First, I won’t claim this is anything more than some fun-tastic snap-shot photography. It isn’t. All these pics were taken with a point-and-shoot Canon Elph 330HS with one of the built-in filters active.
But there I was…. standing on top of the Empire State Building.
And I had these four cameras with me. Over-prepared? Yes, a little.
I was packing my dSLR, of course, and I was swapping out between my 100mm to get some interesting long-shots with some awesome depth of field on the buildings, and my Lensbaby FishEye, which was letting me snap some (very, very manually-focused) wide, wide angle shots from the high-up perspective.
Barely worth mentioning, I also had my cell phone camera (which I was rocking for the exclusive purpose of nabbing pictures so I could live-blog them later), my GoPro, which was taking photos and videos simultaneously, but since I had no display on the camera it was a crap-shoot for what I was getting, and then this one: the point-and-shoot.
These little pocket cameras have so many cool little features built in, and I think I take as much joy in using those features in ways they were probably never intended as for using them exactly how they were intended. For example, I took all my “Shopping” album pictures in the exact same mode as these tilt-shift pics. Over-saturated colours with this faux-filter of a narrow band of focus, plus it does amazingly great in low light: it made for some inconspicuous yet interesting merchandise photos. Or, I think so.
But, again, there I was…. standing on top of the Empire State Building.
Enjoying the view. Snapping some photos. And I’m thinking: man, I’ve got this miniature mode on my little camera, so… why not? I’m up high. I’m looking down on one of the coolest cities in the world. How often am I going to have this opportunity?
You can judge the results for yourself. It’s not high class tilt-shift by any means –kinda low-class, and the lines are a little too sharp– but I think the result is interesting and intriguing anyhow. It’s got that feel of something big-made-small. It’s got the tilt-shift sense to it, if a little imperfect in the implementation.
I’ve been dancing with some lesser cameras lately. This has been a deliberate slight to my now-aging dSLR. And I’m okay with that.
a deliberate slight to my now-aging dSLR
Foxtrotting with the little point-and-shoot.
Saucy tangos with my GoPro.
Spinning, twisting waltzes with my smartphone’s camera.
These days it seems that I wander through crowds most everywhere I go and even if I don’t seem like I’m paying particular attention, I am looking at the various cameras that are slung over so many necks. Digital SLRs are so incredibly affordable these days that it often seems as if everyone and their dog owns one. Uses them. Gleefully snaps away at the most random of compositions and soon-to-be captured moments. It seems like a great deal of those cameras are being used for point-and-shoot photography, snapshot power-clicking, and the inelegant blur of shutter games played with something less than either focus or depth of… knowledge, maybe.
And there is nothing wrong with this.
I think technology should strive to be accessible, affordable, and available to anyone. That’s how we learn. That’s how I learned. Trial. Error. (Oh, so much error.) And sheer volume of practice by virtue of ever-present access.
Both the photos in this post were captured by a Samsung Galaxy Note phone.
But this raises the bar, doesn’t it?
Photography becomes so much more than having the so-called “proper” or “best” equipment and using it. That’s just the entry fee now.
A great many nuggets of wisdom stuck in my head from the various photography workshops I’ve taken, but I think the most influential –at least for this span of time– was something uttered by Brad Wrobleski in one of the Fotoscool clinics I took. Paraphrased: “You camera is just a fancy box to capture light.”
the taken-for-granted quantum mechanical kludge of electrons
So, I’m thinking: how do I define fancy here in 2013? True, a dSLR can be the fanciest of fancy cameras. But the little sensor I cart around with me in my cell phone, backed by powerful processing software and the taken-for-granted quantum mechanical kludge of electrons colliding with a bit of silicon is actually an amazingly fancy little box for capturing light.
We shove it in our pockets and don’t think about it much, but those little everywhere cameras are ever-improving and deeply phenomenal milestones in technological achievement. Sure, the lenses are plastic or the shutters fall onto the slow side of the current spectrum of what’s available. But still… awesome little digital cameras none-the-less, and I tend to carry around two of them everywhere I go these days.
So I ask again, what is fancy? And thinking about that question, the question of “what can I do with something intermediately fancy…?” is a question that often leaves me wondering if I shouldn’t spend more time trying to figure that out. And by leaving less of the art to the box and putting more of the onus of skill and understanding on yours truly, what am I forcing myself to learn and what knowledge flows from that?
Thus, I’ve been burning the bossa nova with other bits of light-bending technology, and pondering the passacaglia of photons pounding out pictures in a somewhat more primal –perhaps deconstructed– sort of way, if only just to see what I can produce. And it’s what I need (at least the art-minded photographer in me needs) right now.
She’d been bugging me for over a week. See, after upgrading her bike and getting her some practice time –and confidence– in actually mounting, riding, turning, stopping, and generally avoiding crashing into things (like people), the girl was apparently ready for a serious ride.
After all, how many times can you go round and round and round and round the same old park without going crazy, huh?
But there had been rain. And someone was always sick or injured (me and my ankle!) or busy at soccer or music or some other social engagement.
On Sunday I was out for a sixteen kilometer run with my group in the morning and despite the forecast of rain and dreary weather, the trails were clear, the sky was blue, and I was feeling full of pep and energy.
So, shortly after getting home and having lunch I told her: we’re going out for a ride.
I strapped on the GoPro, affixing it to the top of my helmet so that I looked even more goofy than I normally do on a bike, and we set off.
Just to the east of us one of the little starter-home communities put a lot of effort into parks and trails. Our neighbourhood by no means sucks, but we just don’t have the sheer area of pretty little connected trails with parks and lakes and trees as does our next door neighbourhood. Nothing that crossing a single road couldn’t fix, though.
We set off. Claire was overly cautious, which as her dad I probably shouldn’t complain about but –well– there is such as thing as TOO careful, y’know, like braking fifty feet away from an intersection and walking her bike. I mean, five feet… even ten, okay.
And we biked. I’d run this route numerous times before, and in fact (as I alluded above) I had run it that very morning. So I know we’d hit the three klick mark, roughly, when the groaning complaints of “dad, I’m kinda tired” started.
We about-faced, and pedalled home under the bright sun. Not one crash. Not one scrape. Six wonderful klicks in total and a little more confidence in a little girl.
Everyone loves a good list, and after four previous rounds of my blogging extravaganza “week of lists” posts, I’ve pretty much confirmed the old (if slightly modified) adage: If you write them, they will come. Again, seven days, seven lists: and this time the topic honours my starting-this-week marathon training efforts for the summer of 2013, locked in step and stride on this, the week of lists number five, the Twenty-6-Point-Two Miles Edition.
Blogs are interesting when they tell stories. Photos help make stories interesting. And when you’re training for a marathon (or any race, event, or noteworthy goal for that matter) there are certain definitive moments that both tell the story and mark the adventure for what it’s worth. I think there are at least…
6 Photos That Could Sum Up Your Entire Training Season
1 : The Before Photo
We hate them when we take them, hesitate to share them, but they form the opening credits of every success story of physical fitness. While snapping a few pics of who you were before you hit the trails may seem a little bit too much like part of a late night advertisement for one of those ab-erobic-super-diet-pillz deals, you won’t regret it in a few months when you are trying to explain your transformation to other people. And, just to be clear, I’m not advocating some kind of skinny bias here: it’s just a fact that training for and running a big race WILL change you, so why not embrace your starting point?
2 : The Team Photo and 3 : The Lonely Runner Photo
Every training season is a balance. On the one hand there are klicks and klicks of lonely footsteps down snow-covered, wind-swept, or rain-drizzled trails. On the other hand, you’ll have awesome runs with new and intersting people. These could also be photographic moments that define a training season. The team photo, that gathering of sweat-soaked victory back at the shed, where someone spontaneously pulls out a camera or their iPhone and grabs a blurry shot of everyone improptu huddled together. Or, the (much harder to capture, mind you) photo of a lonely runner on the trails: if you are fortunate enough to trod on something like the wide variety of trails to which I have access, propping up your camera in auto-mode for a few timed-selfies is not only easy, but rarely will someone be around to gawk. If you are training in a more crowded or urban enviroment then hey… don’t be afraid to ask a friendly stranger to snap some pics of you on the run. It may seem silly at the time, but you’ll cherish those pics later.
4 : The Dirty Shoes Photo
Still life is a touchstone of artistic expression. Objects can evoke emotion and tell stories about a thousand words not quite seen and out of frame. The classic training photo is the “dirty” shoes pic. Or, if you prefer, the worn-shoes, the dangling shoes, the resting shoes, the feets-less shoes sitting on the porch between runs shoes. One nearly-constant between all runners (well, except for some of those hardcore barefoot folks) is the bits of plastic and leather we strap to our feet, and when we take them off between runs they yearn to tell tales of their travels.
5 : The Race Photo and 6 : The Finisher Photo
Of course, one day the BIG day will roll around and not only will you be decked out in your best-worn and most comfortable race gear, but you’ll be at the peak of your fitness. There are two moments worth capturing on every race day (and luckily there is probably a photographer — or even an company — hired to help you grab those pics. As your running, strugging, enduring the long haul of footstep after footstep, you will undoubtably encounter someone crouched on the side of the course snapping photos of every runner, burning through digital memory with wanton abandon. Smile. Just smile. Strike your best pose. You can probably download that photo from somewhere later. Likewise, someone else will probably be crouched a few meters behind the finish line, snapping an even more frantic collection of every single runner to beep their RFID toe tag across that annoying rubber mat. Throw your arms in the air. Cheer. Smile. Your training story jsut had a happy ending. You may as well have the photo to prove it.
This is a cross-post from FEETS dot CA, my new(ish) running blog. I posted it a couple days ago. If you’re into running and not already reading that blog, why not check it out… after you’ve read this, of course.
One of my other significant hobbies (apart from running) is that I also tend to fashion myself something of an amateur shutter-bug. I like taking photos.
Back in the fall I’d considered the possibility of making 2013 my “Year of the Running Photographer” That’s to say, I’d contemplated the hows and the wherefores around the logistics of carrying an actual, real camera around with me on various runs. This was a longing that grew out of the fact that some of the more awesome sights and views I was witnessing last summer were those I’d encountered out on runs through various lightly-travelled, oft-secret city trails.
I figured: camera + running = great photos… right?
The problem, I quickly realized, was threefold:
1) Always carrying a good camera is a pain in the butt, not only due to weight and cumbersome…ness of it, but for various other reasons too,
2) The “awesome views” I was encountering were great and all, but always interrupting my run to snap photos was very likely going to impact my training, and
3) Being that many of the people I run with are doing so to get in shape, being the unwitting subjects of my pet photo project was probably not on their radar when they showed up to run club in spandex and their sweaty shorts.
In other words, I haven’t been carrying a camera around. At least, not much.
Yet, I have been looking for ways to integrate photography (and videography, as well) into my running. Instead of always carrying a camera, I’ve rolled an old favourite into a new idea: the so-called “photo expeditions” I used to take, walking through the trails and parks could now be linked up with a low-expectation training run. In other words, a a long, slow running photo expedition.
I had Easter Monday off so I tried this. The results were a slower-than-average run (of course) where I would prop the camera up in a snow bank and run back and forth a half-dozen times. It was fun and I attracted a few sidelong glances and knowing chuckles from other trail-users… but in the end I got a set of neat-o running pics and a fancier-than-it-should-be running video on YouTube:
Am I going to do this every run? Of course not. But now that I know it’s possible to snap some cool pics AND get a solid 6 kilometer jaunt into the river valley on the docket, too, you might see more of this.
I went running with my camera for the first (successful) time last weekend. And while I was quick to post the images, I haven’t quite got around to writing the little narrative I wanted to put with it until just now.
The idea, in it’s purest form, was to find a way to bring my dSLR on the trails with me so that I could grab some running-esque imagery… whatever that means. (And maybe finding out what that means was part of the point!)
This is not exactly that project. Not exactly, but close.
I picked up a head-mount strap for the GoPro Hero3 Black sports camera I bought largely with the intention to use it when I go snorkeling during an upcoming vacation.
But then Saturday rolled around and I was a run behind in my plan. And unlike much of my evening solo runs lately, I had the opportunity to go out running during the mid-morning. (Or in other words… during daylight.)
It was snowing, but only lightly. And the camera, fully charged with the extra boost of the optional battery pack plugged to it’s backside, was set to (a) operate via the WiFi remote, (b) capture 720p video and (c) snap a completely random photo of whatever happened to be in frame, every five seconds.
In other words, I got a lot of photos — no really: a lot. Like five hundred. None of which I really had any control over. So the results, random as they are, might be considered interesting for those reasons alone.
I suited up, strapped on my watch, and headed out east-bound on one of my favorite better-for-summer or better-for-daylight trails. In fact, loyal readers will note that this is the same route I last took and had a frightening dog encounter that inspired my recent dogs-and-running post, specifically encounter 4.
Admittedly I did have another dog encounter on this particular run as well, though the brute was much smaller and only about ten times as eager to attack me. Luckily his owner was not on board with that particular plan.
It was snowy. I mentioned that already, but it is probably worth repeating. It was snowy and icy, and it was not a pleasant day for a run. In fact a couple of times I had the thought run through my head that I might actually be recording some kind of epic fail video as I captured the inevitable slip and fall that seemed likely to occur at nearly every corner, intersection, hill, and — frankly — every ten steps along the trail.
It was not a fast run. I think, if I remember correctly, I had barely two stretches of clean, clear, and non-black-ice-caked asphalt where I actually got a bit of speed and made some southward progress on my average pace.
But then one doesn’t strap a camera to one’s head and expect to have the best, record-setting run of one’s career, does one?
I posted a selection of the pictures on a couple of social networks in the days following and copied the whole stack of the twenty-three most interesting (I mentioned they were numerous and random, right?) to my gallery, too.
Someone — and sorry even though I dug around through my notifications, etc I can’t recall who — noted that the twenty-three photos strung together sequentially told an interesting sort of story. And yeah, I guess they do… which is sort of the point with photography, isn’t it?
At the end of the day, even though it resulted in some nifty photos and a shaky-but-watchable YouTube video, running with the camera attached to my head is going to be one of those “occasional” activities. I think I’d still like to find some way to do some running photography — preferably with an SLR and preferably when there is less ice and less risk of falling and breaking something, everything — but for now: well, it’s a start.
Charting and mapping my virtual run for 2013. From the corner near my house to the Great White Norths of my own beautiful country, these are the klicks I might have run had they been strung end-to-end from the first of January to the end of December. Brought to you by the magic of obsessive data tracking, GPS technology, and they letter Y.
In the end, I managed to log a hair over 1210 kilometres for all of last year and rounded out the calendar feeling pretty good about my epic accomplishment… and, honestly, a little daunted by the follow-up.
It was, admittedly, somewhat disheartening to see that cumulative counter bounce back to zero as the New Year rolled in, and standing at the start line of 2013 Resolution Run, with a mere five — but really fifteen hundred — klicks ahead of me was only topped by the epic feeling of daftness I was feeling for having forgot to put a memory card in my camera that morning.
But, I’ve been running. And I’ve logged eight runs in the first ten days of the year, only having taken two days off from my schedule. My legs are sore, and I’m looking forward to no running today or tomorrow. I may even have a beer to celebrate later.
As of January 10: 54.0km logged!
The result of this running is that I’m generously ahead of my schedule. Sort of. I mean, there is some maths and some training plans and some vacation buffer distance included in there, but strictly speaking — referring to the 4.11 klicks I am required to average each and every day of 2013 — I should be sitting right around 41.1 kilometres ten days into the year. I’ve run 54 klicks.
The virtual run (which I’m going to be explaining only in the standardized intro blurb for these blog posts from now on) puts me, curiously enough, a goodly distance out of the City, travelling West along the major route Highway 16, and just at the very cusp of turning down onto Highway 43. If this is meaningless to you, that’s fine. But it’s curious for me because it is the intersection I travelled a lot in my youth as we drove between Edmonton (where my grandparents lived) and the little town of Barrhead, Alberta (where I spent most of my primary school years.)
I think I’ll virtually run by our old house…. just to see how things are going.
I’ve been contemplating a photography project for 2013 and in many ways it seems only natural that I should blend a couple of my hobbies together: running and photography.
Why? There are probably as many answers as there are runners…
Now, if you are sitting there reading this wondering: “why the heck would anyone want to see running photos?” then let me elaborate and hopefully clarify any curiosity you might have on the subject. Let’s start with the “why?”
Why do a photography project about running? There are probably as many answers as there are runners, but for me — personally, I mean — running has become merely something I do and turned into somewhere I go. Running is as much an escape and a destination as it is an activity. And like any destination, one begins to feel inclined (particularly if one is also a photographer) to capture images of the journey, there and back again, for others to witness what he sees on his trip. And more-so, I suppose it really is that I feel like I’ve finally reached a place in my running where I want to share it in more than just words, but to bring a kind of visceral photographic experience to the act as well.
This really would be an experiment.
I spent some time over the past weeks poking around the internet for any indication that anyone else is doing this sort of thing. I found very little. In fact, I found naught much more than a few suggestions on how to strap a GoPro to your head and run and suggestions for not dropping your point-and-shoot while jogging.
In fact, most of the advice proffered was simply this: “why would you carry a camera while you’re jogging?” (But then we’ve covered that ground already, right?)
I got to thinking about the problem and realized that with my old Rebel XT and a shoulder pack of some kind, it wouldn’t be much extra weight to carry the camera with me out on some shorter runs… at least to give it a try. And that’s the point, isn’t it? To give it a try?
So, in 2013 while I’m out pounding the pavement to gather up my goal distance of 1500 km, I’m going to occasionally take a camera along. And we’ll see…
A reloaded post is a short-and-sweet collection of the (sometimes-interlinked) randomness from my recent life, universe and everything else in between. They would be more detailed but they tend to be events lacking in either (a) details or (b) depth… or in the time to more fully record them. Enjoy.
The dog is not impressed with the weather either…
It’s bitterly cold and shaping up to be a nasty and weather-non-compliant holiday season. As I write this I realize that my meagre six day break is officially half over — it being Sunday night and I getting just another three days off before I go back to work — and apart from a few holiday-ish events, I’ve barely done anything seasonal at all. Perhaps it’s being trapped in the house due to the cold. Did I mention it was cold? Bitterly cold? Oh, right…
I blew up my new camera on Thursday night. That’s right, I managed to push the darned little GoPro to it’s limits and — wham! — it failed. Epically.
So, long story short: I tried to film myself running. It was minus twenty. Celsius. And then I didn’t let it warm up enough and — blah, blah, techno-babble, blah — I did something that corrupted my memory card and left me with a bunch of unusable data scraped from the smouldering remains of my MicroSD card.
Press format. Start over.
The camera was okay, but the footage was not. And as proof, I shot this little baby in the backyard about thirty-six hours later, capturing some snow-play with Claire in 120 frames per second glory, and editing about five seconds of the ten minutes I captured into a reduced speed leap from the deck into the heaps of fresh snow.
I pay a few bucks every month and rent a Minecraft server. Generally it’s pretty awesome. Great customer support and fairly stable. But the latest update came out last week and — wham — something crashed, somewhere, somehow. And — long story short — my Minecraft server has been in various states of repair for the last three days.
This is unfortunate if only because I finally have some time to play, and the weather has been cold enough to justify hibernating in front of the computer… and my Minecraft server is broken. Insert sad face here.
Oddly enough, despite my inability to play it, Minecraft has actually been featuring fairly prominently in our house this past few days. Not only did I spring eight bucks this morning and buy myself a digital copy of the new Minecraft documentary, and not only did my Creeper hat finally arrive in the mail after waiting for the confluence of international postal services for over a month, but Claire has been, well frankly, obsessed.
We have Minecraft on the iPad and she has been going to town building and crafting (all in Creative mode) enough that I think she managed to grind her Minecraft Skillz up to a double-digit level this weekend. Enough to make a dad proud, anyhow.
That Time of Year
Apart from that, it’s been a kind of stop-and-go busy. I helped out at Claire’s Kindergarten party for her last day of class. We went that afternoon to the theater and saw the re-release of Monsters, Inc. (but in 3D). We’ve been doing the last bit of shopping. I’ve shovelled the sidewalk three times and completely avoided putting on my running shoes thanks to the cold weather. We did a pot-luck brunch with my running crew this morning. And we’ve been wrapping, cooking, and finalizing all the last minute details for the next few days…
And speaking of the next few days… I’m signing off until at least Boxing Day. Enjoy your holiday. Celebrate how you see fit and enjoy the warmth of your friends and family. Peace.
Despite the mountains of rational evidence to the contrary there are still a lot of folks out there holding to the claim that come December 21, 2012 the ire of the universe will refocus upon the planet Earth and cast us all into an end-of-the-world scenario of some kind. If those folks are right then I’ve got barely half-a-week left to get some hard-earned advice out to my readers before this blog goes offline… It’s time for another Week of Lists!
As an amateur photographer I’m always on the lookout for a great project. And, assuming I remember to grab my camera bag as I’m fleeing for my life as society is collapsing into chaos and ruin around me this Friday, I doubt even armageddon is going to shake that habit loose.
But being a guy who often snaps pictures of family outings, nature macros, sunsets, and city-scapes, refocussing my camera lens during and after the end of the world — all while trying to keep myself and my family alive — is a complex prospect. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
So, what’s a photographer to do? Well, the subject matter might be different, but I’d like to think that all the skills we’ve been practising can form the foundation of some great new photo projects on the other side of society’s near-annihilation. For example:
1 :: A Last-Chance-To-See Gallery of Soon-To-Be-Extinct Nature Photography
There is always that slim, glimmering chance that whatever scary shape the apocalypse takes it will take the form of that mythical “magic bullet” and thus hone in on just humanity alone leaving the rest of the Earth unscathed to continue on without us. More than likely, however, whatever reduces our population to a withered remnant of its once former self will take out a goodly portion of nature along with it. Plants and animals covering the vast spectrum of flora to fauna will quickly become rare specimens, and as a photographer this might be your last chance to capture the glint in eye of a once majestic beast, or the delicate essence of a blossoming flower before they wither under the apocalypse-darkened sky.
2 :: A Dramatic Black-and-White Collection Highlighting the Discarded Remnants of Human Innovation
Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for black and white photography. Often I find myself flipping the colour-mode of my camera over to a setting that produces stark, high contrast, monochromatic imagery. There are details that a good photographer can pull from a scene and emotions that a good photographer can evoke with the surreal tools offered by this often-underrated art. As the End of the World arrives and all the bits-and-bobs of humanity’s greatest era of innovation is discarded and left to crumble — everything from now-useless iPhones dropped into gutters and left gather dust to the crumpled wrecks of minivans abandoned on the jagged asphalt of no-longer-tended suburban free-ways — these pieces, slowly being reclaimed by whatever is left of nature are the perfect evocative subjects for drama-seeking photographer of the post-society.
…poignant before-and-after photos.
3 :: Then-and-Now: Paired Location Shots from Before and After the End of Civilization
Of course, any photographer worth her salt is already going to have a hefty collection of scenes and panoramas of the epic views and vistas of the world prior to it’s utter collapse. These might be anything from bustling city skylines to famous landmarks protruding from the Earth as a testament to humanity’s might and prowess over the land and sky. And nothing tells a great photo-journalistic story so much more than those certain kind of poignant before-and-after photos, often taken from similar (or where possible, exact) locations with a disaster of some kind stuck in the middle to change things up in a dramatic way. There’s no telling what the world will look like following the collapse of society, but whether the landscape has been crushed to ruin by the weight of an alien invasion or simply fallen eerily silent having been swept clean by an epic viral plague that’s wiped out ninety-nine percent of all life, the contrast between now-and-then, the past-of-today and the future-of-tomorrow, is certain to be eye catching and interesting.
4 :: A Crypto-Zoological Portraiture of the Unholy Creatures Now Swarming the Earth
As disaster unfolds it is quite possible that as either (a) the cause or (b) the result of said disaster will be the appearance of mutant creatures that will subsume control over the crumbling ruins of society. While your fellow survivors may be interested in hunting these creatures for food or defence, you as a photographer have an interesting opportunity to be the first to capture and document imagery of these unholy creatures of mass destruction. Such imagery has the advantage of not only being artistically interesting but may have awesome implications for some distant future scientific study by the rebuilt remnants of humanity. Remember to carry a good zoom lens and avoid the use of your flash.
5 :: Faces of the Future: Snapshots of Kids Too Young To Remember the Internet
Last, but not certainly not least, portrait photographers will find an excellent opportunity as the first generation children born to survivors in the post-apocalyptic era. Babies will quickly start to grow in kids and young adults, so don’t miss the brief window you’ll have to capture this rare span in photos. These tots represent the new dawn, the beginning age of Society Two-point-oh, and are probably unfamiliar with the things you currently find mundane and normal: cameras, the Internet, and indoor plumbing. These kids will be filled with innocent optimism for the un-knowable future and will very likely hold an awesome potential as subject matter for any photographer, particularly after years of snapping pics of glum and grim adults pining for the good old days of 2012 before the collapse of society.
Sure enough, after weeks of postponed ship-dates and a frustratingly mysterious pre-order process, the GoPro Hero3 Black I purchased waaaaay back in early November arrived in the hours before we were leaving town for the wedding of my brother-in-law. And while one might imagine this would be an idea time and place to test out a new video camera, I never did get around to shooting any video during that particular event.
I don’t do product reviews, by the way.
Instead, having taken two full days of vacation time for the wedding, we got back home a little early on the second day (so Claire could attend Kindergarten) and I was left with a sunny and mild winter weekday, a bunch of free-time… and a brand-new action camera to put through it’s paces.
I don’t do product reviews, by the way. So, this isn’t a run-down. It’s a sweet piece of technology but as a guy who fashions himself more of a junkie about the actual output of the camera and less about what’s inside, I could have spent hours fiddling with settings and trying to scope its capabilities and limitations. Instead, I just took it for a couple outings, and had a look at what it was capable of without any hardcore fine-tuning.
The camera was a bit of a whim purchase. Occasionally I do a bit of work on the side — designing websites or logos — and the agreement we have in our house is that side-job cash is uncommitted capital for frivolous purchases. So, dishing out four hundred and fifty bucks from my fun-money-fund to buy yet another camera — while a little extravagant — is all solidly based around feeding my ongoing photography addiction. And this time, at least from my first day’s impressions, it was worth it.
The problem with (um… impact of) getting a new camera is two-fold:
1) You tend to get new equipment and need to spend a lot of time learning how to use it. Cameras all have their own personalities. They handle light in different ways, the react to shutter-presses uniquely, they push data around in patterns that may seem arbitrary, but can impact how you use the camera, and…
2) You rarely get a camera and have an immediate and perfect opportunity to use it. Apart from a wedding (which I’d never use a brand-new out-of-the-box system to snap important shots) for which I was more a participant than anything else, it was just a random week-day in December. You end up seeking out opportunities to snap or record… mundane as those opportunities might be.
For example, in learning how to use the camera and seeking out an opportunity to use it, I just went for a walk in the nearby park.
The result: some random video of various ways of moving the camera. I walked, ran, panned, got in close, grabbed some distance, and even set it on the ground to record. I back-lit, side-lit, under-exposed and applied that real-world contrast test that so many cameras fail in an epic way: snow. But the Hero3 passed with flying colours.
No sooner had a hacked the Outing One footage up onto YouTube, than my daughter came home from school wanting to spend some QT with her old man. Her idea: Minecraft. My idea: tobogganing. I won.
The GoPro came with a small assortment of mounting tools, bits, bobs, and stickies. One thing I find myself doing too often is “saving” the add-ons for “just the right thing.” Problem is, you save all this stuff, never use any of it, and a year later you’ve got a pile of pristine equipment and no footage or photos. But a quick visit to GoPro’s website will tell you that extras are a dime a dozen — well, actually six for $20 — and to save them is just silly.
So, I said frak it, and I peeled the sticky tape off one of the mounting brackets and stuck it front-and-center on our new(ish) wooden toboggan. Action Cam meet Action Kid.
The result of an hour of tobogganing on a December afternoon, GoPro Black mounted snugly to the front of our sled, was a really cool video of us walking to the hill, climbing, sledding, playing, falling, and having a great time…. none of which I can show readers here because I set it to some copyright music and it’s not getting uploaded.
But, I did try out some of the other features, all of which pair super-great with the included wifi remote. My new favourite: burst-photo mode. While it might seem silly to take up to 30 photos in as little as one second with the single push of a single button, it’s not until you’re out in the field (or in our case, on the top of a hill) with a camera mounted to fast-moving object that you realize the awesome implications of this. I set the camera to 30 photos in 2 seconds (half it’s full capability — but it seemed more appropriate for the purpose.) Face the camera at the subject, give the subject a firm push over the edge of the slope, wait a fraction of a second, and hit burst…go!
Result? Thirty sequential photos of a five second toboggan ride, twenty-eight of which are either (a) identical or (b) crap… but two which are damn-near-priceless.
Those I can post.
I think we’re going to have some fun with this new toy.
I’ll admit it. One of the negative effects of that photo-a-day-for-a-year thing I did, ending last August, was that it kinda burned me out… artistically speaking. I’ve been a terrible photographer lately. In fact, I went on vacation and only took my point-and-click camera, and even with that took more videos than photos.
But, as I tend to do come December each year, I’ve started to get all mushy-feely about the New Year. It’s like it’s a mental condition or something. the “R” word just floats into my head and until I start writing about — waxing poetic about — all the great things I want to do starting January first, resolution or otherwise, it hangs there making me feel guilty.
In other words, following the last picture in my daily photo deal I’ve had about four months of vying for the title of laziest photographer ever. And that’s gotta change in January.
Rather than scatter-shot it or do another fire-hose-like project a’la last year, I think I want 2013 to be the year of the focused effort. I’d like to do some projects, but I’d like them to be meaningful and produce something valuable (at least to me) at the end of it. Rather than conclude a project with a gush of random pictures, I want there to be some kind of project that provides something useful. I want to do something both epic, but moderately practical.
Some ideas… and I haven’t settled on anything yet.
1) Documenting my daughter in some focused way. This might be a frequently updated portrait, or a series of some kind. Again, I’m hesitant to just to a head-shot-a-day or something so fire-hose-like. But to capture her as she goes through her school, etc.
2) Photos to support my blogging. I write a lot of content and having great photos supports that. But I’ve been so random about how I grab those. If it looks planned or ordered… well, ha ha… fooled you.
3) A goofy subject. I’ve always wanted to do that “travelling gnome” photo thing, where I get some kind of pocket-sized toy that goes around the world with you, posing in odd-locales. I did it with the Random Feets thing, but it dwindled. Thoughts?
4) A theme with a purpose. Don’t know what this could be, but it seems to have gravity just writing it.
5) A “where I live” kind of effort. I do a lot of this living, but could I focus that more? Or find a more tangible subject.
6) Combining my photography with my running. And this might just mean getting a better pack to carry my camera around when I go out somewhere to run, pulling it out for some epic shots of the year-in-training. I am considering a marathon this year, after all… why not document it in photos?
Feel free to comment, amend, support, or offer suggestions. I’ll narrow in on something as the year draws to a close…