David's Blog

Category: Camera Tutorials

Embrace Your Mistakes:

 

 

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Haven’t done one of these for a while.

Zoo photography is wildlife photography for those not wiling to wait. Alas this doesn’t mean you get the photographs you want. Out of 224 photographs taken I was happy with…1. this one above is, like so many, one I am almost happy with.

The mistakes first, for which I can see two:

1. The image is very grainy, This is down to a) Enlarging the focus point of the image. b) Overdoing the sharpening tool.

2. The face is still shy of focus. This is even after I cranked up the sharpening tool to 11. This is because unlike in the wild zoo animas are well kept behind glass. Your sensor is snapping a photograph not just behind the glass of your lens but also the glass of the enclosure.

While I may have listed only two mistakes they are both killers.

Primates themselves hold a fascination for me. The Orangutan is perhaps one of my favorite creatures (many a disappointing picture of them too) and the Chimp I find equally fascinating and rather creepy. In the end I gave up trying to get that ‘perfect shot’ taking instead huge amounts of pleasure in watching them. This toddler chimpanzee especially was a very delightful thing to watch, as it dug a hole and began throwing dirt over his nearest elder- to their obvious frustration.

When an argument broke out and the shrieking began I not only remembered my recent cinema trip to see the latest in the Planet of The Apes series but also a little seen but rather excellent documentary called Project Nim, about Nim Chimpsky (the name does make me titter each time) being taught sign language, and the debate around him.

With moments of pure escapism, such as watching a young chimp annoy his family, perhaps its best we all live that moment and not worry about how it looks through a lens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slow Motion on the Cheap (ish)

Above is a video I helped shoot and edit for a Lisbon fashion designer. She came to us (Memory Box) with an idea and it was our job to turn it into a reality. One of her requirements was that a large percentage of the video had to be slow motion. I was unsure about this, but never one to turn down any money I said it was fine and spent the next three days prior to the shoot obsessively looking up every single tutorial possible.

What I found was with the right equipment and an awful lot of luck a Slow Motion effect is a surprisingly easy thing to do, although will take a lot of rendering time, if like me you have a macbook that’s a few years too old. However you do need the right stuff:

1. A camera that can shoot higher than 25fps, I shoot on a 600D and 70D both with 50fps.

2. After Effects (I used CS6, but have since experimented and got the same results with CS4)*.

3. A lot of luck.

But what about Twixter?” I hear you ask.  “This is a program everyone from Philip Bloom to a youtube stoner tells me I need to use. Who are you to go against the grain?” Well my dears, I am someone who will happily save you $500. I experimented with Twixter and while I found a improvements, I didn’t find anything that blew me away.  However I leave it up to you, here is perhaps one of the best examples of Twixtor use I saw, watch and be amazed:

 

 

DAVID’S  SHOOTING INSTRUCTIONS 

1. Shoot at a fast shutter: anything 1/2000 – 1/4000s. [so your lighting needs to be good]

2. Shoot against a plain/solid colored background – sky/wall etc etc.

3. When you shoot really close/tight, slow the action down manually ie – move slower and fake slow motion. Its easier to get good results when the action is shot from a distance

4. and perhaps most importantly TRIPOD THAT BITCH.

 

DAVID’S EDITING INSTRUCTIONS 

1. Import Footage into a new AE composition

2.Right click, enable time remapping.

3. Give composition more time so you can stretch out the footage

4. Find where you want to slow down and back to normal speed and add keyframes.

5. Move the keyframes to “stretch out” the time

6. Movement will be choppy, to overcome this go to Frame Motion> Pixel Blending.

7. And perhaps most importantly YOUR FOOTAGE WILL PROBABLY SUCK, DO NOT DESPAIR JUST TRY AGAIN.

 

I have since done another, perhaps even more slowed down film, which will be uploaded shortly. Until then, go out into the wild my young Zack Snyders and  see what you can create. But before you go, one more thing, see if you can of what i cannot: create a slow motion film that has a narratively driven reason for being in slow motion!

Enjoy.

 

Embrace Your Mistakes #4: The Night Sky

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A few months back when I as visiting Scotland I took a few star photographs which can be seen on my flickr page. With my wonderful girlfriend I also created this time-lapse that you can see above. I thought I would talk you through it, whats good, whats not and how it was created. 

This 10second film is actually 250 still images taken over the course of two hours. I do not have a remote shutter so it was taken by hand with the exposure set to 20seconds. For this shoot I used the Helios 44, an old Russian lens which was at hand. Converted its about a 55, It would be interesting to compare this short with one taken with a wider angled lens, but I don’t think the crop is necessarily an issue.  The sequence was shot  on RAW and brought into After Effects through Adobe Bridge. It is 25fps. 

What is an issue is the slight tremor of the camera/tripod set up and the slight delay in the shot, it is never exactly 10 seconds and sometimes it shows when I wasn’t paying full attention to the time (to give us some credit it was about zero degrees out there!) This shows that a remote release is necessary! Even if you had perfect timing it would combat the shake, however slight it might feel when taking the shot.

The footage is a bit noisy, this could be combatted with a noise reduction with color or after effects but this would downgrade the sharpness, for me that is far more important than a bit of grain!   

But there is still much to admire, if not in this video then with just looking up at the stars themselves, moving at a slower rate

 

 

 

   

The Sky at Night

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Apologies for not blogging in a while. I have been up in Scotland shooting and editing an advert, it has been very time consuming but now it’s almost done I can turn my attention onto the more important things in life: you, my dear readers.

Theses picture were taken a few nights ago. Like everyone else I am stunned by the night sky and love looking up at the stars, although I do have to admit about knowing very little about them. This night was a fabulous example of what the sky really looks like without light pollution. If you want a tutorial on how to take these Astronomy shots I can not recommend this article enough, it has everything that you need to know.

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If I were to stress anything the article doesn’t talk about it would be LUCK. I have been in Scotland for about a month now and this was the first (and only night so far) that I have really been able to see the stars. It’s been far too cloudy up until then, so take your time and look out at the night sky and take any chance you can get!

All the photographs were taken with my trusty 600D and Sigma’s 30mm 1.4. The introductory picture was taken with a 30 second exposure (Bulb manual settings) and the rest were taken with exposures from 10-30 seconds. I have since read you should not go above 13 seconds, while it is true the longer you keep the bulb pressed the more data can be seen it is also true (illustrated if you blow up the photographs) that the pictures will be more blurry with the stars moving. If you like what you see then go to my Flickr set The Sky at Night, I need some help naming what can be seen in them! By all accounts on the introductory photograph you can see the Andromeda Galaxy but apart from that I have no real clue. More will be uploaded soon so please do check them out and tell me what you can see!

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Photo Stitching

My girlfriend has taken up stitching with her (great) Grandmother’s old sewing machine. I have been doing some stitching myself, but not with needles and thread but photographs and an editing software.

Friends who do not own DSLRs and Photoshop moan to me that they have not been able to do any of my blogs so far, so this is a simple technique that can be done with ANY type of camera (or camera app) and any type of photo editing software (for a free alternative to photoshop look at Gimp, if you have a mac Pixelmator is well worth it’s £10).

Panorama’s are all in at the moment thanks to some brilliant apps on smart phones but I have a few problems:

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1. the image quality is not great

2. the image is too trimmed (which means you are stuck doing landscape shots)

3. They never look as good as you hope

By digitally stitching together pictures you can have full control over the image. When taking pictures there are several things to remember:

1. make sure your images can be overlapped, it is useless if there is a gap.

2. make sure there is a ‘point’ to an image being so large, if you want to show say a ladybird on a leaf, is stitching loads of images around the lady bird going to make the eyes focus on that little red and black specimen?

3. Have you got everything you need? Remember the image will have to be cropped, so shoot a bit of sky or ground if you need

4. Make sure you take the pics pretty darn quick so the image looks like it was all in one shot and make sure the camera exposure is consistent.

5. Have fun 🙂

Now when you put the photographs side by side in your application they’re going to look like what they are, a jumble of shots side by side. So now you have to take those pictures and overlap them where they correspond and start rubbing out the edges and duplicates. This is the most time consuming part, the heading photo was quick as it was five different tripod shots (18mm lens, 600d) while the shot at the end of this post took a little longer as I needed to crop, resize and duplicate some of the images to get all the tree trunk and surrounding canopy (that shot was taken a Nikon D300 with 17-200mm lens.) But why be so linear? Big spaces are what the panoramic image was made for but with stitching you can go in any direction. This bug below was first shown on my Lens Duplication Reversion Blog but as as equally at home here. Why? Because it is actually many many many images all crammed into one, as the image next to it shows:

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Also why do you even have to hide it’s a collection? Why not show it for what it is? A higgledy piggledy messy collage? Isn’t that right Jellings? (that’s James Jellings on the top right…he’s a friend from the uni days). I am going to do more posts on this soon as I think there’s a lot more to say on the subject but for now comment with anything you have to say and flick through my flickr set.

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Lens Whacking (or The Original Lens Whacker)

First of all I was thrilled with the response to my Double Reversing Lens Blog and I shall do a follow up shortly. Before that however, I would like to welcome you to my new blog post on the art of Lens Whacking.

Lens Whacking is an even simpler technique than the one shown in my last blog, all you have to do is take the lens off the camera, letting more light into the sensor, and hold it at different lengths to the camera, like so:

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By lens whacking you can create a dreamy washed out shot that still has a sharp focus point. (If you like, it is a DIY lens baby shot without the lens baby). If you hold the lens close to the camera the shot is more in-focus and  great for portraits. If you hold the lens further away it gives a more abstract look.

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For me Lens Whacking doesn’t really come alive until you do some filming, here you can move the lens both closer to and further from the camera to give a fluid dreamy look, this is demonstrated  with the header video wich is an elongated sequence from my degree film The World Collector taken all the way back in 2011.

Many things have multiple discoveries, while tracking in the Jungle  Alfred Russel Wallace came up with Evolution by Natural Selection at the same time Darwin was just completing his Origins of Species in secret.* Lens Whacking is another. It all started along time ago in the year 2010 in the magical land of Norwich, or perhaps more accurately, Norwich University of the Arts where our hero, a skinny, scruffy haired film student (yours truly) was playing around with a friends 60d. He was switching lenses with the camera was still on when he, accidentally, discovered Lens Whacking (or as he called it Light Bleeding, after 35mm development).

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This is where the story should end, his film was shown to polite appraisal and he graduated with a BA in 2011 as a fully fledged filmmaker. Then in 2012 something strange was happening, Twitter was abuzz with this revelatory way of filming it was called Lens Whacking. All my friends where doing it, all their friends where doing it and by all accounts it spread from Philip Bloom, DSLR Guru. I was aghast. IT WAS LIGHT BLEEDING, and not even a footnote talking about me. So go, have fun, and play around with the process, it’s both very easy to do and a lot of fun. But please remember the moral of this post:

ALWAYS BLOG STRAIGHT AWAY ABOUT YOUR FINDS AND NOT THREE YEARS LATER. 

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*Not quite as simple as this you understand. Darwin’s theory implied in Origin (and given full attention in his behemoth of a read The Descent of Man) that humans were a part of his tree of life, Wallace saw humans (or rather human’s mind) as separate thus putting a nail in his intellectual coffin that T H Huxley gladly hammered in… this is all very interesting and I could not recommend looking Darwin’s life, his scientific ideas and his companions enough.

Double Lens Reversing (or DIY Macro)

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For the last few weeks I have been playing around with Double Lens Reversing shots, a simple process where you add a reversed lens over an attached one to create a DIY Macro photograph. The process is a revelation to me and I have been embarrassing my girlfriend by every moment possible crouching down near anything, holding a two lenses together and rocking backwards and forwards slowly to try and find the focus (this is actually how you focus, you also have to get very very close to the subject), looking something like this:

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You can do an array of different shots from the picturesque, like the daffodil  heading this blog to the grotesque little critter that flew onto my book below.

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For these shots I used a sigma 70-300mm Zoom lens attached and the standard canon kit lens the 18-55 reversed on top. Although for different results any can be used, you could even hold a non-standard lens in front, some of my best shots where taken with my trusty helios 44 2.0.

There are some issues. It will always be a small vignetted image and it would be hard to get a full creature (unless tiny) in one frame. These problems can be got around though with the help of post-production. Adobe, Gimp, Pixelmator heck even MS Paint, whatever tool you use can crop the image getting rid of the black vignette around. By collaging/digitally stitching pictures together you can create whole beings in all their macro magnificence. The shot below was done on Photoshop and is six different images, it is by no means a perfect image but you can see the potential within.

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A more pressing issue is the lack of light, I put the ISO to the max (for me 6,400) and the shutter speed right down to its fastest, this is to minimise any shake wich WILL occur. This I’m afraid can not be sorted out in post and the only help I can give is to advise you to take the shoots outside in full daylight or bring as much light onto the subject as possible, that fly shot was taken with a reading lamp, room light and flash, it was also shot on RAW to give me slight control in post.

One final issue that Im sure you’re already shouting at the screen about is the shakiness of holding two lenses together. Well my dears I have come up with a solution,  gasp at the wondrous contraption below:

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All you need is one empty Willaim Lawson’s vintage whisky case (and some friends to help you drink it would be beneficial, I suppose any whisky case of your choosing will do as they do not sponsor me…yet) your two lenses and a bit of foam to cushion the lenses in. This can be rested on your knee making a perfectly still(ish) shot. This will also work for moving images- more of wich will apear in a blog hopefully of the very near future.

If you have any queries,  suggestions or shots you would like to share please do get in touch. If you liked this post also say as it will motivate me to do more!  Here is my Flickr Set for all my try-outs, take a look and follow me, it would be brilliant to see others take these ideas and improve on them!