Taking the Canon 7D to the St. Petersburg Pier

by admin on June 17, 2010

The decision about which camera to take to try out when I went to the Poynter Institute’s backpack journalist seminar turned out to be an easy one. Canon had a demo EOS 7D available but no Rebel T2i.

It was bit a like giving a 16-year-old a Lamborghini with their learner’s permit but what the heck – into my knapsack went the 7D. As I stepped on the plane heading to the Poynter Institute I downloaded the manual onto my iPad to get started reading its 276 pages.

I was at the backpack journalist seminar thanks to a Jack Webster Foundation fellowship. Global TV’s Bal Brach also received a Webster fellowship and we were at Poynter learning ‘one-man band’ journalism. Lynn French, one of our instructors and assistant chief photographer and multimedia journalist at KPNX-TV  in Phoenix has been doing that for years. An award-winning journalist, she shared some broadcast stories in which she operated the camera, the sound, wrote the story, edited the video and created packages that looked like they were the creation of an entire crew.

Many of my classmates, like Bal were from a broadcast background and they opted for the more traditional video cameras for the course. There were times I wish I had followed suit but I feel that digital SLRs for video, even if they are still in relatively early days in that role, are the way of the future and best for backpack journalism.

My first challenge was trying to remember all the ins and outs of SLR. Kenny Irby, Poynter’s visual journalism group leader and director of diversity wasn’t worried – he said it would all come back to me when I started shooting with the camera.

Kenny Irby, Poynter Institute

I wish it was that easy, I have a portfolio of out-of-focus, under/overexposed shots to attest to just how much I forgot but finally, with help from Irby and classmates like WISTV’s Taylor Kearns, some started to turn out.

Taylor Kearns, a 'one-man band' at WISTV

The HD video of the 7D was worth the steep learning curve. For our final assignment we went to St. Petersburg’s pier, where we were to create and shoot our own stories. I documented my experience with the Canon 7D.

The 7D can be very unforgiving of shaky hands when you’re shooting video. A tripod is best, or a monopod and I had a borrowed monopod at the pier. It worked fine when I was taking videos of the pelicans at the pier. But when I decided it was time to talk into the camera I had to tie the monopod to a fence – not something I’d recommend with a camera that is now selling somewhere around $2,200. But my best sailor’s knots prevailed,  here’s how it turned out:

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