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Shooting DSLR Video

What a fine little gift Canon gave to me in my D5 Mark ll I bought a few years ago, HD video. I never was a video shooter, and I had no plans to start. I waited for a year for the release for the D5ll and intended to buy it no mater what and after getting it I didn’t give the bonus video function hardly a second thought.

Six months went by, and I hadn’t even tried the video function when one day around noon when the light sucked I came across a wildlife drama that called out for video. A cow moose had been attacked by wolves and was really injured terribly yet she was still being such a good mom to her calf she delivered shortly after the attack. This was a video subject and not the scene for still photography.

I went home with the making of a cool little video wildlife story, and I started to realize what a nice little bonus this video really was. I have since incorporated video as an integral part of my shooting outings when photographing wildlife. (Life isn’t Always Beautiful)

All to often when we see critters they are too far into the distance for good photos but often they are doing cool things in their environment and although to far away for good portraits the larger scene provides good video opportunities. A couple of good examples include (Yellowstone Food Fight) which was 400 yards away and (Jackson Hole Wolf Drama) which was over a hundreds away, both were too far away for good stills but made compelling wildlife footage. Another was (Wolf Chase) at 200 yards the stills would have been good if it weren’t for the heat waves blurring the stills that weren’t so evident in the video. Retrospectively I wish I hadn’t wasted video time in this cool situation shooting the stills.  Still photos would have never demonstrated the oddness of my video (Weird Wildlife Behavior) if I hadn’t been thinking video as well as still photography yet I was there working both formats.

Another advantage of shooting video is you can shoot long after the sun drops below the horizon. Not being a techie I don’t understand how video records with so little light, but video can extend our shooting day till right before the lights get turned completely out. If you look at the first clip of my video (Spring Grizzlies) the bear walking along the river was in evening shade too dark to shoot stills. When the light sucks but wildlife is doing interesting things, shoot video instead.

We wildlife photographers find ourselves with our eye glued to our pentaprism and our finger on the shutter so we are ready for the 1/1000 of a second when it all comes together. I have found there are many moments worth recording leading up to the perfect moment for a still shot.

Many are concerned about missing “the shot” they are waiting for and yes I miss many but I believe that between what I miss with stills and what a capture with video is a net gain production wise. The problem with this is shooters often have a market for stills yet don’t have a market for video so video doesn’t sell where missed stills may have entered their existing market. That said, as my video skills improve, my video will find a market.

The more I include video into my workflow; the more I am cognizant of video possibility in the field. My 5D ll’s full frame sensor often rendered distant subjects too small so added a 7D to the tool chest for when I came across wildlife too far away the crop factor of the 7D’s smaller sensor makes distant subjects appear closer. Yes, changing camera bodies is an odd way to crop, magnify or include more subject but video is a new way of seeing and delivery of a photographer’s vision.

The larger problem with video shooting is the post processing. Many of us already spend way too much time in what I have come to know as “post processing hell.”  Video is really time-consuming and requires even more software and time commitment in post production.

Upon emergence from “post processing hell” I often have produced a product I am very proud of, short films of which individual clips may gain the exposure to become another revenue stream of which nature photographers could always use another.





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