As a content creator or vlogger, you know that you need to be able to rely on your gear to be able to produce the quality content your followers demand. And that means a camera that you can depend on, like the Nikon Z series mirrorless cameras.
Mirrorless cameras offer more features and functionality packed into a smaller package than the cameras your parents used to use. Sorry mom and dad!
The most important decision to make about a camera purchase is which one is right for your needs. So, you’ll want to think not only of what you’ll use the camera for today but what you might need it for in the future as well.
Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than DSLRs. If you want a super small and compact camera, an APS-C size/DX format model like the Z 30, Z 50 or Z fc would work well for your needs. Need the extra battery life, and robustness of a full frame/FX format camera? You may do well with the Z 5 or Z 6II.
And cameras are not just for taking pretty pictures either. Today’s mirrorless cameras can capture 4K video footage, time lapse videos in-camera and even slow motion at 100 or 120 fps.
Other features that are must-haves in today’s digital age are built-in Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi® so you can quickly and easily transfer photos and video to a compatible smartphone using the free SnapBridge app or transfer them wirelessly to a personal computer.
For the Do-It-Yourself Creator
For those creators who are the director, camera operator and host of your own videos, you’ve got flexible options for changing settings and starting and stopping video without having to walk off of your set to change settings.
The SnapBridge app on your smartphone practically turns your phone into a remote. Or use Nikon’s ML-L7 which is a small handheld remote that lets you control most Nikon mirrorless cameras.
The Creator’s Accessory Kit for Z 30 even gives you most everything you need to get started vlogging including a small handheld tripod/grip from Smallrig that even houses the ML-L7 remote control and a RØDE Videomicro™ microphone (with windscreen).
Why you need a dedicated camera
A mirrorless camera has a much larger and higher quality camera sensor than the one on your smartphone, so images and video you can produce in low light situations will look much better, be sharper, crisper and files will be cleaner with less noise. This makes post-production editing (if you need to go that route) much easier.
Along with the quality from the image sensor, you’ve got a lot more versatility in lens selection with an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera. Choose from ultra-wide and wide-angle lenses to macro lenses, telephoto and super-telephoto focal lengths. The variety of focal length choices can really make a difference in how your content is differentiated from someone using a smartphone (limited zoom or macro capabilities or depth of field control) to really make your subject pop against the background. Lastly, a larger image sensor will be able to provide more resolution, so you can actually crop into photos or video if you need to without the file degrading to the point of being unusable.
Her social handle is Savannah Rose Wildlife, and she’s a wildlife photographer. You could say she’s obsessed with the photographic pursuit of wildlife and splits her time between creating images for herself and as a camera assistant on wildlife documentary jobs. She’s also a tracker and scout.
Living in Jackson, WY allows Savannah access to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks as well as the Wyoming expansive public lands system.
Those interested in taking up wildlife photography will be happy to know that much of Savannah’s grizzly photography is created from the side of the road. Being in a vehicle or over 100 yards away ensures that both you and the bears are perfectly safe. However, she does spend a great deal of time in the woods, searching out elusive animals. And a lot of that time can be spent waiting and watching.
One factor I love about this ecosystem is the amount of opportunity to shoot wildlife you can have right from the road. While I prefer to adventure off on my own, I absolutely take advantage of this as well! I love the accessibility of the area to everyone of every skill level. You can roam into the high alpine backcountry or cruise the expansive road system if you prefer.
The single best tip I have for anyone who wants to elevate their wildlife photography or get into the craft is to familiarize yourself with track and sign. Good fieldcraft and naturalist skills make all the difference in the world. There are droves of excellent resources for all skill levels, from books to apps to websites.
It is of utmost importance to know that wild animals have boundaries you should never cross. When out in bear country, Savannah says to familiarize yourself with bear spray and how to use it in case of emergency. She also carries a GPS spot device with her that is capable of calling search and rescue through a satellite connection.
Ethics in the Woods
To Savannah, ethical photography of wildlife is her utmost concern. And she uses her social platforms to inform and educate her followers.
I believe that it is absolutely paramount that wildlife photographers give back to their subjects in some way. Otherwise, sharing their time is simply exploitative. I’m aware that I trespass in their home, intrude on their time, and I know to some extent disrupt the peace; although I try hard to be as noninvasive as possible.
Be An Ethical Wildlife Photographer
• Feeding or baiting wildlife creates unnatural dependencies on human food sources, leading to conflict, spread of disease, dangerous proximity to roads and civilizations: all result in untimely death. • Unsecured trash is another form of this problematic food conditioning, though largely unintentional, which is why people should be educated on what harmful practices they might be overlooking. • Unethical photography practices like the usage of hounds to tree bears or mountain lions for photography puts an incredible amount of stress on these animals. It is unacceptable to run an animal to the point of exhaustion for some photos. • It is crucial to practice good field ethics when photographing wild animals. That means not chasing animals, putting too much pressure on fragile sites like nests or dens, or putting yourself in a situation where an animal might feel like it needs to defend itself. • Safety of the animal is important. Understand that your presence is capable of disturbing the peace. Always let an animal leave a scene if it wants to.
Challenge your beliefs and contemplate how you can be on your best behavior in our wild friends’ home. They deserve it!
My all-time favorite subject is the elusive mountain lion. I’ve watched them slink from shadow to shadow under the light of a full moon, careful not to reveal their presence even in the dead of night. I also enjoy spending time with grizzly bears, which are sentient and powerful creatures. Where the cats are shy, the grizzlies are proud. The cats are subtle, the bears are obvious. In addition to these incredible apex predators, my favorite subjects are always the ones that are the most hidden. Nesting Great Grey owls and goshawks, Martens and weasels, pikas and beavers, and the rare boreal owl. Truly, there are just too many amazing creatures to mention!
Gear that needs to last
Savannah notes that she is not gentle on her gear, and neither is the wild. “One of the main reasons I’ve stuck with Nikon throughout my entire photography career is the substantial quality of gear that endures my abuse,” she says.
A big part of Savannah’s photography includes the setup of camera traps. These remote cameras need to survive intense abuse by the weather and curious bears. Even though the cameras are housed in boxes, she explains that bears learn through touch. “They will not hesitate to get their mouth on anything they find interesting. My lenses have been slobbered on quite a bit and sport a few teeth marks as well but so far, they are still producing great quality images.”
What is a camera trap?
A camera trap is a form of remote photography, in which you place a camera in the wild, that captures candid images of animals in their natural habitat, triggered by a motion sensor. The results are unpredictable.
I like to think that the unique quality of the animals’ presence interacting with your [remote’s] premeditated composition is like the subject having autonomy over how their portrait is taken.
Savannah tries to keep her camera traps out all the time but notes they can be laborious to maintain. It’s not as easy as just turning on a camera and walking away. And plenty of factors are outside of your control: severe weather, animals knocking the kit over, humans tampering with the setup, blowing branches setting off false triggers, and animals not behaving how you anticipated.
My gear does often get grief from bears as they are quite curious and tactile creatures. Usually, they take the opportunity to stop and play with the new toy they have found. Last year, I even had a black bear carry a camera to her bed site and chew on the case all night! Luckily, the camera inside survived the ordeal.
The f/2.8 window
I believe there is a vastly important window of creative expression between f/2.8 and f/4 that is worth the investment for my work, and why I use a 400mm lens and not a 500mm or 600mm. I absolutely love razor sharp depth of field in an up-close wildlife shot.
Savannah says the sharpness of an animal’s eyes while the rest of the image falls away into a dreamy background, “actually represents the moment of the encounter as accurately as possible.”
In a close eye to eye encounter, you’re transfixed as you stare into the animal’s eyes, and they stare into yours. My f/2.8 portraits represent this connection to me and that is the story I want to tell in my work.
The extra f/stop is also valuable in that Savannah often photographs at dawn, dusk and night-time, not in bright sunlight, so the fast nature of the lens means she’ll be able to come home with usable images that hold up from the most dramatic conditions.
Patience is a Virtue
I think I very likely have more patience than most. I’m perfectly comfortable sitting in a blind for hours, as long as there’s a chance of something magical happening … My finished work makes it look like I frequently am face to face with wildlife up-close, when in reality most of my hard drives are filled with animals grazing or walking away. The real up close, face to face types of encounters are in the minority for sure.
Savannah says she tries to be more of a “fly on the wall” when capturing animal behavior with her photography. “I believe there is an element of consent in wildlife photography that is not often discussed,” she says. Best-case scenario: the animals she’s photographing are indifferent to her existence. “Every once in a while you’re lucky to have a wild creature approach with curiosity. These fearless, wonderful moments of interspecies connection are what mean [the] most to me,” she adds.
Creating engaging videos
Along with sharing her photographs, Savannah shares her exploits using short videos on Instagram and TikTok, which she finds to be the quickest way to garner attention for her work. She explains: “Creating punchy, engaging short videos is an art form in itself that is still new to me, and I am enjoying learning how to best use this format to reach out to people.” Along with giving context to her images and bringing those stories to life, she’s found them to be a positive avenue for her business, gaining several thousand followers in a day from videos going viral. “A viral post is incredibly helpful for my small business, in which every order placed makes a difference,” she adds.
The film “Chasing No One” is a personal story. It is Anthony Riso’s story, capturing what was in his heart and his mind. And he’s found that those who view the film find it resonates with their own lives.
“Usually when I’m thinking about my own life and a struggle I’ve had to face, and I happen to be listening to music that provokes emotion, a scene starts to form in my head. If I can expand on that scene and create a story that will resonate with others, I hurry like a madman to get it out into the world.”
“I’m an emotional person, and I’m constantly reflecting on life. Sometimes I just let my emotions take the reins and hold on for dear life. So, I guess you could say my inspiration comes from being out in the world and being true to my emotions. Music is a catalyst for that inspiration while I’m out and about in the world.”
“I think photography is interesting because it’s a medium that shows so much but tells very little. So much is left to the viewer’s interpretation. Video can at times be a more ‘in-your-face’ kind of storytelling where the meaning isn’t left to interpretation. That’s not to say video can’t also be subtle, but I think it’s maybe easier to be subtle when telling a story with photography than video..”
Anthony is always striving to become a better storyteller, especially since he’s made the move to video,
“Finding key clips to fit into a timeline for a video is like crafting my own jigsaw puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle that needs to come together to look like what I had pictured in my mind.“
Make the Switch
The switch from stills to video can be daunting.
“In stills, you don’t have to worry about aspects like audio quality, continuity editing, and a whole host of video-specific details that can make or break a finished film. Video editing in itself is a major departure from still photography editing.”
You can spend hours upon hours learning a new editing technique and perfecting it, to be used on screen for mere seconds.
“A lot of the small editing tweaks in video (the most subtle and minute details that most people wouldn’t notice) are what make a film truly unique.”
Anthony’s advice to other still photographers longing to make the switch to video: watch hours and hours of YouTube tutorials.
“It sounds like trivial advice, but trust me, there are some incredibly talented people creating on YouTube, and they are willing to show their tricks to everyone wanting to learn. Watch what the other video creators are doing and try to emulate it.”
He also suggests taking the camera you do have and creating a video. Not sure what to shoot? Pick any subject and create a video.
“Create a 30 second Instagram story of yourself doing something during the day. Break that thing you’re doing into small clips and use the clips in your Instagram story as cuts to take the viewer on a journey. Pat yourself on the back for creating something instead of nothing. Rinse. Repeat.”
Don’t get caught up in all the gear either.
“I meet a lot of photographers and videographers just starting out who want the “latest and greatest” equipment and spend thousands of dollars, but what they don’t realize is that the finished product won’t be any different if you haven’t learned the medium in which you create art.”
Anthony’s first camera was a D5300 with the 18-55mm kit lens.
“When I was just starting out—it was about the satisfying “click” of the shutter and messing around with the camera in manual mode in order to really find my artistic voice. I didn’t really notice the constraints of equipment. I fell in love with the medium of photography first. I’m a complete geek about photography and video gear today, but that’s because I found my voice and know which tools I need to amplify that voice.”
Anthony spends a good deal of his free time caring for gray wolves at a local wolf sanctuary, which also happens to be the subject of a future project, so stay tuned…
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