Photo enthusiast Chris Malcolm needed a better way to aim his 500mm lens at fast moving subjects (e.g. birds in flight), so he upgraded his lens with a DIY sighting aid by attaching a non-magnified red dot sight:
They’re designed to clamp onto a gun sight wedge mount, so some kind of adapter is required. I played with the hot shoe mount, but it was too flexible — the sight needed re-zeroing at every mount, and was easily knocked out of calibration. The degree of precision required to aim the central focus sensor at the target via the dot also made parallax error a problem on the hot shoe. So I decided to mount it directly on the lens. Least parallax error, plus the geometry of the lens barrel and the sight mount naturally lines it up with the lens. To protect the lens barrel I glued the sight clamp to a cardboard tube slightly too small, slit open to provide a sprung grab on the lens body. The slit also handily accommodates the focus hold button on the lens barrel.
Malcolm reports that the site “works amazingly well”, making it “trivially easy to aim the lens at anything very quickly”. Read more…
Being able to concentrate is a great quality to have as a photographer, but make sure it doesn’t make you tunnel vision and cause you to miss shots. Photographer Hans Kruse was photographing deer in a park outside Copenhagen, Denmark, when he spotted this wildlife photographer miss out on a close-up of a huge stag because he had his telephoto lens pointed in the wrong direction. He states,
The other photographer had been staring at the woods for a while while when this rather large deer appeared out of nowhere and tiptoed past him. I was laughing so much it was quite hard to take the picture.
Last year we shared a table listing the various hazards National Geographic photographers experience while on the job. Of the 45 members surveyed, 8 of them had been attacked by wild animals. Here’s a video in which Nat Geo photographer Mattias Klum describes an experience in which he went face-to-face with a lioness, and escaped with both his life and an amazing photograph.
Want to get closer to animals when doing wildlife photography? If there’s access, your car can do the trick by serving as a photography blind. Scott Bourne of Photofocus writes,
For whatever reason, most wildlife (birds included) won’t spook or flush when they see a car. Open the car door, step out of the car, now that’s a totally different situation. But as long as you stay in the car, your chances of getting close enough to wildlife to get the shot are improved by 90%.
UK-based wildlife photographers Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas got the Internet’s attention a couple years ago with the BeetleCam, a special remote controlled DSLR that allowed them to capture close-up photos of animals in the wild that photographers would have difficultly strolling up to. After the success of that experiment, they decided to return to Africa last summer with upgraded (and armored) versions of the BeetleCam in order to photograph lions in Kenya. Read more…
Mark Rober — the guy behind the gaping-hole-in-torso costume — recently came up with a creative way of getting up close and personal with gorillas at his local zoo. It turns out that apes can’t resist looking at themselves in mirrors, so Rober drilled a hole in a mirror and pointed his iPhone’s camera through it. He was then able to snag some awesome footage that most visitors would never be able to capture. This trick may also work for other animals that are known to pass the mirror test of self-awareness, including dolphins, elephants, and certain birds.
The Sacramento Bee has suspended award-winning staff photographer Bryan Patrick after it was discovered that he had Photoshopped two photographs of an egret eating a frog into a single photo. The newspaper, which is the 5th largest in California and the 25th largest in the US, says that the manipulation was done to make the frog more visible while still showing a second bird lunging for it. NPPA president Sean Elliot labeled the case a “betrayal”:
If this photographer in Sacramento can diddle around with a photograph of an egret, how can I know that any photograph I look at is trustworthy? It feels like a betrayal. [...] It violates a feeling of trust I think we have with all of our members.
In a paper published in Science this week, Japanese researchers reported on a discovery that jumping spiders use a method for gauging distance called “image defocus”, which no other living organism is known to use. Rather than use focusing and stereoscopic vision like humans or head-wobbling motion parallax like birds, the spiders have two green-detecting layers in their eyes — one in focus and one not. By comparing the two, the spiders can determine the distance from objects. Scientists discovered that bathing spiders in pure red light “breaks” their distance measuring ability. Read more…