Hi and welcome to the latest edition of my video blog.
Aspiring writers are often told to write about what they know. So why shouldn’t the same advise apply to new videographers I thought? Now, I’ve often shared images on my blog that were taken in my front or back yard and it’s an area I know intimately so what better place to start than in my own yard?
EQUIPMENT USED IN MAKING THIS VIDEO
Go Pro Hero 3+ Silver edition, timelapse sequences created in GoPro Studio
Main footage shot on Fuji X-T20 using 23mm f2, 18-55 and 55-200 lenses
Ambient sounds, apart from rain sequence, recorded by me on a Zoom H2n and edited in Audacity. Rain sequence was captured in-camera and is unedited.
We all get pre-flight nerves don’t we? I’m most definitely not the most comfortable flyer in the world it has to be said. The wait in the departure lounge also adds to the pre-flight nerves I find, and I daren’t have an alcoholic drink in case I have to fly the plane at any point. Whilst I usually end up enjoying most of the flight I do struggle with take-off and particularly with landing. The speed at which the land rushes up towards the plane puts the heebie-jeebies up me.
But yet – what if instead of being a passenger I WAS the pilot? Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?
Or does it?
I went to investigate a GoPro compatible drone recently … long story … short version … I bought a DJI Mavic Pro. Which is how I came to photograph West Vale from the air (above!) this morning. This purpose of this blog is just to put a marker in the ground; as with most of my blog posts this is primarily intended as a memory bank for me to look back at in a few months time and see how I’ve fared. It’s been interesting looking back this week at August 2016 when I last had a play with creating videos for example.
I was very apprehensive, having never even driven a remote controlled car before, but after an hour and a half flight time (over a couple of sessions) I’m ready to share my initial thoughts.
I am still very nervous is probably the first thing to say here.
Seventeen take-offs and seventeen landings have given me a degree of confidence in the technology and in my ability to handle it. I have deliberately kept it in beginner mode figuring I can work with the distance and height limitations for now. What is important is getting to know how to handle the craft and how to get the best from the camera. Multi-tasking is never easy when both tasks are totally new but I’ve been impressed with how the system works together.
The guide that comes in the box is pathetic; it probably doesn’t even warrant being called a quick start guide. I found how to format the SD card for example by playing with the App on my phone which works with the controller to aid flight and operation of the camera. Prior to my maiden flight I read a lot of articles and read parts of the online manual which thankfully is a bit more comprehensive although it is very, very poorly organised; DJI could surely afford to produce professional documentation at this price point?
The best advice I received prior to my maiden flight was to watch some of the many “newbie” video tutorials before turning the machine on. These turned out to be very helpful in giving me a visual reference for when the drone was on the ground in front of me with flashing lights and whirring blades.
I will write my initial thoughts after a few more sessions with the Mavic but I get the feeling that I am going to enjoy this latest addition to my photographic arsenal.
A busy few days since my return from Lincolnshire mainly with domestic chores but I didn’t want to completely lose the habit of updating the blog. So, here are a few more images from last weekend all taken with a Nikon DSLR.
I do have a few things to share photographically but I’m still putting finishing touches to these. I am also well on with the June video blog, something I hope will become a regular feature. It’s half term here next week and the school has decided to close for two weeks to give people a chance to go away outside of the peak pricing period. All well and good but it will mean I will spend most of the next two weeks child-minding.
Finally, a teaser image until I get time to complete the latest project …
At the end of my “Something Different” blog last week I said I was off to do some cogitating. Well I’m still doing it – cogitating that is!
One thought that did come to mind was: What is the correct way to go about making a video. Or should I say “correct”?
Last week, I put together three videos in as many days using existing material, video and stills, from my files. The audio was recorded as I went along and together with sound effects was the only part created specifically for the three videos apart of course from the tea-making sequence. One thing I realised was that the oft-heard advice that the only way to improve was to get making videos was sound. After three days I had remembered most of what I’d forgotten about using the software and I think that the same will be true of shooting footage. I’ve dipped my toes in and out of video-making so often over the years that I invariably end up having to relearn things I’d already covered and therefore each attempt is no better than the last.
Making three videos in as many days, all using the same approach meant that each time I was able to build on the learning from the previous one. I genuinely believe each is better than the previous attempt and can say without fear of contradiction that putting them together in the software definitely got easier. Not easy … easier!
The first video, Something Different, was built around a narrative and is something I was originally going to produce as a normal written blog post but given that it was about video making I thought it made sense to create a benchmark video. The visuals were selected to provide something interesting to look at rather than move the narrative along and I surprised myself by how much material I have lurking on my hard drives!
Video two, Something Different – The Sequel, has a definite theme. Again built around a narrative but this time the imagery relates directly to the subject matter. I also found that I had material I would have used in the first video but omitted because I wanted to keep the running time to around three minutes. The secondary aim of that video was to incorporate some drone footage that a friend of mine had shot and I was keen to use.
Which brings us the the third, Black & White Landscapes. This has a definite concept, black & white, and the opening sequence was shot specifically for the video, in black and white. Like the first two videos it is narrative-driven, but this time I added something of myself (the opening sequence) as a way of appearing to be speaking directly to the viewer and the words themselves are perhaps more personal speaking as they do about I how think. The main body of the narrative was adapted from a blog post from 2016 as I wanted to see if I could present the same material in two different mediums. Again I used existing material for most of the visuals apart from the specially shot opening sequence and I created the voice over on the day.
So, this trio of offerings are all built around a narrative with the images supporting the words. A bit like a composer writing the music to fit the lyrics I guess. But some lyricists add words to music and some composer/lyricist teams evolve words and music together. Each approach works so I would conjecture that the same can be true of video making?
One of my biggest stumbling blocks in terms of video production has been coming up with the initial idea. I’m beginning to realise that I already have the ideas – I write them regularly in this blog. Viewing these latest three attempts at video making, especially the third, I am starting to think that I can use this approach to present some of the ideas and topics that I’ve been writing about for some time now. In doing so the mechanics of which comes first, words or images, becomes less relevant. What matters is how the thoughts evolve and how best to translate these into a finished piece.
Some things will need to be done differently that’s certain. I love writing, always have done, and enjoy playing with words and constructing sentences. I found when recording the voice overs that some of these sentences do not work as well when spoken aloud. Long sentences in particular. Which means that the narrative will need to be written in shorter, tighter sentences. Without appearing clipped.
I will also need to think about what video sequences I need and make sure I shoot specifically for future videos to keep everything fresh and relevant. If for example I want to talk about the role of chance in photography the visual subject is not as relevant as if I wanted to discuss street photography for example. However, taking that first example, I think it would work better if I took a specific example, say the Bluebell Woods, and shot footage specifically for the purpose. As I’ve already shot the stills that will mean returning on a suitable day to capture the video footage.
Everything needs to be more considered and deliberate, I can’t rely on somehow having suitable footage but need to plan ahead and capture it specifically. If I’d known at the time I would consider a video on the subject I would have shot video footage whilst working in the bluebell woods for example.
I also need to be more patient but that’s a whole new skill set for me to learn!
One from the archives that I rediscovered today. Taken with the Canon 5DII whilst walking with my wife. We saw this view back towards Keswick as we walked back to our B&B. Sensing the light was changing I stopped and looked behind me to find this scene.
I know that black and white is not to everyone’s taste but I started photography with rolls of Kodak and Ilford black and white films so its a natural thing for me. So I wasn’t surprised when I woke up yesterday morning and decided I would like to try to produce a video (should I call it a VLOG?) in black and white.
I don’t know about you but I can’t function properly in the morning without at least one mug of black coffee and another of black tea and in order to get started as soon as possible I decided to record the operation . I filmed the sequence on a tripod-mounted Fuji X-T20 using the Acros film simulation with a yellow filter. That kettle is actually bright red and the mug a nice shade of blue but it was noticeable how close in tones the two were in black and white. It’s that sort of understanding that is one of the keys to successful black and white imagery I think. After putting together the tea sequence I stayed at the computer and ended up pulling together an entire sequence using an old blog post for inspiration and a hard drive full of unused video clips, time-lapse sequences and finished black and white images.
The Romantic artists and poets of the late 18th century were inspired by the forces of nature to create an art of the sublime. Photographer Michael Freeman described it as ‘how to enjoy a perfect storm’ and that was very apt stood on the beach at Elgol in November 2015 as the rain lashed down and the wind whipped with such fury that I genuinely feared that even someone of my size might just be blown away by the force.
Joseph Addison wrote in 1712 about scenes that were “… at the same time, as Dreadful and Harmless; so that the more frightful Appearance they make, the greater is the Pleasure we receive from the Sense of our own Safety”. I’ve rarely been as pleased to retreat to the safety of the van that’s for sure.
For me, black and white is a far better medium for portraying this sense of drama, especially when you consider that, digitally at least, the photographer can get away with adding a level of contrast in a black and white image that would destroy the integrity of the individual colours if he wasn’t working in shades of grey.
Modern digital cameras do make black and white photography more accessible I think. Shooting with film requires an understanding of how different colours will render in shades of grey, think back to the red kettle and blue mug. By setting a black and white picture style on the camera the user can instantly see how the scene will reproduce without any colour. I shoot in RAW which means that whilst I can view a black and white version on the camera, the image file retains all the colour information too so I can make my own conversions later. I prefer to do it myself rather than rely on the cameras algorithms to do the work, although I must confess to a weakness for the Fuji Acros film simulation on my X-T20.
Black and white isn’t just something that can be used for making dramatic landscape photographs though although it is pretty good at it! I use black and white a lot for many different subjects, for portraits, street scenes, urban photography and some days it’s all I shoot.