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Old June 14th, 2010, 03:28 PM   #1
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Chickadees in Reflected Ultraviolet

Here's a project I've been working on lately with the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology:
Black-Capped Chickadees in Ultraviolet | The Feed

If you're interested in the technical side of things, the UV portion of this was shot with a JVC GY-HD100, using an El-Nikkor 75mm enlarging lens (chosen because it has no anti-UV coating). The lens was attached to the camera with a succession of mount adapters:
- an M39 to M42 adapter,
- to an M42 focusing helicoid,
- to an M42 to Nikon F-mount adapter
- to a Mike Tapas Nikon to JVC 1/3" bayonet adapter.
Amazingly, the lens focused to infinity with no problems.

The visible light image was shot with a Pentax K-X APS-C DSLR, using a Pentax-A 80-200 zoom lens with a Vivitar 2x telextender. Resulting focal length was approximately 350mm, to match the image size of the 75mm on the 1/3" video camera.

Both cameras were recording in 1280x720, 24p.

I then used Vegas Pro 8 to key out the black portions of the filtered UV image and superimposed it over the natural light image from the Pentax. I had to do some minor distortion to compensate for parallax.

As you can see from the blog, this is the first step in a somewhat longer process. Comments welcome.
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Old June 15th, 2010, 01:33 PM   #2
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Wow! That is really cool!

How did you end up deciding on the filters and equipment? Was there other equipment available but unobtainable due to cost?

Also, if you don't mind me asking, how did you go about obtaining a grant for this project? I've poked around in my area looking for projects like this, but the only response I get is "We don't have the funds, but if you'd like to donate and volunteer, that would be great!" And yes, it would be great, but it doesn't pay the bills...

My girlfriend has been studying beak deformities, pairing, and parentage in Black-capped Chickadees here in South-central Alaska for over 10 years, but as far as I know, she and the rest of the group she's working with haven't done anything like this.
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Old June 15th, 2010, 04:34 PM   #3
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Hi, Shawn

Glad to meet a fellow chickadee fan!

Budget and availability of equipment was very definitely a factor for me. I based my lens selection on the work that Kevin Collins generously shared on his Flickr site (see: D200 UV Equipment on Flickr - Photo Sharing!). I already had the JVC HD100 and the Mike Tapas Nikon adapter, so once I built my UV lens, it was just a matter of trying it out and experimenting.

Ideally, I would have used two identical cameras and lenses, and left one lens unfiltered, to get a true visible light and UV comparison. It also would have been nice to have some way of mounting the cameras closer together than I could using two separate tripods, to reduce parallax issues. But, I did the best I could with what I had available and was pretty satisfied with the results.

There are certainly more expensive/difficult options available. Take a look at All About Digital UV and IR. Page 7: Which Lenses? for a discussion of the characteristics you need in an optical system to do a good job of transmitting UV light. Most SLR lenses and DSLR hotmirrors are deliberately designed to block UV light, since it may impart an unwelcome glow or haze to visible light photography. Quartz/fluorite SLR lenses are highly prized (and pricey) for this kind of work, because they transmit UV. So, you need the right combination of an uncoated lens and a CCD or CMOS sensor(s) that are both sensitive to UV wavelengths. Lastly, the camera must be capable of interpreting the UV data sent to it from the sensor. It's not light that's visible to the human eye, so what "color" should it be? Determining whether or not a particular camera will "see" UV imagery, with or without modification, is unfortunately really a matter of trial and error. (Don't some Canon video cameras have "fluorite" lenses? It might be interesting to test one out.)

As for the filter, the general consensus is the Baader "Venus" filter is by far the best option for UV imagery, since it is very selective to the near-UV spectrum. The "Venus" filter also does the best job of filtering out unwanted infrared that can "contaminate" your UV image. It's not cheap, for a filter (about $250). It's also exotic enough that it is not available through standard photography outlets. I got mine from "Company Seven" an astronomy supply house based in Maryland.

As for the funding, here's the link to the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology "small grant" program that I used for the lens equipment purchase. WSO Small Grants Program
As you can see, the grant amounts are limited to $500 and geared toward amateur birders working in Wisconsin. The grant guidelines specifically list small equipment purchases as one of the eligible activities. So for me, it fit the bill very nicely. I don't know if there are similar organizations in Alaska, but it might be worth scouting around.

This project is part of a larger feature-length documentary project I'm working on about the natural history of chickadees. I'd be very interested in learning more about your wife's research and seeing if there's an opportunity to share information, contacts, and/or footage. I'd love an excuse to visit Southern Alaska, but I don't know if it's in the budget. Feel free to e-mail me (my address is in my profile) if you'd like to chat further.

Thanks for your interest, and good luck in your work.
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Last edited by Brian Standing; June 15th, 2010 at 04:44 PM. Reason: Added info
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Old June 17th, 2010, 02:39 PM   #4
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Cool! Thanks, Brian.

I'll have to look into some of these smaller grants and see if there is anything available locally.

As far as I know, much of the research my girlfriend is involved with is public domain. Here's a link to some information about the main study they're working on now:

Alaska Science Center - Beak Deformities

I know she has also finished a rather large thesis for her Master's Degree that's all about the social lives of chickadees, but it hasn't been published yet. I'm not sure if it would be relevant to your documentary project, but it goes into great detail about how chickadees "cheat" on their mates, lay eggs in multiple nests, and lead much more interesting lives than most of us would think.

I'll talk to my girlfriend this evening and see if I can get you the name of someone where she works that might help point in the right direction for more info.
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Old June 18th, 2010, 03:54 AM   #5
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A fascinating project, and thanks for the details of how it was filmed.

For mounting two video cameras close together on a single tripod, you might try something like the Hague Twin Head Tripod Mount
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Old June 18th, 2010, 03:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn McCalip View Post
I know she has also finished a rather large thesis for her Master's Degree that's all about the social lives of chickadees, but it hasn't been published yet. I'm not sure if it would be relevant to your documentary project, but it goes into great detail about how chickadees "cheat" on their mates, lay eggs in multiple nests, and lead much more interesting lives than most of us would think.
Those "much more interesting lives than most of us would think" is exactly why I'm interested in this project.

As part of the project I am working on, we traveled to Mount Holyoke, Massachussetts to interview Susan Smith, who's been studying the social dynamics (including many of the behaviors your girlfriend has studied) of the local chickadee flock for thirty years. Dr. Smith was gracious enough to let us film her capturing and banding chickadees as she talked about her research. I'm fairly certain your wife has read some of her work, as Smith is widely regarded as "the doyenne of the Chickadee." I'd be very interested in at least talking with your girlfriend about her research. That outbreak of localized beak deformities sounds disturbing, especially if its linked to environmental contaminants. On the other hand, that could, I suppose, be a good thing if those contaminants could be isolated and removed or remediated. I look forward to hearing more.

Also, if you're interested in doing some bird videography, I'm always open to collaborative efforts, or trading footage.
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Old June 18th, 2010, 03:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Annie Haycock View Post
For mounting two video cameras close together on a single tripod, you might try something like the Hague Twin Head Tripod Mount
Excellent tip! Thanks for sharing. I'll look into that. Do you know if they have any US distributors?

Thanks also for your comments on the project. I'm glad there's interest in this.
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Old June 18th, 2010, 05:54 PM   #8
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I don't know if there are other distributors - it might be worth contacting Hague about it. I have found them quite helpful, and the stuff they make is fairly solidly engineered.

The Manfrotto twin head that they also sell is available elsewhere, but I don't think it's suitable for a heavy camera. I shall probably get one for my Sony A1 and infra-red lamp, but I wouldn't be happy putting the Canon A1 on it.
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