I tried something very different for shooting this series of Images. I left my big ‘ol tripod in the car. Instead I used a Really Right Stuff ground pod, then attached my RRS gimbal to it, then attached a D4 and finally my SmallHD 6″ monitor. I sat down and let the critters come to me. With a HD monitor attached to the flash mount via a small ball head I was essentially monitoring and composing my shot via Live View using a 6″ real time TV HD monitor.
Given that I’m only 2 -3 feet up off the shore, at critter eye level, the depth of focus is intense. You can see here that the focus starts a few inches out from the spoonbill and then behind the bird focus fades real quickly. I was shooting with a D4 and the 200-400 w/tc1.4, so I have an effective aperture of F5.6. I have it drilled into my head that background is everything however all that was available was a chocolate brown. The light was overcast, normally I’d have adjusted for white balance for cloudy but I thought the brown was warm enough. You also need to keep in mind refections, in this case there was nothing but a muck hole…
So photography is sometimes waiting for light, color and gesture. I watched the birds for quite some time. During this time I was practicing with my new setup hoping not to burn out the batteries. By the time this beautiful spoonbill came my way, I was fairly certain that I could grab my shot with my unconventional setup.
What encouraged me to use a heads up up display ? Well I’ve seen the type of images Moose Peterson does with critters on a panning plate. So when packing for this trip, I thought that a ground pod, would provide the same eye level images for larger critters at two-three feet high. However that would mean me head would be at a very unconfortable position and good handholding of a long lens would be challanging, so to give me some visibility, why not hook up the 6″ SmallHD and try shooting via an external monitor.
My location and setup was fortunate for this day. The spoonbill is a wader and moves to deeper pools to grab small fish. A flock of five spoonbills were working their way around the ocean inlet and this guy must have felt non threatened because he walked about six feet in front of me and just started working the pool of water. It’s quite a bit different shooting action and movement in Live view, clicking the shutter also gives you a bunch of extra noises as the movement of the mirror and focusing process is more complicated. However, the images that were produced were very sharp and what I wanted at point of capture.
There are always little tweaks to improve an image, I have a few in mind, but my motto is to leave critter images like the camera saw them. It was an encouraging trial of technology, but more importantly, the image of the spoonbills unique bill, the pink beauty of their feathers and the environment this birds lives in was just cool to capture and share.