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Crabs, Sunsets, and Serendipity

Posted by Tom Benedict on 06/01/2014

This may be the last of my barrage of photography posts for a while. My vacation comes to an end the day after tomorrow, and tomorrow is entirely given over to obligations other than photography. (Though I might find a way to sneak out some time before sunset. Just… one… last… time!)

That being said, yesterday was a very good day. I went back to Waialea Bay to photograph sand crabs. I figured I’d hedge my bets and try to photograph them three ways:

Way #1 – The Shotgun: I stuck a Gopro in the sand near a crab hole, running a five second intervalometer. The idea here is that among the hundreds of pictures on the camera at the end of the day, a couple would have a crab in them. Pick the best one and call it good.

Way #2 – The Robot: I recently upgraded CHDK on my Canon A650 IS. The newest rev comes with a bunch of pre-loaded scripts, including one that does basic motion detection. I tested this out about a month ago, pointing it at a street. As each car drove by, the script tripped the shutter. After fifteen minutes I had a whole slew of pictures of cars. It worked like a charm on cars, so surely it would work on crabs!

Way #3 – Old School: I stuck my Canon T2i on a tripod, plugged in a cable release, and sat patiently until a crab poked its head out of its hole. Click!

As it turned out the Shotgun approach didn’t really work. I had a lot of pictures of sand, but no crabs. I think the blinking red light on the camera freaked them out. The Robot approach also didn’t work. For some reason the script kept timing out or something. I only had one photo on the camera, and that was just sand. But the Old School approach worked great. All it took was patience. I’d still like to go back and try this again, but I was happy with how it worked out.

Sand Crab 1

I learned something about crabs during all this: They startle easily. Flashing lights on cameras, the sound of mirrors slapping up, the sound of shutters tripping, anything out of the ordinary startled them and sent them scurrying back into their holes. I learned I could time my shutter to a crashing wave and not startle them. Waves they can deal with. Mechanical stuff, not so much.

Eventually the light started to fade and I couldn’t really photograph the crabs any more. So I stuck my ND10 filter on the lens and pointed my camera out to sea. I had this subject all picked out: a pile of rocks just offshore that would look like a mountain poking out of the clouds.

Cloud Mountain

It worked out ok, but trying to get this brought home one of the fallacies of doing long duration photography at a public beach park: If your shutter is open for any length of time, someone will walk in front of your camera during that time. The longer the time, the more likely someone will walk in front of you. Point your camera out into the water while people are swimming, and you can almost guarantee it.

That’s when I realized that the people walking in front of my camera were actually more interesting than the cloud mountain idea. So eventually I gave up, took the ND filter off, and ran with it.

Endless Summer

I got lucky with the Gopro as well. About the same time I switched from crabs to sunsets, I aimed my Gopro toward the sun and let the intervalometer keep going while I messed around with ND filters. I somehow missed this guy with my T2i, but the Gopro wound up with a keeper. I took out the characteristic Gopro fisheye with PTLens, but otherwise left it as it came off the camera.

Done for the Day

Four keepers in one day is extraordinary for me, and made up for some of the less than satisfying sessions I had over the past couple of weeks. It’s a great way to end a fantastic vacation.

– Tom


3 Responses to “Crabs, Sunsets, and Serendipity”

  1. Great results Tom. Interesting the crab stuff, I had no idea they are so camera shy! I see you de-fished the GoPro stuff, have you considered swapping the bug eyed lens for something more human?

    • Tom Benedict said

      I thought about it, but finally decided not to. One of the nicest ones I found was this one: It’s about $200 and lets you put any C-mount lens on a Gopro. Which is cool and all, except that the camera gets bigger, you lose your ability to weather seal it, and it essentially turns into a small video camera. At that point I’d rather go out and buy a small video camera and save my Gopro for other stuff.

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