Light up the night

March 31, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Marbled Frogmouth - Podargus ocellatusMarbled Frogmouth - Podargus ocellatusThis is a beautifully plumaged bird with mottling or marbling giving the appearance of rough bark. Like other frogmouths, it freezes motionless when disturbed, relying on camouflage to conceal its presence. This bird is also called the plumed frogmouth due to barred bristles or 'plumes' protruding above its bill. It is distinguished from the more common tawny frogmouth which has paler eyes and unbarred plumes. The marbled frogmouth lives in patches of subtropical rainforest. It is listed as vulnerable in Queensland due to habitat clearing but its distinctive guttural 'gobble gobble' call and bill-clapping are occasionally heard in this rainforest. It is most active at dusk and dawn (crepuscular) and takes prey such as insects and frogs from the mid-canopy. (Source: Mary Cairncross Reserve) Night time wildlife photography

I have a 5 min tip for any aspiring night time wildlife photographer.

I have been shooting a fair bit at night, a few years back when I created light art also known as light painting and more recently while photographing wildlife. The latter has its obstacles. First, most nocturnal animals are not as active at dusk or dawn then through the night.

So, how do you capture those creatures while it is pitch dark in a rain forest? You use a torch.

That comes with its own problems, you can’t really hold and point a torch towards the animal, hold your camera and focus at the same time. It is possible, believe me, I have done it. But that is really cumbersome.

My solution to this problem is simple. If your torch has a belt clip like mine, it is a LED Lenser M7, strap it to the lens with velcro. It is secure, cheap and simple to make.

LED Lenser and NikonLED Lenser and NikonNikon D500 with the Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 and the LED Lenser M7.

Buy velcro and sow the rough side to the soft side back to back. If you have a smaller width velcro band, sow two of these strips together. If you make the strip longer than you need, you can use this system on all sorts of lenses with different diameters. Wrap a couple of rubber bands around the lens to prevent the belt clip and torch from sliding sideways. All up it will cost you a few bucks, that’s it.

I used this system successfully with my Nikon D500, Sigma 150-500, YongNuo Speedlight YN568EX and my LED Lenser M7 and even the LED Lenser X7R which has a greater lumen output. This system lets you shine the beam right ahead of you and will be in your frame and help you focus on that nocturnal creature. Of course, you can use any torches as long as you can focus it and if it comes with a belt clip, even better. The torch doesn’t have to lay on top of the lens, it can be mounted underneath as well. The advantage of having it on top of the lens is, the torch naturally wants to point downwards into the centre of your focal point. Underneath and the torch tends to pull down, which can be corrected by balancing it while pushing the torch backwards in the clip.

A word of advice about using torchlight at night. Although it is not recommended to shine a bright white torchlight into an animals face. I know it sounds like I contradict myself, first saying to use a torch to capture the animal then not to. Just stay with me and I will explain. I recommend using a torch with a red light (red bulb, cellophane or filter). This will ensure you are not losing your night sight and you are not glaring a bright light into the animal's eyes. I use the red light to search for nocturnal animals. Once found and I'm happy it is in a position I can capture it with my camera, I switch to my torch on top of my lens, aim, focus and capture. This is all done in a couple of minutes at most. Remember how you would feel if someone comes and shines a torchlight into your eyes at night.



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