Amazing Product Absolutely Makes Wildlife Photography Easier

What’s in Her Bag

 

Anette Mossbacher profiles an important piece of equipment that she uses in her professional wildlife photography. These ongoing equipment tips can help you in your wildlife, landscape, and nature photography efforts.

 

Famous African animals, African leopard walking in grassland, motion blue picture, taken in Botswana

Focused and intent, this adult leopard races past Anette’s camera at breakneck speed. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

“Wildlife photography is a lot like detective work. You search, you sit, you wait, and you watch, and when the moment you’ve been waiting/searching for arrives, it can be over in seconds- and you better be ready.”

– Anette Mossbacher

Many of us own a tripod with a gimbal head or other, because we know that this is a very important piece of equipment for many forms of photography.

 

African Savannah Camelthorn Tree Acacia, African landscape pictures taken early morning, the savannah of the Etosha pan with tree in front, taken by Landscape Photographer

Long telephoto lenses- affords great composition when photographing the distant landscapes of Africa. This Camelthorn Acacia Tree becomes dominant in the shot, due to the optical quality known as ‘compression’; Anette’s telephoto lens compresses the foreground and background of this scene in Etosha National Park. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

Photographs, such as the Camelthorn tree (above), require a good solid sturdy tripod when capturing an image with a telephoto lens. This is to prevent camera shake from ruining the shot. These same extreme telephoto lenses are also perfect for wildlife photography.

“However, there is a problem on the wildlife side of things that requires a different solution, and that is why I’m digging into my camera bag for you today. I want to share my solution with you!”

 

Hyena cub is lying on the ground looking into the camera

This hyena cub stares inquisitively at Anette and her camera from some distance away. When photographing cubs of any form of wildlife, it is important to keep your distance, or the moment could become quite dangerous. This is just one example of where the extreme telephoto lens is very useful for wildlife photography. •  Photograph by Anette Mossbacher.

 

Let’s identify the problem (alluded to above).

Wildlife does not sit still. It moves constantly. Also, they often keep their distance, and if they don’t, it is in the photographer’s best interest to keep that distance for them. This requires often the use of longer telephoto lenses when photographing wildlife. Many of us are aware of the techniques and issues that come with long telephoto lenses, and if you aren’t; these are one of the many subjects that I discuss in my workshops and private photo tours. 

A primary concern is always camera shake, which is why for landscape photography (when the subject sits still) a tripod is the perfect tool. However, wildlife photography typically requires a different solution.

 

“I’m reaching into my camera bag…”

 

FujiFilm X-H1 attached to a Eckla Sphere base, which sits on a big beanbag on a car window

Wildlife photography requires stabilizing the camera, while also providing extreme mobility. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

In the above photograph, you can see my setup for stabilizing the camera when I am using my telephoto lenses, but I also require mobility and portability. This setup is comprised of three pieces of gear. I will highlight each of them for you. However, the one piece that I think you will find the most interesting is the ECKLASPHERE Swing Tripod.

 

ECKLASPHERE Sphere with quick release bracket sitting on a beanbag. Big lens is attached to quick release plate

The beanbag, quick release bracket, and ECKLASPHERE viewed up close. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

The ECKLASPHERE is the round gray disk attached to the bottom of my lens in the above picture.

However, before I delve into that…

Here is something that you may not be aware of – especially if you’ve never traveled to Africa to photograph wildlife, but you have a desire to. In the National Parks, you are not allowed to exit the vehicle. This is to protect the wildlife and the environment. And also to protect you!

 

ECKLASPHERE Sphere on a big beanbag in a car window. Big telephoto lens is attached to it

There are many different devices to secure a camera and lens to the window or door of a car or truck. The above setup is superior for wildlife photography. Read on to find out why. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

I like the use of the beanbag. It offers good support. However, it does not work well when you must pan or swivel your camera quickly and smoothly, which you will often do when photographing wildlife.

The ECKLASPHERE Swing Tripod offers a stable platform on top of the beanbag support, but now… I can swivel my camera with ease.

 

Ecklasphere with a quick release plate attached standing on ground

The final piece of this setup is a ‘quick release’ plate. I use these plates on all of my cameras and support devices. For example, I can quickly detach my camera from a tripod and move to the ECKLASPHERE in mere seconds. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher.

 

Ecklasphere with a quick release, including tools to attach the quick release

This photograph details the components of the ECKLASPHERE and quick release bracket. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

Why is this setup superior? You ask!

“You are smart! I knew you would ask this!” In the car or jeep, it is a superior method because it allows me to move very quickly from one window to the next. Imagine a lion approaches your jeep, and then circles it several times, as wildlife will often do, and your camera is stuck mounted to the window on one side. You will miss three sides! “Not Anette! I’m flying from window to window, because I am mobile with my ECKLASPHERE.” This is in my opinion an excellent tool!

 

Ghost crab standing right beside a wave coming in from the sea. Many bubbles

I captured this ghost crab on the beach in Africa, as he checked me out. For this captured, I used my ECKLASPHERE. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

Walrus is sitting on the beach, behind the sunrise with clouds and the Arctic sea

This walrus soaks up the light of the setting Sun. For this shot, I also used my ECKLASPHERE. •  Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

The above two photographs illustrate several other advantages to my ECKLASPHERE setup.

      • I can quickly and easily stabilize the camera from a very low angle.
      • It is very lightweight and easy to carry for long distances.
      • I can easily move my camera and the stabilizing platform, as the subject moves.

 
You can imagine that some movement on my part was critical to capturing the ghost crab in a close, perfectly composed, photograph. She was a quick little creature, and it was absolutely necessary to photograph her from a very low angle to see her amazing features. I also had to move frequently when photographing the arctic walrus, as he kept shifting his position to warm up different parts of his body with the sunshine.

 

Ecklasphere turned upside down to show the round bottom for the use in the field

The design of the ECKLASPHERE makes it not only portable, but it also allows maximum flexibility for composition- by easily adjusting the camera angle. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

If you closely study the above photograph of the ECKLASPHERE, you can see that there is a slight flattened bottom section, and then it gently tapers upward – toward the top of the sphere.

 

Side view of the ECKLASPHERE Sphere with a big lens attached

A side view of the ECKLASPHERE shows the unique shape that allows for stability and angle adjustment. • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

This curve is an excellent engineering detail! Imagine, that you have framed up your perfect wildlife photograph. However, the animal is moving. You notice that a slight change of angle on the camera would create a much better composition. Now, imagine that you are fumbling around with the locking knobs of your tripod, as you watch your picture dissipate into history. With the ECKLASPHERE, you steady the camera and with a fluid gentle movement, you tip to create your composition – fast, easy, smooth, and steady!

 

Black and white fine art photo of an African elephant walking towards to waterhole in Botswana

A gentle tip on the ECKLASPHERE creates a dramatic portrait of this fine fellow, while also keeping the horizon line straight in a perfect composition! • Photograph by Anette Mossbacher

 

There you have it my friends, a highly useful suggestion for your wildlife kit!

      • Sturdy beanbag support
      • Quick Release brackets
      • The ECKLASPHERE Swing Tripod

 
When you choose to join me on a photography workshop, or a photo adventure tour, I can teach you the finer points of using this remarkable stabilizing platform.

 

What Has The New FujiFilm X-H1 Camera To Offer

The New FujiFilm X-H1 Has To Offer • IBIS • New Shutter Button • Secondary LCD Monitor • Touch Screen • Larger Buttons… 

 

The opportunity came up to test the new FujiFilm X-H1 camera here in South Africa. The new camera had quite a few new “add ons” compared to the FujiFilm X-T2. For sure I was curious, I had the camera in a shop in my hands and tried it a bit, as far I was able to, in a shop environment! I love the new shutter button. It’s sensitivity is superb, as well the new exposure compensation button placed right beside the shutter button is a welcome, with changing the settings with a wheel. Very similar to my old Canon gear. The new secondary LCD monitor on top of the camera, is quite handy, I should not forget the new IBIS – integrated body photograph stabilisation of 5 stops. I was curious to test this new camera.
 
The question came up, where to go to test this FujiFilm X-H1 in the real world as a wildlife photographer . Well, due to some help of a lodge guide I have met at a workshop of mine the search was very short. She mentioned the Zimanga Lodge here in South Africa. I gave them a call, few emails forward backwards, all was set. The Zimanga Lodge provided terrific accommodations and guide services during my stay. The guides are outstanding I have to say, not to mention the wildlife and hides you will encounter there 😀
 

What I Like – What I Dislike About The New FujiFilm X-H1 Camera

In this post I will write what I like, as well what can be improved and what I dislike. While I was able to test the new FujiFilm X-H1 camera, FujiFilm neither paid me nor gave me a camera to keep as my own. This post is written on my very own to clear up many questions I receive about FujiFilm X-H1 camera. The camera I had to test was a loan from FujiFilm for a few days. I did end up purchasing the FujiFilm X-H1 camera for the full market price as everybody else out there! That said… then we start.
 

FujiFilm X-H1 Camera Top View of full body, the Eye cap, the dials for settings of photography, back display and all buttons on camera
 

X-H1 Key External Features

Body Style and Size

There are many digital cameras for professional photographers on the market. I consider the new Fujifilm X-H1 camera to be a great camera! It has a more substantial, tougher body built for durability with magnesium alloy, perfect for sports, wildlife and landscape photographers. The larger body of the FujiFilm X-H1 camera provides better balance when using longer lenses. It’s weather sealed to protect it from the elements of nature.

Some points I find good / great and some which I miss or dislike on this camera:

      • New Shutter Button – Sensitivity is just superb
      • Secondary LCD Monitor on top of camera – inbuilt light for at night, helpful here and there
      • Exposure compensation button beside shutter button, turn the back wheel to change these settings.
          • This EC-button should be a tad larger or a bubble on top to feel it better with your fingers!
      • Most of the button sizes have increased, including the back focus button.
          • Just not all! The buttons on the battery grip are still to small – this is missing! The grip is bigger, why not the buttons as well? I would love to know the reason/s that FujiFilm kept these buttons still same size as on the X-T2 camera. See photographs below.
      • Robuster Magnesium Body, better weather sealed. Looking forward to my next rock crabs session at the ocean! Then I will see, if it can stand the wave splashes as the X-T2 did.
      • Body is slightly larger to X-T2 camera, weight increased slightly, not a big deal actually. That the body is larger is a welcome for many out there I was talking to. For me as well.
      • The Eye Cup is bigger and much better as on the X-T2, I say it is much more comfy for your eye, or when you use glasses!

 

 Backside FujiFilm X-H1 camera booster grip or also battery grip showing the small buttons

The Battery Grip / Booster Grip of the new FujiFilm X-H1 with the same size of buttons as on the X-T2 below
 

Backside FujiFilm X-T2 Camera Booster Grip | Buttons Small
The Battery Grip / Booster Grip of the FujiFilm X-T2 – small buttons
 

Battery and Vision

The battery life of this camera is sufficient. The power booster grip is great for the extended battery life as well as an excellent handhold. Just it’s buttons are still to tiny. The grip is now larger, but the buttons not, compared to the X-T2! I was able to take photos throughout the 3-4 hour excursions at Zimanga. Since I was focusing more on wild animals photographs, I’m not sure how well the batteries will perform when I am out in the bush for a full day or taking long exposure landscape photos. I also did not try video, which also affects battery life quite a lot. At this point, I am pleased with how long they lasted on this trip! I do know, when out in the bush for a day tour, if the battery power goes low, I always can charge them via my USB plugs in my jeep. Just hook up the FujiFilm X-H1 body with a USB cable. It charges the battery in the camera body, but not in the battery grip! Keep that in mind.
 

Wildlife Photographers

will appreciate the low volume of the shutter release, making it less likely your subject will hear and take off. The shutter button itself is touch sensitive and placed at the front of the hand grip for easy access. The back focus button has been increased in size and is located in a better position than even the X-T2. For me this was quite a welcome in handling this camera out in the bush.
The bigger viewfinder allows for better clarity when looking through it to your subject, and the photographer can see how the photograph will look. The eyecup is further away from the body of the camera so those wildlife and landscape photographers with glasses will have an easier time using it!
Meanwhile, if you have now a tad more insight of this X-H1 camera, you might like to know more what this camera features insight, go over to the reasons why I switched from Canon to FujiFilm cameras. This post gives you even more insights about the menu and much more.
 

African Elephant Bull taken with the new FujiFilm X-H1 camera. Elephant walks towards photographer, landscape behind him, African bush
African elephant bull; I took this picture with holding the camera as deep as I could, back display flipped out and using it for composition and touch screen to focus. Works great, not to forget the electronic level!
 

FujiFilm X-H1 Internal Features

Settings and IBIS

The body of the camera passes the durability, comfort, and rugged tests, but how do the internal features stack up? Overall, they are great! The menu is user-friendly, and most of the settings are easy to access and customize. The touch display takes some getting used to, but the camera does have a handy tilting display for better viewing.

The menu is more or less the same as in the X-T2. Easier to understand.
The camera boasts a 24.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS III photograph sensor and 325-point autofocus. It has a new X-Processor Pro image-processing engine, and is mirrorless, of course. Well, the details in the photographs are really noticeable better as in the X-T2.
The new auto-focus algorithm got faster as in the X-T2, this I recognised right away.
 
Now the famous 5 Axis IBIS – the built-in shift stabilisation sensor, or integrated body image stabilisation of 5 stops. Sounds great, is great, WHEN you find the right menu options to access the IBIS! It’s not apparent, well not quite for me understandable. Where is it and where can I switch it on and off? Instructions are in the manual on page 129. I read it a few times to understand it. My mother tongue is not English, but my manual is. For me it is just not quite clearly written. Maybe for you!

The IBIS Switch ON/OFF Should Be Added To The Quick Menu!

 

Additional Features

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities come as standard. No extra buying gadgets on the market. Get the free App for your mobile, connect via wifi with your camera, that’s all. The FujiFilm X-H1 camera also boasts customizable back display for all capturing situations, and I could see the histogram while capturing wild animals photographs! This feature is one of my favorites, and I love it. The camera is capable of up to 14 frames per second of continuous taking pictures and offers both DCI 4K recording at 24 fps and 4K UHD video at 30 fps.
Overall, I enjoy using the new FujiFilm X-H1 camera.The camera produces great photo prints at 24.5 Megapixels, has great details and I love the results of my wildlife imaging. I’m looking forward to see its capabilities or not on my next trip to photograph landscapes. For sure I will see how the batteries will do with long exposure photography.

You might be interested how the FujiFilm X-T1 with Greenland Icebergs performed.
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