How to shoot a TV drama with your D-SLR

Remember earlier this spring when the photoblogosphere was all at witter with news that the season finale of Fox’s House had been shot entirely with a Canon EOS 5D Mark 2 D-SLR? Well if you happened to be living under a rock at the time—or if you have better things to do than read the Internet all day—trust me, it was. This was (and still is) big news, because instead of a $50,000 setup (or god knows how expensive a traditional high-def video rig and lenses could be) you can now shoot primetime TV dramas with a $2500 camera and a couple of $1000 lenses. That’s big, right?

Well now you can learn exactly how it was done by tuning in to an interview with the director of that episode, Greg Yaitanes, on the blog of filmmaker Philip Bloom. Philip interviewed Greg to create the hour-long radio-style interview full of experiences from a seasoned television professional on working with the little D-SLR that could also do TV. (If you’d rather not stream the audio, you can save the clip to your desktop or even peruse a transcript instead.) Anyone interested in broadening their video horizons would be well served by a professional TV shooter’s insights and inspiration.

philipbloom.net

Remember earlier this spring when the photoblogosphere was all at witter with news that the season finale of Fox’s House had been shot entirely with a Canon EOS 5D Mark 2 D-SLR? Well if you happened to be living under a rock at the time—or if you have better things to do than read the Internet all day—trust me, it was. This was (and still is)... Read more

A close-to-home photo safari

Let’s face it: much as I’d love to try my long lenses photographing wildlife on an African safari, I’m much more likely to photograph exotic animals at the local zoo. And that’s okay, I say, because a beautiful photograph is a beautiful photograph no matter where it’s made. If you’re planning your own zoological photo safari, there are a few special precautions to take. True, you have a much lower chance of being trampled by a rhino at the zoo than on the open plain, but there are other problems. Things like enclosures and power lines and other manmade structures that sort of spoil the wild appearance of your wildlife images. To do a better job of eliminating these, use the longest lens you can and create the shallowest depth of field with a wide open aperture. To read more about the specific challenges of photographing at the zoo, check out this recent Lightstalking post. It may not offer advice on wildlife photography in general, but it does prepare you for the specific challenges of photographing at the zoo.

lightstalking.com

Let’s face it: much as I’d love to try my long lenses photographing wildlife on an African safari, I’m much more likely to photograph exotic animals at the local zoo. And that’s okay, I say, because a beautiful photograph is a beautiful photograph no matter where it’s made. If you’re planning your own zoological photo safari, there are... Read more

Movie or Strobe?

T.1 and T.5 surely pertain to Terminator movies, no? I must confess that I’m not terribly well versed in the current state of action movies, but I do know about photography stuff. It turns out that T.1 and T.5 are designations for the time it takes a flash to output a burst of light. The duration of a flash, as you know, is really short. But not all flashes are equal. In fact, some flashes are less powerful than others even though they can deliver the same amount of total illumination. They do this by lasting longer—say a 500th of a second instead of a 1000th of a second. The strobe pulse duration may not mean much in many situations, but sometimes it can make the difference between a sharp shot and a blurry one.

For example, if you’re photographing a dancer in motion and you’re relying on a flash to freeze her in midair, you’d be much better served by a shorter flash duration—say 1/2000th of a second—than you would a flash that lumbers along taking all of 1/200th of a second. There’d be a big difference in motion blur there, just as there would be with the same sort of shutter speed changes. (In fact, I always suggest to folks who are looking to stop motion with their flash to set the unit for its lowest power output and make that exposure work in camera—because the lower power translates into a shorter flash duration that’s much better at stopping fast action.) Now back to those Terminator numbers.

Manufacturers publish T.1 and T.5 numbers that can be used to compare different flashes. The T.1 number represents the time it takes for a flash to output almost all (90%) of a strobe pulse, whereas the T.5 number is in indication of the time it takes to output 50% of a pulse. Generally faster is better, but the most important thing when you’re comparison shopping is to compare apples to apples—if you’re looking at a T.1 number for one unit, be sure to compare the T.1 (as opposed to the T.5) number of another. Think of the T.1 as the time it takes to pump out the entire flash, and you’re closer to understanding the overall speed a flash is capable of delivering.

All of this photo-geekery comes to mind courtesy of the Strobist blog, which is the place to geek out on obscure flash technical information like this. I recommend heading over there asap to read the recent post all about T.1 and T.5 numbers to get a better understanding of how they work and how to put that knowledge to use.

strobist.blogspot.com

T.1 and T.5 surely pertain to Terminator movies, no? I must confess that I’m not terribly well versed in the current state of action movies, but I do know about photography stuff. It turns out that T.1 and T.5 are designations for the time it takes a flash to output a burst of light. The duration of a flash, as you know, is really short. But not... Read more
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Facebook Photo Critique

Are you an aspiring child photographer? Would you like feedback or even a professional review from an established professional? Then you’re in luck, because now on Facebook you can connect with photographer Nick Kelsh and he’ll critique your baby photos for free. Simply search for Nick’s Facebook page called “How to Photograph Your Baby,” which is not so coincidentally the same name as one of his best-selling books. Even if you don’t upload images for review, you can peruse the page and learn a thing or two from Nick’s advice. Everything from composition to color balance is covered, and the tips pertain to many other kinds of photography as well. So don’t by shy, give Nick’s Facebook feedback a try.

Are you an aspiring child photographer? Would you like feedback or even a professional review from an established professional? Then you’re in luck, because now on Facebook you can connect with photographer Nick Kelsh and he’ll critique your baby photos for free. Simply search for Nick’s Facebook page called “How to Photograph Your Baby,”... Read more

Best of World Cup photographs… so far.

Rob Galbraith does a remarkable job of pointing to great collections of photography online, and one of his favorite sources has also become one of mine—the Boston Globe’s Big Picture. Over the weekend, the Big Picture photo blog featured a gallery of phenomenal images from the biggest sporting event in the world at the moment, the World Cup. With so many opportunities for stunning sports action photography, what’s most interesting to me about the collection is how many of the images capture human moments surrounding the on-field action—athletes reacting with thrill and agony, fans expressing the same emotions, and generally the spectacle that draws the world’s focus for a few weeks every four years. It’s a great collection of images that work both to give a great picture of the event so far and as a model for aspiring photojournalists: sometimes the best way to tell the story is to turn your camera away from the obvious shots and look for something more.

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/06/halfway_in_-_2010_world_cup.html

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Rob Galbraith does a remarkable job of pointing to great collections of photography online, and one of his favorite sources has also become one of mine—the Boston Globe’s Big Picture. Over the weekend, the Big Picture photo blog featured a gallery of phenomenal images from the biggest sporting event in the world at the moment, the World Cup. With... Read more

Browse Lighting Diagrams

Lighting diagrams are all the rage these days. There’s a new web site called Sylights designed to bring making and sharing lighting diagrams to the masses, and it’s a pretty cool concept. Unfortunately, I think for lighting diagrams to be really effective they need a lot more information. Most crucially, you need to see sample photos that show the setup in action and what the photographic results look like.

Beyond the sample photos, though, when I make lighting diagrams I include all sorts of data on power, ratios, distance, modifiers, colors, etc. Add that to this web site and suddenly you’ve got something invaluable for photographers.

If you want to learn how to utilize lighting diagrams, a great way to start is to tear photographs out of magazines and then try to recreate them. How? Look to highlights, shadows and catchlights in eyes for clues as to the setups employed in the pictures. That’s how we did it in school, and that’s still how I do it today. Once you’ve got it figured out, create a diagram with all the details that will help you recreate the setup again and again.

sylights.com

Lighting diagrams are all the rage these days. There’s a new web site called Sylights designed to bring making and sharing lighting diagrams to the masses, and it’s a pretty cool concept. Unfortunately, I think for lighting diagrams to be really effective they need a lot more information. Most crucially, you need to see sample photos that show... Read more

A Holster for your Camera

File this under, “why didn’t I think of that.” Turns out I would have scoffed at something like the Spider Camera Holster a few years ago as overkill, or just another piece of photo gear to satisfy the photo geek. Who really has a problem with regular straps and supports? But then I shot events for a couple of years with my typical camera-carrying approach, which was to put my wrist through the camera strap in a particular way, locking it around my elbow so that the camera was in my hand and ready to go without being hung around my neck. The problem is, after shooting this way for several years I’ve developed a significant issue: tendonitis. More specifically, tennis elbow – or in my case, photography elbow. And it hurts. I don’t mean it’s a little sore, I mean knee buckling pain if I reach for a cup of coffee the wrong way. The point is, the repetitive injury from lifting my camera to my eye hundreds of thousands of times is a serious problem. I now have to wear an elbow brace if I’m going to be shooting an event or other situation in which I’ll be shooting candid shots for hours and days at a time. It may not be super cool, but it’s a lot better than constant excruciating pain. If a device like this can aid other photographers who have neck, back or shoulder problems from the way they carry their cameras, I say, “Don’t be shy.” Use this support before it’s too late. Maybe this is next for me because now I sling two SLRs around my neck when I shoot events. I look a little bit like a geeky tourist, but I’m a lot more comfortable. And I cry less after photo shoots. Check out this SLR Lounge review of the camera holster and see if it’s for you.

slrlounge.com

spiderholster.com

File this under, “why didn’t I think of that.” Turns out I would have scoffed at something like the Spider Camera Holster a few years ago as overkill, or just another piece of photo gear to satisfy the photo geek. Who really has a problem with regular straps and supports? But then I shot events for a couple of years with my typical camera-carrying... Read more

Spend a day with Jay

Jay Maisel is a “walking photographic legend.” We’d all do well to be taught by Jay. Even just to spend a day with him, walking the streets of New York while he shares his advice and photographic guidance, would likely lead to some level of photographic enlightenment. Well now we can all do that vicariously online thanks to Scott Kelby. The Photoshop blogging guru spent a day with Jay shooting the streets of New York, and Scott’s team shot the whole thing on video for a documentary-style photo class, now showing at the Photoshop Insider Blog. Check it out and see what you learn. If nothing else, you’re bound to appreciate this glimpse inside the working world of a master like Maisel. You can watch the intro for free, but the entire class costs 25 bucks a month for access to all of Kelby’s training videos.

scottkelby.com

Jay Maisel is a “walking photographic legend.” We’d all do well to be taught by Jay. Even just to spend a day with him, walking the streets of New York while he shares his advice and photographic guidance, would likely lead to some level of photographic enlightenment. Well now we can all do that vicariously online thanks to Scott Kelby. The Photoshop... Read more

Behind the Scenes Portraits

The Strobist blog has long offered behind the scenes glimpses of how professional photographers utilize strobe lighting to create interesting images. Photographer Brad Trent has turned his behind the scenes portraits into more than that – a saleable personal shooting style. Now the two have teamed up for a Strobist post showcasing Mr. Trent and his interesting images. You see, he once found himself shooting a portrait and feeling fed up with the “fake reality” of it all. The artificial lighting, the contrived poses, all the setup just to look “natural.” So he decided to stop hiding it, and he backed up to show how he created the scene. Not only do the resulting images offer a glimpse for other photographers as to how he lights his editorial portraits, they make an artistic comment about perception versus reality, real identity compared to the carefully crafted visual identity put forth in commercial portraiture. Better still, it’s a look that art buyers must appreciate because they hire him for that very look. It’s all quite interesting and worth a read over at the Strobist site.

strobist.blogspot.com

Photograph © Brad Trent

The Strobist blog has long offered behind the scenes glimpses of how professional photographers utilize strobe lighting to create interesting images. Photographer Brad Trent has turned his behind the scenes portraits into more than that – a saleable personal shooting style. Now the two have teamed up for a Strobist post showcasing Mr. Trent and his... Read more

Geared Tripod Heads

I like geared tripod heads. And it seems I’m one of the few. Every time I talk to other photographers about tripod preferences, they seem to like other setups – be it ballheads or twist and lock handles. In fact, a photographer friend recently borrowed my tripod and said he didn’t like the gears, proving my theory incorrect: I’d long thought most folks didn’t love geared tripod heads just because they’d never tried geared tripod heads. Guess not.

Which brings me to my point: there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to photo gear and personal preference. We like what we like, just because we like it. And that’s perfectly fine.

So let’s discuss why we like what we like. I want to know what kind of tripod heads you prefer. And why. And while we’re at it, what other gear do you feel like you just can’t live without?

I’ll start: I like geared tripod heads so much that when I work with other heads – ballheads or twist operated handles, for example – I’m frustrated when I can’t simply and efficiently make the subtle movements that I can with a geared head. Sure, geared heads are heavier, but for me that weight premium is a worthwhile sacrifice for the increased performance and precision.

So tell me: what gear do you love to love? What tools can’t you live without? What little slice of equipment heaven makes you wonder why every other photographer doesn’t use it too, just like I wonder how anybody gets by without a geared head?

I like geared tripod heads. And it seems I’m one of the few. Every time I talk to other photographers about tripod preferences, they seem to like other setups – be it ballheads or twist and lock handles. In fact, a photographer friend recently borrowed my tripod and said he didn’t like the gears, proving my theory incorrect: I’d long thought... Read more

Funny Crash Reports

When my computer locks up or a program crashes, sometimes I’m offered a crash report to fill out and send to the developer so that they can determine what went wrong—presumably to try to prevent it in the future. This usually happens at such an inopportune moment that my reports are often filled with vitriol. I hope nobdy in particular takes too much offense. After all, it sorta seems like I’m simply submitting them for another computer to read. Turns out that I’m not the only one who uses crash reports to get a little something off his chest. Photoshop user and apparently frustrated comedian Garrett Murray has turned his Photoshop CS4 crash reports into little works of comic art. Check out his Maniacal Rage blog for a new piece every few weeks—or whenever Photoshop crashes on him.

log.maniacalrage.net

When my computer locks up or a program crashes, sometimes I’m offered a crash report to fill out and send to the developer so that they can determine what went wrong—presumably to try to prevent it in the future. This usually happens at such an inopportune moment that my reports are often filled with vitriol. I hope nobdy in particular takes too... Read more

A commercial that doubles as a really interesting video.

Ever since I interviewed adventure photographer Tyler Stableford for a DPP profile a few years ago I’ve been a big fan of his work. Not only does Tyler create great pictures, he’s a downright master of the business and digital sides of photography. He apparently likes Lightroom, as he was tasked with using it recently on assignment for Adobe’s new 3.0 version of the software. The resulting commercial can be found on YouTube, and while it’s a sponsored advertisement, it’s also a really interesting look into how he works in the field as well as the digital workflow of a phenomenal photographer. Check it out.

youtube.com

Ever since I interviewed adventure photographer Tyler Stableford for a DPP profile a few years ago I’ve been a big fan of his work. Not only does Tyler create great pictures, he’s a downright master of the business and digital sides of photography. He apparently likes Lightroom, as he was tasked with using it recently on assignment for Adobe’s... Read more
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