Monday, March 26, 2012

My new toy


I've been bitten by a bug!  I've been reading an interesting blog lately by a fellow in Australia.  I'm intrigued by that country in general, and by the wildlife and Aboriginal people in particular.  Lately this fellow (Dave) has been posting some photos and video clips taken with a trail cam set up out in the bush.  Photos and video of kangaroos and wallabies.  Fantastic!  Well, the bug bit me.  Of course trail cams have been around for awhile, but I've never owned one.  The results from older models I have seen were unimpressive, but they have come a long way since then.  I just had to try one.  I've had it in my hands for a few days now, and for a first trial run I set it up in my back yard.

I had no expectation of digitally capturing any wildlife, but I have a flock of free ranging chickens and a flock of pigeons that would do for test subjects.  Yesterday I strapped the camera to a clothes line pole in the yard and set it to take still photos.  It is set to take 2 still photos about 5 seconds apart, then pause and reset itself after a minute.  The photo at the top of this post is the result.  The original was a little dark, and not as sharp as a photo taken with one of my still cameras, but I was able to correct both problems with an editing program.

Today I put the camera out in the yard again, but this time set to record video.  I set it to record 15 seconds of video, but I can increase that to 30 seconds if I want to.  As before, the camera will reset after a minute and repeat any time it senses movement within range.  The result is below.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the camera also takes a still photo before it begins recording video.  As with the still photo, the image was a little dark and not as sharp as it would have been if taken with a good digital video camera, especially a HD camera.  I lightened the exposure with an editing program, but there is not much I can do to sharpen it.  Not bad though if you take it for what it is, and don't try to view it full screen.  The next step will be to set it out in the woods for a week or more and see what I come up with.  It has often been said that wildlife photography is like hunting with a camera.  Using the same train of thought, setting up a trail cam might be compared to setting a trap; whether setting over bait or a blind set on a well used game trail.  I expect to have a lot of fun with this.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Just prowling around

Yesterday afternoon was nice, but today outdid itself.  25 degrees this morning, but 60 this afternoon according to the thermometer on my porch.  I went out to prowl around and see if anything had been moving around.

Melting snow and water running everywhere, and lots of mud.  A couple of deer ran across the road in front of me before I left the pavement, but they didn’t even slow down.  No chance for photos or video there.  I even saw some ground squirrels out and about; a sure sign of spring.  Lots of deer tracks in the snow and I found a couple of fox tracks and a coyote track, but they were old melted out tracks and I didn’t bother trying to call them in.  I finally found a couple of deer didn’t spook at the sight of me.

Unfortunately they were in considerable shade and didn’t show up as well as I would have liked, but when photographing wildlife sometimes you take what you can get.  I’m still learning the ropes with the new camera, and this was a good opportunity to try out the optical qualities of the zoom lens.

There are 3 settings for the lens.  The first setting is for 10X optical zoom.  The second setting is for 40X digital zoom, and the third is for 200X digital zoom.  Digital telephoto is seldom as good as optical.  I first shot a short sequence at 10X optical zoom, but it was a long reach for the lens, and no chance to approach closer.  I quickly switched to 40X digital, but didn’t use full power.  Looking at the finished results, it isn’t quite as sharp as the footage shot with the optical feature, but acceptable.  Good enough.

I went on and let Bear run ahead of the truck to stretch his legs for awhile until I reached an especially snowy corner.  Someone else had turned around there, so not wanting to push my luck I did the same.  We went back down the road to a wide spot and stopped for lunch, then poked along home without sighting anything more of interest.