A LITTLE OUT OF FOCUS IN PATAGONIA !!!!
So the fall / autumn ( depends which side of the Atlantic you live on ) colours have started to fade and the temperatures are falling, as my fingers are finding out every morning when I take my gloves off to film at first light , here in deepest Patagonia.
I am soldering on with the only camera I have available to me for the foreseeable future , a Nikon 600 DSLR AND an 80-200mm F2.8 zoom, wonderfully sharp, if a little heavy, but I am at least continuing to film. I desperately miss the my P2 Panasonic AJ-PX 270 with it’s built in 36-600mm lens, but it’s history, and currently gathering dust in Santiago until I can pick it. Up on my way back to the UK, god know’s when that will be. This unexpected misfortune to my equipment has meant getting closer to my subject to capture the footage I need, which is fine if your after a 3 Toed sloth or a giant Galapagos Tortoise, but in my case it’s anywhere between 65-110 kilos of muscle tooth and claw belonging to the Patagonian Puma, that could if it so chose too , ruin one’s day.
In the last few weeks, since the camera ceased t function, I have found out rather rapidly that filming with a DSLR, (without all the accessorial shit that one needs to make it user friendly) is not easy. I need to wear reading glasses for the computer and books, so can you imagine trying to find focus on tiny screen on the back of my Nikon, in bright light or early morning light with no loupe stuck to the back, total waste of time, I truly am filming blind, but this is how I am managing to get a few results.
First one needs to locate the Pumas, now this act can be simple or a total nightmare, results vary daily, but it does keep one on his or her toes. So one has found a cat or two, excellent, now look through your eye piece and focus on the cat , all hunky dory, until it moves , the cats tend to a lot of that moving stuff, very annoying when you just have them in focus. If one has an overpriced Zacouto or a cheaper, but perfectly useable Hoodman on the rear screen with diopter adjusted for your sight, your in business, at least you can use one hand to focus on the barrel of the lens, and the other to pan you head with, but the trouble is I at this moment in time do not posses a Hoodman, let alone a snazzy Zacuto, no ! What I own is a pair of £4.99 pair off the shelf reading glasses from the Pharmacy, with one arm being held in place by a bandaid plaster, with a second one cut to size to hold in the left side lens !!! There are no big cogs and wheels and brackets, whistles and bells on my lens to precision turn the focusing ring, my rig is a Fred Flintstone model……!!!
I am down to switching the button on the rear between the stills and video mode ASAP when I find focus, hitting record and then having to settle for the few seconds the cat is in focus, as even with my glasses at the optimum distance from the rear screen, combined with bright light I can see BUGGER ALL !
Help is in on the way, but it will be a week or two until it arrives, and it will be courtesy Nick Gates ( producer at ICON films in Bristol UK ) who has come to my rescue and is sending me a loop. I have tried to source one in Santiago, but the only place that had even heard of this handy bit of kit, was out of stock, so from the UK it must be sent, until then I have to crack on. I remember when all the hype was flying around the world of filmmaking about using DSLR’S, well let me tell you from experience, unless you have all the whistles and bells, or a mirrorless camera don’t bother if your filming wildlife, unless of course it’s a large tortoise that lives on a pacific island, or a mammal that is minus a few toes and behaves a bit like it partied too much in the 1960’s and doesn’t remember a lot about it , if you see what I mean.
The good news is I am fully recovered from a lung infection, and there is a lot of Puma activity, so I am running around with lots of food in my pack, not enough camera gear, and having a ball getting some close-up footage of the cats feeding at various kills in my local patch of Torres del Paine, I just have t remind myself every day I am but a mere mortal of flesh and blood and the cats although well fed, are still apex predators that could mess my day up if they so chose.
Snow has yet to arrive in the park, only on the mid to upper has it been turned into a winter wonderland, but I am hoping the whole park gets blanketed soon, as it makes locating the Pumas much easier, and offers up some fantastic opportunities for filming and photography, I just have to hope I can capture some of it IN FOCUS………………….