Monthly Archives: February 2011

My Lenskit for Video with the Nikon D7000

screen_shot_2011_02_17_at_83222_pm.pngI’ve been getting more than a few emails asking what I’m carrying these days in my Jekyll and Hyde persona as videographer with the D7000 (so which one is the videographer you ask?…why the monstrous Mr. Hyde, of course!)

Basically, I’m trying not to change too much from my still setup, but I am finding that there are different requirements for videos that make a slight variation on the lens kit desireable for me.

Take the above video, for instance.   I

I’m following up on my local “New Hope: In Character” print project with a video project I’m calling “Bucks County: In Character.”  Instead of portraits, I’m shooting short video vignettes on some of my more interesting neighbors whenever I’m home and “between engagements.”

You can see what I usually carry in the bag for stills here.

Here’s the lens kit for video…so far.

35mm f/1.8 Nikon-–still small, light, cheap and very sharp….a delight to carry!

16-85mm VR Nikon–my wideangle workhorse

70-300mm VR Nikon–my tele workhorse

Nothing different here…but wait….

10.5mm Nikon—At various times during my career, I’ve fallen in and out of love with a full frame fisheye lens, like this one. I haven’t been using one for many moons in still work, but for video, somehow I find it much, much more useful, and less obvious.

85mm f/3.5VR Macro Nikon—Up until a month ago, I had never owned a macro lens! Yes, it’s true, I just never had the need for one, and when I wanted to shoot the rare closeup, I’d use some extension tubes or a screw on, dual element closeup filter. But I had a chance to play with one on a recent shoot for Nikon and I fell in love with its tiny size, sharpness, and responsive handling.

So, since I find that I’m doing so many ECU’s (videospeak for “extreme close up”) and closeups for video that the tiny, sharp, DX only 85mm macro has pushed out the 85mm f/1.8 that is my usual prime in that range. If shooting in really low light, though, I’d take both, or maybe even the big 85mm f/1.4.

11-16mm f/2.8 Tokina—Yes, this has supplanted my 12-24 f/4 Nikon. It’s a full stop faster, slightly wider, and less fussy (sometimes my 12-24 looked great, sometimes…not so great).

For the Costume Barn, I used every lens but the 70-300mm, plus I used the audio kit to do the interview. 

It all fits, along with my Hoodman HoodLoupe, Litepanel MicroPro light and assorted chatchkes in my Lowepro Outback 300AW Modular Beltpack.  The audio kit goes in a vest pocket or in the tripod bag.

On the backshop end, someday,when I grow up, I really hope to be able to learn Final Cut. But in the meantime, I’m making due with iMovie 11…so simple, even I can do it!

When All Else Fails, Read the Instructions!

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“When all else fails,” a wag once observed about using high tech gear, “read the instructions.”

Yes, it’s getting very hard to keep up with all the technology we haul around in our camera bags these days. To ferret out the answers to some of the issues I have to figure out on a new camera, audio recorder, wireless microphone, speedlight, flash remote system, or camcorder, I often have to refer to the instruction books. 

But who wants to carry around a 2 pound brick of poorly written, but usually informative paper in his or her bag? And having them back home or at the hotel or even as PDFs on your laptop isn’t going to help you when you desperately need an answer to solve a problem in the field.

What’s a body to do? 

Well, if you usually carry an iPhone or an iPod Touch in your pocket or on your belt, you’ve got the answer right there. You can install a $5 app that lets you copy and read PDFs (and all sorts of other word processing files), even large ones.

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It’s called Air Sharing Pro (there’s a lite version for free, but it doesn’t have all the features) and it essentially turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into a mountable disk on your desktop, and includes document reading capability for PDFs and a long host of other word-processing apps. It also lets you access remote servers like MobileMe and Bonjour.

The great thing is you bypass iTunes and the annoying synch thing and just drag and drop the PDFs of your instruction manuals right into the program. And voila!

There they are, all beautifully-formatted and searchable. Now, when I have to switch radio frequencies on my wireless mic, I no longer have to punch at buttons blindly…I just grab the iPod Touch and look it up. 

Now, if someone would just invent an app to make those instructional manuals lively and well written….that would be true genius!

Does the Nikon D7000 have a split personality?

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These are tough times for the single-minded. Existential decisions abound and choices have to be made on an hourly basis: paper or plastic? skim or 1%? grande or vente? And of course, the great decision facing anyone with an HD SLR camera: stills or video?

That last one is the great bugaboo I’ve been struggling with lately. And it’s not made any easier by the fact that, when doing one or the other, I have to set up the camera in two completely different ways.

What do I mean? Well, for stills, I like the AF to start off the back AEL/AFL button, and keep the shutter release free from focusing functions. I like to work in half stops, not third stops, daylight is my default WB, and Aperture Priority my default exposure mode. I use the Function button to lock exposure, I use Continuous AF and I never use auto ISO

In video mode, I like the shutter button to start the focus, the AE/AFL button to set to lock exposure (AEL Hold), I work in 1/3 stops so I can get the desired 1/50th of a second shutter speed for 24fps video, Shutter Priority is my go to setting, as are Single AF and Auto WB.  And for video, I use Auto ISO (set to go from ISO 100-1600 when the shutter speed drops below 1/30th).

Well let me tell you, that’s a heap of custom functions to reprogram everytime you jump back and forth from stills to video. And in the light of this pressure, I have to admit that I’ve become a user.

But before you call the intervention folks, when I say user, I mean the menu item that allows the D7000 to assume one of completely two different personalities depending upon the user…that’s User 1 or User 2.

Yes, you can program in two completely different sets of custom functions, save one as USER 1 and the other as USER 2 and switch back and forth with a click of the top dial!

Pure genius (can you tell I’m smitten with this camera????).  And if you should decide to, say, switch one function while in a User menu, all the other functions seem to hold on until you reselect the User setting. 

Now, you know I’m no techno-phile. And for all I know this ability to chose user menus has been present in previous camera models. But it hasn’t been until I had to choose between two such utterly disparate crafts as stills and videos have I ever felt the need to be so, um, schizoid in my settings. Having a split personality has never felt so good…or been so useful!

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How to Shoot the Night Sky

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The night sky photography of my friend and fellow Jersey boy Roman Kurywczak just blows me away. He travels the American west with some large flashlights, a sturdy tripod, and the kind of energy and enthusiasm it takes to stay out and up all night in vast, remote places.

Since the advent of full frame DSLR’s with superb low light capabilities, I’ve seen a lot of star point and star trail photos, but Roman’s stands out. He just goes that extra mile…literally and figuratively.  He’s the kind of guy who thinks that standing out all alone on a bluff with a 10 million candlepower flashlight light, painting vast valleys of rock and stone from midnight to 3 a.m., night after night is, um, recreational.

Well, he’s finally collected a bunch of his stuff and explains how he does it in this short but chock-full-of-info ebook A Digital Guide to Photographing the Night Sky.  There’s no padding or puffery here….Roman gets to it fast, and explains it to you in short-and-sweet, no-nonsense language. 

Although I would have loved to have seen more of Roman’s night sky imagery included in the book, he’s left out nothing in the way of useful info, and I picked up a couple of invaluable tips that made the $23 ebook more than worth the price of admission, especially when you consider the time and hassle it will save you when you’re in the middle of nowhere in the dead of the night!

But you’ll have to get your own copy to find out what they are. When a guy spends 15 years wandering in the desert in the middle of the night and offers to share the expertise he’s garnered with you, you gotta give him his due…and your credit card!

 

Get on the Lighting Bus

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Not since Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters took their pyschedelic cross country ride in 1964 have two more, um, interesting fellows decided to take a road trip in a bus.

I speak, of course, of my buddies David (St. David of Baltimore—christened by Father Bob himself) Hobby, The Strobist, and Joe McNally, Mr. Speedlight. They’re getting their teaching act together and taking it on the road…to 29 cities over the course of two months.

Dubbed the Flashbus Tour, it promises to be a great educational experience for anyone wanting to see how two masters get the most out of small strobes. It’s made all the more interesting because both men are clearly insane, er, I mean entertaining and skilled teachers, and they both arrive at their results in completely different ways.

McNally likes his small flash work done in TTL, while Hobby is a manual guy from wayback. So you’ll find out more than one way to skin a cat or light a portrait.

The lads have been busy. Joe has released a two DVD instructional package called The Language of Light, while David has his DVD set called Lighting in Layers. Package deals are being offered, so you can register for a seminar and get one or both DVD sets, or just the seminar alone.

I don’t know where these guys find the energy….I know it’s not from the same place that Ken Kesey and the Pranksters did.…the boys assure me that the only thing they’ll be popping on this cross country bus tour are speedlights!