Filming in the rain forest at
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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).

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Old March 22nd, 2010, 04:23 PM   #1
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Filming in the rain forest

Hi there,

I'll probably be filming in the Colombian rain forest this autumn. Some kind of geographic / ethnografic expedition, about 20 days long.

Would my XH A1 / HDV be sufficient for this job, or should I better rely on a solid state system?

Which additional gear should I get (only got a Kata rain cover)?

Any tricks and tipps to consider (p.E. how to get batteries charged in the jungle - without power plugs)?

Thanks a lot,
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Old March 22nd, 2010, 10:03 PM   #2
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Hi Jan...................

20 days in the rain forest, huh?

This is one occasion when I'd probably NOT recommend the A1 or any other HDV camera.

The problems you'll encounter are as follows:

1. It's Dark.

Unbelieveably dark. When it isn't dark the contrast is horrific. That combination screams "Big Chips" & "Fast Glass" & "Huge Dynamic Range".

The only machines that can supply that combo without costing the equivalent of Nigeria's national debt are the new HD DSLR's, tho' they may well have drawbacks of their own.

Probably worth checking out LED lighting systems, they may well help with that contrast and light deficit on occasions.

2. It's Wet. And Humid.

Tapes and wet/ humid are not good bed fellows. Go solid state if you can - DSLR's again.

A good rain cover is a must, of course. No point me suggesting anything untill the equipment is selected.

3. There ain't no power outlets.

That can be sorted, tho' solar is out due to 1 above. Something like this:

Pedal Power Generator

More stuff to lug around but for 20 day's, I can't see you have much choice.

4. The leeches & mosquitoes will eat you alive.

Good quality military boots and gators, long trousers (inside those gators) and a good supply of anti leech/ mosquito stuff is a must, tho' anti leech stuff doesn't get a good press.

The most effective way to remove a leech BTW is to use a fingernail to break the seal of the sucker at the thin end, then the same at the fat end and flick the leech off.

Just about any other way of removing them causes them to regurgitate their stomach contents into the wound, this is not recommended.

When I last checked neet Deet was still up there as a mosquito repellent, tho' it stinks and is very greasy - your camera gear will end up covered in it.

There you go, a few things to consider.


Last edited by Chris Soucy; March 23rd, 2010 at 12:14 AM.
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 02:48 AM   #3
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Thanks a lot Chris! Very useful hints!
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 06:29 AM   #4
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Nothing too helpful to offer I'm afraid - the last camera I took into the rain forest did not fair too well. It slowly got damp and then there was no hope to dry it out. My main tip would be, whatever you take, just to make sure everything stays as dry as you can get it - keep the camera under the rain cover whenever out of the case (if it's raining). Keep it in a waterproof case the rest of the time. I wouldn't bother with silica or anything drying in the case though as either it will just saturate or, for the brief time it does work, cause the camera the steam up when you get it out (at least that's what I found).

For 20 days I would go with taking a bunch of batteries - but guess that depends how much you plan to use the camera. Are you going to be carrying the kit on your back or in vehicles - obviously vehicles can usually be used to make a battery charge.
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 02:25 PM   #5
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Also, whatever cam you use I would also budget that the thing will be dead when you get back. If it isn't then you will probably have mould growing in it!
If you are taking cars a really useful thing to have is a little Honda generator, they are quiet and use next to no fuel, it will allow charging and if your using a solid state cam it means you can download the cards.
I use one for a project on a deserted island in South Australia and it worked a treat.
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Old March 23rd, 2010, 07:40 PM   #6
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A solar charger might be a possibility. While the it's true that the jungle canopy is going to keep the sunlight off of you most of the time, there are always places where the sun does reach the ground -- usually on the side of creeks or rivers. Of course, if you are moving, it won't be possible to leave a charger and return to it later. (I'm assuming you won't be taking boats or walking through the jungle. If you're driving then things are abviously a lot easier because you're not so deep in the jungle.)

I would also be EXTREMELY cautious about traveling in the Columbian rainforest. That is where FARC and ELM rebels are active -- kidnappings and murders still happen in some areas, especially on the border with Ecuador.

I have been in the jungle quite a bit over the past 5-6 years, though not for more than 3-4 days at a time outside of towns or pueblos. The last time was with an HV20. I was quite happy with the small size and had absolutely no problems with humidity, though I kept it well protected from water. I thought about traveling with my A1, but was quite happy to have the smaller camera. It allowed a lot more flexibility. My kit was much smaller and lighter -- a BIG issue when traveling down the river unless you are with a large-budget expedition.

Whatever you take, have several battery chargers available so you can do a lot of charging whenever you do have access to electricity. Sometimes even remote villages have kerosene generators that you might be able to use.

I've been lucky. Mosquitoes have never been a problem for me, but I've seen people who've been eaten up by them and it's not pretty.

Chris is right about the contrast being horrible when the sunlight breaks through. I never found heavy canopy to be as dark as I'd heard, though. Even in virgin rainforest in eastern Peru was not awful.

Expect heavy rain almost every day and possibly several times a day.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 08:14 AM   #7
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Hi Jan

Some bits of personal observations here:
-the forest floor light level is all right for XH-A1 at day time
-when direct light renders contrast impossible, shoot early morning
-avoid drops-on-the-lens-cover with an umbrella
-keep camera inside airtight bag, with silica gel, during all nights
-change that silica packet to a dry one at least twice a week
-get a light weight tripod and learn to cope with it
-electricity is surprisingly often available, but bring several chargers and your own splitter
-long sleeves and pants protect from spiky plants/trees, mosquitoes, sand flies etc the lot
-for further protection use trousers and permethrin for shirt
-no leeches in Colombia (only in Asia, Australia and Madagascar)

I have managed to pull through a dozen video trips to tropics with tape based systems. Almost every time with minor humidity issues, though, so take all precautions you can. A solid state system should be more reliable still, but I have not tried one, yet. Enjoy the forest, just avoid the FARC and drug dealer areas. The situation seems to be getting better in Colombia.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 08:10 PM   #8
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Jryki has some great ideas. I can't believe I forgot about a splitter to get electrical power to more than one charger. I have one that splits into 5 different outlets that would work. Depending on where you go, I'd be interested to hear upon your return if electricity was available in places.

I've always carried a lightweight tripod, too, along with a lightweight head. The Manfrotto 701HDV might work. Last time I took Fancier carbon fiber legs that cost about $90, but weighed very little and fit into a daypack. Nothing fancy, but dependable. A monopod might also work for you.

I usually carry some clothes with Permethrin built in. I've got a couple of long sleeve "Buzz Off" shirts that I've worn in the rainforest. While you quickly are soaked from sweating in the humidity, they help with bugs and protection from thorny plants which abound in parts of the jungle.

One more thing -- when walking in the jungle, be very careful where you put your hand. There are ants everywhere and getting bit by some can really mess up your day. Some, like bullet ants, are cause excruciating pain.
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Old March 26th, 2010, 12:41 PM   #9
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Thanks a lot to everyone for the great input. Obviously there's much more to consider than I thought. I've never been to the rain forest before and may be, this boot is somewhat too big for me. I'll make up my mind...
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