Remembering Why

I had the pleasure of listening to noted photographer Duane Michals tonight and to see his work. He’s 77 years old, still shooting and loving life.
His attitude was inspiring – a nudge to remind myself on a daily basis of why I became a photographer in the first place. Essentially to explore my own self and my own curiousities of the universe.
In an odd, almost stream of consciousness way – he spoke about thoughts most people don’t talk about – or think about for that matter. But in the end he reminded me to be true to myself – to think and to listen to those thoughts swirling through my mind.
Open yourself up and listen to those innermost thoughts and don’t be afraid to act on these notions. Sometimes when you “do” what it is you have to do – rather than chase the money – the rewards are amazing.


It’s The Idea

I’m often asked by people “What kind of video camera should I buy?”. I must confess that question drives me crazy. It’s kind of like someone asking me what kind of car they should buy. But at least with cars – the end result is pretty much the same – you need something to get you from here to there.

I think in this time of fast moving technology with even 10 year olds uploading videos to You Tube that they’ve created that we’ve all started to believe that if we just buy a camera – we too can be videographers. It’s “just” that easy.

But what we seem to be forgetting is – what are we trying to visually communicate? That message or idea is EVERYTHING. I think we’ve all seen enough big budget films that are flops because they’ve lacked a story.

I’ve always been a means to an end type person. I first think about what I’m interested in and what I want to communicate and share with others. Then I concentrate on what “tools” will get me there.

No matter how technologically advanced we are – we all need to remember – why did we shoot this video to begin with? What is it we are trying to say? Seems sublimely simple? It is – but without something to say – you may end up with a lot of “packaging and fizz” if you’re lucky or worse yet a really poorly executed video that no one cares to watch.

Colliding Worlds of Print and Video

The cover of Esquire Magazine’s June issue was shot with video! Now that’s convergence. Granted it was shot with THE RED camera, a high end HD video camera that shoots at 4K, but nevertheless it’s a sign of what’s to come.

When Canon and Nikon came out with their first generation of hybrid cameras the divide between stills and motion became much narrower. They still have a way to go to please filmmakers and high end video shooters but it sent a signal to where the camera manufacturers are heading. Some complaints from the Indie filmmakers have been that the camera shoots in 30p instead of the standard 24fps that filmmakers use. More importantly they don’t like the fact that you can’t shoot video in manual mode – only in auto mode. And audio is extremely limiting – but filmmakers capture their audio independently so that is only an issue for someone who shoots documentaries or a news shooter.

But back to THE RED. This is a high end HD camera that can be modified to meet many needs because of it’s an a la carte building process. But for around $25,000 you have a camera that shoots 4K and just 5 years ago, you couldn’t touch a camera like that for under $100,000. Because it’s a camera that you can build on – you can trick it out and easily spend that kind of money, but you don’t have to.

This has certainly changed how commercials are shot as well as some major TV shows. I’ve heard some art directors have taken frame grabs to satisfy their print needs. It’s not just “good enough” anymore – it’s just as good or better than an image from a still 35mm camera. Art directors are now scrolling through mov files to find just the right “moment”.

I remember years ago, 1982 to be exact when Lenny Skutnik dove into the frozen Potomac River to rescue people from the Air Florida crash. The news crews captured the moment on video and that moment won a Pulitzer prize in the still photography category. People questioned whether taking a “moment” from a running video camera was fair play to receive a Pulitzer for a “still image”. At the time, the quality was poor but nevertheless – it captured “the” moment.

And now magazine covers shot with video cameras – wow – what’s next?

Sharing and Collaboration

Still photographers for the most part are independent creatures – usually working as a solo act. One of the joys of working in both mediums – video and photography is working with other creatives each bringing their own expertise to the end product. I’ve worked with sound people and editors on projects who brought their skills to many projects I’ve produced – each time making the end result better and stronger.

With technology moving ahead like the speed of sound, collaboration and partnerships is one way to keep up. Better to bring in associates who have know how in areas that you don’t in order to get your project to the necessary platforms in a timely way.

Along with collaboration comes the notion of sharing – sharing information, skills etc. Before all the blogs and social networks, sharing was considered by some to be giving away their secrets. Perhaps that is true, but I have found time and time again that when I have been open with my ideas, good things have come my way. Not always in the immediate sense, but ultimately everytime I have “given” I have received a lot more in return.

A few years ago, I read a book on this topic called “Wikinomics” It opened my mind to the possibilities of thinking and working in this way.

So be open to the idea of working and sharing with your peers and I’m confident the returns will bring great rewards.

A new website

Just completed our new website. It was a long process from thought to reality. Our mission was to update our website as well as rebrand ourselves as a new entity – a hybrid. Over the last 10 years we have been working in multimedia and video in addition to still photography. Many times clients ask our company to meet their needs in all these areas in keeping current with new media platforms. So in a sense – just like some of these new “hybrid” cameras – we too have become hybrids.

Technology has led us on some amazing journeys with endless possibilities. We’ll share some of these journeys in this blog. There are new opportunities everywhere and we are excited about what the future will bring.

Please take a minute and check out a “tease” for a recently completed video. – you’ll find it under Motion > More Videos > Freedom’s Ride

How I got to be a hybrid

I’m headed out to NAB next week. Every year the National Association of Broadcasters holds it’s conference in Las Vegas – one of the largest conferences in Las Vegas. It’s a great place to find out about new toys and polish your skills through some of the seminars.
I’ve always been a “means to an end” type of person. So when I go to a show like the NAB, I’m not attracted to the new gear as much as I am to new ideas and opportunities in the way of video.

I’ve often been asked by my peers (fellow photographers) how and why did I get started in multimedia and video. The short answer is – I had a story to tell that needed sound and motion. About 10 years ago I was shooting a story that I pitched for Smithsonian Magazine about swing dancing. You can imagine the challenge of illustrating this story with a still camera. I got through it dragging the shutter and other “motion” techniques”. Shortly after that assignment, I read an article in Time Magazine about how technology was enabling people to create “films” without Hollywood size crews and budgets. In the article, a mention was made about an upcoming DV symposium to be held at the American Film Institute in LA. I followed the lead and headed out to LA for the conference. Those 4 days rocked my world and filled my head with the possibilities that new technology was creating in the visual world.
I am a storyteller and I use the tools that allow me to tell the story in the best way I can. For a long time, I had in my head an idea that just wouldn’t go away. I was very interested in doing a story on the Delta blues musicians. A lot of stories had been done about their music, but I was interested more in where these musicians came from, culturally and geographically speaking. I knew that I had to add the dimension of sound to communicate the message – let’s face it – it’s a story about musicians. So, my foray into video officially began.

I’ve learned a lot since then and am still learning. Technology pretty much mandates that we keep learning because nothing is static. I have taken numerous courses along the way, but perhaps the best was The Platypus Workshop given by Dirck Halstead and PF Bentley. I would recommend this to anyone thinking of moving into video.

We live in an amazing time. While some people lament the past and fret the future, I welcome new opportunities and new ways to do what I do – tell the story.

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