Hardware. Graphical, Video & Audio
A friend has been asking me about the hardware I use for photos, videos, still pictures and audio on our web site and so I have decided to post a brief description here.
First Digital Camera
My first digital camera was a Fuji Finepix 5000. 3 megapix, with a 10 X optical zoom. It worked quite well for me, and photo quality was fine for our web site. Prime issue was delay between pushing button and shutter release…. very difficult to get birds to sit still. And although “burst” mode did to some extent address this, pixel count dropped to an unacceptable level. And lack of a manual focus coupled with an auto focus with a mind of its own made macro photography “interesting” to say the least. It could take low res video, some of which I still use on our web site, but which was not nearly good enough for our guest video which I now produce in HD.
First Digital Video
About two years ago I bought a cheap Chinese HDDVD video camera. It has no name on it at all, which probably says a lot about it. It is very much a good light only machine. In poor light forget it. But at 12 megapix for $400 I couldn’t really complain and I have excellent footage taken with it on our guest video
Last Christmas after a lot of online research I purchased a Canon 60-D, with 70/300 4-5.6, 28/135 3.5-5.6 and 18/35 3.5-5.6 lens. I had thought about a dedicated macro lens, but the extra $1000 would NOT have pleased Iris, so as an interim I included an extension tube. Now I know the professionals reading this will say I should have bought much faster lens, and it was tempting, but on reflection I decided that as I am not a professional, and as everything I do is for the web and for our own video what I really needed was versatility. Also the better lens are significantly bigger, and heavier and so quite intrusive for me to carry. I am VERY happy with the Canon. The fold out rear screen is just the bees knees for macro photography… I don’t have to lie down on the wet ground now… and stabilisation allows me to hand hold with very acceptable results even in dark conditions under the forest canopy. And I love burst photography, as it’s very seldom that a sequence won’t yield at least one acceptable shot. In video mode the results are superb, although there is a low level click on the audio track. An external mic cures this. Probably my only bitch is that holding down the lock button and then switching the rotary mode selector through 9 stops to switch from still to video is very counter intuitive and slow. Wish it had a single switch.
I have recently purchased a “Trust” Digital Time Remote controller for time lapse sequences
Still & Video Software
I use Adobe Lightroom 3 for stills…. I couldn’t live without it, both for cataloging and for manipulation of the images. I have a copy of Photoshop, but seldom use it for anything other than photo pixel repair. I do from time to time take panorama sequences, and use Microsoft ICE to stitch these together. I find it far superior to Canon Photostitch. (And it’s free)
For video I use Corel VideoStudeo Pro X5 which includes a digital video stabilisation add in called “Prodad”. This is absolutely excellent, as most of my video footage has to be hand held, and my hands ain’t that steady. The following clip was shot from an inflatable and in the raw footage was completely unviewable. After passing through Prodad I think it is quite acceptable.
Click this link to view a postand stabilised video clip
I use an Ederol R-09HR studio quality pocket recorder. It has an advertised frequency response of 20Hz – 40kHz, which is way higher than my auditory range, but does allow me to make high quality recordings. An issue for me has been that the built in mics are extremely sensitive and multi directional… it can pick up normal breathing at arms length if on high sensitivity. I generally will put the unit down on moss when recording and move away. I had thought about building a parabolic mic unit, but quickly realised that with a minimum diameter of around a metre to be effective this was just not practical. So I am now using a shotgun mic, which is easily carried, unobtrusive and appears to give me good results.
I use a program called Goldwave V 4.21.
Our web site is built using Microsoft Expression Web 4, Our web host is Unix based, but also has WordPress built in, so I am able to host our blog on the parent site.
I’m always conscious while guiding that its all about my guests and not about me and my toys. So once I have the guests fully involved with a bird then with their permission I can either record or photograph without intruding on the guests enjoyment. All our guests get a copy of our DVD, with an extensive album of my photos included. We are happy for these to be used at no cost, although a link into our web site is appreciated.
I do not use a trpod as
A…. They are too awkward to carry
B…. They are too slow to set up, and by the time you get one organised the bird is three ridges away andrecedingrapidly. Also while actually photographing mobility is critical, as the subjects will be dodging around in the brances, and so I am always moving to get a better view.
As an aside to this a couple of years ago I was hired to take a fellow around Ulva for a full days photography and video. He turned up with some really impressive gear, plus a whacking great tripod. I suggested we leave the tripod behind for the above reasons, but no, it had to come. So I suggested he set up the whole shebang and I would carry it… half way through the day I was regretting this as it was heavy and awkward. But even then, by the time he had the setup stable, level and running the subjects had vanished. He never took a usable sequence.
It is possible to use a tripod, but requires that you identify a suitable area, perhaps near a nest, and just sit and wait for the subjects to arrive.
I actually get a lot of amusement out of visiting birders. The Brits especially are much addicted to hiding behind trees and sneaking up on subjects. They take a bit of convincing that our birds are actually quite relaxed around people, and as long as you don’t startle them most actually ignore us.
You can see a copy of our guest DVD on our web site www.sailsashore.co.nz down towards the bottom of the page. There is a time lapse sequence of a sunrise at the video end.
Audio and video clips can be found on our Ulva Island Bird pages