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Old May 30th, 2009, 12:37 AM   #1
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Finding the subject with the EX3 and telephoto

Clip – Lesser Kestrel hovering Lesser Kestrel, Sony PMW EX3, Nikon 600 f5.6 on Vimeo

Hi all,
I do wildlife filming and use the EX3 with a few Nikon SLR lenses – mostly the Nikon 200-400 f4 AF VR, Nikon 80-200 f2.8 and the Nikon 600 f5.6 MF. The lenses are mounted on the camera via Mike Tapa’s adaptors. ( Mounts and Adaptors )
Finding the subject when using long telephoto lenses can be a bit tricky. Keep in mind that a 600mm SLR lens behaves like a 3200mm lens on the EX3 due to the crop factor. It becomes almost impossible when shooting flying or hovering birds against the sky with no other object to use as a reference.
I use two methods in order to find the subject in the viewfinder:
1. For a static object I use the two hot shoe mounts. (see attached photo) . When looking trough the two mounts I place the target in the middle, then looking through the viewfinder I move the lens up till I see the target.
This is a good way for static objects but it is not very useful for moving targets like birds in flight.

2. For a moving object I use the viewfinder. First I have to “calibrate” the viewfinder with the lens using a static object. The way to do that is to find a static object which is small enough in the frame – place it in the middle of the frame in the viewfinder and lock the fluid head. Once the object is in the centre of the frame I find it looking at it with my left eye outside the viewfinder and by moving the viewfinder up and down and to the sides I try to get the picture I see through the viewfinder with my right eye to unite with what I see outside the viewfinder with my LEFT eye. Once this was achieved I lock the viewfinder and ready to go.
Now when following a moving target like a bird in flight I first use my left eye looking at it outside the viewfinder, placing it in the centre and then my right eye through the viewfinder to get the two images unite- the way I did when "calibrating".

I am terribly sorry for the far from elegant description – this is the best I can do with my limited English.
Please feel free to ask questions – I promise you that both techniques really work as you can see in the attached clip. I will upload another clip of a hovering Pied Kingfisher soon.
Please note that no processing was applied to the clip and it looks quite different on Vimeo than what it looks on my Mac – a bit washed out and considerably softer.

Cheers,
Ofer Levy
Ofer Levy Photography
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Finding the subject with the EX3 and telephoto-finding-object.jpg  
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Old May 30th, 2009, 02:13 AM   #2
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Something like a red dot pistol sight could make the task a little easier although they do have issues with parallax. A low power rifle scope with a wide field of view is another option to investigate. The advantage of both of these is they obscure the field of view less than the traditional open sights making finding the target quicker.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 02:21 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Bob Grant View Post
Something like a red dot pistol sight could make the task a little easier although they do have issues with parallax. A low power rifle scope with a wide field of view is another option to investigate. The advantage of both of these is they obscure the field of view less than the traditional open sights making finding the target quicker.
Hi Bob,

I don't see how you can use a red-dot pistol when trying to locate a bird flying against the sky....?
I do see how a wider angle power scope can work and I will explore this option -thanks!

Cheers,

Ofer Levy
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Old May 30th, 2009, 05:06 AM   #4
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Hi Ofer.

That is such an awesome clip.
Its already on my website!!!, hope you don't mind.

I used to have a telescope (Newtonian reflector) when I was younger.
It had a small spotting scope attached to the side which had a cross-hair.

If you could find a way of attaching one of these scopes to the lens perhaps that may help.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 06:03 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Mike Tapa View Post
Hi Ofer.

That is such an awesome clip.
Its already on my website!!!, hope you don't mind.

I used to have a telescope (Newtonian reflector) when I was younger.
It had a small spotting scope attached to the side which had a cross-hair.

If you could find a way of attaching one of these scopes to the lens perhaps that may help.
Hi Mike,
Thank you for the kind words and information. Of course you can use the clip on your website as it could not be done without your awesome adaptor.
Cheers,
Ofer
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Old May 30th, 2009, 06:27 AM   #6
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Fantastic shot and a brilliant study in flight control by your lesser kestrel. There is some very interesting physiology evident, the bird seems to have locked its head in the one spot. How high was it from the ground, 10 m or so? Very well done.

I have tried a ancient gunsight as a finder for use with long lenses. It has generous eye relief, a magnification of one and it superimposes a ring on the point of interest. It is a good start but I will see if I can master your technique.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 07:07 AM   #7
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Fantastic shot and a brilliant study in flight control by your lesser kestrel. There is some very interesting physiology evident, the bird seems to have locked its head in the one spot. How high was it from the ground, 10 m or so? Very well done.

I have tried a ancient gunsight as a finder for use with long lenses. It has generous eye relief, a magnification of one and it superimposes a ring on the point of interest. It is a good start but I will see if I can master your technique.
Thanks Alastair,
The bird was about 10 meters from the ground, about 40 meters from me in the longer shots and about 10 meters away from me in the closer one.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 08:15 AM   #8
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Ofer.


I have probably mentioned this with you before. For ground-to-airs of aircraft in flight I have set two cameras up on a bar on the same tripod. I roll both cameras so I have a wider backup if I lose the subject momentarily.

The camera with the long lens on it is the camera of choice. The other camera is set up so that when zoomed in, the image behind the centre cross in the LCD screen is harmonised with the image over the centre cross in the LCD view of the long lens camera.

Against a hard sky it still can be tricky as the aircraft is generally so small as to be almost invisible in the wide camera viewfinder. Once aquired, I slowly zoom in and track until I aquire the aircraft in the long lens camera LCD, then follow with the long camera.

A side effect of this trick is that the smaller sized subject in the wider camera's view becomes an incredibly stable follow once you are sighting and tracking through the long lens. Compositionally it is all wrong as the subject is in centre of frame. After a bit of practice I offset the centre of the wide view a little so that when tracking with the long camera, the subject in the wide view at least has noseroom in one direction of travel across the frame.

With practice, I have found that if I set the position of the camcorder eyepiece so that the centre of view is coincident with the view of the naked left eye and tape the viewfinder so it cannot move, by using the left eye to sight with and the right eye for the eyepiece, I can aquire the aircraft nearly as easily.

It is an awkward posture one has to adopt once the aircraft is aquired and I find I usually have to rip the tape off and elevate the eyepiece as aircraft pass high overhead.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 08:21 AM   #9
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Bob's idea of a red dot sight is a good one. There are many reasonable red dot finders available for telescopes for less than $50. They have no magnification and work by projecting a red dot in the center of the finders optics. Unlike a traditional finder scope or rifle scope you can look past or around the finder so you have an unlimited field of view, you don't have to have your eye right up against the finder.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 08:14 PM   #10
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Thanks for your input guys!
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Old May 31st, 2009, 03:45 PM   #11
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Ofer -

I use the Televue Quik Point finder on a small telescope/spotting scope with very good results. At about $25 it won't cost much to try it and, while I have not tried it on my EX3, I would guess that it would be possible to adapt it to the hot shoe without a great deal of trouble.

A link to the product is below. (Note, I know nothing about the company who is offering it for sale. However, the manufacturer is a well know producer of very high quality telescopes and lenses.)

Televue Qwik Point-T - Red Dot Finder For Birding and Daytime Use - OPT Telescopes
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Old May 31st, 2009, 04:05 PM   #12
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Thanks for the input Eli, I am not sure how I can use any red/green dot finder on a fast moving target against the sky with a long telephoto lens. (3300mm for that matter.) In order to aim the dot you have to have some reference objects which do not exist in the sky.
My post describes a method that works in real life for this situation but I guess I was somewhat misunderstood.

Thanks again,
Ofer
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Old May 31st, 2009, 05:39 PM   #13
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Ofer,
the so called "red dot" sights do not project a red dot onto the target. I think you're confusing these sights with the laser pointer kind of sights which are not really a sight at all.
Here's a link to some of the more expensive ones, some give you a choice of red or green dots:
Opticswarehouse Red Dot Sights
they're cheaper / simpler versions available.
I've never tried using these for aiming assistance with a camera and a moving target however they are very popular for the other kind of 'shooting' in exactly the same kind of scenario. Compared to open iron sights they give a wider field of view and don't rely on ambient light to illuminate the sights. Compared to telescopic sights they have much better eye relief and are considerably cheaper.
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Old June 1st, 2009, 12:14 AM   #14
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Ofer,
the so called "red dot" sights do not project a red dot onto the target. I think you're confusing these sights with the laser pointer kind of sights which are not really a sight at all.
Here's a link to some of the more expensive ones, some give you a choice of red or green dots:
Opticswarehouse Red Dot Sights
they're cheaper / simpler versions available.
I've never tried using these for aiming assistance with a camera and a moving target however they are very popular for the other kind of 'shooting' in exactly the same kind of scenario. Compared to open iron sights they give a wider field of view and don't rely on ambient light to illuminate the sights. Compared to telescopic sights they have much better eye relief and are considerably cheaper.
Hi Bob, you are right - I was confusing the two. Thanks for clarifying this!
When you use this device - do you have to find the object through the device and then look through the viewfinder? In my technique I always look through the viewfinder which is crucial for birds in flight - as the flight direction is not always easy to predict.
Thanks Bob
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Old June 1st, 2009, 07:40 AM   #15
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Hi Bob, you are right - I was confusing the two. Thanks for clarifying this!
When you use this device - do you have to find the object through the device and then look through the viewfinder? In my technique I always look through the viewfinder which is crucial for birds in flight - as the flight direction is not always easy to predict.
Thanks Bob
Ofer,
I've never used one of these sights. I was thinking of buying one as I can't hit the side of a barn with open sights in rapid fire events. I'll quizz the people who do use them, one of the guys I know in the pistol club has a long background in film and television, he might have some other suggestions.
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