Latest StoriesPhotography
    Creating Time-Lapse Videos from Crowd-Sourced Photos

    Introduced at this year's SIGGRAPH imaging conference, researchers from Google and the University of Washington have developed an approach to creating seamless time-lapses videos not from the images of a single camera, but from the publicly shared photos from the crowd. In their tests, they sorted through 86 million photos to group them into collections by location, and automated a process to warp and color-correct photos taken from the same viewpoint. Those photos were then ordered chronologically and stitched together into a time-lapse video. It's a similar idea to what Microsoft had done with its Photosynth program, but the output is a video showing the passage of time instead of a 3D map. Read more at the project's website. (h/t Engadget)

    In Brief: Fujifilm and Panasonic's New Compact Cameras

    Over the past decade, mirrorless cameras emerged as a photography platform to challenge the leading DLSR makers. And while they've been successful at forcing the Canons and Nikons to innovate, the category has gone through growing pains of its own, most notably increasingly bulky body sizes that limit their advantages over shrinking entry-level DSLRs. Prices have risen as well, as MILC makers figure out how to segment their models and adjust to shorter product cycles. But a new trend seems to be bringing mirrorless cameras back to their compact roots, with Panasonic and Fujifilm both announcing interchangeable lens cameras today that look like great entry models. The Panasonic G7 is a smaller version of the popular GH4, and is equipped with a micro four-thirds sensor with 4K video recording. Fujifilm's X-T10 is a more compact version of the awesome X-T1, with the same 16MP APS-C sensor. Both retail for $800 (X-T10 body only), and aim to be more than just companion cameras for DSLR shooters.

    10 Everyday Things That Look Amazing In Slow Motion

    The human eye is a powerful tool, sure, but it’s also pretty limited. We process visual information at a rapid rate, which leaves us unable to appreciate the subtle nuances of form and motion. Thankfully, technology can help us bridge that gap. Slow motion was invented in the early part of the 20th century by an Austrian priest and transformed our perception of time forever, changing both the extraordinary and the normal into pure beauty. Here are some of our favorite clips of ordinary stuff that’s way cool slowed down.

    Testing: Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II

    For the past two years, I've been using an Incase DSLR Pro pack not just as my camera bag, but as my everyday backpack for work and travel. I loved it because it had enough capacity for all my mobile office equipment (laptop, chargers, peripherals), DSLR, multiple lenses, and even space for a second compact or mirrorless camera. The way the bulk of the pack is divided allowed me to dedicate a lot of space for camera gear, but with plenty left to drop in other equipment between the velcro dividers. But over my time using it, I found it more efficient to carry fewer lenses (mostly just a good zoom) and the pockets meant for lenses ended up getting cluttered with cables and USB battery packs. And the pack eventually died on me--the stiff plastic lining that reinforced the back starting poking through the fabric, making it really uncomfortable to wear. Thus began a search for another camera backpack.

    I put a call out on Twitter to get recommendations, and after looking around at a bunch of options, landed on the LowePro Fastpack 250 AW. The Lowepro Fastpack 250 was highly recommended by The Wirecutter last year, and priced at a very reasonable $75 on Amazon. That's half the price of the Incase bag I was using, and I was curious about its design. I opted for the AW model which has better weatherproofing and more straps, but the standard 250 model is just as capable and cheaper. Here's what I like about it so far.

    Shooting and Editing a Mini-Documentary in One Day

    Last week I got the opportunity to fly out to B&H superstore, in New York, to take part in a three-day documentary workshop put on by filmmaker Philip Bloom. This It gave me a chance to freshen up on some skills, get together with other video professionals to talk shop, and wander the streets of New York to put together a mini-documentary.

    The structure of the class was pretty simple. The first day was all at B&H, talking, sharing, educating, as well as screening and dissecting numerous mini-docs, many filmed by Philip himself. The second day we were all out on our own, tasked with finding an interesting story to capture (we would also have to edit the entire piece that day). The third day was a regroup back in the classroom to review the 25 films with Philip Bloom, Peter Reynolds, and Bill Weir, host of CNN's The Wonder List.

    The subject I found was a guitar maker by the name of Rick Kelly, out of Carmine Street Guitars. We talked for about 30-45 minutes on various topics, including the guitars he makes out of the reclaimed lumber from New York City. While this in itself is a fascinating story, I was really interested in him as a personality—why he hand makes guitars, what's it like teaching apprentices, and how he runs his shop—which you'll see distilled in this four-minute piece. Let me know what you think!

    Living with Photography: Adobe Lightroom 6 Review

    The image management and editing options for enthusiast and professional photographers is fairly limited. There are a few really good open-source applications for processing RAW photos, but with the demise of Apples Aperture, Adobe's Lightroom is the most popular choice. It's become the go-to program for photographers to need process the hundreds or even thousands of photos from day and event shoots, and it's what I've been using for all of my photo work since I got my DSLR. I've said it before: post-processing is an essential half of the photography equation that completes the picture. And for new photographers, it shouldn't be a daunting process--smartphones and apps like Instragram have trained a generation of young shooters the basic language of post-processing.

    Photoshop may have better name recognition and be more powerful as an image-editor, but Lightroom is my preferred app because it puts the editing tools in the context of a photography workflow. It streamlines the digital photo development process to quickly turn the photos you take into the images you want to keep or publish. And with the latest release of Lightroom, Adobe is putting more of those tools you'd typically have to run in Photoshop and incorporating them into the Lightroom workflow.

    The last major release of Lightroom was version 5 back in 2013. That release brought two features that have been essential to the way I use the program: Smart Previews and radial gradients. I've written about how the former allowed me to use Lightroom across multiple computers, and the latter for compensating for fill lighting on location shoots without the use of a flash. Last year's Lightroom update was less impressive, emphasizing camera compatibility, the launch of mobile apps, and the Lightroom website. It honestly felt more of a push for the Creative Cloud subscription services than traditional "box" features.

    This latest release doesn't feel as significant as 2013, and is a mix of new photo editing tools and mobile/service enhancements. The biggest difference for my workflow so far are the performance boosts in editing and exporting--it's genuinely speedy. I've been running Lightroom 6 (or CC 2015, if you're a Creative Cloud subscriber) for the past week on both my MacBook Air and desktop PC--here's what I think of its new features.

    Tested In-Depth: Panasonic Lumix LX100

    This week, we test Panasonic's Lumix LX100, a fixed-lens camera that equipped with a micro four-thirds image sensor. It's smaller than other mirrorless cameras, but doesn't exactly fit in the compact camera category like the Sony RX100 or Canon G7X. Still, the photos we were able to take with this camera were pretty great.

    Testing: Zoom Q8 HD Camera for Podcasting

    I've been looking for the right camera for our mobile podcasting setup ever since we started recording video podcasts away from our studio in 2012. When we first started Still Untitled, we used a GoPro HeroHD 2 to record the show. Over the years, we've upgraded those GoPros to newer models, but have remained pretty dissatisfied with the cameras--they just aren't meant to be used for long videos with lots of talking.

    The action cameras I've tested have a hard time maintaining a consistent clock over long videos, which isn't a problem when you're recording a ride down a mountainside or your first time skydiving, but when you need to sync separate audio and video tracks, it's a huge pain in the ass that involves stretching the duration on either the audio or the video. Most action cams also lack viewfinders, so it's difficult to reliably frame your shot, and all this is compounded by the fact that action cameras simply aren't designed for long shoots. The camera have overheated over 40 minutes of runtime, which causes lost or corrupted video. It isn't a great experience.

    We've tested pro cameras for podcast use before too, including the Panasonic cameras we use in the studio and the Sony PXW-X70 that Joey had on loan from B&H in January. Our aging Panasonics are tied to the proprietary P2 storage cards, which require a special (and very expensive) P2 deck to grab footage from. The Sony camera produced great video and integrated easily into my Premiere Pro-based workflow, but it is much more expensive than I was looking for and is frankly overkill for long, static shots.

    On paper, inexpensive point and shoot cameras seem like the perfect middle ground between inexpensive action cameras and fixed lens prosumer models. We've used Norm's Sony RX100 Mk III for the last half dozen or so episodes of Still Untitled with reasonably good results. However, it's not an ideal solution either. While it's capable of maintaining a constant clock (making A/V sync easy), most point and shoots lack line-level audio inputs and they are universally limited to 30 minute maximum record times, either due to sensor overheating issues (rare) or strange European tariffs (common).

    Enter the Zoom Q8. The Zoom Q8 was designed for exactly the situation we shoot Still Untitled in every week, longer fixed shots where audio is really important. Zoom specifically calls out podcasters, YouTubers and folks who want to record live music from the audience as potential users of this camera. While I can't speak to the latter, the two former use cases are spot on. I've used the Q8 to record three episodes of Still Untitled, and the results are exactly what I was looking for in this type of camera.

    Projection-Mapped Fight Choreography Performance

    We're only scratching the surface of the potential of 3D projection-mapping for live performances, but the demos we've seen--whether it's with motion-controlled robots or human faces--are spellbinding. Large scale projection mapping performances, like this choreographed martial arts dance at the Hamdan International Photography Awards, would be lovely to see full theatrical shows or even at theme parks. This one was designed by Pixel 'n Pepper, and it reminds me a little bit of those Flash video animations I used to watch on Newgrounds. (h/t Laughingsquid)

    A Glimpse Inside Aviation Artistry

    I am of the opinion that airplanes are themselves a form of functional art (even the ugly ones). Perhaps that is why I also think that airplanes are great subjects for more conventional art mediums. I recently had an opportunity to speak with three noteworthy and successful aviation artists. They create drawings, paintings, and photographs covering all genres of aviation. As you will see, my interviewees are all lifelong-airplane fanatics and multi-talented artists. Between them, they can claim two long-term Smithsonian exhibits and an Emmy award. I learned a lot about how each found success, the challenges of their chosen mediums, and the other forms of art that they create.

    Lloyd S Jones - 3-View Drawings

    I first became familiar with Mr. Jones' work when I was still in elementary school. I was given a copy of his book 'US Fighters', and it immediately became my favorite source of bedtime reading material. Whereas my peers may have preferred searching for Waldo or reading the adventures of the Berenstain Bears, I indulged in topics such as the development process of the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. As much as I enjoyed learning the history, my favorite part of 'US Fighters' was the collection of 3-view drawings within: at least one full-page drawing for every subject airplane (well over 100).

    10 Extreme Places Photographers Have Gone For Shoots

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but is it worth risking your life? That’s the question we pose with this gallery, which documents ten of the most hazardous spots on the planet Earth where shutterbugs have gone to snap incredible images. From active volcanoes to the bottom of the sea, here are ten totally extreme locations.

    Living with Photography: Motion Time-Lapse Test Rig

    Lately, I've been thinking a bunch about time-lapse videos. They're the opposite of slow motion, and a cousin of stop-motion. If high-speed camera videos are a microscope for time, then time-lapse videos are the time machines of cinematography. And my favorite thing about them is that they're just so versatile. Time-lapse apps and even Apple's built-in time-lapse camera feature has made shooting these videos easy and accessible, but that's just grazing the surface of what you can do with a camera shutter on an intervalometer. There's adjustments of camera and lens settings, post-processing, and of course, motion control rigs.

    My favorite field of time-lapse is the use of motion control--the ability to move and preposition your camera framing to simulate a smooth motion throughout the time-lapse period. Two years ago, I tested the Radian, a Kickstarted motion time-lapse device that put your camera on a stepper motor for smooth pans. The secret sauce of the radian wasn't just the hardware--you can hack together a similar device with a stepper motor, programmed control board, and time-lapse trigger like Alpine Labs' Micron. What made the Radian so easy and fun to use was the phone app that let me pre-program a motion time-lapse's essential variables, including interval ramping and HDR bracketing. And using the Radian with my DSLR allowed me to make pretty videos like this one below:

    But after shooting a bunch of videos with the Radian, I realized that this one axis of motion didn't really satisfy my needs. It was great for panning around landscapes and rooms, but this basic camera panning setup was built for showing time passing through a large swath of space. It wasn't useful for focusing on a single subject. If you take the time-lapse element out of it, it was just like the swivel motion of a camera on a tripod. A camera pan looks outward around the circumference of a circle; I wanted a time-lapse setup that looked inward.

    So I started thinking about the other kinds of time-lapse rigs you can buy, and the camera motions you can get from those setups. There are pricey tme-lapse devices that pull cameras along roped tracks or wheeled dollies, which again gives you linear motion perpendicular to a plane. The camera (and shot) moves across a scene, not directed at one. Eventually, I sketched up a system that I thought could work, using the Radian and some simple and lightweight camera brackets. Here's what I built, and results of testing it.

    Guide to Stanley Kubrick's Camera Lenses

    Lens maker and cinematography adviser Joe Dunton explains in detail the collection of Stanley Kubrick's camera lenses that are on display in the travelling Kubrick exhibition. Kubrick famously purchased and collected his own camera equipment, including experimental and rare lenses for technically challenging shots in his films. (h/t Petapixel) Edit: the original video was removed by its uploader, so I've replaced it with an equally fascinating look at Kubrick's use of the Mitchell BNC camera and Zeiss f/.07 lens for his film Barry Lyndon.

    Slow Mo Guys Film Shattering CD at 170,000FPS

    The Slow Mo Guys put a 170,000FPS camera on a CD shattering from the stresses of rotational motion. At that framerate, four seconds of real-time translated to over seven hours of footage--96GB of data. Gav and Dan run their test at multiple framerates and from different angles--the shot of the CD warping off-axis before it cracks is super cool. BBC's Earth Unplugged channel also put up its latest high speed video test yesterday, showing a panther chameleon tongue attack at 1500fps. It's all about finding the appropriate framerate to capture what you want to show off.

    In Brief: 2015 GPP Photography ShootOut Competition

    Every year at the GPP Dubai Photography Festival, three guest photographers are challenged to shoot a mystery subject in just 20 minutes, from start to publish. The event--the GPP ShootOut--has featured amazing photographers like Gregory Heisler, David Hobby, and Zack Arias, to name a few. This year's surprise subject was the idea of "intimacy between strangers." It's a great look into the thought process and execution of professional photographers, each with their own specialties and style. You can watch it on Vimeo(embedding wasn't allowed on this video).

    Vincent Laforet's AIR Photography Project

    We've previously talked about Vincent Laforet's AIR project on Still Untitled, in which the photographer captures cityscapes from thousands of feet in the air. His photos of New York and Las Vegas are breathtaking. And most recently, he visited San Francisco for two helicopter rides for the project, snapping shots of our fair peninsula as we've never seen it. The photos are beautiful, of course, but Laforet's commentary about the logistics and creative opportunities afforded from shooting from high altitudes is the juicy stuff. Every photographic opportunity is framed by its constraints, and there are plenty of considerations he has to juggle up in the air--flight plans, weather, and even which side of the helicopter to shoot out of. I'm definitely picking up his AIR project book when it comes out.

    Photo Gallery: Adam Savage's Overlook Hotel Maze Model

    A few photos from the build, as well as the pictures from our photo session before shipping Adam's Overlook Maze model off to the next stop of the <a href="http://www.stanleykubrick.de/en/ausstellungstour-exhibition-on-tour/">Stanley Kubrick travelling exhibition</a> in Mexico!

    In Brief: Shift Accessory Adds Motion-Tracking to Quadcopters

    Shift is an upcoming quadcopter accessory from Perceptive Labs that adds a video tracker on top of a DJI Phantom or 3D Robotics Iris drone and takes control of camera tilting and panning for automated tracking shots. The $800 accessory ($600 during the pre-order period) adds a small 200 camera system to a quad, processes that video and sends it to a tethered tablet, where you can mark any point in its field of view for tracking. Software subject tracking is all done with an onboard processor, and the Shift connects to your quad flight controller to automate camera and the quad's yaw. Tracking in the video samples look smooth enough, but I'm still skeptical about Shift's ability to compensate for unexpected quad movement, as anyone who's tried to film a smooth panning shot with a Phantom could relate. Also, some of this functionality could be done purely with software, utilizing telemetry information from the quad and your phone as a tracking beacon. That's exactly the kind of stuff that DJI wants developers to build when it opened up its Phantom SDK late last year. Watch the video promo for the Shift below. (h/t Techcrunch)

    Testing: Sony PXW-X70 Compact Camcorder

    As I was choosing my video gear to bring to this year's CES, I had several goals: I wanted to go lightweight, carry as few external devices as possible, and use a camera that produced a clean crisp picture requiring very little color correction. I was going to be shooting a lot of videos, and I didn't want to come back to the office with any flat or log footage that would require grading in post. I also didn't want to deal with an external audio recorder (like the one I use with my BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera rig) that would add extra points of failure, especially during an eight-hour convention day.

    Shooting for that long, weight was also a big consideration. I thought back to the previous years shooting video CES. It's not just about the convention floor: I'm carrrying my gear through hotels and casinos, waiting in cab lines, wading through thousands of people, and doing a lot of walking, all before making that trip back to my room at the end of an eight-hour shooting day to unload a 10 pound camera rig that's been weighing on my arm. In the past, I improperly rigged a heavy camera, and paid for it with blisters on my hand and a wrecked shoulder.

    This year I decided to put a little bit of thought into it. I shopped around for a new camera to test at the convention, and eventually decided on the Sony PXW-X70. It's a little tiny ENG (electronic news gathering) style camera that records 1080p video in the XAVC codec, with 4K potential.

    It checked off a number of requirements that I had: lightweight, onboard XLR audio, recorded to SD card (redundant slots, too!), built-in ND filters, and zoom lens. That sounded great, lets try it! We were getting it loaned to us from B&H for a month, which gave me plenty of time to get comfortable with it and take it on the road.

    Taking the camera out of the box for the first time, I noticed that the thing was much smaller than I anticipated. It is about the size of a Sony Handycam, with hot shoe mount on top that locked on the handle with the XLR inputs. Putting it together, the thing felt like it weighed nothing. I shot a couple pieces of test footage with it, rigged a simple shoulder rail with a single hand grip, and packed it up in a tiny bag for CES. It was the smallest gear bag I've taken to any convention, and I was okay with that.

    I had to do some playing around with the custom buttons to get controls where I needed them, but after that, I rarely needed to head back into the menu setting (which, really, isn't that bad especially with the nice thumb stick to cycle through the settings). The rest of the button placement is very similar to the Sony FS700--a camera I have lots of experience with--so finding specific settings quickly wasn't an issue.

    However, the lens handling was at times a bit challenging for me.

    Flying the DJI Inspire 1 Quadcopter with Adam Savage

    Adam has received his new DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter, so we take it to a remote location outside the city to test it out! This quad has the ability to split flight and camera controls between two operators, so Adam and Norm work together to capture a few aerial shots with the Inspire 1's 4K camera. Let us know if you'd like to see more videos like this!