Photographic Improvements

Been having some down time over the Christmas break, both of the deliberate, and of the forced varieties. (Got rather sick after finishing work-guess the body decided I could afford to succumb once the stress of work appeared to have eased up. Stupid body!)

Other than a bit of mental space, family time, and time to knock over a couple of Lego builds, I’ve also been familiarising myself with a new camera.

2014 has seen a significant improvement in my setup for audio, video and stills.

I’ve added a Canon HFG30 video camera to the lineup, some Rode mics, a motorised slider for timelapse, and most recently (thanks Santa!) a new camera body and lens.

While photos for the blog don’t require the most sophisticated cameras (screen resolution is still very low for web-based images), I have a regular gig for a couple of magazines as well, and they do need decent res images. Not to mention that I have been resorting to using the iPhone for a number of blog images, and while pretty amazing for a camera based around a phone, it is still a very small lens, and tiny chip!

I had a very long debate about what route to go with the camera. I have been using Minolta for almost 30 years (although that sadly became Konica-Minolta, and the Sony in the last 10 or so), so have a lot of lenses, etc for that mount. It was very tempting to bite the bullet and head down the Canon or Nikon routes, but a combination of nostalgia, still having a lot of Minolta glass (and flash), and some really interesting points of difference between Sony and the other brands finally kept me with the same mount.

My first (semi-serious) camera (not counting an Exacta that I still have, which was the very first brand of 35mm SLR)

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/083/1272551/files/2014/12/img_2695.jpg

was a Minolta 7000. That was the world’s first body-integrated AF camera.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/083/1272551/files/2014/12/img_2696.jpg

A few years later, I added what is still my favourite camera, the Minolta 9000. Titanium body, with both manual and motorised film advance, spot metering, and a bunch of other features, I loved this camera.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/083/1272551/files/2014/12/img_2680.jpg

I used to run both the 7000 and 9000, with B&W in the 7000, and Fuji Velvia slide film in the 9000. I’d still be running both these cameras, except (sadly), the digital photographic age dawned. I stayed away for quite a while, but when Minolta (then Konica-Minolta) came out with their digital SLR, the impressive 6MP 7D, I was tempted to the darkside.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/083/1272551/files/2014/12/img_2693.jpg

Unlike film cameras, digital cameras have a definite lifespan, and while my 7000 and 9000 are still working fine, the 7D died a few years later. This was replaced with a camera that I really suffered, the Sony A55. (Minolta had departed the photographic scene by that point, and had sold everything over to Sony, including the A mount). It was the end of the Minolta/Sony SLR, as in this case, the mirror is fixed, and there is no optical viewfinder with pentaprism head, so no longer a reflex. Instead the mirror is semi-transparent, and it is known as an SLT, or single-lens translucent. One advantage of this is the high frame rates now possible, with the A55 able to run up to 10fps.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/083/1272551/files/2014/12/img_2682.jpg

While functional, the lack of control, and overall quality of the images has been a source of frustration, so with it also reaching end-of-life (prematurely), the latest body has been added to my collection.

The Sony A77 Mk ii.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/083/1272551/files/2014/12/img_2683.jpg

I’m loving this camera. There is so much control over it, it is taking a bit of a learning curve, but with 24MP SLT, 12FPS, vertical grip, etc etc, it is proving a fun camera to use.

While the body was not cheap, the real splurge has been the new lens.

A Carl Zeiss 24-70 f2.8

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/083/1272551/files/2014/12/img_2694.jpg

This is a drool-worthy lens. Over 900g (twice the weight of the lens it is replacing), 77mm front end, a constant f2.8, and Zeiss glass.

First trials indicate this is an impressive combination of camera and lens. We will have it in the workshop soon enough, and although it probably won’t improve the online offerings much, it should make a difference to the printed articles, and allow me to easily get sharp images once again.

SSYTC051 & 52 More GoPro Trials

The first video is using the fly-jig, with an additional wire now (as pictured recently) for additional stability.  The second wire will also allow panning effects, by offsetting the attachment points in relation to the main line.  There is still some shake that I haven’t been able to solve – wind is the primary culprit, so this jig is probably more of an interior-only variety.  There will still be more I can do to stabilise it – I’ll just have to think what that is!  Raising the camera so it is directly opposite the line, rather than below it will help a little.  Having some damper system on the line(s) to minimise vibration transmission is probably the next target.  Further slowing the period of oscillation of the jig (in the same way as a pendulum is controlled, or a spring-system) will also help.  Further increasing line tension would help too, but that will require some modification to the jig itself to cope with the increased rigidity that the tension would cause. (BTW, the timelapse is over approximately 20 minutes, not that there is much to watch – a few clouds and growing grass!)

SSYTC052 More GoPro Trials

The second jig is a skate jig.  It uses the same type of motor (30 RPM at 12V) driving directly on one of the wheels.  The camera was used to get the shot, so was notably absent, but is fixed via a tripod screw through the hole that can be seen near the battery.  This jig is either used to run on a smooth surface or track.  It will be interesting to see how easy it is to create a track that it can follow. Vibration is much less of a problem, but getting overhead shots is its limitation.

SSYTC051 More GoPro Trials

There are commercial solutions, but they often can operate over 1m or so, and/or are prohibitively expensive. Cheaper (non motorised) ones are out there – will keep searching for better options.

SSYTC049 Four Seasons in One Day

Many places lay claim to having such a feature of their climate, and Melbourne is certainly renowned for it.  Today was a very unusual day – hottest July day on record (23.3C), and then the temperature plummeted as a cold front swept in, bringing strong winds and a downpour.  At the time I happened to be conducting further trials of the GoPro timelapse jig, but the winds completely defeated any possible stability improvements I had made.

It goes to show that having a shed designed to survive excessive conditions is particularly important – after all, I have been through a shed collapse before (and it never happens when it is warm and sunny).  Having cast iron tools out in the elements is not exactly good for them!  I will get into more detail on Shed Safe in the near future – one way to add confidence to a shed purchase that it is fit for the conditions.

But back to what I was actually doing today – continuing trialing the time lapse capabilities of the GoPro.  I ended up shooting the following footage of the storm rolling in – if I had been more aware of what was coming, I’d have started filming earlier!

SSYTC049 Four Seasons in One Day

The occasional black flicker are birds flying through the view.  One frame actually caught a flash of lightning.

Soon this view will look rather different.  That little shed’s days are numbered (just not quite sure what that number is yet!)  The way the weather is going, it may go without any assistance!!

Viewpoints

GOPR1234In preparation for the long-awaited shed construction, I’ve been working on a few viewpoints, and techniques that I haven’t tried before. For one, the GoPro was very much intended to provide some of these new angles.

The above-photo is actually a frame from a video (shot low-res, well low-res as far as the GoPro is concerned – it can shoot up to 4k Cin – which is video at 4096×2160) The actual size of the image is a lot larger than seen here. It is also shot on a narrow setting – the wide setting fits the entire backyard in.

The viewpoint itself, approximately 4m from ground level, using a Rode mic pole to mount the GoPro to. One view for a time-lapse of the build. Another I am working on is more of a normal eye-level view, but a tracking time-lapse. I have a couple of 12V high torque 30RPM DV motors on order to assist with that. One to produce horizontal tracking, and a second to allow some control over vertical panning.

So what is actually happening? After all, that looks a lot more like a grass block than a new shed (either that, or the shed seen is a little small to accommodate anything, let alone everything that was in the old one)!

True, but I am very close to being able to show my hand. The main wait has been for the new financial year. Very painful, but for financial reasons it could be no other way.

The pole on the right-hand side (just past the sandpit and the wheelbarrow) is about as far as the shed extends into the garden. Has to be 2 metres from the right hand side fence (as previously discussed), meaning the trailer can be stored long-term around where it is seen in the photo. In that respect, it is not wasted space, as things like the trailer have to be stored somewhere, and around the side of the shed is as good a place as anywhere (and better than somewhere that can be seen from the street).

Surprised you can’t see tracks in the grass from me pacing back and forth. Hopefully for not much longer (please, let it not be much longer!!!)

BTW, you may have wondered (probably not!), but how do you use a camera 2+ metres over your head? In this case, the answer is simple, and isn’t just a remote that you hope has told the camera what to do. It is a remote app that runs on iPhone, iPad (and Android). Not only can I control the camera from an iPad mini I have available, but I can also view life footage from the camera. The brave new world is pretty awesome in places!

20130702-011001.jpg

%d bloggers like this: