Traveling to location is not getting any easier, especially if you have to fly. To help you prepare for your next shoot, I just wrote a blog piece for Nikon Cinema

Although it would be great, my dog Rosie does not travel with me. She doesn’t like me to leave and hates to see the bags being packed but she stays by my side until the very last minute.

I will be heading to Photo Plus in New York at the end of the month to do some presentations for Nikon. Its the US’s biggest gear expo for equipment, so should be a lot of fun!

To help demo the Nikon gear that I have been using (primarily a D800, 17-35mm & 28-300mm lenses), I spent a day shooting with friends that operate a schooner, the J&E Riggin, here on the Maine coast.

Using a very simple kit that included one DSLR body, two lenses and a great microphone from MyMyk, I ran the video signal into an Atomos Samurai Blade recorder to capture broadcast quality images. The external recorder also gave me the advantage of having a monitor giving me a small and ergonomically useful hand-held rig. The recorder is equipped with a 240Gb SSD drive also giving me extended record times and 10 bit Apple ProRes files ready to drop into Final Cut for editing.

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The Blade is equipped with SDI inputs, so to interface with the camera, I also used the Connect from Atomos. This takes the HDMI signal from the camera and converts it to SDI, it also is brilliantly designed to piggy-back on the recorder to keep the system compact and simple.

Equipment definitely has moved on in the last few years. I am looking forward to upgrading to a Nikon D810 very soon with increased video functionality, this should make a great combination with the Blade and the Atomos Star. The Star another recorder produced by Atomos, there is no monitor screen but the tiny form factor more than makes up for this design decision. Sitting on the DSLR hot-shoe, this amazing device also records Apple Pro Res files at a much higher quality than your camera is able to do internally. At less than $300, it has to be the best camera accessory you can buy!

Exploring the Kamchatka coast

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I just returned from exploring the rugged coastlines of Chukotka and Kamchatka to photograph native villages, wildlife and the region’s landscapes in this far outpost of the former Soviet Union. Based on board an expedition ship, life is easy, but each day, trips ashore meant transferring into a zodiac and braving the turbulent oceans, relentless salt spray and waves crashing over the bow. This is followed by a ‘wet landing’ on a beach, dodging the surf and attempting to get onto dry land as soon as possible.

On shore, we then faced the uncertain weather conditions that the wilds of Siberia would send our way. There to take photographs, it meant keeping camera equipment safe in these challenging conditions, one mistake could mean it is swamped by salt water and ruined. I watched this very thing happen a year ago while making a landing at Gold Harbor in South Georgia. It is a truly spectacular wildlife location as the beach is home to hundreds of thousands of king penguins. Eager to get a shot, a fellow traveler has his new digital camera around his neck and ready to shoot as we approached the beach. Six foot swells pounded the landing site and as the zodiac hit the beach, it was pushed sideways by the powerful swell and a wave dumped right on top of us. In an instant, $6000 of camera equipment was lost and to make matters worse, the photographer no longer had his camera to use and we still had two weeks to go, visiting some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife locations on the planet. This must have been heart-breaking.

 

 

D24wXeds_000140Over the years of doing this kind of expedition D24wXeds_000139everywhere from the heat of the Kimberley coast in Australia, Antarctica and now the Russian coast of the Bering Sea, I have tried many different combinations of cases, dry bags and packs. The pile of packs in my office closet tells the story of never finding quite the right solution. Then on a recent trip to start shooting a story on the water crisis in the Owens of Valley of California, I decided to take a look in an outdoor equipment shop in the town of Bishop. A pack immediately caught my eye. Light weight, waterproof and made of a very durable material it looked ideal for my ship borne adventures. Produced by Hyperlite Mountain Gear, I researched the company and to my surprise found out that is based in my home state of Maine. Its great to see such a well made product that is made locally. Their innovative product line is ideal for everyone from hikers wanting to keep the weight of their packs to a minimum, to adventure sports fans that play around the water as the roll top closures make the bags waterproof.

During my trip to the Russian Far East, we visited villages like Tymlat and Lorino where I shot a portraits of the villagers, we also hiked in the mountains of Kamchatka experiencing everything from sun to torrential rain. My new Hyperlite 2400 accompanied me on all these adventures, providing a ideal way to get my camera gear ashore safely, as well as giving quick access through the roll top when I needed to quickly change lenses or a battery. Although the model I have is designed for ice climbing, the outside pockets and straps also provided an ideal place to keep a can of bear spray handy, essential as we passed dozens of brown bears on our shore trips.

I have more adventure planned that include sailing around the coast of New Zealand and Macquarie Island, back to the Kimberley and also exploring the coast of Chile. The Hyperlite pack will be with me all the way.

 

Special thanks for the photographs go to fellow adventurer Luca De Santis. A talented photographer & graphic designer, he also helps produce the Italian travel magazine Meraviglia Paper

Dawn Aug 27

Dawn on Appleton Ridge

 

Good morning from the Ridge here is Appleton, Maine. There was a beautiful sunrise this morning, so ran outside to shoot a photograph capturing the late summer season. Fall feels like it is just around the corner….

The sun was just a little too high in the sky for an open shot of the St George valley, plus I wanted to include the turning grass and wildflowers to better capture the feel of summer coming to an end. This was a great opportunity to use the dew covered grass as foreground. Not only does this help capture the mood, but on a practical note, cuts the brightness of the sun, while allowing me to see the textures of the vegetation.

To ensure a wide dynamic range (seeing details all the way from the shadows to highlights), I set the camera to continuous high, or burst rate, and shot five frames with one stop differences in exposure and then blended them with HDR Efex Pro.

I also chose to have a relatively large depth of field, bot not push this too far, as the out of focus elements would help add depth to the photograph.

Shot at 1/200th sec at f8   17mm lens on a Nikon D800

 

PS  I also grabbed a quick shot of my trusty camera assistant using the same technique

 

Trusty camera assistant- Rosie

Trusty camera assistant- Rosie

 

Traveling Drives

August 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

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Transcend 500Gb drive

 

Traveling the world shooting video, we have seen cameras evolve from shooting on tape to card based memory such as SD, CF or even the latest like CFast cards. While its great to see the results of each day’s shooting, it also means that you can no longer simply hand a shot tape to the producer to take home to the edit room. Instead, it means late nights backing up to drives. That means fast write speeds are essential if you want to enjoy dinner, a good night’s sleep and to avoid hovering over your computer.

I set up a nightly routine of backing up both video and photographs to a drive. Starting with a folder for each day, I then create sub-folders for each camera. I also take the precaution of taking the drives in pairs and cloning the folders, so I have a back-up in case a drive is damaged or lost.

With growing file sizes from both video and still cameras, this means I can easily fill a 1Tb drive on a shoot, along with its twin for safety. On documentary shoots for television clients, it can easily exceed this….

I often travel to places where there is no replacing items in the field. This means the drives have to be reliable to minimize the chances of one failing. While I try to hand carry the drives, it also seems gate checking bags on small planes is getting to be the norm. I split the cloned pairs across my two bags, so sometimes get forced to trust one set to the airlines. Seeing the injuries that baggage handlers can inflict on my otherwise indestructible Pelican cases, I was immediately drawn to the products from Transcend when I saw that they are rated to withstand use by the armed forces. Although the jury is out to whether they are as dangerous as the airlines! But so far, so good….

As a result I just took a pair of Transcend drives on our expedition to the Russian Far East. Shooting images of the wildlife, landscape and people of the region was a great experience and detailed in two previous stories on Tymlat and Lorino villages.

Each unit worked flawlessly and with a USB3 connection, cut down the transfer time from my memory cards to the drives.

Transcend make a wide range of drives and I would recommend heading to their website for specifications. In general I would recommend the 500Gb or 1Tb units with the fastest connection that can be utilized by your computer. Bottom line…. I would thoroughly recommend these military spec drives to anyone and will be buying fresh units for each of my upcoming expeditions.

One addition to the mix would be a small USB hub if your computer has limited built-in connections when cloning from one drive to another. It seems Apple are saving money by limiting the connectors on their new designs…

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The Milky Way captured using the Triggertrap mobile. (ISO 3200, 30ecs, f4 with a Nikon D800, 17mm lens)

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I have been using a remote from Triggertrap for a while, but they just updated the product so the I headed out at the first opportunity last night to test it out. The cable connects your camera to a smart phone, or other device like an iPod, and runs the camera through a very well featured app’. You can do anything from run a timelapse, to trigger the camera by sound or take a series of images to stack. The reason I first started looking for a control like this as I wanted to take control of the bulb function on my DSLR and be able to accurately dial in long exposures for night photography. For this example, I was using an exposure of 30 seconds for this shot of the Mliky Way.

The great thing is that Triggertrap also make a cable for just about any camera on the market, it also splits in the middle and so if you change systems, you simply purchase a new plug. This makes upgrades very easy and inexpensive, it also means you are not forced to buy a whole new remote. I would really recommend you give their products a try. Best of all, they are bringing out a new remote in October called Ada, amongst other things, it will trigger when it detects motion or lightning flashes. Below is a video explaining its features. I am on the waiting list for its launch and I suggest you sign up as soon as possible.

Thanks for all the great feedback on images from Tymlat village. We then traveled further north and called at Lorino.

We enjoyed another warm welcome on the beach, where I again shot series of portraits from this remote corner of the world. As you may have seen in the last post, this is where I worked with Ralph Grizzle and his son Alex to shoot the short film featured a couple of days ago. I hope you enjoy the window into this wonderful part of the world.

We hope to be back here again next year with Silversea Expeditions and will keep you posted on dates. I would be great to take you along on the next adventure!

 

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