The Recce: Ringstone Edge Reservoir

Bright blue skies, no cloud and bright sunshine – not perfect landscape photography weather in my book but a perfect day for a recce nevertheless.  Ringstone Edge Reservoir near where I live in West Yorkshire is easily accessible yet runs alongside the busy Saddleworth Road. It is a location I’ve passed many, many times but have only briefly stopped at once in all that time. Monday I went out to look properly.

 

© Dave Whenham
Blue, featureless sky and bright sunshine – perfect for a recce but a shame it was so windy.

There is potential for both still and aerial photography at the reservoir although on the morning I went it was far too windy for the Mavic to be aloft for too long in the hands of a beginner so I contented myself with some aerial landscapes with the drone reasonably close to me, albeit ninety feet above me at times. I found the Mavic really effective for taking landscapes from around twenty feet up which gives a different perspective compared to a tripod-mounted shot.

All in all a useful recce and I shall be returning when the conditions are right to repeat some of these compositions in better light and in particular the next time we get snow as I think it will produce some magical images with a good dusting of the white stuff.

 

June – Video Diary

A fourth video diary – who’d of thought it? So, what did I get up to in June?

Well, photographically the first half of June was a wash out, sometimes literally. A two-week half term which added to my usual grand children duties severely limited free time and the time that was available was blighted by grey skies, wall to wall grey cloud and heavy rain. I did get a few opportunities which I grasped but the photographic highlight of the month was always likely to be a few days in Cornwall at the end of the month.

One big win at the beginning of the month though was the May Video Diary which was great fun to put together and hopefully maintained the ongoing development in this area. The sheer volume of helpful material on the net is amazing, there’s some dross too but for me the biggest challenge is finding what I need when quite often I’m ignorant of the correct terminology or even that I need something – both of which would make searching more fruitful. I am a very experienced photographer but very much a newbie videographer and video editor.

I’m not sure that this update marks a step forward in production values, at best it is marking time I feel, but it’s probably still worth sharing (and braving any negative comments) as it is only by trying things and then reflecting on them that we learn and improve. What is immediately apparent is that I shot nowhere near enough video footage for the diary. I have ended up using more of the iPhone footage from the garden centre and the YSP for example than was warranted. The more interesting footage, shot with the Fuji X-T20 in Newquay was far too little for the diary and I did not shoot video at most of the places we went to over our weekend in Cornwall. A missed opportunity and I put this out therefore as a cautionary tale for others.

Back in the old backyard

You may have realised that I spend a lot of time in my backyard. I often eat my breakfast sat on the upper patio (that sounds grand!) and when weather permits I like nothing better than sitting with a mug of tea and contemplating life. As well as domestic duties (note the washing line) it is also one of my main photographic locations as I’ve noted many times in my blog over the years.

© Dave Whenham
Fisheye Poppies

So what I thought I’d do this week is something that Postcard Cafe actually suggested a month or so back and that is a slideshow of just a few of my favourite backyard images both old and new. I mentioned in a previous video post that I once owned two slide projectors and struggled vainly to produce the sort of slideshow that nowadays many photographers take for granted – I’m hoping that my 2017 attempt is better than my 1977 efforts!

So enjoy this selection, I always enjoy making photographs in the old back yard and I hope you enjoy seeing them.

 

All images and videos are ©Dave Whenham 2016 and 2017

Music: Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

In praise of action cams

As some of you might know I recently acquired a GoPro Session video camera with the vague idea of complementing my blog posts periodically with some behind the scenes video or time-lapse footage as I go about capturing images on my camera.

Well, I now have three of them. Two “Sessions” and a GoPro Hero 3+.  But lets not go there except to say that the third camera was a secondhand bargain from a local thrift shop so comes with virtuous feelings.

I took Zac to the park yesterday and wisely or otherwise allowed him to ride his scooter there. I fully expected to spend most of the time carrying it but in the end he exceeded expectations and the only time I was lumbered with it was when he was on the climbing frames and swings.  Before we left the house however I attached one of the  GoPro Sessions to the front of said scooter and popped the other into my pocket along with a mini tripod.

The footage here is unedited, all I have done is trim the two clips to length. I have left the film as it came out of the camera and have not tweaked the audio at all. It isn’t bad really especially when you consider the relative cost of a Hero Session compared to a DSLR or a dedicated video camera.

In the second clip I am running to catch Zac with the GoPro Session on a small tripod held in my hand at waist level with my arm straight. Remember there are no viewfinders on these little action cameras so it is also necessary to pay close attention to how you are holding the camera and where it is pointing.

But it isn’t the quality that prompted this post. It’s the fact that their size and versatility was what prompted me to pick them up. I wasn’t going to lug a big DSLR with me, far too heavy on a sunny day and indeed even the Fuji seemed a bit much to carry, but a small cube around 1.5 inches on all three sides and around 3 ounces in weight was less cumbersome than my house keys.

I have around thirty minutes footage from the two cameras on my computer at the moment. When we got to the park I took the second Session off the scooter and handheld that too. When I get a chance next week I shall edit and cut it into short sequences and edit them together to create a two minute movie to show the family and share our afternoon out with them. Zac’s parents need to work but doing this gives them a small insight to what their son has been up to in their absence – they feel less excluded. Theres a fifty-one second  clip of Zac on the swings being pushed by myself. His Dad has just sat and watched the raw footage with a big grin on his face. That is priceless and makes the effort, however big or small, of capturing these moments really well worth it.

So let’s here it for the tiny GoPro – truly a hero.  As for Zac – he’s priceless.

Baby steps with audio

I mentioned in my last post that I have taken the plunge and started to work on my first ever DSLR video. My plan was to shoot, edit and produce the second segment of the planned video over the course of the last two days as a way of better understanding how each part of the process impacts the next. I have just finished this segment and the strategy paid dividends as I have learnt a lot and captured the learning on paper – real paper not the virtual kind!

This post captures the learnings with regard to audio, in particular to recording the narration. As part of my preparation I have been researching the various aspects of DSLR video making and it is every bit as involved as I’d imagined.  One factor that comes up time and time again though is audio; the quality of your audio can make or break a video.

Applying some of this research I used an external microphone to record directly to the cameras memory card whilst capturing the video footage rather than use the onboard microphone. Ideally I’d have an external device but I’m trying to work with what I have rather than investing in more kit.  A so-called dead cat on the microphone reduced wind noise and I was left with very usable ambient noise which I ran at reduced volume underneath all of the video elements of the final 55 second segment (above).

Following some further research this evening into synchronising sound I am in future going to record ambient sound with the microphone plugged into a stand alone recorder and not the camera. To be fair, the live-action audio requirements for this segment were very undemanding so part from the experience of attaching the microphone and adjusting levels there was little to be learned from this experience. Unlike recording the narration which did throw up some very useful pointers.

  • Building on the experience in the field I spent time getting the levels correctly adjusted before recording the voice over audio and it proved to be time well spent
  • I used a script and this proved invaluable in avoiding pregnant pauses and the inevitable “Uumms” and “Aaahhs” that I have realised pepper my day to day speech
  • With hindsight I should have recorded each of the narrative segments at the same time. Differences in background noise meant that the third clip, which I recorded separately from the first two, had a slightly different tone. The use of a script makes this easy to achieve too
  • Allow the recorder to run for a few seconds before starting to speak. This provides a useful clip of the background noise which can be used later when cleaning up the audio
  • After recording the first clip play it back using headphones to double-check the levels are correctly set
  • Take the clips into audio software (I used Audacity) for noise reduction and trimming to size ready for importing to the video project
  • When saving the clips use an appropriate name to make it easier to find when editing the video. Tracks labelled “zoom0003” are not particularly helpful. I used the first couple of words from each clip as a file name – e.g. “At first”, “Despite this”
  • Make a note of these file names against your script to make it much easier to select the correct one later.

Now, it has to be remembered that I only used 3 voice-over clips for this segment of the video so I’ve not tested my thoughts on a longer piece of work. However, I see no reason why this methodical approach shouldn’t also work with larger projects.

All in all I was very pleased with what I have learnt over the last 48 hours and I’m sure it is just the first small part of a much larger learning experience over the coming months.

 

Ouch!

My shoulders hurt!

Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration but I took the D800E out yesterday and boy did I notice the weight difference compared to my Fuji kit.

I took a shoulder bag with the D800E and 24-70 f2.8 lens, a GoPro Session, mini tripod, Rode microphone, polariser and spare batteries. That’s all. Compared to what I’ve got used to recently it weighed a ton. I was also carrying an ancient Manfrotto tripod which was having its first public appearance for a couple of years.

I walked down to a spot on the River Calder close to my home to record footage for a current project. Yes. Moving footage – video! Moi!  I am working on a video entitled “My Patch” which will feature four or five locations that I regularly visit with a camera all of which are within walking distance of my front door. It will be my first foray into the video world and I am filming,narrating and processing the footage as well as overseeing all aspects of the production.

This trip was to film the footage for chapter two of the planned video which concerns said spot on the River Calder.  It was also an opportunity to test an idea I have for incorporating some GoPro footage (see below) into the final video.

I am currently putting together Chapter 2 and will post that on my blog later today I hope. My intention is to take Chapter 2 from planning, through filming, post production and finishing touches over the course of the weekend in order to gain the learnings for the other parts of the video.

Watch this space!

 

Rough Edit

I was going to title this POV-POC but thought that was too cryptic even for me.

So what have I been to to? Well, playing of course.

© Dave Whenham
Calder & Hebble

I recently acquired a GoPro Session video camera with the vague idea of complementing my blog posts periodically with some behind the scenes video or time-lapse footage as I go about capturing images on my camera.

I’ve been wondering how best to present the footage and one idea was to mount the GoPro on my camera’s hotshoe and film as I line up and take an image. So, what you have here is a proof of concept video for a point of view style photo slideshow.

I think I can develop this over time to include footage of the wider scene captured on a tripod and who knows even get around to trying the video capabilities of one of my digital cameras. Would you believe that I have not shot any video with either my Nikons or Fuji cameras? I dabbled with the Canon 5D Mark III before my move to Nikon making updates for my course work as a visual diary but nothing since then.

It was raining for quite a bit of the time yesterday when I went out so photography and videography is largely completed one handed as I had an umbrella in the other hand!  If you listen carefully you can hear me groan when I have to kneel for the final image.

I can already think of lots of things to improve upon this idea but considering this was the first time I’d used the GoPro and therefore the first time I’d used their editing software I am pleased with the start. If nothing else it gives me a good basis to move the idea forward.

Now, to find a narrator for the next masterpiece!!

_________________________________

Update: Monday evening I added a short narration to the original video.

 

_________________________________

Video footage shot with a GoPro session mounted in the camera hotshoe. Camera was a Fuji X-T10 with 18-55 lens. All images, moving and still © Dave Whenham.

Music: “Easy Lemon (60 second)” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/