Nature Notes

April 7, 2009

Canon 5D2 movies with 1400mm of glass

Filed under: Equipment,Video — Tags: , — Harold Stiver @ 7:00 am

One of the criticisms of the Canon 5D2 I hear is that you should just get a regular camcorder if you want to make movies.

This overlooks the fact that you can’t get a setup to use long telephoto lenses except without a huge budget. For example the cost of a Red camera body ($17,500), 300mm lens ($5,950),Red LCD ($1,7900)…well you get the picture.

This video uses a 500mm lens with stacked 1.4 and 2X Teleconverters,….1400mm in all. After 10 seconds I did a 50% crop in Sony Vegas, giving an effective 2800mm of lens.

The footage may be a bit soft but it had a lot of air to shoot through and is therefore not unexpected.

This is to me, the strongest point in favor of this camera body, the ability to make movies with a wide assortment of lens, not just telephoto, but wide angle, fish-eye, macro, and tilt/shift.

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January 2, 2009

Canon 5D Mark II: First video efforts

Filed under: Equipment,Waterfalls — Tags: , — Harold Stiver @ 8:33 pm

Webster’s Falls, Ontario, Canada
from Harold Stiver on Vimeo.

I have loved the Canon 5D, and when I saw the specs for the Mark II version, I decided it was the upgrade I was looking for. I was especially interested in the ability to make video, and to use my lens lineup doing so.

The video above is a series of clips from the Canon 5D Mark II. I used Canon 24-70mm and 17-24mm lens. I wanted to try some basic zooms, pans, etc. The lack of smoothness is from the user and the tripod head rather than the camera operation. The initial test shot I took showed the results would have a heavy blue cast, not unexpected with shots of snow. I preset the White Balance at 6000Deg.K and this turned out to be a good choice. I set the exposure at +2/3 by eying it in on Liveview.

Webster’s Falls is Ontario’s second largest waterfall, after Niagara. It is a gem and worth a visit in any season.

Waterfalls can be dangerous places, especially in winter. Be careful!

American Black Duck
from Harold Stiver on Vimeo.

This video of American Black Ducks is the earliest of my efforts, with the 500mm lens on a tripod with a Sidekick mount. I found that the heavy lens made moving with the subject less smooth than I would like. Hopefully this will improve. I had been concerned about the ease of moving back and forth from video to still, but, once the video had been enabled, it turned out to be a simple manner. After going to Liveview by pressing the otherwise useless Direct Print button, it was just a matter of pressing the Set button to start or stop recording. At any time I could fully press the shutter if I wished to take a still image. I feel the focus needs improving, certainly user error.

Common Goldeneye pair
from Harold Stiver on Vimeo.

The last video is of a pair of Common Goldeneye and was shot with the 500mm and a 1.4 TC. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it stood up. The first of the two clips shows a pair in display and a couple of times another female approaches them. Due to the light conditions, I set the exposure at plus1+ 1/3. The exposure adjustments are easy in Liveview.

The videos come out of camera in the MOV format and had a jerkiness when played that was unacceptable. Happily this disappeared when I converted them to WMV format.

Check back as I will post some impressions on other aspects of the 5D Mark II shortly.

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December 7, 2008

Guide to Photographing Raptors

Filed under: Birds,Photography Tips — Tags: , , , , , , , — Harold Stiver @ 12:38 pm

Guide to Photographing Raptors

I have posted an update to this photographic guide which includes revisions, as well as new material. While it has been based on photographing raptors in the winter, it should be useful in all seasons.

Guide to Photographing Raptors

Harold Stiver - View my 'Raptors' set on Flickriver


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August 29, 2008

Phototrap: Infrared Camera Trigger

Filed under: Birds,Photography Tips — Tags: , , — Harold Stiver @ 7:50 am

Mourning Dove

I have visualized the above image for quite a while, a Mourning Dove coming in to land with it’s long tail feathers spread, the white diamonds flashing. When I picked up a Phototrap Infrared Triggering system from Arizona Inventor Bill Forbes, my first project was to try to get┬áthis shot. The device works by sending out an infrared signal which is detected by a sensor. This triggers the camera, and it can be set to fire when the┬ásignal is joined or interrupted. Since I had plenty of Mourning Doves coming to my backyard feeders, I could work on it right away. Setting up the equipment turned out to be easy but working out the details of getting good images turned out to be a lot of trial and error but a very enjoyable experience.

Some of the problems that needed to be solved where as follows:

1. Where to set the sensor and in what triggering mode? I set up the sensor about 1.3 m. (45″) in front of the feeder and about 0.5 m. (18″) below it. It was set with the source and detector together facing up, and would trigger when the sensor received the signal reflected when the subject intervened. In this way, it was completely clear of the camera framing. The black rubber tub inverted under the sensor is to stop the squirrels from using it as a springboard into the feeder.

2. How to corral the subjects in to a more or less predictable flight path to the feeder? The feeder was closed off on three sides. I watched which way the birds approached the open side and placed the sensor on the most common path. This was certainly hit or miss, but even a low level of “hits” was fine for this project.

3. How far away to set the camera? This turned out to be one of the more important items. At first I set up much to close, but finally settled on about 6m. (20′). This allowed a greater depth of field compared to a close shot, and therefore gave me room for a greater shutter speed.

4. What camera settings to use? It became clear right away that a high shutter speed was critical,and was in the region of 1/2000-2500 sec. minimum. This was because there was no ability to pan a moving subject and also the subjects would make a very fast wing movement as they came in to land. You can see in the image below, that even at 1/2000 sec, there is some wing blur on the tips. I therefore set the camera in TV mode with a shutter speed of 1/2000 sec. ( or rarely faster if it was bright enough). Most lighting conditions available allowed for f/7.1 at ISO400.

Mourning Dove

5. What lens and flash settings to use? I ended up using a 200mm lens on my Canon 40d, which of course was pre-focused manually. The 550e flash was set at High-sync ETTL at -2/3 and a Better Beamer was used. This provided reasonable fill light.

6. Where to frame the shot in relation to the sensor and feeder, where to focus on, and how far to lead the subject? I wanted to obtain a full frame shot and expected that a great number of shots would be wasted by clipped parts. I set the framing so that it bottom was slightly below the floor of the feeder (Based on my observation of how this species flew in) and one side of the frame just about where the sensor would trigger. Of course there are many ways of working out a problem like this but this is what I came up with. After fine tuning, I can leave this set up for the morning of about 4 hours and expect to get 5-10 good images of various species. This is a very low percent of the number taken, perhaps 5%, but its all digital.

Mourning Dove


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