GeoTracking – Canon’s New EOS 1Dx

Canon GP-E1 GPS

Canon New GP-E1 GPS

Overview (from Canon)

“Canon has brought the best of the EOS-1D Series of digital cameras into one phenomenal model: the new flagship of the EOS line, the EOS-1D X*. Its full-frame 18.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor and all-new Dual DIGIC 5+ Image Processors deliver high quality image capture at up to 12 fps (14 fps in Super High Speed Mode) and a powerful ISO range of 100 – 51200 (up to 204800 in H2 mode) provides sharp, low-noise images even in the dimmest low-light conditions. An all-new, 61-Point High-Density Reticular AF and 100,000-pixel RGB Metering Sensor that uses a dedicated DIGIC 4 Image Processor, makes the EOS-1D X reach new levels of focus speed and accuracy delivering advanced tracking even for the most challenging shooting situations. Taken all together, the EOS-1D X’s improved HD video capture, numerous connectivity options, combination of processing power and durable construction, including shutter durability tested to 400,000 cycles, make it the ultimate EOS.”

Ya, just another camera body you say – but here might be the kicker (I’m hoping to get a system to test ASAP – then will report here and on my general photo-travel blog as well as our Great Apes Diaries “the making of” blog.)  Canon is also introducing the Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E6A and the all-new Canon GPS Receiver GP-E1.


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When Pictures Won’t Lie

Mississippi River floodwaters Dow Chemical plant

Rising floodwaters of the Mississippi River approaching Dow Chemical plant in Cancer Alley at Morrisonville south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo taken 05.17.11 GPS: 30° 31’93″ N at 91° 21’56″ W

“I want the truth” – “You can’t handle the truth”

Seeing is believing.  Someone just sent me more photos of the Mississippi River’s ability to inundate the lives of the people who have decided to erect their futures on the floodplains of history.  About a dozen images that could be divided into two categories – 1) the flooding of the Mississippi River below Vicksburg, and 2) the flooding of the Mississippi River at Vicksburg.

What one immediately notices, besides lots of cafe au late colored water, is the scale of flooding and the visual impact on human lives and infrastructure – group #1 not much, group #2 considerable.

A few weeks ago I was on assignment in California covering the Amgen Tour of California pro bicycle race.  Before I could watch the first stage pedal off from the start-line I was asked to fly to the Mississippi River’s lower delta and document the flooding disaster.  The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, at the panic urging of the State of Louisiana, had opened the spillways at a couple of sites – Bonnet Carre and Morganza – as well as the Old River Control System built after the nightmarish 1927 floods–which 2011 waters were approaching.  If the spillways weren’t opened New Orleans and Baton Rouge were in waters way.  Perhaps more importantly were the chemical factories and oil refineries between the two cities – infamously known as Cancer Alley.  No one was saying it, but the fear had to be that if the Mississippi burst its banks (or Corp levees) the toxic gumbo in this stretch would pour all over the Big Easy – and the entire Mississippi Delta wetlands.  Frankly that would make the BP oil disaster look like kids’ play.

bauxite waste at an aluminum manufacturing plant.

Gumbo toxin - bauxite waste at an aluminum manufacturing plant - potential poison in the floodwaters of the lower Mississippi River, Cancer Alley, Darrow, Louisiana (above and below.)

bauxite waste at an aluminum manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, for the client, the Japanese-like tsunami wave imagined never arrived.  The reality was more like a slowly leaking bathtub.  Visual, but not horrific.  A couple days of aerial haven’t seen much viewing.  And that’s sad.  Not so much because I need to have my photos published, rather we should using them to illustrate a point.  Expand on the discussion.  Prepare for a future nightmare of true tsunami proportions.

Unfortunately, these pictures just didn’t lie enough, unlike those of the general media and the sets being passed around the web (see my comments in Flooding Fiction.)  As an environmental photojournalist that’s my concern every time I work – the real issues are subtle, they visually bio-accumulate, and the images alarm quietly.  We have become a citizenry of poor listeners, and poorer seers.  Blinded by all but the brightest images.

My thanks to pilot Tom Hutchins and for making these aerials possible.

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More Other Worlds…

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Aerial Magic and Other Worlds

untouched wetlands Florida

For months now Tom (Hutchings) has been waxing on about “this place.”  As we flew over the Atchafalaya Delta and other wetlands he would say, “just wait ’till you see those wetlands in Florida.”  Saturday we did – all I can say is my god it was another world!  Flying above it was aerial magic.  Just insanely magical – like nothing I had seen before.  Not a straight-line in sight.  Just the elegant, graceful, sensual curves of a planet untouched.  Wow!  Afterwards what tugs at your heart is that was once what the bayous and backwaters of the Mississippi Delta looked like – until we F#&@ed it up.

To see more Other World images 

Many thanks to pilot and friend Tom Hutchings and

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The Miracle of Flight

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

For as long as I live on this planet flight will remain one of the most amazing feats ever achieved - by any creature. Over the past several days I have been trying to get a few last sections of the Louisiana Gulf Coast documented from the air - weather has stifled the effort - today looks very promising so I sit waiting on my pilot Tom Hutchings, flying for, to pick me up. As I wait at this tiny airstrip in the bayou country of SW Louisiana the sky is alive with soaring, sailing and flapping egrets, herons, pelicans and a host of smaller birds. Each works the sky with stunning agility, twisting and banking with acrobatic deftness I only wish I could attempt - even with the aid of Tom's skill and experience. It's part of the beauty of photography and filming - for those few moments we get to share the thrill of being airborne, the experience, the flight. Photo: Canon 7D, 560mm @ f/9; 1/1250sec.; ISO250. Copyright Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures.

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“It just needs ‘bush technique'”

Canon 7D

The easily movable Mode Dial on the Canon 7D (and 5D) can switch with a slight bump; Some solutions are simple - "bush technique".

Here’s the problem, that Mode Dial on the Canon 7D and 5D, it rotates far too easily.  In fact, it commonly rotates with the slightest encouragement – a gentle bump.  Something that easily happens when flipping the On/Off switch.  More than a few folks have complained to me about it.  The issue came to a head for me a few hundred feet over the Gulf.  I was flying along, firing off images of the convoluted stream patterns in the marshes, when I did a quick check on the LCD monitor – crap! everything blown out!!  The dial had rotated to “M” from “Av”.  Errrrrrgh!!

A few years ago I was working in north central Kenya and my 4wd had mechanical issues beyond my resources to fix.  I pulled into a frontier town-looking auto shop, popped open the ‘bonnet’ and look at that problematic alternator.  Immediately I was surrounded by professional mechanics – seemed Isiolo was a town where every male was a mechanic. After considerable shouting and threats by me to keep your hands out of my motor this elephant-sized human strolls up wiping his hands on a rag, the crowd parts like the Red Sea.  He stares into my motor, I say “alternator I think”.  He looks a bit longer then takes the wrench from me and tries to free the bolt – the cheap wrench snaps.  Without hesitation he reaches in with his hand and forearm and breaks the alternator free, saying, “It just needed bush technique.” An hour later I was off and running.

Some solutions are simple – bush technique. In the case of a Mode Dial – gaffer tape.

Canon 7D

"Bush technique" - a bit of black gaffer's tape holds the Mode Dial in place.

I wish Canon had taken care of this in the design lab.  It’s really simple Canon designers, just create a click-stop or small flip-lock.  This solution is an old one, found on numerous cameras over the past few decades, call it design bush technique.

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Geo Tracker with Canon 7D

Florida Gulf Coast

Now, with the new Geo Tracker system worked out, returning to find 29° 58’51″ N at 85° 30’05″ W, won't be a problem.

Geo tracking with the Canon 7D and WFT-e5a was outlined in my last post

Wireless Wings – Geo Tracks Across the Sky

Here are the modifications and updates I talked about testing and promised to re-post on.

The first issue was a tweak to the Bluetooth size issue.  The test Bluetooth projected out from the Canon WFT-e5a unit a bit too far for my liking.  I knew regardless of he precautions it was simply a matter of time before the Bluetooth was bumped, bent and/or snapped off – a mess if this happened on a flight, where multiple bodies are being shuffled around hurriedly.  The solution is the “IOGear USB 2.1 Bluetooth Micro Adapter GBU421″ below.  Look at that thing, super tiny.  In fact so tiny one could probably build it right into the WFT – hey!?  What a great idea!  Canon???

“IOGear USB 2.1 Bluetooth Micro Adapter GBU421″.

Size of a one-cent coin the IOGear USB 2.1 Bluetooth Micro Adapter GBU421 - perhaps buy a couple, they could be easy to lose in the shuffle of gear.

Ironically the only concern I have about the “IOGear USB 2.1 Bluetooth Micro Adapter GBU421″ is its Lilliputian size – it’s so small I can see losing the little bugger.  So I jumped back on Amazon an ordered a couple extra, at $12 it’s worth it.

IOGEAR USB 2.1 Bluetooth micro adapter in Canon WFT-e5a

Once inserted into the USB port of the WFT-e5a the IOGear USB 2.1 Bluetooth Micro Adapter GBU421 is even smaller - only protruding a scant 10mm from the wireless unit. Also the micro adapter's curved edges makes it like a mere bump: unnoticed by my hands since the WFT body casing actually protrudes further.

IOGEAR USB 2.1 micro adapter in Canon WFT-e5a

Never one to baby gear or fret about resale, I'm considering cutting off the rubber door to the USB port - it now protrudes more than the Bluetooth micro adapter. Seriously, look at that thing - the adapter - there's nothing to it! This is how simple it would be for Canon to build this unit into the WFT so no Bluetooth adapter was required - it would be worth an extra $12 - or more.

The next newly tested item will be a GPS transmitter.  My original tests on a Garmin GPS 10x did not work – I’m testing other models. Honestly the OnCourse tested on the initial flights in the Gulf worked fine, I just have a bit of brand loyalty to Garmin since all the other units of theirs have worked flawlessly for me.

The Garmin GPS 10x. is also small.  Measuring  mere 75mm x 40mm x 12 mm, and weighing virtually nothing, I think will be able to duct-tape this thing just about anywhere.  It has a transmission range of 7+ meters so I can locate it anywhere in the plane, helicopter or boat that I need to.

I will be further field testing this combination in the Gulf over the coming weeks and report back on the result as well as some images from both Florida and SW Louisiana.

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