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Keeping the lenses clean


Seeing some fantastic time lapse links to people's view of incoming weather and sunsets and nighttime skies and so on, I once again turned to thinking about setting up something for this coming storm season.

I have one 'slight' problem; my home is on a slight hill, surrounded on all sides by older oak and  maple trees, with 40 t0 60 foot heights.  I have a nice ham radio tower, sturdy and well guyed Rohn RG-45. which goes up 80 feet. I can no longer climb it and never was too happy up there, but I have a couple contacts who have helped me with the placement of solar radiation sensors and wind monitors at the tree line and above. 

Now with Power Over Ethernet rather than to have to run live power up the tower with all the potential dangers, I'm thinking of modifying a little side mount I have, and then putting something like a ReoLink PTZ that I recently got to be able to watch weather, and to do those things that others are enjoying.

One big problem is that my kitchen and other windows need to be washed at least a couple times a summer to get rid of the dust that sticks after a rain, and of course winter snows clog up the anemometers after a big heavy wet no-wind snow.

I'm not particularly worried about the snow but a dirty lens would be negating almost all the work and tower climber expense.  I spoke with the chief engineer at the local TV station with a 1000' tower, and an IP camera at 350' with great views.  He said early on, before I knew more about the planning, that the camera they used was POE, IP (which limited the height up the tower they could go) and has some sort of gizmo that shakes the camera to sort of make like a dog shaking or duck rousting it's feathers to throw off the moisture.  I wasn't thinking to ask about how often then need to clean the lens.  I guess on a nice day they could just send one of their guys up with a bottle of Windex and a rag to clean it (seems a few of them there love to climb).

Questions for the members here include:  Has anyone mounted a camera up on a tower, and  if so, what sort of thing did you use, like a triangular mount with the camera on top, below the mounting flange, etc.; has cleaning the lens been a problem; did you put the camera inside one of those domes; has the tower been struck by lightning (that you know of); plus if there were lessons learned, what did you learn which might be of value in my assessing this as a spring project to get wx  pics?  We have had some  spectacular sunsets, only visible through the trees with and without leaves on them, enough so that if it looks like a nice evening, I load the dogs  up in the car and drive out to a field with great westerly views to try to enjoy the beauty.

I'm hoping that something is encouraging enough to go for it, realizing having a camera on a tower higher than I can or could climb is like having a rain gauge on a steep roof or an anemometer out of reach for any needed maintenance.

How often do people with weather cams clean their (accessible) lenses as they have had them up for awhile?

Mine sits on my roof. It has a ply box covering it which extends it just beyond the lens. It faces south which is towards the sea and exposed to salt air but certainly not salt spray directly.

The logic behind the cover was just to protect the camera and the connections at the back from the heat and direct rain. Heat plus Sun on seals  isn't a good mix!

I've never cleaned the lens as such. Never really noticed it. I assume if it gets dirty the next rainfall clears it enough. The camera focusses well past the muck on the lens also and I guess that helps

We don't get snow here, let alone different types of snow! I have another camera for security I'm always clearing cobwebs off but they are only noticeable at night when the ir is on and it's unlikely you will not need that for a weather cam.

Don't stick it in a sealed dome. I have seen others do that and the muck just gets stuck to the dome anyway which does show.

I'd  stick the camera up in a more easily accessible place for a while and see what happens. I reckon you will be fine.


My camera is a BoaVision IP camera. https://weather.budbrinkley.com/ While it is mounted only 5 feet or so off the ground, the lens has never been actually cleaned. I have noticed tiny spider webs at night when the IR is on, but during the day it's clear as a bell. One thing to consider, is the depth of field of the lens. My BoaVision has a very strange lens in that objects in the distance are barely seen through the camera, yet are easily visible to the naked eye. The angle of view is so enormous that it all looks great when looking through the camera, yet trying to pick out specific objects is quite difficult. Thus any specs of dirt on the lens itself is completely invisible. It's hard to describe, but it is something to consider.

Lastly, I would be hesitant to put any camera on a tower if you can't access it easily. They are not usually a set and forget device. From time to time it is necessary to adjust the mount, hit the reset button, and power down and back up etc. All of this would be a major pain if you cannot get to the camera. My camera is not really rainproof either as the SD card slot would let water fill up the inside. To counter this problem, I built a three sided plywood box so that only the front of the camera is exposed.
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I have a couple of the BOAs and a couple of other cheapos in domes.  ALL of my higher devices (over 15') are rigged so I can lower or tilt them down to the ground for maintenance.  Either hinged, or on some sort of pulley/winch cable type system.

If you're going to have somebody climb it, figure out a way they only have to do it once.  Have them mount a pulley and anchoring system up there.  Work it all out on the ground first so you can account for any possible problems like tangled or pinched  cables/wires.  If you do it right, you should be able to hoist the camera into a fixed anchor up top to keep it from flailing around in the wind.   I've done a sort of V point and used the cable tension to hold it in place.  You don't want it to latch or lock so you can lower it again at will.  Cable would be done sort of like a flag pole rope, but ideally with some sort of power or mechanical assist to control the lowering speed so it doesn't get away from you.

Mounting it like the post above completely defeats the purpose of pant/tilt however.  I have nearly a full 360 degree view from all of mine.  One is up against the garage, just under the peak, so it only gets a little under 180 degrees.


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