I created and installed a logo for the site today. You can see it in the upper left corner. Would love to hear any feedback.
Since I got my Nikon D7000, which has a built in feature for taking images at programmable intervals for a specified amount of time, I’ve been wanting to play with time lapse video. As we have some winter weather moving through right now, which in Southern California means a rain storm, the clouds this morning were puffy and moving rapidly enough to just see the movement with the naked eye, making them a good experimental subject.
So I pointed my widest angle lens (14mm) out the upstairs window toward the backyard, facing south by southwest at 9am, and captured some images, first at one per second, and then at one per 10 seconds. After some minimal processing, I then collected them in sequence into Final Cut and output as a movie. These two rates are concatenated in the video below, and nominally represent about a 25x speed up over real time, followed by a 250x speedup.
- For those whose browsers do not support HTML5, please click here.
- This is a more or less random shot out the window, just to see the clouds move. Nothing too fancy, so don’t focus on the composition too much.
- You can see compression artifacts. I was experimenting with HTML5 and MP4, so I could embed the file locally, just for the heck of it, and I have not fully mastered the compression options. I would have gotten better results out of the box and better browser interoperability if I had sent a hi res version to YouTube and let them process it, but it was interesting to experiment with HTML5.
- The brightness of the tree changes substantially as the sun goes in and out of cloud cover. Would have to watch for that type of thing in the future.
- A few frames have a bird flying through, resulting in a quick distraction. Would want to clean that up per frame, probably in Aperture before export.
- The sun began to introduce lens flare toward the end. Again goes to having to be aware of how the light will change over the course of the capture.
- The small movement of the leaves is annoying and distracts from the clouds. Need to watch for things in the frame which might “wiggle” over the course of the capture.
- During the first part at 1fps, the camera could not keep up once the buffer filled up, and some frames are dropped. This makes it a bit choppy toward the end of this segment. Would either need to run slower, or capture JPG and not raw, so that we are writing less data. In general, need to be sure of the max sustained frame rate for the given settings.
So a good experiment. I will have to find some more interesting subjects for another. And I also want to figure out a way to play with camera movement during the capture. I think it is really compelling when the camera angle drifts during the time lapse. But that will require carefully measured movements.
I went to the Fullerton Arboretum this morning to do a little shooting. The weather was largely overcast, with a little sun poking through from time to time, so lighting was fairly even, with the occasional opportunity for a brightly lit flower. I collected a few of the more interesting images into the gallery below, some better than others. Click an image to open the lightbox. Commentary follows.
I particularly liked Fat Squirrel, shot at 300mm from a safe distance, so as not to spook it. I presume being adjacent to the Cal State Fullerton campus, pickins are good for small wild animals feeding off student generated crumbs, resulting in overfed squirrels. On the other hand, as my wife suggests, maybe its a girl squirrel and she’s pregnant. Either way, the shot is not revolutionary, but I like the tone and the textures. You can almost feel how furry that tail is.
My other favorite is Bee, shot at 14mm, so that the bee and the flower are almost physically touching my lens. I was setting up to shoot the flower backlit (the sun had just appeared) with a wide angle, hoping to combine flower and sweeping background for something a little more interesting than the standard flower shot, when the bee arrived on the scene. So I recomposed a bit and started shooting rapidly, before the bee decided to move on, trying to keep the bee in focus. I ended up with a few decent shots, including this one. There were some others with more separation between the bee and the flower, but this one seemed the most pleasing overall composition. If you look closely, you can see the pollen on the bees knees. Its a bit easier to see in the full res image.
The pair of daffodil images are a matched set. Daffodils on the March suggested to me a mob of flowers chasing down the unfortunate one in front, what with the leaning and the height difference. Daffodils at Rest seemed like a bunch of flowers, perhaps the same mob now under control, standing around looking off in all directions. The bench suggestions sitting and resting as well. The whole picture just seems less urgent.
Palm is a bit bland, but I liked it for the radial lines. I tried it first with the circular mass centered in the frame, but the off centered composition was more interesting.
The remaining three all had possibilities, but did not quite pop the way I had hoped. Bench has some distraction in the foreground, and the flowers don’t quite line up with the other pieces in the frame. I liked the texture of the wood, both the bark of the tree and wooden bench, and the feeling of space behind the main subjects. But overall, it feels a little jumbled.
I spent a while working on Bridge, trying to get it right, but it never quite got there. I raised and lowered the camera, from the ground to 6 feet. I tried wide angle and telephoto. I used my Speedlight unmounted from the camera to get some fill off to the right, which helped a bit. And I ended up with something that was okay, but not really what I had in mind. I may try this one again if I go back.
Finally, for Flowers in Front of House, I was just thinking of the flowers when I shot it, but I realized upon later inspection that I needed to be a bit higher up to show more of what is behind the flowers. I like the colors and the subject matter, but it would have been much more effective if you could see the flower bed, then a bit of white picket fence, then the house, each in its own layer. As it is, too much is obscured by the flowers. I may also try this one again if I go back.
So that’s it. Good outing. Got a few keepers and tried a few things for the first time. Can’t beat that.
Follow up on my first shoot. Quick summary: had a blast!
The shoot was for a commercial for a furniture factory that hand-crafts high end custom pieces. It involved showing the process from customer order to completed product, with Tango dancers off in the background at critical points as a metaphor for the work going on in the factory, and romanticizing the final product. Throw in some artistic lighting and some good camera work, and it seemed to be working pretty well, at least from the raw footage I saw.
It was a modest crew, consisting of a director and his girlfriend/assistant, director of photography (DP), a gaffer (physically handling the lights), a steady-cam operator (with a second camera being handled by the DP), and two folks (including myself) with roles somewhere between key grip and best boy. Look it up. And of course the talent, which in this case was a couple of tango dancers and some furniture factory workers. There were also a few others floating around, including the factory owner (so, what I guess we might call the producer in this case, since he ultimately footed the bill).
I spent most of my time moving things around, wiring extension cords to where they needed to be for lights, and generally doing whatever physical work needed doing. Which was fine by me, because I also had the chance to look over the shoulders of the creative folks, getting to listen in on their thought processes, watch how the lighting was placed for various shots (sometimes physically doing the placing myself), how the camera was used, and how the actors were directed. And with digital film making, you can monitor and then watch everything right away, so I got to see how things were coming out as well.
On top of that, I met a bunch of really good folks, and exchanged contact info, so hopefully I’ll be able to get involved in more of these.
The final product will be on YouTube at some point. I’ll post a link when I get one.
Some good news today — I was invited to be an assistant on a commercial being shot up in LA on Sunday. I’ve done some of what we will call uncommissioned videos on my own, but this will be my first chance to participate in a professional video production, being made for a paying customer, so it should be a real education. I have no idea what my role will be — I may just be lugging equipment or holding a reflector or even just running for coffee — but it will be great to be on the set and watch how it’s done.
Welcome to my new (ad-)venture: Octal Creative. I have decided the time is right to devote myself full time to the production of photography and video. It’s time to stop saying I wish I had become a professional photographer, and just become one. So here we are.
I have spent the last few weeks organizing and educating myself, particularly on the business side of things. Lots of legal, financial, and technical details to understand and straighten out. And in the meantime, trying to make pictures too, as that was the point of doing this in the first place. I’ll post soon some of the things I have been up to artistically in the last month or two.
But things are starting to come together now. This site still needs some tweaking, but it is basically up and running (many thanks to my brother Will over at Letter Eye Media for the assist). Most of my paperwork is in order, and I am beginning to wrap my head around the notion that I am finally doing this.
So welcome to the site. Visit often, as I will be updating the blog regularly with what I am up to and the rest of the site with new content as I create it. And if you are looking for a Southern California photographer, let me know!