Latest StoriesPhotography
    High Exposure: The Art of Photographing Rocket Launches

    We've all seen close-up photos of fire-belching rockets as they break free from the launch pad. But have you ever given any thought to how such dramatic images are captured? After all, the only people who are allowed within miles of the launch pad are required to have a reserved seat inside the rocket!

    As it turns out, shooting rocket launches requires a photographer with a wide array of skills and a few bits of custom equipment in their kit. These artists set up their gear near the launch pad well in advance of the final countdown. They will be miles away during the moment of truth, where all they can do is cross their fingers and hope that everything works as planned.

    Camera equipment is often left next to the launch pad for days at a time. The setup seen here illustrates one of the countless techniques that photographers improvise to protect their gear from the elements.

    Between unpredictable weather conditions, the harsh environment near flaming rockets, and random gremlins, there are far too many variables involved to ever be totally confident of success. Meticulous preparation is key, and a little luck doesn't hurt either. Even so, these photographers have more at stake than just missing the shot with no chance for a mulligan. They could actually lose their camera gear in the process. Because…well, sometimes the rocket photography gods demand a sacrifice.

    An Expert's Insight

    Ben Cooper has been shooting launches for 17 years. During that time, his photos have earned many awards and appeared on countless magazine covers. You've probably seen his work. I recently had a chat with Ben to find out how he approaches the challenge of shooting rocket close-ups.

    Tested: Hover Camera Passport Drone Review

    We review the Hover Camera Passport, a lightweight foldable quadcopter that uses computer vision technology to track your face and body as it flies around you. We love its compact design and ease of use, and take the drone out for test flights around the city. Here's what we think of the resulting footage.

    What's in Our Camera Bag for Comic-Con 2016!

    We're down in San Diego for Comic-Con! As we prep for a week of travel and production, Joey shows you the camera gear he's packed to shoot and edit the videos we're making from the convention. We discuss how we go about shooting our show floor videos, and what new gear we're excited to test on location!

    Adam Savage Visits the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition!

    After making its way around the world, the incredible exhibition of Stanley Kubrick's work has arrived in San Francisco. Adam Savage tours the exhibit to show you some of his favorite items. From rare camera equipment to pre-production artwork and film props, these objects connect us to one of cinema's greatest minds.

    Microsculpture: Levon Biss' Insect Photographs

    Microsculpture from Levon Biss on Vimeo.

    FromLevon Biss, who takes thousands of shallow depth-of-field photographs of insects, stacking them into one incredible macroscopic image: "Microsculpture is a unique visual experience. A 10mm insect is shown as a 3 meter print, revealing minute detail and allowing the viewer to take in the structure of the insect in its entirety. The beautifully lit, high magnification portraiture of Levon Biss captures the microscopic form of these animals in striking high-resolution detail."

    Going Home: The Nikon D500 DSLR

    I've waxed a little poetic about the Nikon D300 I used for several years. So when Nikon announced the spiritual successor to the D500, I decided to return home. I'd been a Nikon user for several decades before adopting the Olympus OM-D EM-1. The Olympus gave me good service, but the D500 proved to be a siren call I couldn't resist.

    I preordered the D500 from B&H Photo the day Nikon launched the camera, around January 5th. Nikon pushed back the delivery date to April 21st from early March. All of B&H's staff take Passover week off as a holiday, but they clearly made a heroic effort to ship preorders on the 21st. Mine arrived about a week later. The external box looked like it had been run over with a forklift, but the thick layer of bubble wrap protected the retail box, which was pristine. I nearly had heart palpitations when I saw the state of the box. The camera itself seems to be working fine.

    D500 with the 16-80 f2.8 – f4 zoom.

    The camera includes a 20.9Mpixel sensor, 10fps maximum frame rate, up to 153 focus points, standard ISO settings ranging from ISO 100 to ISO 51,200, but you can push it to ISO1.64 million, but expect more noise than useful image at that setting. You check out the complete set of specs at Nikon's own web site. If you're curious about the sensor, it seems to be just a bit better in dynamic range than the 24MPixel D7200 sensor, but can push to higher ISOs. You can read a pretty interesting discussion about the sensor over at Digital Photography Review's Nikon Pro DX forum.

    Note that I didn't preorder the kit, even though you see a kit lens on the body above. Nikon refused to discount the bundle, instead just tacking the retail price of the 16-80 f/2.8 – f/4 onto the list price of the body. I ordered only a body, then took advantage of a big Nikon lens sale to pick up the lens for $75 off. Sometimes waiting pays off.

    Photo Gallery: Monsterpalooza 2016

    We spent this past weekend at Monsterpalooza, the annual creature and makeup effects convention in Pasadena. It was an awesome place to meet sculptors, painters, and other artists showing off their personal projects, and in many cases, selling resin kits (I picked up a few). The event was one big mutual appreciation society--the place to put faces to Instagram art accounts and discover many new ones to follow. Frank and Len recorded two episodes of Creature Geek there, too! Here are some photos from the show, and we'll have videos and interviews we shot there on the site in the coming days!

    Testing: ProDRENALIN Video Stabilization

    Shaky video is a fact of life when you work with small cameras. Whether you're using a handheld camcorder or an action camera mounted to some sort of vehicle, getting a steady picture is often challenging. Even using a brushless gimbal will not guarantee smooth video. While it certainly pays to make your raw footage as stable as possible, there are also ways to iron out rough spots in post-processing. I recently spent some time evaluating ProDRENALIN ($50), a budget software package with video stabilization features.

    ProDRENALIN (PD) is not a full-blown video editing program. Rather, it provides a few different methods to optimize your raw footage before importing it into your usual video editor. The primary functions of PD are image stabilization and fisheye removal. There are also basic features for image orientation and color correction. PD is available for PC or Mac (using Wine virtual machine). I performed my testing on an aging Sony Vaio laptop (1.6GHz i7 CPU, 6GB RAM, integrated video) running Windows 7.

    ProDRENALIN does a great job of removing camera shake from many types of video footage.

    Using ProDRENALIN

    With only a handful of specialized functions, PD is not a complex program to use. I watched a 15-minute tutorial video and it covered everything I've needed thus far. It is very straightforward. For instance, stabilization is either on or off. There are no adjustments to futz with. If your only goal is to stabilize a complete video, you simply load the video (drag and drop), enable stabilization, and then export the result.

    There are options to work with only a selected time portion of a video if you want to chop up the raw footage into smaller clips or apply different effects to varied sections. As you're working with a video, you can choose to view the raw file, the modified file, or a split screen that allows you to compare both files. The split screen option can be divided vertically or horizontally.

    In Brief: Lytro Introduces Its Cinema Lightfield Camera

    Camera maker Lytro, which last year pivoted from making prosumer light field still cameras to digital cinema, has introduced its first production-ready studio camera. The Lytro Cinema applies light field sensor technology to video, capturing more than just color and light in each pixel, but light and environment data that allows directors to adjust focus, aperture, and even shutter speed after the shot has been taken. Lytro says that each frame taken (at up to 300FPS) has 755MP of RAW data, and the sensor has a dynamic range of 16 stops. Its sample footage--seen in the promo video below--shows how this data can be used in the post-production process to composite CG elements and make adjustments that previously would have been baked in to the plate. Lytro isn't going to be selling its cameras to studios, but offering it in a rental model, with packages that start at $125K.

    Norman
    In Brief: Cinematographer Analyzes Tested Videos

    This blew us away. Cinematographer Matt Workman runs CinematographyDB, a website, video series, and podcast dedicated to analyzing the cinematography techniques of live action films, music videos, and shows. His latest episode has a familiar subject: Tested! Matt used our behind-the-scenes lighting video to create a visualization of our production studio using a Cine Designer tool (which he also created), perfectly modelling the podcast set that Danica designed. Joey was freaking out in excitement when we saw this, since he had just watched Matt's previous videos studying The Revenant and The Martian. The episode is embedded below!

    Norman
    Show and Tell: Radian 2 Time-Lapse Motion Controller

    For this week's Show and Tell, we revisit some trusted time-lapse gear we've been using in recent months, which has been useful for documenting Adam's cave builds. The Triggertrap is a simple remote shutter programmed and activated by a smartphone app, and the Radian 2 is still our favorite rotating intervalometer for DSLRs.

    Filming MythBusters with a Custom Chase Car Camera Rig

    For the MythBusters series finale, the incredible wedge truck drive through 14 years of props was filmed with a unique piece of custom camera gear. MythBusters' Director of Photography Scott Sorensen built a motion-controlled camera rig onto the back of an old police car, effectively turning it into a camera chase car! We go for a test drive and learn how the rig works with both custom and off-the-shelf technology.

    Hands-On with DJI's Phantom 4 Quadcopter Drone

    We go hands-on with DJI's latest quadcopter, the Phantom 4! The newest Phantom drone improves on last year's model with three big features: much longer battery life, active obstacle and subject tracking, and a high-speed sport mode. We chat with DJI about how these features work and then put the drone in the sky for a test flight!

    In Brief: Wirecutter's Top Camera Accessory Recommendations

    While taking a break from reading up on the latest Canon 5D Mark IV rumors this weekend, I was deep in The Wirecutter's newest camera accessory guide. It's awesome. The team there have put together a list of their favorite essential and optional pieces to a DSLR kit, including flashes, color charts, light meters, batteries, and the gamut of lens filters. Even if you don't need something like a photo tent, there's probably something here that you're missing from your camera bag. I picked up a Tiffen ND filter and Green Extreme battery pack.

    Norman
    Nikon's DL Series Compact Cameras Offer Range

    In the early part of the decade, we saw the fast rise of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras--from venerable micro 4/3rds systems to the larger-sensor APS-C cameras (like Sony's NEX/Alpha line). MILCs make great starter cameras; they're what I would recommend to new photographers "graduating" from smartphone photography and looking to experiment with manual settings, RAW processing, and lens upgrades. But my feeling and experience is that MFT and APS-C cameras tend to gather dust and sit in drawers once you upgrade to a full-frame camera. Those two systems don't complement each other well. That gave rise to the 1-inch compact camera market, premium cameras in the size and form-factor of point and shoots but with a higher-grade sensor. Panasonic's Lumix LX, Sony's RX, and even the DxO One won't cut it as the only camera in your arsenal, but complement full-frame cameras really well. (In RPG terms, I like to think of them as one-handed swords to complement claymores, while MILCs are like bastard longswords.)

    Nikon is tripling down on 1-inch compact cameras with its new DL series, which share 20.8MP 1-inch CMOS sensors with over a hundred phase-detect autofocus points. These sensors are paired with a new processor that allows 60FPS (!) continuous shooting as well, along with 4K 30FPS recording and high-speed up to 1200fps. What's interesting is how Nikon is differentiating the cameras: their fixed lenses. The $850 model has a wide 18-50mm f/1.8-2.8 focal length (35mm equivalent), $650 model goes from 24-85mm f/1.8-2.8, and larger $1000 model stretches from 24-500mm--that one has a built-in EVF as well. The sweet spot model seems to be the 24-85mm, since it's priced well at $650 also is the only one with a Super Macro Mode for photos of minuscule subjects in 1:1 scale. But the 18-50mm is also going to be really enticing since no other 1" compact sensor can shoot at that range. That's the one I'm leaning toward wanting to test next!

    Beastcam Photogrammetry Rig Scans Live Animals

    Biology processor Duncan Irschick of UMass Amherst introduces the Beastcam, a four-camera rig that can rapidly take photos of live animals for generating 3D photogrammetry models. The rig, which was conceived of when Irschick found it challenging to 3D model a live shark, can shoot 60 photos in about 15 seconds. The photos are sent through software like Autodesk's 123D Catch and used to study body form in animals and complex movements. Irschick hopes to take it back to Florida to test it on a shark!

    Meet Kodak's New Super 8 Film Camera

    Kodak is making a recommitment to film with its new Super 8 camera, announced at this year's CES. We visit the Kodak booth to take a look at the camera, which shoots 8mm film but also has a digital viewfinder and other hybrid elements. Here's what we learned about how filmmakers will be able to take advantage of Kodak's new consumer film ecosystem.

    Meet the Yuneec Typhoon H 4K Camera Drone

    We check out the new Yuneec Typhoon H drone, an RC hexacopter with camera features to rival DJI's Inspire 1. The Typhoon H has a 4K camera mounted on a gimbal that can spin 360 degrees, landing struts that move out of the way, and several automated flight features. Plus, its price isn't that bad either!