Fishing by Wolves

A group of scientists just published a paper in the journal Mammalian Biology that describes wolves catching and eating freshwater fish. The researchers had put tracking collars on wolves, which showed that one group of wolves was spending an unusual amount of time in one spot. They set up cameras to see why the wolves were staying in one location and not moving as much as other groups. The cameras showed that the wolves were catching fish in a particular spot along a stream. That video was included in the online article. You can see it here.

I’ve talked before about using video to document wildlife, which could be used to augment a journal article. In this case, the video showed the reader exactly how the wolves were catching fish and supported the authors’ verbal description of this behavior.

7 Minutes of Terror (NASA) – How NOT to Bore Your Video Audience

Scientists are increasingly using video to share their work with colleagues and the public, but struggle to make their information interesting and understandable. In the video review embedded below, I used the NASA/JPL-Caltech video, 7 Minutes of Terror, to discuss ways to improve science videos.

The NASA video provides several great examples of techniques to sustain viewer interest and to improve understanding and retention of technical information—in this case, it’s literally “rocket science”. I break down the NASA video to illustrate how the use of visuals, metaphors, non-technical language, and a 3-part story structure can help science video makers avoid boring their audience to death. Take a look:

If you find this review useful, please “like” my video on YouTube. Want more video reviews like this? Leave a comment here or on YouTube to let me know what you would like to see.

How to Shoot Fisheye, Wide Angle, and Macro Views with an iPhone

If you would like to take your videography/photography with the iPhone to the next level, you might be interested in the Ōlloclip, a 3-in-1 lens (fisheye, wide angle, macro) combination that clips onto the phone. It’s small, lightweight, and easy to use. My husband gave it to me as a gift, and I finally got around to testing it out on a recent trip. The version I have is the original Ōlloclip with three lenses for the iPhone 5/5s. The company has newer versions with four lenses (fisheye, wide angle, 10x and 15x macro). They also sell a telephoto and a few accessories (see There is also an app for the Ōlloclip in the App Store, which helps to compose your shots during filming.

I’m still exploring ways to use the Ōlloclip, but thought I would do a quick video review/tutorial about it:

I was impressed with the design and quality of the device. Basically, there are three lenses fashioned into a double-sided clip that can be easily flipped around to access either the fisheye lens (one side) or the wide angle-macro lenses (other side). The fisheye provides a 180 degree view of a scene, and the wide angle approximately doubles the field of view from the normal iPhone camera. To access the macro (10x on my version), you unscrew the wide angle lens. You have to get within about an inch (10-15 mm) of the subject to focus the macro properly (the app contains a loupe that helps to ensure a good focus with the macro).

The clip slips onto the top edge of the iPhone so that the desired lens is covering the rear-facing camera. The clip fits over a screen protector, but is too snug to work with a standard phone cover (other than one that Ōlloclip sells). The clip also covers the power switch on the top of the phone, but this is not a problem as a slot in the clip prevents it from pressing on the switch. You can still access the phone menu through the “Home” button.

All in all, I found the Ōlloclip to be well-made and easy to use. It seems to be pretty rugged, although it probably would not survive a drop to concrete. Due to its small size, the Ōlloclip is convenient to carry in a pocket or purse; however, the Ōlloclip’s small size also makes it easy to lose–so be careful. I carry it inside the provided bag but then store that in a larger bag along with some other iPhone accessories.

I especially like the macro, which works quite well to get close-ups of objects. See the next series of photos (of a dried rose) for a comparison. I snapped all of them without the aid of a tripod to see how much blurring might occur with minor hand shake (normally with macrophotography, you would want to use a tripod and also a remote shutter to eliminate movements that would blur the image).

The first one was taken with the regular phone camera–as close as I could get and stay in focus. If you zoom in, you see that the image is blurred, which I could not see when I took the photo.iphone_regular








The second one was also taken with the regular phone camera, but I used the pinch-zoom gesture to get a bit closer. The image is better but still out of focus.









The third one was taken with the Ōlloclip macro lens attached to the phone. I got the image in focus, and you can begin to see the individual cells of the rose petals; however, it was difficult to see if I had the focus just right while I was shooting (I was aiming for the crack in the center of the image).iphone&macro








The final image was taken with the macro lens plus the aid of the Ōlloclip app. I set the loupe in the app for 3x, which let me better see how well I was focused on the rose petal (this does not affect the view of the final photo). Although the point I selected (crack in theiphone&macro&loupe image center) was in focus, you notice that surfaces in other planes of view are not in focus. The iPhone is limited in controlling depth of field, but The Ōlloclip app allows you to select which part of the image you want to be in focus (AF) as well as the point of reference for exposure (AE), just by sliding two targets around on the screen. This dual setting provides a lot of flexibility in composing a shot. The native iPhone camera app, by comparison, only allows you to set the AE/AF together by tapping on a point on the screen.


The app also works without the Ōlloclip, allowing you to independently set the AF and AE for filming through the native iPhone lens. Conversely, you can use the Ōlloclip with other photography apps, but I’ve not tested those sufficiently to say how well they work with the Ōlloclip lenses.

You can find out more about the Ōlloclip at




Zombie Cologne Video Explains the Chemistry of Decay

It’s not a matter of if, but when the zombie apocalypse will strike.walkers_1-cine-2

Those of you who are fans of the AMC TV series, The Walking Dead, know that zombies (aka “walkers”) zero in on human victims through smell (and sound, which is why it’s better not to use guns in the event of a zombie apocalypse). Survivors sometimes camouflage themselves by smearing putrified zombie blood and gore on their skin. They then become invisible to the zombie walkers who shamble past the humans as if they did not exist. The main drawbacks are (1) you have to “kill” and gut a zombie to get the material, (2) you end up with a disgusting coating of goop, and (3) it needs replenishing to ensure the human odor is masked.

In a recent video, the American Chemical Society suggests, tongue-in-cheek, that it may be possible to create a zombie death cologne fabricated from a few key chemicals extracted from decaying flesh. This is a much better idea than the gut and smear approach; when you need to go out for a supply run, just spritz on the zombie cologne and you are good to go.

The video uses the public’s fascination with zombies as a way to teach viewers about chemistry. The video features a real chemist, Dr. Raychelle Burks, who explains how several compounds such as cadaverine and putrescine contribute to the characteristic bouquet of decaying flesh.

The video is part of a series, called Reactions, which is produced by the American Chemical Society. I think you’ll agree that this video is effective, informative, and entertaining:

Now, if they would just create a sand fly repellant that really works…..

Note: I created the animated image with Cinegif (

Halloween Special: iStabilizer Dolly Review

Sometimes we may want to use a smooth tracking shot in a video; that is, one in which the camera moves smoothly along a preplanned trajectory. The resultant shot adds a fluid, visually-interesting motion to a static scene or allows a smooth tracking shot of someone or something that is moving.

A “dolly” is used by professional filmmakers to capture this type of shot but is often an elaborate contraption and too expensive for the average scientist videographer. What is needed is something that is relatively inexpensive, small and portable, and can be used in a laboratory or other setting in which we might be filming.

There are a few lightweight dollies on the market for those of us shooting video with our Smartphone, GoPro, or other small camera. The ones I’ve seen are fairly similar to each other in size and function (but with some design feature differences). In this review, I take a look at a lightweight dolly made by iStabilizer ($59.95). Watch the video below to see how it works and the results of some real-world tests.

As you can see, the dolly is an inexpensive way to get some interesting tracking shots, but works well only on a smooth surface. It is well-made with solid components and should hold up under all but the roughest handling. I like the flexibility and the modular construction, allowing replacement of any parts that break (or if you want to modify something). The poor performance on rough or uneven surfaces is a negative, especially if you primarily film outdoors in a variety of environments. However, if your intent is to film mostly indoors in a laboratory or other facility, for example, where you can work on a table or a smooth floor, then this dolly would be an inexpensive choice.

A tracking shot can add a professional touch to your next science video. The iStabilizer dolly can help you accomplish this.

Are you interested in learning more techniques like this? If so, check out The Scientist Videographer eBook, which is an electronic guidebook packed with information, tips, and tutorials and designed for the 21st century scientist, teacher, and student. For more information, visit this page.