Category Archives: Wildlife Photography Gear Review
I have been considering a drone for use in my wildlife photography for a few months now but wondering just how many practical applications there really are. I was well intended when I bought my GoPro but it’s been in my bag with one or two exceptions. I tried it for underwater photography but found the results were lack luster. Perhaps I need to get a little more creative in my approach.
This morning I was reading about the Lily Drone. The best part is that there is no need to manually control this drone, you wear a tracking device, throw the Lily Camera in the air and it takes off and follows you wherever you go. Like most photographers I have no pictures of myself, let alone pictures or videos of me taking pictures of wildlife so I could use the Lily to do a personal documentary if I so chose. If I placed the tracking device on my dog and set her loose in a field that might bring back some interesting footage, I’ve often wondered what she sees and where she goes.
As you can see I’m struggling to find wildlife photography applications for the Lily but it’s cool factor is just so high I really want one so I’m looking for other wildlife photographers to help me out here. How do you use your drone for wildlife photography? Can you envision wildlife photography applications for the Lily Drone? Then there’s the whole question on whether I should be getting a drone that I can fly or one like the Lily that has no requirement for an operator. Of course what I’d really like is the best of both worlds, one that I can fly if I want with the option to track me like the Lily.
For those of you who have not heard of the Lily Camera you can check it out at www.lily.camera. I like that it is ultra-portable weighing it at 2.8 lbs and is only 10x10x3 inches so you can easily pack it in with your other gear but its battery life is limited to just 20 minutes. It’s waterproof, which is very cool, but because of that the battery can not be removed and replaced by a spare on the fly so you need to spend two hours charging Lily in between flights which is not cool. With 12MP stills, 1080p at 60 fps and 720p at 120 fps slo-mo video it has everything I’d want if I could just think of a way to creatively use the little gizmo. All suggestions welcome please.
- Available in Five (5) colours – Black, Green, Beige, Brown, Grey
- It’s a mitten and a glove all in one design, with the fingers and thumb being exposed only when you need the extra dexterity for shooting
- Zipper pouch on top of the glove for placement of heat packs when required. (Room for a key, spare memory card, etc)
- Palm side has full goat leather for added grip, warmth and durability
- Easy access zipper across the palm opens up to expose the fingers for working the camera controls. Keeps snow out and warmth in when zipped up.
- The entire length of the palm side of the glove from the zipper in the palm to the top of the wrist cuff is cut through inside making it very easy to stuff heat packs into the glove all the way up to the wrist. On extremely cold days I wouldn’t hesitate to stuff two hand heat packs into the wrist area, two hand heat packs into the top side of the glove above the fingers. And if I was still cold I’d add two foot warmers, which are thinner and have an adhesive backing, on to the palm and fingers side of the glove. Excessive yes but it shows how accommodating this glove is to heat packs if they are needed.
- Silver fabric on thumb and index fingers allows the use of an iPhone or tablet while in the field (I’m thinking CamRanger :))
- Primaloft insulation technology for optimal warmth. (Warmer wet or dry than any other synthetic insulation)
- Draw-string across the wrist to keep snow out and warmth in
- Extra long cuffs with its own elastic draw-string to clamp down around your forearm to keep the snow out
- Elastic joiners between first three fingers make it easy to remove glove without pulling the lining out of the mitten
- Outer shell made from an Elastic Microfiber with water resistant and breathable qualities much like Gore-tex.
- Elastic wrist cuff that attaches the mitten to your wrist so you can take the mitten off but still have it attached
- Magnetic clip to keep the top of mitten pulled back when your fingers are exposed
- Velcro on the thumb to keep the thumb flap of the mitten held back while your thumb is out of the glove
- Additional leather thumb flap with Velcro to cover the thumb opening when not in use, keeps snow and wind out
This crazy long list of features is why this glove is already the #1 winter glove in Europe and fortunately it is now available in North America at www.coolphotographygear.com.
Note: There have been many complaints within the photography community regarding various brands of heat packs, they simply do not retain heat on cold days. I will be testing The Heat Company hand warmers and foot warmers once the cold weather hits again and I will post another blog on their performance after my tests are complete so stay tuned.
Heat3 Smart Glove Retail Price: $199.99 CDN (Small price to pay for warm, dry hands during extreme cold photo shoots)
If all this sounds all too familiar read on because I’m about to introduce you to the Cadbury secret of DSLR sensor cleaning.
It’s called the sensor gel stick by Eyelead and it works on virtually any interchangeable lens digital camera – from a compact mirrorless to a full-frame DSLR. And it is as easy as 1-2-3 to use as follows:
1/ Set your camera to “Mirror Lock-Up” mode (with the battery fully charged) to expose the sensor.
2/ Remove the gel stick from its protective case and walk the whole sensor with the gelled side of the stick.
3/ Work a grid pattern across the entire sensor until you’ve covered 100% of it then use the provided sticky adhesive paper (included inside the metal case) to remove the dust from the gel. Once cleaned, the sensor gel stick can be reused over and over again. Repeat this process as many times as necessary to clean your sensor.
4/ Once completed turn off the camera, mount your lens, set it to the smallest aperture like f/32, then take a picture of a white surface. When you analyze the image, there should be no spots left. I use the VisibleDust Sensor Loupe to look inside at the sensor saving the step of taking a picture and easily identifying where the dust spots are so I cheat and only apply the sensor gel stick where the dust is physically located on the sensor.
I will tell you that I was skeptical when I was first saw the sensor gel stick from Eyelead however when I found out this is the product Leica uses in their labs along with many other service centers as part of their professional cleaning I was sold.
And once you’re convinced and you wish to learn how to use the Eyelead sensor gel stick I highly recommend you watch the following video, this is the one that gave me the confidence to try it myself.
I’ve used the Eyelead gel stick now on three of my cameras and in all three cases it worked beautifully. On my D3s I had to take two or three passes at a few tough spots but in the end it left my sensor dust free. I’m sure there may still be a need at some point for a really tough bit of baked on dust to require the old wet swab so I am keeping them around just in case.
If you own an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch and you have a need to control your Nikon or Canon DSLR remotely the CamRanger may just be exactly what you’re looking for. I’ve always used a remote trigger and it works just fine for shots where I can pre-focus on a spot and sit back and wait for my subject to arrive. However if the subject did not end up where I expected I was unsuccessful at capturing the image and of course I had to run back and forth to make adjustments to exposure, f-stop, etc. which further disturbed my subject and delayed my shooting.
Introducing the CamRanger. This handy little device is very portable at 4″ x 2.5′ x .5′ and 3.5 ounces and comes in its own neoprene carrying case and a carabiner clip which takes up very little room in my camera bag.
Setting up the CamRanger
Installation was a breeze and I was up and running literally in ten minutes by following the simple steps below.
Step 1: Install the battery which is provided into the CamRanger
Step 2: Download the CamRanger App from the App store.
Step 3: Register your CamRanger using the serial number on the back of your unit.
Step 4: In the iOS settings from your iPad or iPhone go to WiFi settings make sure it is turned on and choose the CamRanger network
Step 5: Connect your camera to the CamRanger using the provided USB 2.0 cable. My D800 required a USB 3.0 cable which was not included.
Step 6: Turn your camera on and launch the CamRanger iOS app from your iPad or iPhone
I also performed a firmware upgrade which went off without a hitch so I’m now ready should I decide I absolutely have to have the new motorized head that allows you to move the position of the camera from the iPad app in addition to the other controls you have available.
CamRanger in protective pouch shown here attached to my D800 camera with 24-70mm lens.. Note: The neoprene pouch does not provide full weather proofing as the zipper will not close fully with the cable entering the pouch. You will also note that the USB 3.0 cable that connects the camera to CamRanger runs through my L-bracket which disables the ability to shoot on the vertical axis. I’ve ordered a right angle USB cable which will solve this issue.
The Field Test
So the big question I wished to answer was whether the CamRanger was just another new shiny toy or a useful tool in the wildlife photographers bag. So with that objective in mind I setup my Nikon D800 on a tripod one cold February day, threw down a little bird seed in front of the camera and headed in doors to my couch where I could stay warm and put this little device through its paces.
When you press the eye on the CamRanger interface the wireless network transmits the image to your iPad in Live View mode so you’re seeing what the camera sees which of course is way better on an iPad than the 3 inch display on the back of the camera. Focus is achieved by a tap anywhere on the screen of the iPad with a double tap to zoom in on your subject which is great for checking whether the subject’s eye is in focus both before and after taking a picture. Fine focus controls are also available should you need to further define your focus point. Best of all there is no need for the camera to also be in Live View so this saves a ton of battery life on the camera which is a very thoughtful design.
The interface is very intuitive with everything I’d want to adjust available on screen. It wasn’t long and I had a red squirrel heading down my big oak tree for the seed I had placed in front of the camera. I had set the camera to take 3 shots when I pressed the capture button but you can set that as high as 18 continuous shots if your camera can manage it. I shoot in Raw and those 36MP images take approx 27 seconds to download so you can preview them which of course is a life time. Switching to RAW + JPEG basic had those images downloading for preview in 2-3 seconds which is very acceptable.
- Shutter Speed
- Metering Mode
- Drive/Shooting Mode
- White Balance
- Image Format
- Focus Mode (Nikon only)
- Auto Exposure Mode (Nikon only)
- Exposure Compensation & Bracketing
- Software Auto-Focus toggle to toggle AF/MF
From my iPad I was able to see how each setting that I made an adjustment to changed the histogram and the image I was viewing on screen. The same was true when I flipped over to movie mode where I quickly moved to a manual exposure and shot a few minutes of two red squirrels arguing over a very tasty walnut. The focus point took about 1 second on average to register and there was a slight delay on screen between what I was seeing through my window and what I was seeing on screen so for fast moving subjects coming in and out of the frame or changing the focal plane constantly this application would not be ideal. Where I would find it incredibly useful is for slower moving subjects and certainly static subjects. Example: Setting up the camera at the edge of a marsh and waiting for a moose or other critter to come into the frame from a safe and undetectable distance.
The Distance Test: So just how far can you be from the CamRanger? From an unobstructed view I was able to get 270 feet before the wireless connection was broken, however the picture taking process does take longer at these long distances. With the CamRanger behind my cedar hedge that range was cut down to about 85 feet, which might be somewhat limiting for those shy creatures. One thing that did surprise me during my tests, my wife went to take a look out the window to see the red squirrel and got between the direct line of site from the CamRanger to my iPad and I lost my signal. I will want to perform a few more tests out in the bush to see if trees between the device and the iPad affect the signal.
As for being able to make every possible adjustment on your camera remotely the CamRanger works beautifully. Heck you can even do HDR, time lapse and focus stacking and the histogram really allows you to nail down your exposures. Battery life is stated to be 5-6 hours which should work for most wildlife photography sessions although I will likely carry a backup battery for those uncooperative subjects that want me to put in a full day. Images can be downloaded automatically during shooting or reviewed singly with the ‘Auto Save’ function switched off. I recommend reviewing images singly for wildlife photography so you can keep shooting without the added delay required for the preview to appear on screen.
Conclusion: My final verdict is that the CamRanger is a very useful tool and it has earned a place in my camera bag, not a big one mind you, but that’s a good thing as we wildlife photographers often have weight restrictions. I see it as an incredibly useful tool with subjects that are not approachable or macro photography where one can setup a camera on a tripod and use the iPad to really zoom in on the focus point to get sharp images or produce sharp video content.
Special Offer: Save 15% on Jobu-Design purchases when you use the “Coolwildlife” coupon code.
Choosing the perfect tripod head can be daunting given how many are on the market and given the cost of these tripod heads you want to choose the right one the first time around. Finding the perfect gimbal head may seem like an elusive quest however the folks at Jobu Design have crafted a few clever adapters that allow photographers the best of all worlds.
Adapter 1: The wide angle lens adapter (Jobu WAA2) which attaches to your tripod head shown here with the Jobu Pro2 gimbal head. Throw a bubble head on top of your camera and you’ve got a near perfect landscape head at the ready. A more complete blog on this adapter can be found here on the Jobu Blog Wide Angle Lenses On A Gimbal . You’ll also require an Arca-Swiss camera plate (Jobu ADPT-AS250 or AS375) for the bottom of your camera to complete this setup.
Adapter #2 The top-mount to Side-mount adapter. (Jobu QRR-Pro) – When every pound counts such as small regional flights to remote areas a side-mount can save the weight of a swing arm. This clever little adapter turns your top-mounted gimbal head into a side-mounted head with the turn of two screws. For the complete story on top-mount vs side-mount gimbal heads visit the Jobu Blog Top-Mount vs Side-Mount.
With just two adapters you get a full on gimbal head capable of not only supporting your long lenses but also landscape photography with wide angle lenses and a side-mounted tripod head for those missons where weight is critical. Ian and the design team at Jobu Design really have made the quest for the perfect tripod head a no brainer so now you just need to decide on whether you want the Jobu Pro2 or the Jobu HD3 tripod head to go with those adapters.
Coolwildlife did a full video review of these two tripod heads so for those of you wanting a more in depth review visit CoolwildlifeTV – Tripod Head Reviews.
When you are ready to purchase use the “Coolwildlife” coupon code and save 15%.
I’ll get right to the point, with the hundreds of available photography bags on the market how do you know which is the best camera bag for your needs? When I bought the Gura Gear Kiboko 30L I thought I had found perfection and believe me I have a closet full of not so perfect DSLR camera bags. I will call it near perfection as there were two things I did not like about the Gura Gear Kiboko 30L. One was that it would not swallow my Nikon 600mm lens with the lens hood reversed. Two, it only allowed me to access one half of the bag at a time, given the butterfly flap design, and I often want access to all of my gear at once.
So I always said if Gura Gear came out with a larger bag that could handle my 600mm and a design which permitted access the entire bag while still maintaining the butterfly flap, they would have perfected the photography bag once and for all.
Introducing the Gura Gear Bataflae 32L which hits both of my requirements above and a whole lot more so I am giving it my “Winner Best DSLR Camera Bag Award.” Below are the features I wanted in my camera bag:
- Large bag that can handle a 600mm (and the 800mm just in case I won the lottery)
- Swallows Pro Body DSLR’s with L-brackets attached
- Whole camera bag opens at once to access all camera gear
- Butterfly flaps to access only half the camera bag (great for dusty shoots like safari’s)
- Airline carry-on compliant photography bag
- Back pack carrying straps with stowable harness design
- Waist belt that is removable
- Many, many dividers for multiple lens configurations
- Wow A DSLR Camera Bag available in more than black. Comes in black, grey or a limited-edition desert tan
- Light weight coming in at 5.3 lbs
- Tripod carrying syste
- Waterproof rain fly which doubles as a ground cover in dirty settings
So if it is so darn perfect what would prevent you from buying one. In a word “cost”. The Gura GearBataflae 32L photography bag is expensive. So if your Scottish like I am dropping big bucks on a camera bag requires careful thought. That is until you frame it up correctly. I drop tens of thousands of dollars on cameras, lenses, tripods and they all get carried and protected by…..yes my camera bag. So why the %$#@ wouldn’t I buy the best damn photography bag money can buy rather than compromising on a camera bag that does not meet all of my needs just to save a hundred bucks? Seems kind of silly when you put it that way.
It’s a no brainer decision, if you travel for photography adventures or hike into the field with your gear, especially with larger lenses, the Gura Gear Bataflae 32L delivers quality, is feature rich and is well worth the extra money. Buy it directly from Gura Gear and save on closet space as it is the last bag you’ll ever buy.
For those of us into wildlife photography we don’t often think of our iPhone for photography, or at least we don’t take of it as a serious tool for photography. I will have to include myself on that list until now. In addition to my DSLR’s I carry a Canon s110 pocket camera for those moments when life happens and I don’t have my DSLR with me, sound familiar? I also recently sprung for a Go Pro to capture those spur of the moment video’s. However all too often we don’t have the pocket camera or Go Pro’s with us and we miss a great opportunity as a result. My wife tells me to take a picture in my head but somehow that just isn’t as satisfying as capturing the moment.
Now if you are like 99% of the people on the planet, you have your iPhone glued to you 7/24 365 which make the iPhone your new best friend for photography the way I see it. The iPhone is no slouch when it comes to its capabilities. The iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 camera has an 8-megapixel, five-element lens with f/2.4 aperture. And I love the new Panorama mode which stitches together multiple photos in real-time producing pictures at a full 28 megapixels. Not too bad at all except the iPhone is neither waterproof nor shockproof ….that is until now.
Introducing the Hitcase Waterproof iPhone case which doubles as an iPhone shockproof case. The Hitcase makes your iPhone waterproof to 30 feet and was built for sports like motocross and autoracing so it makes your iPhone shockproof as well. And I love this line of thinking, the folks at Hitcase designed the case such that it comes standard with a GoPro® compatible mounts so if you own accessories for your Go Pro there’s no need to buy additional accessories, well done Hitcase. Hitcase waterproof iPhone case accessories such as heavy-duty mounts for your motorbike and suction cup mounts for your car are available just in case you feel adventurous. Every case comes with tripod mount included.
And yes you can still make and receive calls on your phone, use your touch screen and send your pics off to your friends all without taking the iPhone out of the Hitcase.Some hard core photographers will still not consider the iPhone a serious tool for photography, but I for one am tired of taking pictures in my head so the thought of having 8MP strapped on my hip 7/24 365 is a winner. Priced from $89 – $129, even a cheap Scott like me will bite on that price.:))
Be sure to check out the the Hitcase video and pic gallery for further cool applications.
I recently upgraded my original Jobu BWG-Pro tripod head to the newly redesigned Jobu BWG-Pro2 tripod head and man what a difference. The head is so much smoother on the pan and the tilt side, I mean seriously noticeable so my hats off to the engineers at Jobu Design as the original BWG Pro was a serious piece of gear and this new Jobu Pro2 tripod head surpasses the original in every way. The new 100% CNC swing-arm is 400% stiffer in bending and twisting which translates into less vibration through your lens and more in focus shots. They also integrated the arca-swiss compatible quick release clamp saving valuable weight and aligning themselves with the gold standard for camera mounts in Arca Swiss so I was glad to see that continue.
The Jobu Design Pro2 tripod head is rated for a maximum capacity of 35 lbs and weighs in at 3lbs 10 oz. I love the big rubber knobs which can be worked easily with mitts on during cold winter shoots and the mechanism locks down tight through the full range of motion so there is absolutely no creeping when you have your heavy lens mounted and are trying to focus on a static object over a longer period of time. There is also a locking mechanism for safe transport which you’ll appreciate when you are carrying a $10,000 lens over your shoulder.
I love the Jobu Design Pro2 tripod head so much I decided to do a video to showcase it for you. During the video I will show you the features of the Jobu Design Pro2 tripod head along with a few tips and tricks to help you with your wildlife photography.
As an added bonus, at time of purchase enter or mention the code “coolwildlife” and you’ll receive a 15% discount.
Jobu Design out of Canada really nailed it with what I consider to be the best tripod head on the market today. If you’re looking for a gimbal head that’s the perfect balance between weight and support for your longer lenses this is a gimbal head that should be at the top of your shopping list. In my opinion Jobu Design has been outpacing the competition, namely the Wimberley tripod heads, with engineering marvels and features for some time now.
This head weighs 0.5 lbs lighter than the Jobu Pro2 gimbal head and is rated for a maximum payload of 25 lbs meaning it can easily support your Nikon 600mm lens or Nikon 800mm lens when it is released. Needle bearings make the movement of the base and swing arm effortless so that 15-20 lbs of camera and lens can be maneuvered with one finger, it really is pretty amazing.
If you’re shopping for a gimbal head or you’re currently trying to use a ball head to manage your longer lenses then it is well worth your time to check out the video review below where I show you some of the features of the Jobu Design HD3 tripod head and just how easy it is to maneuver my Nikon D800 and Nikon 600mm lens combo.
I will also point out some tips and tricks along the way and show you how you can switch back and forth from long lens support to landscape photography using just one Jobu Design HD3 gimbal head.
As an added bonus, at time of purchase enter or mention the code “coolwildlife” and you’ll receive a 15% discount.
If you are a Canadian and a wildlife photographer or simply lead an active lifestyle outdoors then you absolutely need to bookmark the Live Out There site and visit it daily. I discovered the Live Out There site this past summer and while my wallet is a little lighter, ok a lot lighter, I have scored some killer deals on brand name outdoor gear like Arc’teryx, Merrell, Marmot, Icebreaker, Patagonia, The North Face and Mountain Hardwear to name a few. The daily deals present discounts of 48-70%, no joke. My father once told me if it sounds too good to be true walk away. Well in this case he would say browse away because these deals are for real and they are unmatched by any other retailer I am aware of to date. There are two areas within the site that offer you the possibility to save big. The first is the Live Out There discount bin. Here you will find outdoor gear from all the brand names with savings of 25-70% on select items. Consider it the Winners equivalent for Outdoor gear in Canada. The second area and my personal favorite is the daily deals section. This is a one day sale or until stock on that specific item is depleted. To take advantage of the daily deals you need to be aware of a few shopping tips as follows:
- The Live Out There daily deals are posted at 1:00 pm EST. (Exception: If stock depletes before the 24 clock expires a new deal will be posted)
- Popular brands and items will sell off fast. I have seen items be sold out in 15 minutes so you need to act quickly especially if you are a Large size as standard sizes go first.
Bonus: Live Out There offers free shipping and returns within Canada. Don’t ask me how they do that and still offer such ridiculous discounts, they obviously have some great relationships with their suppliers. I have personally shipped an item back due to improper sizing and the whole process was handled online and very efficient. You’ll be provided with a prepaid postage label online that you print and attach to the box and your office to Canada Post. My hats off to Live Out There as they have a winning formula that has me coming back daily and opening my wallet nearly as often, much to the dismay of my wife.:)) Thanks boys for a great outdoor gear shopping experience, keep those daily deals coming.