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Don’t Forget the Video

outdoor video

Perhaps the most overlooked feature of today’s digital cameras is the video option. Most DSLR’s, superzooms, etc. provide a means to record a motion picture. While image and video quality will vary depending on the model, the results may surprise you.

Like time lapse photography, videos create a different kind of story than still photography. However, simple photo composition rules still apply. Angles, lighting, etc. may contribute or detract from your goals. Trial and error will lend to the learning experience. Your camera’s owner’s manual shouldn’t be ignored.

Your zoom lens is a bit of a mixed blessing. While it gives the user a tremendous option or perspective for the viewer, it is the most misused part of your equipment. One is the tendency to “zoom in” on a subject. In some cases this will often show something not seen otherwise. Although your video usually becomes more interesting if you begin “filming” close and then zoom back. This is because you’re adding subject matter by simply backing off the subject. Try it both ways on a variety of subjects then compare. Watch a movie or other professionally produced video, you’ll see more zooming back away from the subject than zooming in.

Another point to remember about using your video option is that most cameras will require the use of live view screen for operation instead of the viewfinder. This will put more of a demand on the battery. A word to the wise; carry a fresh charged spare battery.

Recently on a hike, I saw three red foxes, about 300 yards away, bolt out of the woods into an orchard. I was able to sneak up to 200 yards or where they had stopped to play. It was near dusk so light was a challenge. While the 300 mm lens was an advantage, the low light increased the challenge for a good, hand held series or shots. Fortunately, I was able to get some half percent shots. Then I saw one of the foxes picking up something from the ground and flipping it into the air for the other foxes to catch. I adjusted my thinking and switched to video recording. The opportunity lasted briefly. But even in the low light I got about a minute to 15 seconds of this activity of these three foxes before they discovered me. Rare footage indeed.

Many of the “entry level cameras” will record the sound of your focusing motor as you adjust. It can be quite a distraction during viewing. One trick is to pre-focus a the most distant object or interest and leave it there. As the depth of field is maximized the more you focus to infinity. If the subject moves closer to you, the subject should remain reasonably sharp. Particularly if you zoom back or use manual focus.

At Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve many such opportunities may present themselves with little or no warning. Early morning and evening provide the most possibilities and this is when the lighting is best. But midday surprises are not uncommon! Recently, a hiker showed me a phot of a fawn hid by its mother. She had her camera with her and ready on her visit. Don’t forget yours!!

Mick Group is a Naturalist at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve. Originally published in Gettysburg Times August 23, 2016.

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