April 25, 2019
Véronique Amiard photographing an old bull that has just cast its antlers. CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM, 1/4sec, f/22, ISO 400.
Last February 2018, I started to film the French photographer Véronique Amiard that lives in Gaspésie, Quebec. My goal was to make a one hour wildlife documentary featuring this woman -I named her BOREALE, when she was looking for moose along rivers and in the forests of the Gaspesie national park, in Quebec.
Frozen river. Moose are often seen along these rivers where they feed on cedar trees.CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM +1,4x converter, 1/1000sec, f/8, ISO 200.
"Boréale" is deaf from birth and she has an extraordinary ability to track animals in winter. She has a real passion for the moose that she has been looking for in this national park for many years.
"Boreale" with an antler a moose lost in January. Antlers can weigh up to 70 pounds and their loss offers a survival advantage to the bulls. CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF17-35mm f/2,8L USM, 1/85sec, f/16, ISO 400.
It is a film about a passion for nature and animals. It is also a film about the daily life of moose during the coldest time of the year. During 4 months from February through May we have following about ten different moose -males and females with calves- and we have tried to get then accustomed to our presence. Thus we have been able to photograph and film them without them showing stress.
A female moose rests under a snow fall. Spending a lot of time with animals helps to get them used to our presence. CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM + 1,4 converter, 1/85sec, f/8, ISO 640.
By following Mrs Amiard in the forest and along rivers we can discover the life of moose during the coldest period of the year. We learn about how they feed, about the way they survive the harsh weather conditions and we learn that they can tolerate humans when they realize that we are not dangerous.
10 month old bull crossing an ice bridge over the river. CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM +1,4x converter, 1/100sec, f/7.1, ISO 640.
Documentaries on moose often feature these animals during the rutting season in September and October and more rarely during the winter season. That's why in my new film -BOREALE AU COEUR DE L'HIVER-( Boreale in the heart of winter) I decided to film these animals in the Gaspesie national park in Quebec, during the coldest months of the year.
Female moose and a 10 month old bull standing under a snowstorm. CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM + 1,4 converter, 1/50sec, f/16, ISO 640.
Véronique Amiard in the company of a 10 month old bull. This young bull used to come for a visit when we walked along a part of a river. Fig 17. CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM, 1/30sec, f/7.1, ISO 640.
The key to success in filming wildlife is often connected to the time we spent in the outdoors, to the knowledges about the species and to the way we approach the species. For this film, we spent weeks with he same moose and we ended up being part of the landscape. Wildlife photography in the coldest of winter requires some preparation. In addition to the physical preparation, allowing to support the low temperatures and to move on a difficult terrain, we also need to prepare the material of shooting.
In winter, moose feed on twigs of trees and shrubs and on needles of balsam fir and cedar trees. CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF70-200mm f/2,8L USM, 1/160sec, f/6.3, ISO 640.
I and Boréale used the same bodies and lenses CANON EOS 7D MARK II and CANON lenses from 17-35mm to 500mm f/4 L IS USM. Even with temperature below -25 C we didn't have problems with the bodies and lenses.The equipment worked perfectly throughout the coldest days. For the batteries, we had many spare ones in a zip log we kept at the body temperature inside our clothes. After filming for a whole day in the cold, we were careful to put the material in a large plastic bag before returning to a warm shelter. I mention that when we are returning from shooting in the cold, we need to put everything in a plastic bag before to get in a warmer place. Not only the cameras and lenses but also the SANDISk cards flash, the batteries and the portable hard drives.
In the Gaspésie National Park, snow often falls in early October. The moose that were competitors during the rut are now seen together in feeding areas. CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF70-200mm f/2,8L USM, 1/1300sec, f/8, ISO 640.
Bull moose with growing antlers in April. CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM, 1/125sec, f/16, ISO 640.
It is always a mistake to recharge the batteries or to download the cards as soon as we get back to a warmer places. As in the cameras and lenses, the condensation will come to fix inside if they transit too quickly from extreme cold to a warmer place. You have to let everything slowly warm up in bag before using it. When you get back from the cold take the time to please yourself with a nice hot drink and a sauna or a hot bath and allows time for the equipment to warm up.
Mrs Véronique "Boréale" Amiard is able to track and find moose even in the worst weather conditions.CANON EOS 7D MARK II, CANON EF 500mm f/4L,IS,USM.1/125sec, f/22, ISO 640.
I also would like to advise photographers to use the contrast function in the camera when there is more or less contrats in the outdoor. In winter, during a sunny day, there may be a strong contrast between the photographed animal, such as a dark-colored moose, and the white snow around it. It is possible on certain cameras like the CANON EOS 7D MARK II to modify the intensity of the contrast with a camera function. With the sun, we can reduce the contrast by one or two notches and during a cloudy day, we can increase it. This usually gives good results and avoids too much work in post production.
Bio: Philippe Henry is a photographer specialized in wildlife and conservation, a writer and a filmmaker. He is based in La Mauricie, in Quebec. His last book - The Alligator of Texas- was published by Texas A&M University Press / USA. You can follow his photography and watch dozens of short video and film trailers on his facebook page. Photo of Philippe by Veronique Amiard.
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