Thursday, February 11, 2016

Big Camera

I should have written it last year.  Or maybe I have already?  Last year was actually worse with stronger wind and all.

When I am shooting in the cold, finger numbing, frost biting cold, close to 0 F cold.  I want to have a big freaking camera with big freaking controls.

Last year I thought I was going to lose my fingers when I was out shooting in the cold for hours.

Today I put on two layers of gloves.  And I wish my D700 was bigger.  I can barely feel my shutter release button.

Today I had a change of shooting MO, instead of going for my 80-200 or 70-200, I opted for the 16-35, went wide and wild.  It definitely is different.  I want to travel light so I brought the SB-600 instead of the relatively massive Sunpak 120J and power pack.  Of course everything is a trade-off.  With the powerpack, the Sunpak can shoot fast without any major lag in recycle time especially all I need is 1/8 of the power.  Not so with the SB-600.  The battery powered SB-600 can't quite keep up with the continuous shooting.  To be fair I don't think the Sunpak can either if it's powered by AA batteries.  I am glad I brought my Nikkor 16-35 f/4 instead of the 20-35 f/2.8 as the aperture blades of the latter would most likely to stick given the Antarctica like temperature.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Highlight of the Day

I got off work a bit later than usual.

When I got on the subway platform, I think I saw Alexa Chung in her golden slip-ons walking in my direction.  I don't know how I think I know it's her.  But I am pretty sure it was her.  I don't get to see fancy slip-ons like that every day.  The loafers practically light up the whole dreary subway platform and the subway car.  It was a week or so after the blizzard and the streets are pretty slushy but her shoes look practically new unmolested by the black snow, urban gravy or the likes.

I was too much of a chicken or got too much misplaced pride or too much self control to say Hello.

Then the other day I bumped into the quite possibly the most prodigious rock climber ever, Ashima Shirashi.  She was very petite and quite easily disappeared in the car.  I tried to look at her fingers and feet to see if they are extraordinary in any way.  I guess they aren't or they are.  I am no expert.  She was accompanied by her dad.  I read her profile on the New York Times quite some time ago and then now "all of a sudden" she is every where.  The New Yorker did a profile on her just a month or so ago.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Airdrop and random thoughts

This is really a random update.

After some incremental updates on both the MBP OS X and iPhone iOS.  I think I am on their latest.  I find the once iffy Airdrop works remarkably well now.  It simply drops and receives.  And I am happy to report that.

My iPhone5s is always out of space.  I hate to do housekeeping like that.  I think my next iPhone will have the biggest capacity available, currently at 64GB.  I will probably use it as for phoneography to realize my childhood dream of shooting moving images.  Probably want to get a beast grip and the moondog anamorphic adapter.  The Optex anamorphic adapter is too dreamy (read fuzzy and soft and out of focus) for some application.  Maybe comes March or early April.  I don't need another DSLR, do I?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Flash Bracket

I own a CB mini flash bracket, the original edition.  It's reasonable good.  It's handy and works pretty much flawlessly.  I wish it comes with some anti-twisting mechanism but it is like an add-on which is as expensive as it's rare for a tiny piece of aluminum.  I believe they have a newer version that has some integrated anti twist built-in.

I have some success mounting my biggie Sunpak 120J on it.  Though the mini ball head that I bought with it isn't liking the stress and weight that much and it's losing its grip ...

I think for the quality of the light, a top mounted flash should be better but I am just happy the flash is mounted on the side.  The bracket only allows flash mounted on the right of the camera with lens pointing out to subject; plus I use a motor drive for the D700 so mounting on the right is really the only right way.  But I think there is a time when mounting on the left makes a little bit more sense photographically speaking, that's when the subject is moving from right to left.


Well maybe it doesn't make a huge difference if the scene is not too dark.  Sunpak 120J hot wired synced with D700.  No it didn't fire the camera at all.

Deer Park Trip 2016

Shot at 1080p with the Optex 1.33X anamorphic adapter.  De-squeezed using HandBrakeCLI, Edited using iMovie.

The camera is the Nikon D7000 and the lens is the Nikkor 28mm f/2 AIS.  I attached the Optex to the Nikkor via a 52-58 step up ring.  The Nikkor has a 52mm filter thread while the Optex has a 58mm.  The 28mm seems to be the "sharpest" when used with the Optex.  Sharp is a relative term here.  I don't think I will ever get a sharp image from the Optex.  The minimum focusing distance is life at least 10 feet away.  The Optex does not come with any front filter thread so to attach a diopter is not a straight forward thing.

If you think sharpness is grossly overrated and value a wider format then Optex anamorphic maybe just for you.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Video Mystery

Every few years or so I will circle back and try to understand video.  Then I give up.

I still use my D7000 for video capture.  It can shoot at 1080p at 24fps or 720p at 30fps.  Now your experience maybe different from mine.  If I were to shoot static scenes then I guess it doesn't make any difference.  But if I were to shoot cycling on the velodrome, I find the footage has too much shudder or stutter.  The stutter is subtle and has nothing to do the playing machine or software being not optimized or being inferior to play video full HD.  I think the shudder has to do with the capture the way it's recorded in the D7000.  I think at 1080p and 24fps the shudder is pretty insufferable for action shots.  At 720p and 30fps, it seems like it's better, the motion is a bit smoother.

I set shutter at 1/50s for 24fps and 1/60s for 30fps.

Again this whole write up is not scientific or anything.

I think about bit rate and I read the D7000 captures at 20mbps and I guess it's not very good if you want to grade your video in post or when the scene is dark or when you are shooting moving subjects, that's the frame is quite different from each other.

Lucky me, D7000 can be hacked to increase the bit rate to some ~64mbps,  I proceeded to downgrade the firmware to 1.03 and patch it from the Nikon hackers.  The thing is I don't know what I lose by downgrading the firmware--probably lost the lens data from jpeg correction and I don't know what I gain on my video--other than the file would be bigger and I can't even play back the high bit rate video on the camera.

So I am able to shoot at 1080p at 24fps and at higher bit rate like 64mbps.

I am able to play the footage on my MBP but I don't think I see any noticeable improvement on how smooth the action become, like when a cyclist goes by.  Perhaps there is some but I really can't tell for sure.

When the video is shot with the the Optex 1.33 anamorphic adapter, then I use Handbrake to de-squeeze it so it can play at 2554 x 1080.  Then I notice when after the desqueeze the bit rate goes to 1 or 2 mbps no matter what my footage bit rate was.  I read somewhat about it but I could not fully understand it, well that's expected.  I think if the scenes or frames have a lot of changes then the bit rate would rise to capture the changes otherwise there is really no need to increase the bit rate.  Again I don't see any significant degrading in the video in particular motion scenes.

Now the raw footage is desqueezed then I proceed to use iMovie to whip up some project and use share to create a new high quality video like with titles and sound track.

And surprise, even with the above 1 or 2 mbps footage the final video can have a bit rate more than that.  So I am perplexed.  I thought you can't have what you don't have to begin with.  If the footage is only 1.2mbps how could the final video has a bit rate in the 10.

D7000 file.MOV at 1080p 24fps 64mbps -->Handbrake --> file.mp4 1080p 24fps 1.5mbps   ---> iMovie file.mp4 1080p 24fps 10mbps

What I want is just smooth action video.  Why so hard with D7000?

Again video is a major mystery to me.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Hateful Eight 70mm, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The big news about The Hateful Eight is of course it was shot on 65mm film stock and transferred to 70mm print for projection.  Just like The Sound of Music or the good old days.  I believe the film was shot anamorphic meaning the image is actually squeezed vertically, and later un-squeezed (on to the 70mm print or during projection?) to make it even wider at 2.76:1 instead of the usual cinematic 2:39:1.

I went to see it in a movie theater by the Lincoln Square in Manhattan, which I think is one of the best.  It also houses one of the best IMAX theaters in the nation, or so I experience, or read and led to believe.

The few things I notice is the film is really film and by that I mean it evokes my early memories of seeing film with warts and all.  One thing I notice is that it isn't as wide or big as I thought it would be.  It is supposed to be wider than what's out there but I don't feel it that way.  The movie screen doesn't seem that gigantic or wide to begin with.  The flicker is pretty obvious right in the Overture before the start of the actual movie; and when the audio is off or low I can hear the sound of the projection which I think is something buried deep in my childhood memory and suddenly resurrected.  The outdoor blizzard scenes don't seem as sharp as it should be or I want it to be perhaps it's the nature of the medium or the scenes or a combination of them.  But the indoor shots seem sharp or sharp enough just not digitally sharp.  It has a rich quality to it.  The audio is great and I never notice any out of sync with the picture even though I tried hard to look at the lips too see if the dialogues are out of sync or not, and they aren't.  The film actually comes with intermission which I don't recall I ever experienced except for double features I saw eons ago.

So what is old is new again.  Film seems to be the next frontier, to be discovered, tamed and enjoyed once again.

By the way, the film is typical Tarantino, that's just another way of saying it got plenty of dialogues and gores, actually not so much for the latter by my standard.  Do I like it?  I like it all right but off the top of my head I am still more blown away by Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill--I saw Reservoir Dog on VHS too long ago to remember anything.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Thank goodness I only paid 6.75 for the ticket.  The movie is all right, very typical J.J.Abrams, very mediocre.