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Under Water, Over Land
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Old December 26th, 2006, 08:45 AM   #1
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videoscoping for wildlife shots

Greetings everyone,

I've been lurking around sucking up as much information as I could for a few weeks and finally decided to jump in and start posting. I live in the ridge and valley country of upper northeast Tennessee and have been interested in wildlife most of my life, especially birds.

I've been very interested in reading posts from people using relatively inexpensive minidv cameras to get wildlife videos. I have been experimenting for the past year with trying to get the most of the equipment I already have. I am using a Canon Optura 200MC minidv I purchased off of ebay for less than $300 and an old Meade ETX-90 telescope/spotting scope ($150 on sale a couple of years ago). My first experiments involved using the Optura coupled to a 32mm Orion telescope eyepiece ($80) and the ETX-90. This yielded around 40x without any zoom on the camcorder. I had been using some other combinations with this camera (for instance a 3x nikon ed-glass teleconverter coupled through a step ring to the camera gave some very promising results I can show examples of later), but I needed a little more power to reach out to a Cooper's Hawk nest in a local cemetery. I was quite happy with what I got from this rig. Here is a link to a clip showing some of the results:

http://webpages.charter.net/mtnsunfish/video/

just right click and save on coopershawk.avi.

Just want to encourage those who can't really put a lot of money into your equipment. You can still get some pretty good video on a tight budget.

Rick
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Old December 26th, 2006, 10:09 AM   #2
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Rick,

The clip was pretty good considering the web compression. However, I think ideally you may want to eventually move over from the scopes to video glass. My experience with the 20x GL-1 and GL-2 yeilded good results. Also, there is the higher end 20x XL-2 with 1.6x extender. Might be able to pick this up used. I have used that combo a few times on a solid tripod and it produced good results.

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videos: http://vimeo.com/channels/3523

Last edited by Mark Williams; December 26th, 2006 at 11:03 AM.
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Old December 26th, 2006, 10:48 AM   #3
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Thanks Mark. I certainly will move up to better equipment sometime in the future. This is just the best I can come up with for now, and better to shoot something now with what I have than wait until I can upgrade to better equipment. Besides, this is just for fun for me and I sort of get a kick out of seeing what I can do with this kind of stuff. By the way, I forgot to mention that the Cooper's Hawk nest was about 75 yards away in the top of a 90 foot Yellow Poplar tree, so I'm sure some detail is lost due to atmospherics alone. Really enjoyed the clips on your site.

Rick
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Old December 26th, 2006, 11:03 AM   #4
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Rick,

Agreed, for what equipment you have to work with you are doing really well. You should be really proud of the hawk shot. The time you spend sharpening you skills on shot set-up, focus and anticipating wildlife behavior will serve you well. I think some of the most rewarding stuff I've shot was in a blind between 2 bird feeders. Granted somewhat of a controlled environment but a lot of fun.

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Old December 27th, 2006, 05:48 AM   #5
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I enjoyed that Rick, thank you.

Please shoot some more of your Coopershawk, even a 5 second snippet of her taking off or landing? Have you shot any good stills using digiscope or videoscope? I've seen high class stills of Eagle Owls at 250 metres but I'm not sure what digiscoping equipment was used. Your action footage did give insight into behaviour ... quite rare to me.
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Old December 27th, 2006, 10:11 AM   #6
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Brendan,

I will look thru my archives and see if I can find a clip of her taking off or landing. I know I have a few, but they were mostly coming and going from the opposite side of the tree from where I was filming and I didn't have access to that side of the nest.

If you like action shots here is one I think you will enjoy. The video quality is pretty poor because of the circumstances. I was taking some video out by my house hand held when I noticed a beautiful male Cooper's Hawk sitting in a tree across a field around 50 yards away. I feared he would leave before I could get in the house to get my tripod so I started walking across the field to see how close I could get before he flew. I got closer than I thought the bird would allow and so started taking a little wobbling, hand-held zoom footage with my Sony trv730 digital 8 with a 18x optical zoom. I was filming away and he looked pretty calm when all of a sudden he sat bolt upright and started staring at the top of the tree above him. I could tell from experience that something was about to happen so I zoomed out quickly just as he sprang off towards the treetop. In about two seconds he had blasted a fat Mourning Dove in a cloud of feathers and carried him off for a nice snack. Shakey as it is...I did get it on video. Here is the link:

http://media.putfile.com/Coopers-Haw...-Mourning-Dove

Hope you enjoy.

Rick
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Old December 27th, 2006, 01:18 PM   #7
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Rick, great shot. I do a lot of videoing up by you, I did two health education videos. One on the Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge and the other on the Clinch River. It has some nice aerials of Kingston. You ever shoot up by Watts Bar? Bob
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Old December 27th, 2006, 06:19 PM   #8
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Bob,

I haven't shot any around Watts Bar, but have birded there and have spent a fair amount of time looking at shorebirds at the Kingston Steam Plant. I'm about 90 miles northeast of that area up in Kingsport.

I'm really just cycling into a more serious interest in taking wildlife videos and have a long way to go. This forum is a really good start and I've learned a lot just browsing thru the past posts

Rick
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Old December 28th, 2006, 10:31 PM   #9
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Rick,

I shoot a lot of raptor footage. For the equipment you are using I think you did a great job!!

If you can round up a used gl2 you can really make some great footage!! I use a 2x century mulitplier with it.

I also have the xl2 with the 1.6x multiplier, to be honest, if I do my job correctly with my gl2, the footage is as nice as my xl2. The xl2 allows you to change lenses. Last summer I was expirementing with economical older fd canon lenses. there are a lot of options out there.
Keep shooting with what you have as you will refine your skills while you save up for the next level equipment.

I love coopers hawks. that one is quite dark compared to the ones I have seen here in the west.

curiously, how far are you from the nest site? you in a blind?
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Old December 29th, 2006, 06:00 AM   #10
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Rick,
That was a sudden attack and the sort of clip that seems to be 90% luck and 10% skill but there's more skill to it than 10% ... it takes acute powers of observation (& sharp eyesight & experience of bird recognition), a lot of approach work, physical calm and a smart sense of opportunism to get to the position of focussing your cam ... did you use manual or auto focus?

Dale is right about Canon GL2 being good for raptors and it is as easy to handhold as is available with x20 optical zoom ... but how to get sharp images of your coopers hawk actually making that strike ... what a challenge for all of us for many years to come ... what a contrast with the task facing a wedding videographer with his XL2 on tripod at one end of a long red carpet ..
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Old December 29th, 2006, 06:11 AM   #11
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Thanks for the info Dale. I love the look of the XL series. Maybe as everyone moves over to HD and I hone my skills I'll get one of those babies someday. Meanwhile....I'm now checking out another eyepiece with the ETX-90 and Canon 200MC. This is a Scopetronix eyepiece that gives me 80X on the rig with no zoom on the camcorder. I think I can get some stuff with this. Here is a small sample from yesterday morning just after sunrise. This is a Northern Red-shouldered Hawk, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful of our North American raptors. Distance was around 35 yards. Distance to the Cooper's was probably close to 100 yards, but was taken with a different eyepiece (40X). No blind on either bird. This stuff looks like crap on my computer compared to watching it on tv. I used the Neat Video demo and Virtual Dub to remove a bit of noise.

http://media.putfile.com/red-shouldered-hawk

Rick
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Old December 30th, 2006, 02:20 PM   #12
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Rick,

There is no doubt it is infact a red shouldered hawk!! pretty nice footage for the equipment you are using. I am always interested in inovation and creative ideas!!
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