David's Blog

Category: Photography

Deer in the Fog

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In a post last week I said I wasn’t a nature photography, pfft, here is a picture I took at Point Reyes, California. I could talk about how I went to the area in search for the Stags, or how I spent a while stalking it or in how I spent ages in Photoshop re-colouring it but that’s pompous tosh. Photography is often luck, trial and error. I took seventy photographs and this one came out well.

So go out with your cameras and get lucky! (erm…)

Whale Watching

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Above is a picture of what I saw when I went whale watching, next to it is the average picture I took. Call me Ishmael if you may, I saw the great white Devil but I never quite captured it in all its glory.

This is partly because we were 100m away, partly because (like an iceberg) you see so little of the fantastic mammal bust mostly because I am not a nature photographer.

I did take one worthwhile(ish) photograph, a blow hole and a tale of two Grey Whales (I like to think mother and Calf – although I have no proof of this -) That I intend to send to the marine biologist on the trip due to it’s distinctive and clear markings. I started to ponder about the worth of still and moving photography as documentation purposes.

Whale With this in mind BBC2’s fantastic nature programs, I have the complete Life Collection by David Attenborough, suddenly seems not just entertaining factual programs but crucial cataloguing for future peoples. “This was life on earth; this was how our co-inhabitants lived” future generations can say to further future generations while showing photographs and film we take now. This generation can only say “Sorry all you have left are photographs.”

So with the idea of photography as important time capsule for future generations to judge, perhaps we shouldn’t take so many selfies in club toilets?

My Alternatives to Adobe

Being a modern corporate “filmmaker” now means not just being able to Shoot and edit to a high standard but being able to use After Effects, colour grade, create 3D creations with cinema 4D, animate vectors in after effects or flash (some still use this I hear), take photographs, draw basic vectors ill Illustrator, use photoshop AND I have been to meetings where the client also wants me to use “in-design.”

People who are regulars on this blog (thank you) will know that I am a lover of all things “cheap.” Cheap is great in amateur photography where I can use reversed lenses, tubes, old lenses and second hand cameras to get the results I need and in filmmaking too with now everyone turning to DSLR shooting i can use the same techniques on a shoot. Post production is a different matter.

Many of us are still tied down with Final Cut or Adobe. Within moving image I cannot see a worthwhile competitor coming anytime soon to take over from the (slowly improving) FCX or the (pretty brilliant but pricey) Premiere CC. However in the world of pre-production, image manipulation and now Vector drawings there are several alternatives. I thought I would take this blog to go through some that I use on a daily bases.

 

Scripting:

 

CeltX: Yes I know Avatar was written with Final Draft but do you really want to pay £200 for what basically is a weirdly formatted word processor? CeltX does the job more than adequately. You are able to write a correctly formatted script and incorporate it with your storyboards.

Scrivener: While every other word processor I can think of (Word, Open Office, Pages) forces you by design to start at the beginning and work you way through Scrivener takes a much more intuitive approach of letting you start wherever the hell you like. Being able to import reference material into separate sections and earlier drafts that neither destroy nor district from your main airflow is an intelligent approach. At £30 it is more expensive than the free CeltX but can save you a lot of time.

MindNode Pro: At £13.99 this is neither the cheapest (there is the lesser Mind Node Beta for free) or the most expensive (ConceptDraw is £250!) it is however a very user friendly app that lets you organise your ideas into wonderful mind maps. Great for working on structure and ideas for your script!

 

My Workflow: MindNode Pro then CeltX.

 

Image Manipulation:

Gimp: I used to be in the church of Gimp, perhaps much like non-practising Jews I am a non-practising Gimp user. I first came across Gimp way back in 2003 aged 13. It taught me much about image manipulation, colour correction and layers. For that I say thank you.  It is open-source and constantly expanding, give it a go.

Pixelmator: A mac only app’ at £9,99 it is more reliable than Gimp and significantly cheaper than Adobe’s PhotoShop. Of course it doesn’t have nearly as many features as PS but for the price it is very reasonable and all the basics can be performed here.

Aperture: I moved to Aperture when my subscription to Adobe CC ran out and my previous Photoshop (SC4) failed to open my camera’s RAW. Aperture is a powerful image manipulation and storage system that’s great a tweaking your RAW files. While if you want real-out there style image manipulation you will have to use in conjunction with other applications (Pixelmatr or PS). At £70 it is the most expensive of all my cheaper options so far but well worth the price. WARNING: This application is being taken off the app store early 2015 to be replaced with a “Dumbed down” version- an apple trend that was started with there downgrade from FC7 to X.

 

My Work flow: Aperture and final retouches in Pixelmatr.

 

Graphic Design

Affinity Designer: Costs the same as “renting” Adobe illustrator for two weeks and yet seems to be just as good. Now, I am not a graphic designer nor am I a good drawer but for a few animated projects I have had to either draw or work in collaboration with graphic designers and Illustrator is the program to use. Perhaps not any more. This is a real gem of a program that I have been playing around with for 10 days now. Well worth a look.

 

 

Growing Old: Photoshop Portrait

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Here are two images both produced by overlapping 88 different photographs and playing with the opacity. My original intention was to create a (now so fashionable) time-lapse of my partner’s now 87 year old grandmother growing up and ageing through childhood, teenage-hood, marriage, motherhood, grandparent hood and now enjoying her old age with biscuits and TV.

I rummaged around and scanning every photograph I could find (over 100) and whittling them down to the ones with the face looking in the same direction. In Photoshop I adjusted the opacity and began overlaying the images matching the eye-line. All this was intended only to simplify the After Effects process. What I ended up with was something rather beautiful instead.

Playing around with each layers opacity and slight colour enhancements I think brings out each individual image, I believe theres a real depth to the pictures. I then went back and recorded them to show of her younger self, her old age ghosted in the background. What’s interesting is not what has changed but what has stayed- while the Portuguese sun has added wrinkles her smile has never really changed, assaying the same while the rest is a blur.

And what about the original video that kicked all this off? Well, I will get around to that…. Eventually.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Reflective

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In my old age (I recently celebrated my 24th Birthday) I have become slightly reflective. Apologies in advance.

“I need a new better camera.” or “I need updated software”

How many times do I hear this? Instead of wanting what we don’t yet have, why not play with what we do. Robert Frank did not have a 2014 DSLR yet still managed to photograph The Americans. Thelma Schoonmaker didn’t have FCPX yet still edited Raging Bull. Lets stick with what we know. Understand how to work it, improve with it. Fuck up with it, and eventually watch it die of overuse. Then we can have new things, perhaps creating something worthwhile with the old one.

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  Thanks to the good users of Viewbug for picking my Sea Otter photograph as one of their peoples choice. This hungry fella’ was taken at the Oceanario de Lisboa, a very fine Oceanarium to go to that does a lot of good in this world. Far more than America’s SeaWorld chains that have constantly been in […]

Allergy to Originality

Perhaps this blog should be renamed to “Remixes and Plagiarism” but not to sound to much like a broken record I found a rather Lynchian video exploring the ideas of originality in Pop’ Culture. In it the characters quote Mark Twain leading me to find a wonderful letter by him on this very subject. Do check out the video below and if you liked that letter do follow Letters of Note on twitter. Enjoy!

 

How to Win at Kickstarter

Picking From The Money Tree

 

I know you have always wanted to own a nintendo-themed italian restaurant called ‘Mario & Linguini’ and you may of heard of an awesome site called Kickstarter where charitable people go and fund your extravagant desires.

Alas this blog is here to you that this might not actually be the case, especially in my line of work (filmmaking). For every Iron Sky there are hundred of film failures, mostly featuring Zombies or topless women (and probably both). Previous success stories will not help you either. Mario Tapio Kines is a filmmaker who has feature length films to his resume, both funded through online crowdsourcing, the first from way back in the previous century before it was easy and cool. His third feature never even got to the half way point on Kickstarter, Luckily for us he has written an article on his failures here.

I will deviate from my usual filmmaking/photography interests and talk about all form of creativity. So here it is, the 5 ways to win at kickstarter:

1. TELL US WHY IT’S WORTH IT: Unless you have a cure for all types of cancer, or a non pyramid scheme than can make all your backers uber-rich it is likely you will have to Sell your idea. This means a fun, informative and memorable video, not just you mumbling into your webcam. This may take time and effort but get it wrong and deal breaker. Pitching skills can be found here:

2. WORTHWHILE REWARDS: Some where outraged when that rich guy off of that medical comedy on TV asked us poor people to fund his film. I was not, what I was outraged by was the complete lack of worthwhile rewards (eg. $10 would get you a  link to the Vlog!). Zack Braff made his money even with his stinking rewards but you will not. People want to feel special, what there getting is something actually worthwhile. Don’t charge £30 for a crappy DVD, ask for £30 and in return the sponsored will get a picnic on the set (travel costs not included). For £100 why not offer an advert for there business/band/wedding whatever. If your a graphic designer why not do some nice “limited posters.” There is a reason table top games and figurines do so well, people want to treat kickstarter not as a charity but as a shop of unique oddities. You have to do the same.

3. ADVERTISE YOUR PROJECT. Simples.

4. ADVERTISE YOUR PROJECT….WELL. Dear @twitterfollower please would you back my project”  or “hey @Facebookbuddy back my project, yoy” will piss people off. Sure use social media but don’t whine and bitch to people, be selective. My friends will be bribed by a pint, and once they have put money down get them to share it to their friends using the same tactics. The Mario Kines article linked above gives more information. No one created a meme by shouting, just be nice.

5.  DON’T SET YOUR SIGHTS TOO HIGH. We all want to be millionaires but unless you want to re-create the Oculus Rift (and a tardis so you can go back and take it) you won’t get it. Budget as cheaply as possible. Your photography book will cost £50,000 will it? Or your dream short film will cost no less than £15,000. Give up. Start a little at a time, you won’t get the money unless you reach the targets. Ak for smaller funds. so £500 and then work with what you got. As a large stripy supermarket says “every little helps.”

So now you have the information, go and conquer kickstarter!

My ViewBug Spring Competition Entry

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I have recently joined ViewBug, it is much like flickr but with the added advantage of having competitions, many you have to pay for but some like the Spring Competition are free.

This picture was taken in my parents Scottish garden, there garden is so massive and so full up of stuff (woodland, lawn, rhubarb, grass, river) that I thought a photo stitch would be the best option. It was six pictures, 3 across and 3 to make a bit more “top and bottom.” I used Pixelmator, a budget-photoshop that can be bought for £10 in the mac app store.  I am, and always will be a Gimp admirer but for ac users Pixelmator is a thantastic program and I urge all of you to go try it if you have £10 to spare and no photoshop to use… intact I can feel a new blog coming along.

So wo else uses ViewBug? and what do people think of it overall? Theres a link to my profile here.