Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Visit To Middle Creek-The Film

I have featured photographs from the recent trip to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area during the last several posts and during that time I have been working on a short film dealing with the trip.

Most of the clips were taken with the Canon 7D and a variety of  Canon lenses.  The film begins with sunrise at Middle Creek Lake.  This segment was shot with the 28-135mmF3.5 IS EF.  Other lenses used were the 500mmF4 IS with 2x extender, the 100-400mmF5.6 IS L, and the 17-40mmF4 L.  A few of the clips were filmed in previous years but included here to make the story more complete and interesting. These were recorded with the Canon XL-H1 camcorder.  The first example is  tundra swans swimming in the lake.  We only saw a few of these birds flying at long distance this year.  The most notable is the eagle in the closing shot which was taken in 2009 and is at extreme distance.  The 100-400mm was used with an EF adapter, which yields an effective focal length of 2,880mm when mounted on the XL-H1.  This same rig was also used this year to record two close-up clips of ring-necked Ducks and one clip of flying snow geese, in which case the normal lens was used which has an effective focal length of approximately 40mm-780mm.

The XL-H1wins hands down against the 7D when it comes to ease of use and versatility (as a video camera) for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it has a decent shotgun microphone as standard equipment and much better audio controls.  In addition one needs only the standard 20x zoom lens to go from moderate wide-angle to extreme telephoto, and it has decent auto-focus, while the 7D does not in video mode.  On top of that it becomes a formidable long range wildlife filming tool when the 35mm lenses are mounted by using the EF adapter.  This results in a 7.2 magnification factor.

At face value it would seem that there is little point in using the 7D for wildlife filming, but that is not the case.  For one thing there is just something about the look of its' picture.  Another is the ability to record to flash media instead of videotape, although this will soon be a moot point as it will not be long until tape based cameras will be gone from the market place.

Cost is also an important consideration.  If one does not already have a wide array of lenses, it is more expensive to put together a DSLR based outfit that will cover the focal ranges that most camcorders do with just one lens.  The situation is somewhat different; however, if you already own a battery of lenses, or if your primary purpose for buying the camera is for still use, in which case the video function is a bonus feature. The bottom line is that it gives one the ability to shoot high quality video without having to invest in a prosumer camcorder, although one pays a certain price in ease of use.

I for one am excited about the trend and find myself using the 7D more and more for serious filming. I hope the day arrives that there is no need to own a dedicated video camera.  I think it is likely that most if not all still cameras will soon have the ability to shoot video and one must bear in mind that things should only get better, with higher resolution, a usable auto-focus function, manual audio control, and more.  We are truly living through a revolution in the video world.

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A Morning At Middle Creek Part 3-Camera Critters

Tundra swans and snow geese are the two major attractions at Middle Creek at this time of year, but as was mentioned in A Morning At Middle Creek Part 1, we were too late to see the large flocks of these birds, but did encounter a few tundra swans as they flew north away from Middle Creek Lake.

Tundra Swans

We also found  flocks of snow geese circling around willow point, so we parked and walked Willow Point Trail to the observation area. 

Snow Geese Circle Willow Point
Once there, we photographed and filmed the geese as they arrived and joined the birds already on the water.  We later learned that an estimated 10,000 snow geese were at Middle Creek that day.

Flock Of Snow Geese On Middle Creek Lake At Willow Point

All photos are with the Canon 100-400mmF5.6 L.  The first photo was taken with the 40-D body, the remainder with the 7-D.

For more Camera Critters photos from around the world, click Here!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Morning At Middle Creek-Part 2

During our recent visit to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area we found several species feeding in potholes in the meadows, which are bisected by Kleinfeltersville Road.  This is a highly restricted area, with plenty of signs warning one to stay out.  This means that one has to photograph the waterfowl at whatever range it presents itself.

I used the 500mmF4 and 2x extender for the following shot of a male Ring Necked Duck.  One must use manual focus with this combination on the Canon 7D as auto-focus will not work at f8.  The images taken with this setup were not tack sharp either because I missed the focus point, because of subject motion, or because the 500mmF4 and the 2x extender are not compatible. Some report excellent results with this combination while others are unhappy.  Based on discussion with other Canon prime lens  users, I do think that the 2x extender is a much more viable accessory for the 300 f2.8, and I have seen a lot of outstanding results with this combination, but I have gotten unacceptable results more often than not with a wide range of Canon models, including the 10-D, 30-D, 40-D, and now the 7D when using the 500mm with this extender.

Male Ring Necked Duck-Pothole Directly Across Road From Middle Creek Lake
Later in the morning we found a few isolated snow geese and a male and female Northern Shoveler feeding in another pothole.

 I used the 1.4 extender and 500mmF4 for these photos, which yielded somewhat better results, but one still needed to be closer so the photographs would not require as much cropping to obtain satisfactory subject size.

Snow Geese And Northern Shoveler Drake

Male And Female Norther Shoveler

Black Ducks, and Ruddy Ducks were also seen today, but I did not get acceptable photographs of them.  In past years I have photographed or filmed numerous other species in these potholes such as Pintail, Gadwall and Scaup.

I leave you with another thought on extenders.  While I find the 1.4X to be satisfactory with the 500F4, nothing can replace  being close enough to shoot without an extender or severely cropping the image, but sometimes we do not have that choice and the extender can save the day.