Friday, April 29, 2016

Ethics in Photojournalism

Last year, I was at Red Hook.  There was an accident.  A rider crashed.  I took a few pictures of it.  A bystander said "Come on man!" to express his disapproval, I guess.

There were designated volunteers and EMS on scene for incidents like that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

iMovie and File Format

I use iMovie because predictably it's "free" if you own or have access to a Mac.  Arguably it's an easier to use video editing software and relatively stable.  I used a bunch of Linux video editing software and they just crashed and burnt every few minutes.

Here is the biggest discovery ever for me.

I notice iMovie actually lags when editing, that's it stutters as I try to edit the footage or video clips.  That prompted me to try out Final Cut Pro X and the problem went away, seemingly.  After my FCPX expired after the one-month trial period, I was hard pressed to pay $300 to own a working copy.  I mean if you make money out of it, it seems like a bargain.  I am going to spare my thoughts on this.

After some Google searches, I think I found out why the stuttering.  I think it has to do with the source file format.

In FCPX, I edit the MOV files directly from my Nikon D7000, as I can de-squeeze my anamorphic footage in FCPX without changing the file format first.  I don't remember if I ever used HandBrake to un-squeeze and then edit in FCPX and if so did it show any lagging at all.

iMovie doesn't allow me to un-squeeze the footage while editing.  So I used HandBrake to un-squeeze the footage to 2.35:1 and along the way I think I compressed the file quite a lot.  And I think hence the difficulty of iMovie when editing.  I am assuming iMovie has trouble editing "highly" ompressed mp4 files.  The file was changed to mpeg4 in mp4.

I now de-squeeze files in H.264 (default mpeg4) in mp4 and retain a higher bit rate at 8000kb/s (default is 1000).  When I edit them in  iMovie, it doesn't lag anymore.

A word of caution:  I really don't know for sure, just want to share my experience.  When it becomes technical stuff which video editing is, I just test it out to see what works or works better without spending tons of money or time reading up.

Also, I use a Nikon hack to increase the recording bit rate at I think 65mbps in 1080p at 24fps.  I am sure along the way when I use HandBrake to de-squeeze a lot of data are lost.  Still when editing the stutter goes away.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Flash Sync, Again

The thing with flash sync is you know about it and sometimes you just have to ignore it.

I was shooting the velodrome again this past Sunday and I would just like to shoot some back light fill flash using my Nikkor 16-35 f/4 to mix things up a bit.

exif tells me the above were shot at f/9, 1/500 and f/8, 1/640.  I probably used 1/8 of the power of the Sunpak 120J.  The max sync of the D700 is at 1/250s but since the ambient was so bright  there were no noticeable black half frame to speak of.  The riders were riding fast and close, 1/640 can barely stop the action.  The subject was about 10 feet away so the motion blur was not too obvious unless viewed at 100%.  Maybe I have to shoot at 1/800 of a second?  I routinely shoot at 1/1000 of a second just so I am sure I got clean shots.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Flash Sync

Just when I thought I have it down like long time ago, I got confused again, none other than from Nikon USA, or in this case Dave Black or the editor or both of them.

My understanding (mind you, I always got things wrong) is Auto FP doesn't stop fast action.  Auto FP provides pulses of light continuously for the duration of the shutter staying open.  Essentially FP sync is like sunlight or continuous lighting.

Apparently Dave Black's article kind of implies or states that FP high speed sync stops action or has to do with shooting actions.  I know it says illuminate fast sports action.  FP high speed, in my mind, has to do with using a bigger aperture, the fact that it uses a high speed is just incidental and not an end as to stop action.  Because it can't.  Of course, Dave Black proves otherwise or so it seems.

So once again, I am confused.

Since I am pretty much a desktop photographer, I can't be or won't be testing what I read.

Here is another article on the topic, the guy is apparently a genius.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Mermaid (2016)

I am surprised and delighted that The Mermaid is played in theaters in New York City.  I have been a Chow's fan since I discovered his brand of comedy many years ago.  Back then as there was only video tape and I wasn't especially well off or well connected so I only saw his works haphazardly.  On the occasions I saw his movies or some snippets or episodes of his TV series, I thoroughly enjoyed them.  Chow always plays this beloved underdog who despite or because of his non sensical non sequitur acts and his utter disregard to the absurd and seemingly insurmountable reality, always overcomes.

 Then one day Chow appeared on the cover of the Sunday New York Times magazine.  If I remember correctly it was a fashion issue.  He was doing a mid air split or something next to a lamp post, a silly pose, I think.  That should be around the time of Shaolin Soccer or Kung Fu Hustle, two of my favorites that kind of established him somewhat in the consciousness of Hollywood.  More importantly and reassuringly, Chow proves that he can make great dramatic comedy with Hong Kong production in his rear view mirror with much of his comedic integrity intact though I can see that Chow is shedding most of his witty nonsensical Cantonese dialogues that define and catapult his career early on, in favor of more action and better production which translate better in cinema worldwide.

The Mermaid or Mei Ren Yu (2016) is a Chow's film without Chow in front of the camera.  Things certainly won't be the same without Chow being front and center on everything.  With Mei, Chow has crossed the line of being stupendously silly to being incoherently stupid.  It used to be that the audience does the laughing, may that be something Chow or his crew says or does while he and his crew appear totally oblivious to the plight and absurdity of their situation.  Mei is just the opposite, often times, the comedy is heavy-handed and the only persons laughing are the self-aware actors themselves, it feels so forced.   I can see Chow tries to add production value so as to appear Hollywood or something (there is indeed a 3D version) but both the production and special effects just fall flat.  Nobody goes to see a Chow's movie for its special effects or production value so what if they are sub-par compared to Hollywood's?  It wouldn't matter one iota if the comedy holds up.  Alas, this isn't the case.

Perhaps the opening scene in which a group of tourists visit a museum best encapsulates the entire movie as envisioned by the director and experienced by me--the tourists, surrogate for the audience, visit a so-called museum only to discover that the exhibits are mere props and scams so the unscrupulous curator can turn a dime on the gullible and the unsuspected.  Chow's tourists laugh and jeer at the exhibits with gusto as while me in the real audience find the material hardly amusing.

I heard the movie is doing well in China and in Asia in general.  So what do I know?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bellman CX-25P

I haven't mastered this gadget, maybe I never will.  It's just a fun contraption to make some strong coffee.  I've seen video on YouTube somewhat detailing what's the correct way to brew coffee out of this thingy but so far I am not able to replicate the result.  Perhaps it's my desire to do it my own way or my pure death instinct or my disability to follow any instructions.  The end result is the same.  The coffee doesn't come out right, too dark too bitter, too much sputtering.  For everyday coffee consumption I still use the no frill IKEA espresso pot which turns out to be very quick, very reliable despite the fact that the lid kind of falling apart from day one.  The milk frothing wand on the Bellman is a newer design with two nozzles but I could never get the milk frothed right.  On the other hand, again my IKEA battery frothing wand works pretty well as long as you got yourself a straight one.  I have another one that's ever slightly bended and it simply doesn't work all that well at all.

Regarding after sales, this Bellman is manufactured in Taiwan, I guess based on some old Italian make some time ago.  It's distributed by some Ng company in America.  I once wrote to them about the little pressure gauge and they never bother to write me back.  So I say lousy or questionable after sales service.

Cleaning is a bit involved with the Bellman as there are simply more parts to dissemble.  And because of the gauge, the handle, the top, the frothing wand, all the protruding parts, it's a bit hard to put on any dish rack to let it hang or sit dry, plus even if you were to flip the body upside down you won't be able to drip the water down because the design of the top opening.  But this doesn't bother me too much as I never ever bother to thoroughly clean the contraption, I just rinse it and all its parts with warm water.  Sometimes I don't get why people tend to clean everything with detergent, I mean is it oily or greasy?  No.  Any oil is coffee oil so I wouldn't bother to scrub or clean it with detergent at all.

Time to revisit YouTube again.