Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Game Commission: Wildlife Documentaries

Pennsylvania's Wildlife Documentary Series
PENNSYLVANIA ELK: Reclaiming The Alleghenies

To the best of my knowledge the Pennsylvania Game Commission has produced detailed video documentaries on three species. Harold “Hal” Korber did most of the shooting, video production, and editing. It is possible that assistants aided him at times in certain aspects of the work.

The first was, “On the Trail of Pennsylvania's Black Bear”. This 100-minute video documented a year in the life of the black bear along with quite a bit of information about bears and bear management. It was narrated by Dr. Gary Alt, who was later to gain fame, or notoriety, depending on ones’ point of view, as the architect of a whitetail deer management plan designed to drastically reduce Pennsylvania’s deer herd.

This was followed by, “Pennsylvania Whitetails: Living with Change,” which was 75 minutes in length and was two years in the making. Land Management Officer, David R. Koppenhaver of Bedford County, narrated it, although if I recall correctly he was a District Conservation Officer at the time. I had the privilege of working in his land management group, and on my promotion to Maintenance Supervisor, he became my immediate supervisor.

Pennsylvania Elk “Reclaiming The Alleghenies” is an 85-minute production, which was released on VHS video in 1999. It was shot in the approximate time period of 1995-1998. It was narrated by then PGC Elk Biologist, Rawland “Rawley” Cogan.

All of these videos are available yet today from The PGC Outdoor Shop, but they are in VHS only. They were introduced at about $30.00 each, but are now selling for $5.00 each.

As I mentioned in previous postings, Billie Cromwell shot significant portions of the elk video with the Canon L2 camcorder. His preferred lens was the Canon 35-350 L with the EOS adapter.

My Canon L2 with 35-350mm L : Billie Cromwell used a rig like this to shoot the elk video.

Hal Korber is an excellent cameraman, but he had to use what the PGC provided him. Initially this was a monstrous S/VHS industrial camcorder, but during the course of the shooting he was provided with either Mini-Dv or DV-Cam equipment. The S/VHS footage had a colorcast and noisy areas in the image. It is easily possible to tell this camera from the others.

Mini-DV was the hot new prosumer format and DV-Cam was similar but more geared to the professional market., These formats should have been superior to the Hi-8 format of the L2 and in fact most likely was on a sheet of written specifications. In actual use, the superb Canon optics outweighed any advantage gained by the Mini-Dv format and it is difficult to tell footage from these cameras apart. I well remember Hal telling us that we definitely did not need new camcorders. In spite of the performance of the new equipment, he was still impressed by the image the analog L2s delivered.

The bottom line was that Hal had a limited amount of time to shoot, with tremendous pressures to bring this complex project to completion, while also dealing with other demands on his time. Hal did shoot the interview portions and also quite a bit of the wildlife segments, but it was a tremendous advantage to have Billie available with his L2 to assist in the wildlife shooting aspect.. The 35-350 was approximately the equivalent of a 89mm-1890mm zoom lens, in 35mm still camera terms. This enabled Billie to take stunning video in many situations where Hal could not.

Distant Meadow: Canon 10-D 28-135 mm at 28mm

Herd in same meadow: Canon L2 with 400mm Telephoto.

I didn't keep records of specific shots with the L2, but to the best of my recollection the above shot was taken with an old Spiratone 400mm pre-set lens which was between $50-$75.00 new in 1974. This lens was not very sharp and standard definition video does not make excellent stills, but this does give one a decent idea of the long range ability of this outfit and how it enabled Billie to really "reach out" and get outstanding footage.

To be continued:


Anonymous said...

An interesting post, Willard. And I still covet your camera.

K M F said...

very very interesting post and i love your camera and photos
have a nice day and nice to meet u here

Old Wom Tigley said...

I look forward to seeing and reading more of this Willard. Peter was here today and the first thing he as was had Willard posted yet. Then a quick trip over to Salty's and then Abe's. Then he had a coffee while I took him a quick tour of all the pthers. He did tell me to say hello.

macAstro said...

Excelent *****