Using human-developed camera technology to look at the world from the perspective of another species takes some working out. However, there’s nothing like just doing it.
Production got underway on Eye of the Corvus in a small way with some experimental shoots at the end of 2018. Learning how to get the best from my Mavic Pro drone took some time, given I was trying to not only fly in and out of trees, swoop, and pan as a bird might scan the horizon, but also watch out for obstacles, altitude, and remaining battery levels, was far more challenging than I’d been led to believe.
On road trips over several months, I’d been scouting for locations that represent the landscapes I’m keen to include. However, I’ve also tried to be ready to shoot events as they arise – dust and rain storms, and foggy mornings. I’m lucky I have a picturesque peri-urban* landscape at my back door for these short notice opportunities.
My first official shoot took place about 70km south-west of Narromine (west of Dubbo NSW), on 7 March. Armed with my drone, Olympus Tough action camera, and Panasonic GH4, several tripods and ZOOM H2n for capturing surround, atmospheric sound, I had two key locations in mind based on a previous scouting trip and Google map studies.
My camera kit also now contains a Garmin Virb 360 camera to capture virtual reality footage. After testing it out on a foggy morning in the bush across from my house, it’ll now accompany me on more planned trips into regional NSW over the next few months to capture more of the landscape, as well as some of the urban areas of our small communities and regional city of Dubbo.
I expect my technique for shooting will be refined as I go – in particular, my gimbal technique on the drone to capture lateral views. I’m attempting to use my scientific understanding of how ravens see the world to capture ultrawide horizontal views and macro footage, along with lateral views. Some situations require the cameras to be extremely close to the action, as in hovering beside roadkill as heavily laden trucks and cars pass by. This is where the small action camera comes into its own, despite some difficulties getting it into position when working beside rotting roadkill on busy routes.
The concentration required to intensively work multiple cameras on location – often having to think about each being a left eye or right eye, using my phone to operate the drone and get some documentation photos, and ensuring batteries can be charged up between sites, has kept the shoots fairly short – between one and three hours.
For now, the sound is ‘native’, atmospheric sound. It’ll eventually be layered, with some sounds extracted for different treatment in the finished work.
* Peri-urban is the space between our towns and cities and wide, open farmland.
Crows aren’t so much left- or right-beaked as they are left- or right-eyed, published by the University of Oxford. Crows aren’t so much left- or right-beaked as they are left- or right-eyed.
An interesting study in Nature Journal comparing the ‘bandwidth of cognition’ between crows and primates, reporting the performance of two carrion crows on a working memory paradigm adapted from a recent experiment in rhesus monkeys. The accompanying illustrative figure shows the different uses of each eye, as well as the binocular field.