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Sea Lion-Cam with Milo…and Harpo

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Video | Volunteering

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Milo the sea lion received a new toy last weekend. His old low resolution video camera on his “sea lion-cam” rig has now been replaced with a new high definition video camera. Milo the aquatic photographer took it out for a test dive last Saturday. This week’s blog features the video shot by Milo while he and I tried out the camera for the first time.

The GoPro Hero HD video camera is normally used by extreme sport enthusiasts and television shows like MythBusters to shoot point of view shots. Action sequences of surfers surfing, sky divers sky diving, and things blowing up are just a few of the activities the camera is used to document. Well Milo has added high speed sea lion porpoising and underwater maneuvering to the list of things shot by the camera.

The camera rig, an underwater camera housing mounted on a custom-built ring that I put together, is one of Milo’s favorite toys. He gets pretty enthusiastic when I bring it out to a session. It took me a while to save up the pennies to upgrade Milo’s camera to high definition but looking at the results from Saturday made me feel that it was well worth it. For the test I set the camera to shoot in slow motion which enhanced the views of the jumps that Milo made while carrying the rig. All I had to do during our training session was to hand Milo the sea lion-cam and off he went to document his underwater actions. The results? For a brief moment in time you enter the world of a porpoising and diving sea lion from his point of view. That was my main reason for creating this camera rig last year. To experience what a sea lion experiences when they shoot through the water. No scuba diver can duplicate what a sea lion can do in the underwater realm. Milo can share that world with us through his camera.

Milo is currently the only sea lion at the Aquarium that is trained to be a photographer and carry the rig during underwater maneuvers. However, one of his sea lion exhibit mates, Harpo, also got into the act during the testing of the rig last weekend. During a session that I was working with Harpo I couldn’t resist tossing the camera rig out into the water and having him retrieve it. The sequences looking back along the body of a sea lion is of Harpo as he dives to retrieve the sea lion-cam.

Using the slow motion capabilities of the camera; the last two sequences of the video below shows a marine mammal volunteer’s point of view as Harpo leaps up to catch a frisbee and Milo does some high speed porpoising through the exhibit.

In the future I hope to use the camera on other critters, including the human ones, at the Aquarium. Stay tuned!

Sea Lion-Cam with Milo…and Harpo
Milo takes sea lion-cam on an underwater journey through exhibit.  | Milo the Sea Lion
Sea Lion-Cam with Milo…and Harpo
Milo takes a surreal self portrait of himself and I using sea lion-cam. This shot was taken using the old camera rig a couple of weekends ago.  | Milo the Sea Lion

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