One of the most common questions I get is what camera equipment do I recommend? I ask that question to other industry professionals all the time. And you know what? I get a different answer every time. People are going to suggest whatever it is that they like and are comfortable with. So it should come as no surprise that I am going to suggest what it is that I am “currently” comfortable with and using. I am always looking for a better way of doing things but a person has to keep in mind the practicality of certain things. Especially when it comes down to something that has the potential to turn your regular hunting trip into a fiasco. Hunting, especially bow hunting, is not easy. Filming is not easy. Now combine the two. What the heck are you thinking? For more specific information for what camera equipment might be the best for your hunting style contact the professionals at Campbell Cameras or send us an email.
Evey hunting situation is different. Thus every filming situation is going to be different. So too will be your basic camera set-up. Filming Whitetail hunts out of a blind or tree stand is much different than filming a spot and stalk hunt on the ground. To keep things simple this post is going to be broken down into two basic levels. Backpacking in to the back country and filming off the ground spot and stalk style or “Flash Filming” and a basic setup for a tree stand and hunting blind or “Static Filming”. Just remember with either type of set up that most of us watch hunting television for much more than just the impact shots. We like to see the entire story and have the ability to feel like we are on the hunt by seeing what is going on around the actual kill.
Lets start off with “Static Filming”.
Setting up to hunt in a location where the animals are supposed to move towards you is always going to be much easier to film (in theory) than when you have to beat feet and try to move to the animal. Not always the case but statistically speaking. That is what is so difficult about hunting whitetails out of a tree is that you are not always just hunting for the deer, you are hunting the entire property for the right location and set up where the deer are supposed to be. For all you Western boys who have never hunted whitetails, it is not as simple as sitting up in a tree and waiting. Especially when you are going beyond just deer hunting and stepping into Mature Buck hunting. In any case this is supposed to be a filming post not a hunting post.
When you know that you are going to be in one location hunting a deer then the setup for your camera becomes a bit easier and can be more of a routine that you should practice over and over. Weather in the tree or in a blind, my setup is very similar. We set up to film the same as we do when we set up to hunt. I want to be able to see the direction that the deer are supposed to be coming from. I want my Camera to be at the same height as where my bow is going to be when it comes time to draw. Using a solid and fluid moving tree arm or tripod head is a must as well as a lanc remote of some kind. This will keep your hands off the camera and back closer to your body for as little movement as possible. As of late I have been mounting my GoPro HD Hero 2 above me either in the same tree or one right next to me. I then use my main camera on the tree arm for capturing the shot. Often I have another Go Pro either on my head or mounted to my bow for that second and third camera angle. To keep things simple when starting off I would suggest only running the main camera on the tree arm and not getting your mind boggled with remembering to turn everything on. I have burned myself out of a couple good opportunities to kill by getting too caught up with the cameras and not paying enough attention to the hunt. Here is a simple video with a basic setup out of a tree stand.
Filming on the ground or out of a blind is basically the same as filming out of a tree stand. Camera at the right on a solid tripod with a good fluid head and about the same height as where my bow is going to be at the time to draw. The longer you can follow the animal with the camera the better results you will get with the footage. It can be very tempting to just move the camera to where the deer is going to walk through and then hurry up and shoot when he gets there but it leaves a lot of the deers movements and manorisms out of the footage. Most of us like to watch hunting for more than just the impact shot. Here is another short video of some of the basic cameras that I use out of the tree or ground blind.
OK, now for my favorite style “Flash Filming”.
Flash Filming is what I call the run and gun, on the ground, beat feet Solo style of filming. I have a passion for this type of filming mainly because that is how I like to hunt. I love living out of a Badlands Backpack for days on end and I love to have the mobility when hunting to get somewhere in a hurry and have all the crap with me I need to survive if I decide I don’t want to go back down the mountain for couple days. When I take the time to film this the right way, I love the results that I get on screen. I love the motion and angles that a person can get with this Random Style of filming. Here is a video clip with some good examples of Flash filming.
I absolutely love using the smaller and compact POV or Point of View Cameras like the GoPro HD, Contour HD and Kodak PlaySport for great motion and transition shots as well as getting that Hunters Point Of View angle that is so difficult to re-create. There is nothing like capturing a shot in real time from the same angle that the hunter sees as the action goes down. Most TV Shows get around this by shooting a re-enact or re-create of the hunting situation and usually from a forward position as the hunter moves toward the camera. To me this does not look natural and unless the hunter is a real good actor it can come off cheesy and detracts from the hunt. I have seen several shows with incredible footage of the hunt leading right up to the point of the kill and then they fill the screen with a dozen random shots of a recreation of the actual moment. This is supposed to add to the dramatization of the hunt but in most cases it is just another opportunity for the producer to add a few more sponsor impressions of the gear. Whatever…. Basically I think these POV camera angles just look dang cool when done right. It also allows me to show the viewer how I get from point A to point B and transitions me to the next segment of the hunt. This is what we are trying to accomplish with Solo Hunters Television.
For the Flash Style of filming and basically a flash style of hunting, A guy needs to have a camera setup that is going to be quick and easy to access and very simple to use. I have chosen a the POV cameras for the practicality of their use in a difficult or hurried situation and I also like the smaller Canon HFS series of cameras for the same reason. These cameras have a small impact on my back and a big impact on screen. The main thing is mobility. The smaller HD cameras, when attention is paid to proper lighting, can turn out just as good of a picture as a larger high dollar HD camera. There are obvious limitations to the smaller cameras but for most purposes it is the way to go. I generally always use a Raynox HD wide angle lens for most of the filming and then attach a Raynox 2.2x HD extender lens for longer range filming. This is plenty of camera for most hunting situations. Now if I wanted to smack a deer at 600 yards with a rifle then I might need a bit more lens.
In conclusion, in order to give yourself the best possible opportunity to get a hunt on film, a guys just needs to know his limitations. You need to be able to put yourself into a situation that will allow you to get it done. Sometimes it is just not going to be physically possible to move around with a camera and a bow in hand and not spoil your hunt. So your hunting style needs to be able to be adjusted for the use of a camera if it is that important to you. For us it is our business. It is our chosen style to portray on film. Not every hunt will be the best and not every hunt will it be possible to film it entirely Solo. Although we are going to try. As a producer, I am willing to compromise the quality of footage on a kill shot for the unique quality of a Solo adventure caught on film by a Solo Hunter. It’s not very easy but it is very real.
Go Hard Go Solo!