24 04 2015
Freelance creativity can be a lonely occupation. The time between jobs seems fraught with anxious pondering. Will there ever be another text from a client?Posted by: kirk tuck in Photo articles
24 04 2015
Tomorrow is Eeyore’s Birthday Party in Austin, Texas. Will you be there in costume, cameras blazing? Pease Park. All day long.Posted by: kirk tuck in Photo articles
23 04 2015
We are currently supporting a play about LBJ called, "All The Way." How are we helping? With marketing photographs, research video interviews and more.Posted by: kirk tuck in Photo articles
I've been producing photographs for marketing and advertising at Zach Theatre for 24 years now and I love it. Everyone on the casts and crews is so focused on doing the best possible production they can, show after show. For the current show the marketing and public relations people have taken their efforts to a higher level. We've done five different assignments to create photos and video as well as making research interviews with which to inform the cast and give them insight into a personal side of the former president.
Our first shoot was at the LBJ library where I documented Steve Vinovich interviewing the head curator, soaking up the displays and collections and actually giving me an interview at the museum's replica of the Oval Office. I switched back and forth between one Nikon camera on a tripod (for video) and one Nikon handheld for photographs.
Our next shoot took place in Johnson City, Texas. Steve V. and the artistic director from the theatre toured the boyhood home of LBJ, had a wonderful lunch at the 290 Diner with the head park ranger and got a tour, in a convertible Lincoln Continental complete with "suicide doors", of the LBJ Ranch and even got a private look at the inside of the main house. Again, with two Nikon cameras I was able to record the interviews and the tours on video while also stepping over to the photography side to make interesting images.
Next up was a long interview with several of LBJ's contemporaries, two men who worked with him in the White House during his presidency. Again, once I got the camera rolling for the video recording of a nearly two hour interview I was able to move around the large room and grab additional photographs.
As we got closer to the show we scheduled a "studio" shoot with Steve Vinovich on one of the three stages at Zach Theatre. We shot various images with Steve in character, all against a white background. Once they had selected a good frame the art director at the theater dropped in the background that you see in the image below. In about 15 minutes we had twenty different poses to use.
Steve Vinovich in his role as LBJ.
The final assignment was to do our regular dress rehearsal shoot. It's a long play and there's a lot to cover so I ended up shooting about 1300 photographs divided between two Nikon cameras.
While it may seem like a lot of coverage we collectively wanted to do whatever we could to fill the 300+ seats in the theater every night and to tell a compelling story about LBJ to the community that grew up in his own backyard. The show runs through the 10th of May and you can get more details about Zach Theatre's production of "All the Way" here: http://www.zachtheatre.org/show/all-the-way
Twenty four continuous years is a long time to serve a client but I really love the relationship. I can truly say that after hundreds and hundreds of productions I completely understand their mission, their vision and the best ways that I can help them succeed. I feel like it's an honor to be their photographer.
22 04 2015kirk tuck in Photo articles
I was struck, as I was filtering through six years of blog posts, by just how many cameras and lenses I had written about. Some breathlessly as though the cameras were destined to change the very fabric of our industry. Every step forward by the camera makers was analyzed and pored over as though the addition of 4 or 5 million pixels would change lives. One stop less noise would cure malaria in our lifetimes. I know why I wrote those reviews and why you read them, it was because the new products represented a form of movement and being a predator species we are drawn to movement. In millennia past the recognition of movement was how we hunted down prey.
Unintentionally we've sent the message out to new photographers that the road to mastering the making of images rests with magic cameras and lenses. But every day I find, in video and in still photography, that the camera is just one part of the puzzle and it's a part that's interchangeable, for the most part, between brands and specifications.
When I look across the studio this little corner is one of the vignettes my eyes land on and it's probably the most cost effective and hardest working gear in my studio. Without the stuff here I would have trouble getting to the spot in which I need to be with my cameras, I might not be able to see through the finders of my cameras and I certainly couldn't make the lighting work. The fun/interesting/sensible thing about this collection of things is that they have remarkable longevity.
To the left, by the door, is a hard sided, Tenba light stand transporter. It's hexagonal and holds even my tallest light stands and tripods. The hard, internal panels are covered with ballistic nylon. I bought this bag/case to transport light stands, tripods, umbrellas, soft boxes and electrical cords in around 1991 from a camera store that has long since closed. The bag/case has been on dozens and dozens of airplanes, even making a round trip to St. Petersburg, Russia. It has travelled on hundreds of trips in half a dozen cars. In 24 years of service I've never had a broken piece of gear emerge from it. I've long since forgotten what I paid for the bag/case but it didn't seem like much. That's a good investment in gear.
Just to the right of the Tenba stand bag/case is a wire container filled with light stands and arms for C-stands. I have always liked to be able to look across the studio and see what stands I have readily available as I pack or when I am shooting in the office. Bags like the Tenba are good for travel but they cloak the inventory and make it less immediately accessible. One day in 1988 I was shopping around in a Container Store and found this little container. It was designed to hold rolled up blueprints or CAD drawings. The top has a wire grid which separates the blueprints from each other, it also works well at keeping light stands separated. The container has wheels on the bottom so I can roll it around the studio. I paid $14 for it and it has survived rough light stand insertions and random studio accidents better than I would have ever imagined.
To the right of the wire frame stand container is a small, two step ladder. It's made of lightweight aluminum and it allows me to shoot at eye level with people much taller than me. It's also helpful when you need just a little bit of "looking down" point of view. Being five feet, eight inches tall in a world of giants, the ladder gets a lot of use. It's also nice when I need to get seldom used gear off high shelves... That particular ladder arrived in 1995 to replace a wooden version that didn't survive a really rough project. One more thing! The new ladder also doubles as an extra sitting stool when all the chairs are taken and people keep pouring through the door.
I am constantly amazed when I meet photographers and videographers who do not have the pleasure of owning a stout and compact-able cart with which to move the mountains of gear that are sometimes required on location assignments. I bought one of these carts many, many years ago and after much abuse we were finally able to kill it by moving a thousand pound, fully configured server rack across one building at Dell Computer. As we reached our intended location the front wheels hit a bump and the entire front of the cart collapsed under the weight of modern computing.
Mea Culpa! I read the instructions, the weight limit was a stated 500 pounds. But I did mention that the stalwart cart did not give up the ghost until after it delivered the goods to our shooting location. I went out the same day (sometime in 1993) and bought another one. At the time it cost about $125 but I feel, some 22 years later, that I am getting my money's worth from it. A decade or two more and I should have it fully amortized. I cannot imagine going on a shoot with eight or ten light stands, a stout tripod, a case of camera gear, two cases of lights and all the accessories and attachments and not having a rigid cart for transporting it all from car to client and back.
Finally there is the green PVC pipe. It's a more recent addition, purchased from a photographer exiting the business in 2009. It's filled with frames for diffusion clothes, nets, black flags and other light modifiers. A good pro can use just about any light source to deliver enough photons but the real secret of good lighting is in shaping it, diffusing it, sculpting it and keeping it from going where you don't need it and don't want it.
Those are the things that I see in that particular corner of my studio/office and they remind me that cameras and lights come and go like leaves turning or budding in the seasons but the power tools of the craft, the support stuff, is all there for the long haul.
Funny to me to look at the various stands in the stand holder. The oldest one is nearly as old as my business and the younger ones are at least five years old. There are two more nests of them around the office space. Some are small Manfrotto stands that fold up short and were bought to hold speed lights. Three are C-Stands bought to hold anything you need held, and the rest of come in like stray cats looking for regular food and shelter. Who would have thought I'd have such loyalty to my light stands? But, in truth, they've never let me down.
There are some things that are unchanging in our businesses.
22 04 2015kirk tuck in Photo articles
2300 blog posts is a lot of words. And a lot of images. The original content on the Visual Science Lab covered the years between 2009 and yesterday. We discussed a lot about cameras and lights, tripods and books, workshops and industry trends. But that's all in the past. If you read them I'm happy, if you didn't it doesn't really matter because reading them now would be nothing more than looking back at the wake of a boat to see where it has been instead of looking forward to where each of us is going. By eliminating the previous posts I can start fresh. No baggage. And believe me, the stewardship of all those posts was starting to drag me down...
What is happening right now? Today? In the next five minutes? With life? With our art? That's what we'll talk about as we move forward.
The Visual Science Lab has always been about the art and business of visual work. From now until some time in the future we'll continue discussing cameras, video, writing, books, coffee and swimming. If you want to come along for the ride you are welcome.
21 04 2015
My short, sassy review of the Samsung NX-1. A hybrid that’s good in both camps: photographs and video.Posted by: kirk tuck in Photo articles
Disclaimer: In the past Samsung's P.R. agency has sent me cameras to shoot with. If I agreed to participate in their program, Imageloggers, and post weekly images on their social media site I could keep the cameras and lenses they sent along. I did so in 2013 and for part of 2014. While some of the cameras were wacky (two different white cameras with heavy "selfie" credentials) and some were half-baked (like the Galaxy NX---Android OS camera) there were two that stood out as competent shooting cameras. One was the NX 300 and the other was the NX 30. Both of these cameras could and did generate really nice files.
Last Fall I kept hearing about an amazing new Samsung camera coming down the pike. I waited and waited but it never seemed to come. I wasn't disposed to continue on with Samsung's program or to make any sort of wholesale switch to using their cameras instead of the Olympus and Nikon cameras I preferred (compared to the Samsung cameras available at the time) and so I stepped away from the program and gave away most of the cameras I'd been sent. Then Samsung launched the NX1 camera and, on paper, it looked fabulous. The two lenses that Samsung paired with the camera also looked pretty sweet. One was the 16-50mm f2.0-2.8 which had been out on the market for a while and the other was the brand new 50-150mm f2.8. If I had no other equipment investments these two lenses might be enough to entice me into the system....
When I looked at the initial specs for the camera I'll admit I had a few feelings of regret for exiting their Imagelogger program before I could actually get my hands on the camera we'd all been waiting for. It seemed to be everything I wanted and had talked about over the years. It has a big, bright, detailed EVF. The resolution is class leading for APS-C cameras. It features in-camera 4K video and it shoots fast. What's not to like?
The way I saw it this camera might be the camera of choice for one part of the market; it would be great for people who weren't invested in an interchangeable lens system yet, who also wanted their camera to be a true chameleon. A state-of-the-art still camera and a production ready video camera. But in the end the camera will probably appeal most to people who are looking for a less noisy but similarly priced competitor in the 4K video market, when compared to the Panasonic GH-4.
Having exited their program (amicably) I left a message for the folks at the P.R. firm and requested an evaluation copy be sent along. I wasn't seeing a lot of reviews and I thought I'd run the camera through its paces and see what we'd come up with. It took a long time to get a review copy. A really long time. By the time it showed up my enthusiasm had cooled a bit and large swaths of the market were already moving on to the next big thing. It's a fickle gear market, that's for sure... but I am happy I had the chance to put the camera through its paces.
I'm not going to detail the specs and stuff because you can find that at DPReview and if you have any interest in this camera I'm sure you've already read their review. I'm just going to quickly cover how I feel about the camera.
Here's the good: If this camera had come out a few years ago Samsung would have trouble ever keeping it in stock. Right now it matches most of the best points of the mature APS-C products on the market, like the Nikon D7200 and the Canon 7D2 with little concessions on each side. The image quality of the 4K video files can be quite good. As a video camera it would considered an insane bargain but for one short term glitch (which I'll cover below). The files from the NX1 are very detailed and rezzy but the trade off is a bit of dynamic range. The frame rate is terrific but the focusing acquisition in low light levels leaves a bit to be desired (by comparison). The camera handles well and feels comfortable and the battery life is good. The image quality is very good and while the color palette is different from the Canon and Nikon cameras I doubt that any of them is a reference standard for true color. I actually appreciate having some choices in color response.
The bottom line is that if you are in the market for an APS-C format camera that's a great all around photographic performer and you like using the raw format for shooting stills, and you go with the two, fast, f2.8 zooms you'll most likely be just as happy with this camera as you would be with the competitors from Canon and Nikon. If you are keenly interested in video you'll be even happier. The 4K video is really very good and relatively noise free up to 1600 ISO. It's a fair and even alternative for many uses that currently fall to the GH4 from Panasonic.
But here's the bad: My first observation, and it's one area in which I strongly disagree with the reviewers at DPReview.com is about the EVF. While I love the idea of EVFs and I enjoy working with good examples the NX-1 I've been loaned isn't seamless. It jutters and jitters a bit, visibly, when I pan it. And I'm not panning like a centrifuge, just a nice, easy pan. I thought I might be having a too critical moment so I grabbed the EM5.2 out of the bag and did the same pan with the same equivalent focal length and confirmed that the EVF on the Olympus is smoother and less plagued by refresh lag than the NX-1 when panned in the same fashion. The EVF on the NX1 is also darker by default but can be adjusted. When I mentioned this to the folks at Samsung they were concerned since they hadn't had the same complaints from any other reviewer. I'm presuming that the camera I had in my hands has an earlier version of the firmware and that this has been remedied. But the careful buyer might still check.
Samsung seems to be following a good trend in that the firmware fixes are coming fast and furious for this new camera. It's always nice to see new features added and performance improved on a camera you already own!
To put it into perspective the EVF, as it is now, is fine for most of what I would use the camera for. That's video. No one does fast pans in video. More like slooooow pans. In all other regards the EVF image is quite good. I just have to be honest and say "ouch. let's not too pan fast.
(edit: After some feedback from Samsung I re-tested the EVF. As shutter speeds go higher the effect subsides and lag becomes almost invisible. The critical juncture seemed to be at 1/125th of a second. To put it all into context most fast panning will be done trying to capture sports and that will be done at shutter speeds of 1/500th and higher where this camera performs as well as any EVF camera on the market. At very low shutter speeds I stand by my original assessment. )
On video: Samsung is like that guy who comes to the party and gets just about everything right but ends up accidentally sticking his hand in the punch bowl and then wiping his hand off on the white tablecloth. The guy who gets the up to the podium, delivers a great and riveting speech and then knocks over the microphone and trips over the cord. For some reason they've always made decisions that end up compromising the products that should have done well. To my mind having an optional EVF would have made the NX300 a wonderful and very cult-y camera. With the stinky baby diaper hold rear screen only it becomes just another good performing snapshot camera. The Galaxy NX was also an interesting product and might have succeeded if not for the 28 second start up time and the ever intrusive nature of the Android OS. It was a camera for God's sake, not a downmarket laptop... But the screen on the back with a hood to block sun would have been a videographer's dream if that camera had done video like the NX1 does....
And it looks like they've done it again. They created a camera that's competitive with the big guys in the market for almost all kinds of still imaging. They came out with two really great lenses to hang on the front of it. The brought out a sensor that has the resolution, dynamic range and the high ISO performance people want. It even has 4K video that can be saved in camera. On memory cards. If we stop there we'd all love the camera. Really good 4K video and great still image quality? We can overlook a little bit of low light focus anxiety. After all, the Nikon D600 and D610 were no great shakes when the light got low. We might be able to overlook the EVF's problems (in my sole experience) with fast pans.
But Samsung didn't stop there. They just couldn't help themselves. They seemingly just had to stick that crazy hand in the punch bowl. They decided that instead of suggesting that potential 4K users buy good, fast memory cards they chose to use a brand new video file standard called H.265. The advantage of this "codec" is that it creates really small, very compressed video files that fit onto SD memory cards. You could write lots and lots of minutes of good 4K video on smaller, slower and crappier cards. People could use cheaper, older SD cards --- and that would be good?
(Edit: One of my video buddies took me to task for being unfair to the NX-1 and Samsung's choice to use the new H.265 codec. He pointed out that the power users in video are now looking for cameras which can output a clean (no words on screen) and relatively uncompressed (much bigger) file over HDMI. That makes the in camera codec more or less meaningless to the group that will use this camera for many and more complex projects. He also pointed out that Samsung could have (and perhaps may in the future) used the new codec in a different ways, leaving the file size on card the same as the competition but doubling the quality of the footage. Apparently there are choices within the codec. Okay. So, with an "inexpensive" Atomos Digital recorder one could pull uncompressed video out of the camera that should be amazingly good. That's a plus, not a negative...)
But there's no free lunch. If you use a new compression scheme to write tiny files to the camera's card at some point the files have to be converted/expanded to something else in order to be edited in one of the two 800 pound gorilla editing programs, Adobe Premiere and Apple's Final Cut Pro X. Both of those programs run optimally with a codec called ProRes. It's almost an industry standard. But converting those H.265 files requires a few things that those programs don't provide. The first is a conversion or transcoding application. The second is a super fast, insanely powerful computer with which to crunch lots and lots of data during the conversions.
Remember those little foam dinosaurs that came in little capsules and the advertising copy that accompanied them which claimed that if you soaked them in water they would magically grow to 100X their size? Well the Samsung 4K, H.265 files do just that when you convert them into something you can edit with like ProRes. They seem to grow to about 10 times their original size.
All of a sudden you've got about three times more storage needs than if you'd have shot the same 4K files on a Panasonic GH4 camera with it's nice and easily editable 4K files. But the files don't just take up space--it takes lots of time to do the conversion. Running our liquid Nitrogen cooled Cray CS Cluster Super Computer with 80 processor nodes the conversion time was still daunting. (Sheer hyperbole! It's not really that bad...). To be fair once you convert H.264 files to ProRes they too vastly increase in size...
This critique is the hit a company takes when they decide to be the first adopter of new technology or new standards. I'm sure, in a year, lots of other makers will offer cameras with the choice of H.265 because the quality can be stunning or the space savings effective (but not both at the same time) and apps will be optimized for the workflow required. But right now it's an issue for anyone who has cobbled together a good workflow with existing video file types. And according to my very professional and hardworking video expert many clients are now asking for shooters to use cameras that output ProRes directly! But I think that's a bit crazy too.
Wrap up. The NX1 can be very good. Many who started with other brands will find the human/machine interface a little eccentric but we can chalk that up to familiarity versus change. I can tell you that I mastered the NX1 menus about ten times faster than the Sanskrit Encyclopedia that is the Olympus OMD menu system... There are some little operational glitches but most can be cleaned up with future firmware updates. If you are starting from scratch and have no preconceptions about how cameras should handle or how menus should work this is a good, feature rich camera to look at.
If you are really into video and lust after a cost effective 4K tool with a bigger sensor than the one in the well regarded GH4 this is also a good video camera for the money. The same operational issues plague it as plague Nikon and Canon and most other DSLRs that are pressed into service as video cameras; to wit, the menu driven control functions like microphone levels instead of external dials---so we can't be too critical. The NX1 trumps Nikon by having focus peaking in the system and trumps both Nikon and Canon by offering very pretty 4K files right out of the camera.
On the dreaded forae the most often dredged up stick against the NX1 is the lack of lenses available natively for the camera. I think that's a red herring for most people, including working professionals because most will be very well served by the two professional quality zooms for 90% of their work, and the holes in the system can be plugged by using third party lenses or lenses from other systems that are adapted with lens adapters. Again, a key advantage of most of the mirrorless systems.
If I could change one thing on the camera what would that be? I would ask the engineers at Samsung to offer a choice of both H.264 and H.265 codecs in video. That way people who need to move quickly could use the camera in their current workflows. This would let the user decide where to place the efficiency versus storage fulcrum. And seriously, UHS-3 cards are already dirt cheap.
The Bottom Line: Would I buy one?
Let me hedge a bit here. I might buy one. If I did it would be solely for the video capability of the camera. The features of the still side of the camera are ones that don't really interest me or which I have covered well enough by other systems. I don't care at all about NFC since I'll probably never buy coffee at Starbucks with my camera. I don't care about wi-fi as I'm probably not going to share unedited corporate video over the airwaves. I don't care much at all about fast frame rates or "the world's fastest autofocus." I'd buy one to get around the few caveats I have about the GH4. The Panasonic is a beautiful and useful camera but one that has a fairly high noise floor and which shows noise in shadows from ISO 400 onward. The NX-1 yields a less noisy file that still looks good, sharp and detailed. The camera offers most of the same video usability features as the GH4, including: headphone jack, external mic capability, focus peaking and various set up controls.
I figure that adding a body only and a Nikon lens adapter gets me into a 4K video camera with a lot of capabilities for a fairly low price along with the ability to use an endless supply of manual focus lenses with hard focus stops and physical aperture settings. The bigger sensor and the lower ISO noise can be real benefits and the camera is rugged and seems solid. You could produce good video with this set up. If you want to see a creative piece done with one go here: https://vimeo.com/121238971
With a few more firmware upgrades and a bit of time to let body only prices drop we might just have a killer video production tool on our hands for around $1300 bucks. A bit more than half the price of just the digital recorder you'll need to get actual 4K video out of a Sony A7s..... interesting value proposition, yes?
Oooh. Nikon's 50mm f1:1.2 lens on the front. Lots of big, soft directional lights, acres of detail. I'm guessing that's what Samsung had in mind from the beginning. Hmmm.
Test the GH4 and the NX1 side by side and it really becomes more about preferences than superiority of one over the other. It's an interesting niche for both of these cameras because it's a clear indictment of Canon and Nikon's foot dragging where performance in video is concerned.
I've finished with my review and I've boxed up the camera to send it back. Just waiting for the Fedex.
15 04 2015kirk tuck in Photo articles
MOMENTS // NEW YORK CITY from Tim Sessler on Vimeo.
This is a collaborative cinematography film by Tim Sessler and Cameron Michael, using the FREEFLY MIMIC.
Shot over the course of 3 days on the RED Epic Dragon with a 50mm KOWA Prominar and stabilized with the MōVI M15.
Check out our blog post to read more about our process and the Freefly Mimic: http://www.brooklynaerials.com/blog
Production: Brooklyn Aerials / http://brooklynaerials.com/
Cinematography and Edit: Cameron Michael / https://vimeo.com/cameronmichael and Tim Sessler / http://timsessler.com
Music: Michael Marantz / http://michaelmarantz.com/
Assistant Camera: Drew English / http://drewenglish.com and Joe Victorine / http://joevictorine.com/
Behind The Scenes: Ryan Emanuel, Drew English
Special thanks goes out to NYC for being such an awesome and inspirational city and to all the people featured in this video!
Also huge thanks to Already Alive, Michael Marantz, TCS Rentals, Zak Mulligan, Sean Donnelly, Michael Burke and Ryan Emanuel for supporting us with gear - without you guys this wouldn't have been possible.
This is very interesting to me... Kirk
15 04 2015kirk tuck in Photo articles
14 04 2015kirk tuck in Photo articles
I think a lot of us in the profession are facing a quandary. The whole market is changing again and it seems that commercial photographers, as a group, are good at getting left behind. It's not that the need for talented lighting, good composition and effortless rapport has diminished but that the target market for the goods has shifted. And audiences have different expectations...
We lost a big segment of working stiffs who couldn't make the transition from traditional film work to digital. We saw a similar shift when the whole advertising market transitioned from print to web based advertising as the premium part of the overall ad buy. Now I'm watching people dig in their heels and resist the transition from doing all stills to embracing video+stills and I'm pretty sure the same thing will happen. Those who don't expand their knowledge and craft will exit the market and not on their own volition. But it goes beyond just mastering the gear, there's is a necessary shift in the thought processes that goes along with the shift to new offerings aimed at new audiences.
Photographers traditionally thought of video (motion?) and still photography as two mostly unrelated disciplines. Each requiring divergent skill sets. We could point to the dominance of stills in web advertising for the first decade of this century instead of video but the reality is that the slow adaptation of massive video story telling among brands was slowed down by technology. Bandwidth used to be expensive and limited. Consumers' connections were too slow to handle higher quality video in quantity but now that's all changed and sites like Facebook are seeing massive and accelerating uploads of video. It's growing much faster than stills in the same online environments.
At the same time clients are cognizant that they can now create and show high quality video programming right on their websites which can tell the story of their businesses, make sales insinuations, demonstrate their products and powerfully engage two senses (sight and sound) instead of just one. The final step was to make video truly portable across mobile devices. And that's done.
The big disconnection for traditionalists is that they want to overlay their past aesthetics on new or different technologies because they misunderstand that the targets and the ways of telling stories have also changed. Every day I meet videographers and photographers who profess to be engaged in learning how to create the highest possible production value in their new field. They covet the best cameras, the best lights, all the bling that they see attached to Hollywood production cameras along with a rack full of cylindrical Power Macs to buzz it all along. It's an expensive way to go and while it's great for making features with rich budgets it may be antithetical to the way their growing markets absorb information and marketing stories.
In previous generations getting the quality right was a big hurdle. The tools were difficult to learn and there were intertwined processes that had to be carefully handled. It's not that way now. Getting decent images and video is getting easier every new product cycle.
While I fight the same preferences all the time I try to be open to the idea that soaring opening sequences and establishing introductions in most video/TV programming are anathema to a generation truly raised in the digital age. They seem to resist the embellishment that was a style of TV shows and movies aimed at previous generations and want to go straight to the information. I might want to "follow the rules" but not if they rules only create projects that appeal to a market of viewers over 50 years old and actually cause cognitive dissonance in the rest of our markets.
What am I talking about? Newcomers to any field are always obsessed by the idea of technical mastery. Gentle, smooth slider shots, endless dynamic range, perfect color grading, soaring camera movements and almost robotically predictable editing. But showing off their chops with displays of mastery can get in the way of the immediacy of a program. And it's all just a copy of traditional movie making that has a different sort of relevance for us than creative video materials that are viewed on laptops, pads and phones.
I am not immune to the kneejerk and reflexive idea of mastering the technical at the expense of relevance. I recently wrote about the image quality of files I was getting from the Olympus EM5.2 in a less than flattering way and it's true that by the traditional metrics of high end video that a comparison of the output from the EM5.2 is less "perfect" than the output from a GH4 or even a Nikon D810. My last century, linear process brain immediately wanted to grade the cameras, almost numerically, from best to worst with the idea that a real pro would only use the best.
But the reality is that the EM5.2 might be the "best" of all the cameras I own if you use it for hand held video which is much more in keeping with current cultural trends in video. You might also label it best if you constantly need a combination of stills and video and all of it needs to be handheld.
I started thinking about this as I was looking around the web at blogs and sites that are all about "new video." By new video I mean all the people who came to video via cameras like the Canon 5D2 and the Panasonic GH2 and have discovered more and better equipment and have moved on to things like the Sony A7s, the Sony FS-7 and the various Black Magic cameras and other machines that shoot big, uncompressed and even raw files. What I saw everywhere were long, lingering shots that showed off some aspect of the camera or the technique. Here's a long slider shot that shows off the dynamic range of the camera. Here's a long shot that shows how well the camera handles unlit street scenes in the middle of a moonless night. Here's shot that shows amazingly lush color and another shot that's so desaturated that you can only discern a whiff of color. Here's a shot from 4K that's so sharp you can visually dive into a model's pores.
But here's the deal: None of these many, many sites have created interesting and compelling programming that is engaging and glues your eyes and ears to the screen. They are just collages of techniques meant to tout the superiority of the gear and the superiority of the taste of the acquirer of that gear. Lots of pretty pictures unrelated to a story and accompanied by this generation's version of New Age music with tinkly minor key pianos intermixed with electronic fluff.
But if you head over to YouTube or Vimeo it's possible to see fun stuff. Stuff with a message, a purpose a storyline and a big dose of humor. Even the sites that basically sell cameras like DigitalRevTV or the theCameraStoreTV are all about the basic narrative. "Why are we here today? Oh yes, to talk about this camera and how well it works!" But instead of standing still and lecturing to you they move and interact and intercut still examples and use humor and a fluid and comfortable casualness to get across their information to you.
The best storytelling I've seen lately (as far as video on the web goes) has been stuff from younger people using the most basic tools. I work with several schools and I meet kids who pick up iPads and make incredible stuff with them because the obsession with the knobs and specs of the gear never gets in the way of the project. If it looks good on the screen it's good. If the story works and the premise works it's good. When a piece is fun or sad or interesting no one ever stops to ask, "Hey! How many stops of dynamic range did that shot have???" Or, "Did you shoot that in raw?"
I'm not saying that good technique in and of itself is a bad thing. But when it becomes the sole determiner of quality in a medium that's about following a thought or an idea then it becomes the biggest roadblock you can imagine.
Photographers aren't the only ones who will have to change their perspectives to keep their audiences interested in their work. A whole generation of videographers seems to worship mastery as well. I think it's time to roll out the workshops in which each person is given a Fischer Price My First Video Camera and is shown how to use its most basic capabilities to make real visual tales that are something beyond codec obsession.
My idea of current visual education? Sit down and watch the 20 most popular videos on YouTube and see what the common thread is. It won't be production quality. It won't be about precision technique. I bet you'll find that the messages are powerful (or hilarious) and presented in an unadorned and straightforward way.
If I had to predict the future I'd say that companies will want more and shorter video programming. That everyday media consumers will want 15 minute shows and 30 minute movies. That personality and acting ability will trump getting all the gizmos set just right. That next year one of the Academy Award nominations will be a movie made on an iPad or Surface Tablet.
But it's the same thing in the photo world. There are guys who can tell you the blend of metals in the alloy that makes up the sub frames of their cameras but even though they have infinite pixels at their disposal and understand technique forward and backward they are ill prepared for making wonderful images because they don't understand the new culture in which they exist. Their vision is about perfection and not about emotional engagement. Or pure design. Or gesture. Just about getting it "right."
I'm afraid that the secret of success in the visual arts as it relates to video and still photography is to understand the power of both. When to use them, not just how to use them. But the most important thing of all is the need to create images that are really, truly interesting to the audiences. Story, story, story. Style, style, style. Gear? Not so much...
14 04 2015Neil vN in Photo articles
Feminine Portraiture / Boudoir Photography workshop – May 31, 2015
I’m pretty chuffed about this – teaming up with Genine Gullickson, one of the best boudoir photographers I know, we’ll be presenting an all-day workshop in Feminine Portraiture and Boudoir Photography. The workshop will be held in Genine’s studio in Schenectady, NY. And if like me, you don’t quite know where Schenectady is, it is a short hop away from Albany, NY.
Date: May 31, 2015
With this workshop 2 experienced models will be available wearing a variety of clothing as well as lingerie for boudoir. Attendees will have the opportunity to apply posing and lighting techniques learned throughout the entire day. The workshop will be limited to 15 attendees.
We will provide morning coffee and snacks, lunch, two models, two stylists, loft styled studio, and outdoor shooting spaces!
what you will learn during this workshop
1.) Business and marketing elements for boudoir photography.
2.) Posing instruction will focus on:
3.) A variety of lighting techniques:
register for a workshop – $495
Payment of fees for the workshop is via Paypal.
The post Feminine Portraiture / Boudoir workshop – May 31, 2015 – Albany, NY appeared first on Tangents.
13 04 2015Neil vN in Photo articles
scam: domain name registration / SEO service registration
As if the e-mail scams aren’t bad enough, they are now texting photographers with the same scam! But there is another scam that has been going around for years now – but it is so obvious that I doubt many people will fall for it. But just in case anyone has any doubt, or may be a touch too inattentive, this next one is also a scam – fake domain renewals / SEO service registration.
If you have a website – and this means everyone – then you have received these emails, warning you to renew your domain. There are also emails with instruction that you need to renew your search engine submission. I guess that this takes them out of the realm of outright fraud, since they will most likely add your website to Google?
It’s all purposely very vague, cloaked with mis-directing language. There’s even a warning about “failure to complete” resulting in making it difficult for clients to find you on the internet.
This important expiration notification notifies you about the expiration offer notice of your domain registration for search engine submission. The information in this expiration notification may contain confidential and/or legally privileged information from the notification processing department of the Domain SEO Service Registration to purchase our SEO Traffic Generator. This information is intended only for the use of the individual(s) named above.
This scam – domain name registration / SEO service registration – is quite laughable and very obvious, but I wanted to add it to the list of scams that are out there.
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13 04 2015
My Weekly Cultural Treasure Hunt Begins After Lunch on Thursday Afternoons at the Blanton Museum. Drop by.Posted by: kirk tuck in Photo articles
Blanton Museum. Right on the edge of the University of Texas at Austin. A wonderful place to be on a Thursday afternoon. The admission fee is just right; free. It's never too crowded in the middle of the afternoon, and there's always something fun to see. It's nice just to hang out in a place where the whole point of its existence is to... value art.
The big new show on the first floor is an exhibit that shows arts from the 1960's that reflects the civil rights movement. Lots of painting and photographs, some sculpture. One image I loved was a gorgeous Richard Avedon image, beautifully printed. of Julian Bond surrounded by young people in Mississippi. He's the only one in focus in the entire crowd. It's beautifully seen and the print is sublime. I stood transfixed in front of it for a long time. There's great photographs from Gordon Parks and there's an image I'd never seen before from Danny Lyons of a very young Bob Dylan. The show is powerful and, in the Austin community, a bit topical since the play, "All the Way" at Zach Theatre also revolves around President Johnson and the Civil Rights movement. Good stuff.
I wandered through that gallery twice because I was pretty sure I'd seen all of the work in the upstairs gallery but I'd already paid for parking so I thought I'd hit the stairs and just make sure I wasn't missing anything. Thank God I'm not terminally lazy otherwise I would have missed a wonderful, quirky and interesting show of Ralph Eugene Meatyard's photographs. Wonderful, whimsical and somewhat surreal black and white prints that were so much fun to browse through. Meatyard's work is so not of this century in that he didn't need to print enormous prints to communicate and translate his vision. Most of the images were no larger than 8x8 inches but the tonalities and the content made for some rich visual consumption. I'll probably head back there to take another look at the show this week as well. If you don't live in Austin take a second to look up Meatyard's work here: http://www.mocp.org/detail.php?t=people&type=related&kv=7440
The rest of the time I just spent looking at old favorites and occasionally turning on the little black EM5.2 I had nestled in my hands along with a very quirky and imperfect lens---which I now really like, mostly because of its imperfections but also because of its conflicting high sharpness and low contrast. It's a lens I barely ever use. It's the 25mm f2.8 Olympus Pen FT lens. One of those enigmatic lenses that was designed and produced in the late 1960's and early 1970's for the company's half frame cameras. It was an age of lens design that combined optical intuition and computer aided design but it was mostly successful because of the rigorous, almost custom production and testing of better lenses at the time...
This lens has its faults. On the m4:3 sensors the outer third of the image gets pretty soft pretty quickly, especially when used wide open. It sharpens up okay at f5.6 to f8.0 but that's probably where the sharpness robbing effects of diffraction start to take their inevitable toll. It also has a fair amount of what appears to be barrel distortion even in the very center. That doesn't really change much as I stop down.
Why do I like the lens? Maybe because it has a look that reminds me of my earlier days in photography. It combines a high central sharpness with a lower contrast. But it's almost like the modern thought process of video codecs; flatten everything out to capture more steps and more tones and then fix stuff in PhotoShop. You can't fix everything but the files from the EM5.2 sharpen up nicely and you can add back in a lot of saturation and contrast before things start to look --- unreal.
I like shooting this lens (and many of the other Pen lenses) because the manual focus ring is silky smooth, the lens feels dense and precise and, when combined with focus peaking, it's fast to use and the focus stays "locked" where you leave it. I'm excited to see how this one works with black and white.
I've got to remind you not to take your art museums for granted. If they don't get used they might disappear just like cameras stores did and then we'd have to get all of our art culture on the web and that's not the same as seeing eight foot by ten foot paintings with bouncy impasto up close and in person. The reproductions of Avedon and Lyonn's and Park's photos on the web are never as rich and detailed as they are when you experience the real thing and the there's so much chatter on the web you'll get distracted and start drifting off to look at the celebrity news or the weather reports instead of soaking in the ideas of people who dedicated a lot of time and effort to show us new stuff in new ways. Use them or lose them!
The 25mm f2.8 Pen lens is looking pretty good in the shot of the colored pencils.
It's pretty much on par with my more modern lenses. And the quality of the
out-of-focus-area-rendering is smooth and organic.
Ditto for the black pencils.
you can really see the wonky distortion in the frame above but....
this image ^ shows the most egregious distortion but I like the sharpness and the
way the camera is handling the noise at ISO 1600.
My feeling is that lenses like this one (and many of the early Leica lenses) were never made for flat targets or for accurate geometric rendering but to capture people in photographs where it was fine for the edges to go A.W.O.L.
There's more to photography than "sharp and straight."
Support your local museum and go to the local galleries. You'll nearly always find
something fun or surprising. And it's better than TV.
Even "Breaking Bad" or "House of Cards."
13 04 2015
Are there limits to the amount of sausage one should eat in one sitting? If so, are those limits clearly defined? Image from my last, large format, editorial assignment. Not that long ago…Posted by: kirk tuck in Photo articles
Set up image at a BBQ restaurant in Elgin, Texas.
About ten years ago I got the assignment to do a profile on the city of Elgin, Texas by Texas Highways Magazine. I was fascinated at the time with 4x5 inch, large format photography and asked the art director if it would be okay (and within the budget) to shoot the project on 4x5" inch transparency film. He thought it would be a great idea.
I headed to Elgin three or four times to get everything I wanted for the article. I was carrying a Linhof TechniKarden folding technical view camera with Zeiss and Schneider lenses. Because of color considerations and the slow, slow speed of the film we mostly worked with then I did a lot of lighting in interior locations. This image was lit with strobe, modified with a big softball, from the right of the camera.
Shooting with the view camera was a much, much slower way to work. I averaged six or seven different scenes or set-ups per day. Most set-ups got eight to twelve shots, four to six were variations while the other four to six were in camera duplicates for safety. You know, in case the lab ruined one...
I look back fondly at that assignment. The images were fun and they were always a challenge to make. Nothing really beats making a photographer feel the work like diving under a black dark cloth to check focus and composition when one is standing in direct sun and the temperature is hovering around 105 degrees.
We're celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary today.
Of course, I give Belinda all the credit for our success.
I have some quick and easy advice for any of our younger readers who may be contemplating matrimony. This is advice that has worked very well for me... Always marry someone who is smarter than you. You'll never regret it! Now, on to photography and video.
A real world hybrid story: This past Saturday I was shooting with two cameras that would easily fall into the hybrid category; the Nikon D810 and the Olympus EM5.2. I used them both, simultaneously, to record an interview with the very famous, original "DreamGirl", Jennifer Holliday.
We set up a wonderful lighting design for the video interview and once the interviews were complete used the same lighting and cameras to make a series of photographs. (currently embargoed but coming soon...). The ability to either grab the Olympus from its tripod, go to photo mode and enable I.S. then shoot, or to stand behind the big tripod and switch the Nikon into its photo mode and shoot, without making any changes to the lighting, pose or comp was very powerful.
With custom white balances in place on both cameras the footage and the photographs are able to be used in one project; intercut in video or side by side in print and on the web, without calling attention to the different cameras or formats. In the space of five minutes we had 75 very good, still "keeper" to send to the client. And because of the difference in the cameras and the way they were handled there are different looks to the frames. One set more formal and the other set looser and more candid.
When you consider that in times past we would have done the still work and then packed up and walked away to allow the video crew their time with the talent you just have to be enthused about being able to switch back and forth in seconds.
Even after the talent was through being interviewed and through posing for me I still kept the smaller camera in my hand with a microphone in the hot shoe for more shooting opportunities. The camera didn't go back in the bag until the talent left the building.
NAB Show announcements I'm waiting for: There are rumors that Panasonic has something big up their sleeves that will be announced at the NAB show (National Association of Broadcasters) that's happening this week. Here's what I'm waiting for: Rumors suggest that Panasonic will be rolling out a disruptive new camera. I'm thinking it's a new model of the GH4 that will feature raw output to an external digital recorder but some people are thinking it's a new, interchangeable 4K video camera that will better the video performance of the GH4 and provide more usable interfaces for video work (XLR inputs, true S-Log, etc.) and still be under $5,000. A shot across the bow of the Sony FS-7.
I'm really hoping that Sony will show a revised RX10 that keeps all the good stuff (the lens, focus peaking, etc.) while adding in camera 4K video. If it does come out and it does hit the same initial price point as the original RX10 I'd stand in line like an Apple Fanboy to get my hands on one.
It probably won't happen at this show but I would love to see Nikon wade in and rock the video boat by challenging Canon in the C100 space with a dedicated video camera that takes the Nikon lenses and incorporates their color science. But I think we'll really have to wait until they bring out a conventional DSLR with 4K before they move on toward a dedicated video version.
Taking the pulse of my friends who shoot with Canon: I have a close friend who is pragmatic and smarter than me by a long shot, especially when it comes to high end architectural photography. We've talked many times about his wish that he could easily put his four Canon tilt shift lenses on a Nikon D810 but he remains a Canon 5D mk3 shooter. For him the glass is more important than the sensor. When he really wants to pull out all the stops and needs more dynamic range he opens up the Pelican case and drags out the Leica S2 medium format kit and some incredible Leica glass.
So I asked him, "what's next?" He gave me a sideways look and said, "The new Canon 50 megapixel camera, of course." His response to the dynamic range question is that so much control of dynamic range is in the lighting and careful placement of tones. In addition, since most of his subject's don't move it's easy for him to shoot bracketed frames and blend them in post production. His take on Nikon versus Canon for architectural shooters is that the performance of the 17mm and 24mm Canon T/S lenses is so superior that they trump just about any advantage of the higher res Nikon body.
He also pointed out that the Canon 5D mk3 has been a rock solid performer for him for over three years. No focus issues, no "left side, right side issues, no weird shadow issues and no oily sensors." His final point was that early on the clients everywhere were blown away by the performance of the original 5D and the newer cameras basically doubled the performance of that camera. In the end the new cameras from Canon, unless they shoot themselves in their own feet, will keep the serious users of some specialty lenses loyal to the mark. And really, just about anything over 36 megapixels should be in the territory of highly diminishing advantages. A switcher? I think not.
A realization that, at least in video, the DX format cameras are the Goldilocks tools. While the color and sharpness of the video files from the Nikon D810 are satisfying the real reason that people are interested in shooting motion with full frame cameras is to get the narrow depth of field that's the visual hallmark of the bigger sensors. But many people (myself included?) are finding that the narrow depth of field is a double edged sword and it's easy to get burned by the narrow depth of field when a subject is moving around, close to camera and when shooting with longer lenses.
The DX format offers a bit more depth of field and in many cases a more usable tool for "on the go" shooting. It's nice when stuff stays in the zone of good focus. It's bad when stuff goes soft. That's especially true on cameras that don't provide focusing tools that are usable when actually shooting.
As the APS-C format cameras like the Nikon D7200 and the Canon 7D.2 get better and better video tools and codecs we'll probably see more and more cinematographers and videographers pick them up and start using them as everyday shooting tools more often than they choose the full frame cameras. Most already understand that the difference in imaging potential is less meaningful than delivering a watchable product. And being in focus is a large part of watchability.
That's all I've got for right now. I've downloaded the 25+ gigabytes of video from this weekend onto a little HP hard drive and I'm off to deliver it to the editors.
then I've got some down time in which to go out and shoot for myself. Now where did I put my Olympus EM5.2?
12 04 2015David Hobby in Photo articles, Pictures from
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So you bit the bullet and spent ~$100 for the stuff needed to turn your hot shoe flash into a mini portable studio lighting system. What do you with the box of stuff the UPS guy just dropped onto your dorstep? Where do you start?
That is exactly the gap we explore whenever I teach a beginner's lighting class. So today we are going to walk through a "first steps" exercise.