Why I have been taking an extra 24 photos per second.
I have been creating video/home movies for around fifteen years now, but very few get to see them. There have been some bad ones, some really bad ones and a few that are cringe-worthy. The important thing is that they have been getting better. I would say that I have been making videos for longer than I have been taking photos, but it has been a slow learning curve.
I really started to get into video when my daughter was born. I felt like I had some duty to document her life - as I was constantly reminded by everyone, "they grow up really fast, enjoy it!"
Up until this point, I had been taking a camcorder with me on my worldly travels - making shaky footage and attempting to tell a story about out holiday in Australia for example. It may not be perfect, but I have the videos to remember those days of freedom!
The difference between what I have been doing for the last 15 years and what most people do with a camcorder is edit the footage afterwards. No one wants to sit through two hours of your holiday video, I am sorry but it is true. You need to summarise it and show people the best bits. It is amazing how good you can make a holiday look if you condense 2 weeks into 15 minutes. This can be as simple as deleting the rubbish footage, as well as putting the videos in the correct order for it to tell a story. I also used software to add captions, music and photographs. A novice home movie with menus and amateur graphics, but it is (more) fun to watch.
I have always loved gadgets, and I used to be that guy who had to have the first...whatever it was. I had the first colour screen mobile phone, I had the first HD TV (even though there was no content at the time!), and I got an HD camcorder when they became affordable/available. But my first meaningful experience with a video camera was my Hitech camcorder that took miniature DVD's. What this meant was that the content was already digital - so I could edit it. This camera served me well for about 5 years, which I then upgraded to an HD camcorder of equal quality; even though it was high resolution. However these camcorders had limited creative control, if you wanted to blur backgrounds or use them in low-light situations.
Where my videos took a giant leap is when I was bought a Canon 550D by my wife, as an engagement present, which was not only a stills camera - but would let you record movies (up to 12 minutes - due to tax reasons?!?). This camera fitted with my nifty 50mm f1.8 made it possible to create 'proper' looking video for the first time. This set up, with the continued betterment of video capabilities on my iphone, was where my videos stayed for 3-4 years. I upgraded my Canon, and bought some nicer lenses, however the 'quality' of my videos only went up a small notch.
What happened next?
Two things happened. My daughter is now 4.5 and we happily watch the videos of her when she was younger, and she enjoys seeing the holidays that we went on - even if she cannot remember them. One day we were watching a video of her in Valencia, and she said, "Daddy, where were you". "I was there with you making the video, I was behind the camera" I say. This must have struck a nerve, as I am now doing whatever I can to be in the photos/videos rather than just the narrator behind the camera. This is my goal for 2017.
The second thing is that I have been watching a lot more youtube videos. Typically photographers that are sharing their adventures when out making photographs, but very well considered and choreographed videos that are informative and entertaining at the same time. I realised that I had to up my game to take my videos to the next level. My first stab at this was a video on my youtube channel that I called, a typical weekend, link below.
The footage was made on a bullet cam that I had vecro'd to my sunglasses and my iphone, and it was difficult to watch at times because of the shaky footage. But it was a stepping stone. If you compare this to one of my latest videos of Seven Sisters, there is a lot more preparation and consideration to storyline, and the quality is much higher. It still isn't where I want to be, but you can see that there is a radical improvement.
So what changed?
Well, inevitably I needed some more toys. If was to be walking and talking then I would need something a little more stable, so I purchased a 'steady cam' made by DJI, called the Osmo. I have made a short video about what this amazing gadget can do. It has it's strengths and weaknesses, and through trial and error I now know when to use this and when to use a different camera.
Then there are the times when you don't want to take a delicate stabilised camera out, if for example it is hacking it down with rain or you want to put the camera down all the time. Or, as in the video below, there are sparks flying everywhere and you need something a bit more rugged. For this I use the Go Pro 5. I have used this for time-lapses, out in the wind and rain, and for getting a perspective that you wouldn't dare put another camera. For example, I have clamped this to the bonnet of my car, The suspension on my bike, a roundabout to mention a few places - and it in completely waterproof. I don't have to worry about being too precious with this, which is a nice change.
Then there is the DSLR. This undoubtedly gives me the best quality out of all my cameras, especially when twinned with a great lens and an external mic. I have been using a Canon 5D mk3 with some fantastic L-series lenses to create my family videos for the last few years. I don't have a link for these as I have never shared them online and don't propose to. I have no complaints about the quality of the videos that this camera produced, it was only my creativity and knowledge about film that was holding me back. But here is where I come back to my original statement about why I am upping my game in video. I wanted to be included in the video. A canon 5D MK3 has no autofocus when making videos, and as clever as my wife is, she doesn't care much for manual focus. Handing the camera to her is not an option.
The answer lies in spending more money of course!
The latest Canons however have this autofocus feature, twinned with face-recognition to take all of the hassle out of this. I had to have one. I set my eyes on the Canon 80D and I was told that I have to let go of the camera equipment that I no longer use to subsidise the new toy. I make it happen, and my Canon 80D arrived. Amongst other benefits, the 80D has a flip-out screen, so now I can be in the shot and see what is happening. This ticks all of the boxes for what I needed it to do (see my blog 'The invisible photographer'). I can also hand it to my wife, and she can point it at me, and fingers crossed the camera does all the hard work.
That is all I have to buy then...right?
Wrong. All of the lovely lenses that I own are made for still photography. They are quiet when focusing, but not that quiet when you stick them next to the microphone. Canon have kindly created some lenses specifically for video, which are both quiet (literally make no noise at all!) and have image stabilisation, once again silent. These are also pretty cheap and light-weight, as they are essentially a kit lens with variable apertures. If you are in the market for these, they are referred to as STM lenses. I already, unknowingly, owned the 50mm F1.8 STM, which saved me some money. Jackpot. I will release a future video/blog about my experience with the 80D, but I don't intend on doing a review - there are already plenty of those on the internet. It will be more about how it is helping me create my art and sharing it with others.
There are endless accessories for video, and I am only just scratching the surface with lighting, sliders and my home-made dolly (see video link below) to create some half-decent looking video.
And....how does this relate to photography?
I get up at some ridiculous times of the day, I revisit the same locations over and over in the pursuit of better photographs. I stay out in the cold until I can no longer feel my fingers, all so that I can collect some pixels. But I love it, and I have no regrets about starting this addictive hobby.
But the video thing, at the moment - it is simply a way of showing friends, family and other photographers the effort that I go through to capture these images. If I show you a photograph of a rainbow arching over the West Pier, you will probably over look the fact that I got soaked before or after I got that image. I intend on capturing the moments and the journey that lead up to these images and to tell the whole story. Both the successes and the fails.
It is really difficult the concentrate on the photography and create a meaningful video at the same time, which I am finding out through trial and error - but I am getting better. My aim for these videos isn't to talk about the settings and the equipment that I am using, more the preparation, how to get to that location, why I have gone there on that day and for that particular tide height etc etc. Hopefully there is something for everyone that watches the videos.
Stay tuned to see how I get on and thanks for reading!