Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Soldering for fun and profit

I don't consider myself a big photo gearhead, but I do maintain, occasionally fix, and sometimes build my own equipment. It goes without saying that everything you own is much less prone to failure than rental equipment.

I usually rent a suite of Profoto gear for shoots, but I own two Dynalite packs that have served me quite well over the past few years. Manny Millan, for whom I assisted in New York, practically gave them to me for free when I began shooting on my own in 2005. I also assisted another photographer, massive gearhead Heinz Kluetmeier, which is where I learned to solder, among many other things. We once handmade 500 Pocket Wizard cords in one afternoon. Those things are about $25/ea. new. The total cost to make 500 was about $40. I smelled like burnt metal for days though.

Recently, one of the adapters I use to fire newer heads off an older Dynalite pack failed on a shoot. These things are about $75 bucks new, which is not that expensive I guess. I simply took it apart and compared it to the one that still works. I used my trusty 40 watt iron to fix it in about 20 minutes. I've also used it on packs, heads, radios and other electrical devices that might otherwise cost hundreds of dollars to repair. It's not that I know anything about complex circuitry, but I can certainly recognize a severed wire or two.

The point isn't that you should invest a very small amount of money in order to save a marginally larger amount. It's that it forces you to use the left side of your brain in a way many creatives detest, thinking critically about problem solving and being resourceful. Having an intimate working knowledge of all your gear will make you a more efficient photographer, but forcing yourself to work through situations by thinking outside the box will come in handy when those situations present themselves unexpectedly, like many of the things that can and will go wrong and/or unplanned on a photo shoot.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Apple pulls out of MacWorld

The humanity. See for yourself.

5D Mark II video

I tested out the new 5D Mark II this weekend. Did some tech tests and shot a pretty simple music video for a talented, and local, artist named Jerry Hannan. He wrote the song "Society" that Eddie Vedder sang in Into The Wild. Sort of like Tom Waits meets Jack Johnson. Good stuff. This was for his song called "Sandcastle". A couple of early mornings, a lot of rain and 7-11 coffee.

Also tested out some new lights that I totally love called Litepanels. I'm still not sold on the new 5D2 though. For video, the most discussed problem is the 30p limitation. While my eye isn't quite trained yet to see the difference from 24p, additional, higher framerates would be much appreciated. Of course, with the amount of footage on the internet, who doesn't want to see some guy's dog drooling at 120fps? Or more flower shots in slow motion?

Also, the shadow detail isn't great at low light and there's really too much file compression to do anything too dramatic (like significant color grading) in post.

Here's a couple stills from the video. Hopefully I'll have time to edit the footage before leaving for the D on the weekend. Certainly the RED, or even the HPX170 or Sony EX1/3, still seems like the way to go for shoots with any budget. While far from perfect, the 5D2 is a step in the right direction, and might create a few new Spielbergs by facilitating access to some cheaper tools.

© Michael Sugrue

© Michael Sugrue