Sony A7R for Wildlife Video

As Spring warms up our Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, wildlife activity in general does pick up.  I am mostly resuming where I left off last year with local wildlife videography in attempts to challenge myself, and also to entertain viewers.  My “new used” Sony A7R has been my primary camera of late, and for wildlife jaunts, I have my trusty Canon EF mount Tamron SP 150-600mm VC lens paired using a Fotodio Pro adapter.

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Below are three recent wildlife shorts that I have filmed and edited in various natural areas in New Jersey.

 

March Waterfowl at the Manasquan Reservoir

 

Wood Duck at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

 

Tree Swallows at the New Jersey Meadowlands

 

More recent wildlife photography and videography is viewable on Dave Blinder Nature Photography on Facebook

My Winter Photography Article with Tamron USA

Hi everyone – I have just completed a new Q&A article with some of my thoughts on taking photographs throughout the winter season and detailed information on how I take the pictures and also how to prepare for them.

My Q&A interview was conducted by the very talented author, Jenn Gidman.  The article is an easy read and the entire e-newsletter is very informative and packed with recent photos taken with Tamron USA’s extensive digital lens line-up.  Check it out if you get a chance.

Click here to read Tamron’s February 2016 e-news

New Tamron Lens Samples

I’ve created a new Flickr album for sample from my Tamron 16-300mm VC All-In-One lens for Canon APS-C cameras – https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidraymond/sets/72157649150979422/

Other albums for recent Tamron lenses –
Tamron 14-150mm All-In-One for micro four thirds – https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidraymond/sets/72157645892119636/

Tamron SP 150-600mm VC lens for Canon (Full frame or Crop sensor) – https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidraymond/sets/72157642268568645/

I get asked my opinion on these lenses from time to time, and am always glad to share a candid review.  However, as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.

New Jersey Art Photo

An angled trail weaves through some of the last colorful foliage of Autumn. A long exposure renders the leaves as essences of color. Photographed with the Tamron 16-300mm VC lens + Canon 60D.

Above photo was taken yesterday with the Tamron 16-300mm VC All-In-One lens + Canon 60D.  Exposure settings: 30s F/8 ISO 200

Fog on Lake Jean

Having woken up at 4AM to make a sunrise trek from New Jersey to Ricketts Glenn, I had tripod in hand and was ready to capture mirror-like images of the morning sun hitting the horizon over Lake Jean.  However, that wasn’t to be, the dense fog rendered visibility to about 20 feet.  Not a problem!  When interesting atmospheric and weather conditions occur you just roll with the punches!

PA Fine Art Photo

Long exposure landscape photo of a foggy morning at Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania.

The above photo was taken with the Tamron 18-270mm VC Lens and the Canon EOS M Compact Systems Camera with the shutter at 5seconds, an aperture of F/13, and ISO 100.  Taken in Aperture Priority Mode with -1/3 exposure compensation dialed in.  Carbon fiber tripod, Spot Metering, 2-second delay, Auto White Balance, RAW image format.

Beech Leaf and Cascades

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting up with Ed Heaton, a Tamron Image Master, renowned  for his landscape photography expertise and his equally talented son Zach to capture some views of Autumn in Pennsylvania.

Most of my photos today were with the Tamron 14-150mm Di III Lens and my Olympus PEN E-PL3 Micro Four Thirds Camera.  A small and lightweight combo that can capture a great diversity of scenery.  Here is one of my favorites:

Fine Art Waterfall Photograph

Autumn in Pennsylvania captured with the Tamron 14-150mm Di II Lens and the Olympus PEN E-PL3 Micro Four Thirds Camera.

Camera settings: 14mm (28mm equivalent) @ 1/2s F/9 ISO 200.  Aperture Priority Mode -2/3 EC, Auto White Balance, RAW file format, Spot Metering, 2-second delay.  Camera mounted on Benro carbon fiber tripod.

Exposing for backlit photography subjects: Orange Sulphur

I am generally a fan of semi-automatic exposure systems when looking to photograph wildlife.  Specifically, I begin most outings with the camera in Aperture Priority Mode, and having an extra 2/3 stops of lights dialed seems to work pretty often.  However, as soon as I see a tricky lighting situation through my viewfinder I will try to get into Manual Exposure Mode as quickly as possible.

NJ Wildlife Photo

A macro photograph of an Orange Sulphur butterfly in New Jersey. This backlit capture was made using the Tamron SP 90mm VC 1:1 macro lens and the Canon EOS 60D DSLR.

Camera settings: 1/200th F/5.6 ISO 200

Above photo is a handheld capture with one of my typical rigs for closeup photography, the Tamron SP 90mm VC lens and the Canon EOS 60D.  The goal with this backlit photo was to get a good amount of illumination showing on the butterfly itself.  To achieve this, some of the brightest parts of the scene are pushed out of gamut because of the dynamic range restrictions of DSLRs.  As cameras are programmed to expose for the median tonal range of an image, it would require a significant increase in exposure compensation to get what I was after.  Turning the knob to Manual Mode and dialing in my desired settings was a much more succinct process.

“Blowing out the highlights” is not always a sin in my book, as I’ve learned to “see how a camera sees” and envision the end product.  Indeed there is some detail loss on the fringes of the butterfly and also on the petals of the flower, but in this case I think that adds to the “warm” feel of the image.

New Jersey Fine Art Nature Photo: Dusk at the Jersey Shore

This is a recent DSLR image made in Ocean County, New Jersey.  I had seen examples of long exposure photography that exhibited substantial cloud blurring but I hadn’t pulled many off before this.  I still would like to increase the length of this type of shot to minimize shape definition but that will require use of Bulb Mode on the camera and even less light hitting the sensor.

NJ Fine Art Photo

A long exposure DSLR photo facing westward a couple of minutes after sunset. Some low cloud formations briefly reflected vibrant pink and orange hues. Nature photograph taken in New Jersey using the Tamron SP 10-24mm Di II Lens + Canon EOS 50D.

Above photo was taken with the tripod mounted Canon EOS 50D camera and the Tamron SP 10-24mm Di II LD lens.  A Hoya 77mm HDx400 HMC filter is screwed onto my lens thread.  This 9-stop Neutral Density filter greatly lowers the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor.  Exposure time is 30 seconds at F/10 ISO 100.  Mirror Lock-Up and Camera Timer were also set on the camera to reduce loss of sharpness from vibration of the camera’s mirror or from my hand pressing the shutter button.

DSLR Nature Cinematography: Snowy Egret

I recently shot a few very short HD DSLR Video clips of one of the more common and easily recognizable wading birds in New Jersey, a Snowy Egret.  My personal goal for wildlife still photography had as been 2 archival quality captures of any subject that I found interesting.  Archival quality captures to me means focus is spot-on, exposure will not require significant post-processing, and the composition is pleasing to my eyes.  I also try to avoid repetition in my photos.  I’ve “upped the ante” on my nature shooting goals, and will now also try to film 1 or 2 quick sequences when I am in the outdoors.

Back to the point, I had been shooting all of my recent photos with a ballhead on my tripod.  Having no experience with fluid tripod heads, but realizing their importance in the video industry I started doing some research.  I already have Manfrotto RC2 quick release plates attached to most of my cameras and lenses so I wanted a fluid head that was designed for the RC2 plate.  I wound up purchasing a Manfrotto 128RC Micro Fluid Head and it has remained atop my 055x ProB tripod ever since.  This allows me to perform the steady panning motions needed for dynamic video work.

The above video was filmed using the Tamron SP 150-600mm VC Lens and the Canon EOS 7D.  Manual video mode settings include: ISO 100 F/14 and the Shutter Speed set to 1/80th.  I muted original audio from the clips in post-processing because of the loud hissing of the wind.  Guitar playing is me strumming my Washburn D10 Guitar, and I ended up recording this with my Samsung cellular phone.  Audio post-processing involved noise reduction, addition of a Phaser Effect, and overall Volume Reduction.  Video post-processing included trimming video segments, cross-fade transitions between shots, contrast enhancements, and split-tone color processing.

Poplar Leaf on Log

I get very caught up in trying to photograph the wildlife of New Jersey during our summer months.  However, now that the songbirds begin their southern migration out of the Mid-Atlantic and as many insects end their terrestrial lifecycles it is once again time to notice the various and vivid foliage colors brought about by the change of the season.

m43 NJ nature photo

An early Autumn nature photograph from New Jersey using Tamron’s all-in-one lens and an Olympus PEN compact camera.

Above photo was taken with Tamron’s first lens offering for compact Micro Four Thirds digital cameras.  The 14-150mm Di III provides a 28-300mm equivalency (35mm terms).  On the wide end, 28mm is great for drawing in scenery and the telephoto end with a short minimum focusing distance is very useful for honing in on details like individual leaves.  This photo of a Poplar Leaf in New Jersey was taken at focal length of 132mm in Aperture Priority Mode.  -1 stops of light was dialed in, with an aperture of F/9 and the ISO at 200.  My tripod-mounted Olympus PEN E-PL3 was triggered by a 2 second timer to allow for a 1/2 second exposure in this low-light situation.

Expressing motion in photography: Laughing Gull in flight

Plenty of terms for the type of DSLR photography illustrated in the main image below and to tell you the truth I don’t even know what to call them.  Panning blurs may be the most logical terminology in my opinion.  Anyways, I often forget how much I enjoy looking at this type of capture.  It seems to boil the bird down to its very essence: shapes and colors.

Larus delawarensis

Photo demonstrating intentional use of a slow shutter speed along with panning of a telephoto lens.

Picture taken using a Canon EOS 7D and the Tamron SP 150-600mm VC telephoto lens.  Tripod lens collar is mounted to Manfrotto 055xProB tripod and Manfrotto junior fluid head.  Camera settings: focal length at 600mm, Manually set shutter at 1/30th, aperture at F/14, ISO 100, Camera RAW, Auto White Balance, VC On, Servo Focus Mode, High Speed Motor Drive.  Photography location: Ocean County, New Jersey.  Atlantic Ocean that is…

This type of photo can sometimes be performed in Aperture Priority mode by using a low ISO and large Aperture number to slow down the shutter.  The shutter speeds that usually work best for me are between 1/13th and 1/50th.  Your mileage may vary.  My goal when preparing for this kind of shot is to get a good amount of definition on the wildlife while emphasizing some motion (in this case the wing beats).  I also want a nice bright exposure that will retain a lot of details in the highlights but still have my histogram as far to the right as possible for maximum detail.  Compositionally speaking, I may be looking to place the bird prominently in the frame without cutting off any appendages or I may want try to include some scenery like showing the bird flying across the water’s surface.  There is a great deal of trial and error in this style of photography.  Patience, persistence, and studying other photog’s successful photos will go a long. way.