bags through to solid waterproof casings

First though here’s a shot from last night…….

shortly after this shot was taken she ripped the log to bits! 

…..and here is the setup for this shot showing you the various housings and attachments that I was using………

Positioning the lights is crucial to get right. In a two light setup like this you need a main light (one up high on the right, set to 1/32 power) and a fill light (lower down but still above the focus point on the top of the log, at 1/64 power). Light is best directed from up high as that is where the human eye is expecting light to come from, and you wont be flashing directly into the animals eyes. 

It rained and hailed heavily in the night but I wasn’t worried as all my kit was protected. The PIR sensor is on the tripod, my camera is in a purpose built housing (more on that in Part 3) and my flash units are in their individual sealed housings attached to whatever came to hand – in this instance, garden furniture. 


The Nikon SB-28 with Camtraptions wireless receiver unit attached

The simplest form of protection for the flashgun and wireless receiver is a plastic bag held in place with an elastic band, and is perfectly acceptable to begin with. The bag will even act as a weak diffuser for the light. However, if it dislodges from its position or the wind gets up and blows rain up inside it then you might be at risk of damaging the electronics. Also at some point you will encounter condensation and mist and no bag will stop this from getting in.

The Milk Container Diffuser 

The next thing I tried was a cut away section of a 2 litre milk container. This was easy to pop on and off the flash and actually gave out a lovely soft glow as the plastic is milky white. Again though once the wind gets under it it will blow off, its not at all camouflaged and is not particularly portable. I quickly ditched this idea and decided to make some proper fully sealed units using plastic food containers with silicone seals and click-lock lids. The ones for spaghetti are the perfect dimensions for this purpose, and made from slightly cloudy plastic which is great to diffuse the light. I ordered three from Amazon and this is what they look like in action……

shows how the RAM mounts make the housing very positionable
hugging the tree trunk – might be useful for woodpeckers!
the lovely diffused soft light you get when the flash is fired.

I wanted to be able to attach these rapidly to anything to hand and there were various clamp options available. In the end I went for RAM mounts with 1 inch ball heads for the ultimate in positionability. You can screw a base to a tree in seconds and point the flash housing in almost any direction from there. Or just use the end as a clamp as I did to the garden furniture shown above. The point is that they are quick and easy to get your flashes securely attached exactly where you want them.

The flash is supported by snug fitting foam padding so it doesn’t rattle around inside. The lid can be opened in seconds and the flash assembly slid out for settings to be checked. I pop a silica gel bag inside to mop up any moisture that may be in the air inside. The RAM mount is bolted through the side of the container with an acrylic plate on the inside to prevent the container from cracking, and all of it (except the ‘flash’ end of course) is covered in camouflage duck tape – you could spray it if preferred. I sealed the bolts and RAM mount with silicone sealant to prevent water ingress there, and painted the ends of the bolts with black hammerite (that’s a bit anal actually).

Here is how they are made, step by step;

You will need….
marking holes for the RAM mount
Drilling the holes through the container and acrylic ‘washer’
Checking it all lines up
Camouflaging the housing
Bolting it all together
painting over reflective surfaces
sealing with silicone sealant

The result is a fully watertight, highly positionable, portable, shock resistant flash housing which should last years of abuse, and so far I have been delighted with their performance. You could drop one in a pond or river and there would be no leakage. There are no issues with wireless signals getting through to the receiver either.

Next time I will show you the camera housing itself and how I made that as well. DO try this at home !!!


Published in Member Blogs

  1. Great blog and ideas. Looking forward to the next instalment 📷

    • You could try for your local pine Marten with this gear Rob!

      • From the house that’s a definite possibility. In the temporary flat, much less likely – but I guess foxes could be around 🤔

  2. Another great blog, thank you Andy. The enclosures and mounting arrangement look very good – just the job, and won’t break the piggy bank either! Love your wistful fox, also.

    • Thanks Jerry. Glad you found it informative. I’ve got a few more garden sets I can use then I’ll try further afield with it.

  3. This is really excellent Andy.

  4. Wow, that’s great, and it looks so simple the way you explain it.

  5. Wow the final housings look brilliant!! Getting excited!!

    • A nice little project for you in lockdown Baz! It’s impressed Ally Marsh too – he’s asked me to make him one.

  6. As I said previously, thorough and methodical (and yes, possibly just a bit anal! hehe). Brilliant stuff Andy.

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