Channel Islands National Park: Santa Cruz Island ultralight backpacking

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video on June 26, 2015 by William Hooks

Trail heading SW from Cavern Point toward the Visitor Center

P1020807 P1020802I spent 2 1/2 days on this excursion with Jim Garrett, a friend and co-editor of DEP. We began preproduction on a documentary about the current California drought crisis while on this trip, and enjoyed great views from trails and at the beach. We visited Potato Harbor Overlook and Cavern Point trails in particular, on the northwest side of the island.

The camping was done using tarps at the lower camp , and alcohol stoves are allowed there but we used canister stoves. The upper camps are mostly for larger groups.P1020821 P1020820 P1020789 P1020770 P1020769 P1020768 P1020784

A note  of caution to those who might use tarp camping methods there: take precautions to avoid hantavirus disease! Take a good ground sheet and avoid contact with soil. Official dogma is to use standard tents with floors.

The abundant animals such as island foxes were all over camp but we had no evening encounters- most likely because of fastidious food and trash storage. The park provides excellent, standard bear lockers.

His Windrider 3400 and my Windrider 2400 pack were great for this kind of trip- we hardly felt them on the hikes, as well as the Sony NEX-6 and my Panasonic GH4 with 15mm f/1.7 lens which were much lighter than DSLR’s. I put mine in ‘point and shoot’ mode much of the time and shot some 4K video during the visit. We plan to submit some shots with our packs to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, the manufacturer in Maine.

We had the opportunity to get to know one of the seasonal rangers, Maya Morales, who is also a Humboldt State student, and plan to do some interviews  for the upcoming film from the perspective of someone who is very involved with resource management and conservation.

Lilliput 665 O/P 7″ monitor

Posted in monitors, Reviews, Video with tags , , , , on June 9, 2015 by William Hooks

DSCN2204 DSCN2205 DSCN2207 DSCN2212This monitor runs on Sony batteries, Canon LP6’s, AC with adapter, XLR power, and 14.8v Li ion brick batteries such as the Switronix L90S using an onboard V-mount or P-tap cable.

It loops allowing HDMI or SDI (serial digital interface) in and out. If employing SDI, there’s support for waveform/vectorscope and Parade…. easy to interchange battery mounts.

Resolution is 1080p. There is an onboard speaker with audible audio.[No headphone jack]

At $250, it was a steal— and I only drove about 10 min from my garage to get it.

DLC MB-3 Matte Box added to GH4 system

Posted in Photojournalism, Reviews, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2015 by William Hooks
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One of the 2 included cowls is shown, interposed between lens and matte box to eliminate stray light

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Here 3 of the 4 provided flags are added to further eliminate stray light from the front of the rig

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The series-stacked filter holders are seen at the rear of the matte box; these are spring loaded, making for secure and easy use of glass or resin filters

DSCN2170 DSCN2171 This matte box is very inexpensive for its construction quality and feature set, lightweight, and flexible in use: the flags are optional as well as the light-protective cowls between the lens and box, and the filters can be rotated within their holders just as on my larger all-metal Benro matte box. I got mine for $140 at Samys Pasadena, CA.

I also configured a shoulder rig from additional components including an offset rail system, and can run the GH4 and one other item such as an on -camera LED light from P-taps on large Li ion batteries. I use a Switronix power cable to connect the camera.

This option provides additional power to run the camera where there’s no AC outlet available, and because the Switronix battery has USB out it’s convenient to run my Zoom H6 audio recorder from there.

One version of shoulder rig using JAG35V2 handles

One version of shoulder rig using JAG35V2 handles

Highly recommended - Switronix XP-L90S V mount battery

Highly recommended – Switronix XP-L90S V mount battery

Battery on rear V-plate attached to the rig via 15mm rods

Battery on rear V-plate attached to the rig via 15mm rods

Full cinema rig configuration with HDMI monitor, whip/follow focus, Zoom H6, AudioTechnica wireless lav system and rear brick battery with D -taps to camera, light, DAR or monitor

Full cinema rig configuration with HDMI monitor, whip/follow focus, Zoom H6, AudioTechnica wireless lav system and rear brick battery with D -taps to camera, light, DAR or monitor

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with 35mm T1.5 Rokinon EF cine lens

with 35mm T1.5 Rokinon EF cine lens

First event covered with Panasonic GH4: downtown Los Angeles/ protest at Nestle’ North American HQ

Posted in Captain's Personal Log with tags , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2015 by William Hooks
GH4 w 17mm f/1.7 Lumix-Summicron AF lens, Zoom H6 DAR and hypercardioid shotgun microphone; JAG 35 tripod baseplate, CF rods and top handle

GH4 w 15mm f/1.7 Lumix-Summicron AF lens, Zoom H6 DAR and hypercardioid shotgun microphone; JAG 35 tripod baseplate, CF rods and top handle

full cinema rig setup on tripod

full cinema rig setup on tripod

side view of cinema rig with GH4

side view of cinema rig with GH4

GH4, cage, part of JAG 35 top handle assembly

GH4, cage, part of JAG 35 top handle assembly

50mm f/1.4 EF with Metabones Speed Booster, 77mm VND filter on 58->77 adapter ring

50mm f/1.4 EF with Metabones Speed Booster, 77mm VND filter on 58->77 adapter ring

rear view of GH4 in cage with attachment points and follow focus visible

rear view of GH4 in cage with attachment points and follow focus visible

top view of assembled baseplate -rods- follow focus setup

top view of assembled baseplate -rods- follow focus setup

audio field gear centered around Zoom H6 digital audio recorder

audio field gear centered around Zoom H6 digital audio recorder

Shot using Cine-D profile at 4K UHD/30, Auto white balance,on a monopod with available light.

I find this setup to be fast and easy to use, stable, and highly functional. The H6 was used as the primary preamp for audio and I minimized the internal preamp of the GH4- excellent audio performance in a difficult noisy setting with adjacent traffic and due to crowds, electronic megaphones. Audio Technica headphones were added for monitoring.

The camera is within a custom cage, attached to JAG 35 components on its center cold shoe for secure carrying and linking to a monopod baseplate. This system is much more compact and lighter than a comparable rig using a DSLR, such as a 5D Mark III. It also allows optional use of a 5″ HDMI monitor, with a micro-HDMI port protector built into the cage.

After reintroducing some contrast in post, I was very satisfied with the files. Wish I still had that rental 12-35mm f/2.8 Lumix AF lens, zooms are so useful for events and other fast action.

First followup review of Panasonic GH4 DSLM camera

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2015 by William Hooks

These are my observations after using the camera for a few weeks.

First, I found that operating the nonprotruding video actuation button was not optimal and ended up adding a $10 Vello 2 ft wired remote. This also allows use of very slow shutter speeds and facilitates macro imaging, and I use it for interviews so that I can stay where I’m interacting with the subject- the same as I already do with my H6 Zoom audio recorder.

With a 64GB U3 rated card I’m getting more than 80 minutes per clip at 4K resolution. No more interruptions to reset the camera for interviews…..

Second, after renting the 18-35mm f/1.8 EF Sigma I think this lens will be excellent for general use especially on a rig with follow focus, but too large and heavy for backpacking and [currently] doesn’t support AF; so I will most likely buy the Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 and 35-100 f/2.8 eventually, and continue to rent this optic.

Third, I’ve settled on Custom settings for the main 3 dial positions= C1 for 4K DCI/24 ‘Cinematic’, C2 for 4K UHD/30 ‘Broadcast’, and C3-1/ C3-2/C3-3 for ‘highest quality ‘ 1080/60 moderate slow motion, ‘smoothest’ 1080/96 slow motion, and 1080/12 undercranked fast motion. NOTE: this camera allows 1080p in slow-motion 96 FPS whether in 30 or 24 cinema modes.

Fourth, as a walkaround lens I ‘m using the Pana/Zeiss Summicron 15mm f/1.7 – a tiny, ultralight lens simulating 30mm perspective in full frame terms. Sharp, easy to maintain relatively great DOF (nice for rapid event action), beautifully integrated with the camera’s capability, easy to carry long distances, and wide without distortion.

Fifth, the Metabones EF to MFT Speedbooster will be a keeper for me as I have 2 Canon FF lenses and it opens the entire Cine and still collection to the camera, as well as lenses from Rokinon /Zeiss/ Olympus/Voigtlander in particular. The ‘free’ additional stop from the adapter has been very welcome in keeping the ISO settings in the optimal range. I find that linking the baseplate/rail system onto the removable Metabones tripod mount provides the clearance I need for attaching the Rokinon 14mm T3.1 and 35mm T1.5 lenses, which have large front elements.

An added bonus is that as long as the adapter is attached, the camera sensor is completely shielded from damage while changing lenses.

Sixth, I’ve evolved a minirig for ENG and light EFP use consisting of an aluminum form-fitting cage, JAG 35 top handle/tripod base plate,carbon fiber 15mm rods, and RedRock Micro spuds/attachment points.

I will be using a $12 basic Nikon F to MFT adapter for AI-S Nikkors for the immediate future, and rent the F/G to MFT Speedbooster when needed.

Entering the 4K universe: Adding the Panasonic GH4 mirrorless camera

Posted in backpacking, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2015 by William Hooks

Today I made the quantum jump to begin creating video content in 4K Ultra HD, using the Panasonic GH4 mirrorless camera.

Porque`?

Aside from allowing capture at 4 times the resolution of 1080p [called QFHD or quad-full HD], these are some of the advantages I hope to enjoy while exploring this approach to filmmaking:

Strikingly affordable for its capability- including very inexpensive SD cards at U3 designation

Adaptability of lens mount- can use PL=positive lock, Nikon, Canon, Leica, Zeiss, Sigma, Panasonic, Tokina, Rokinon optics….with excellent Metabones adapters available for Nikon and Canon (the 2 with which I have most past experience)

Very manageable file sizes with compressed 4K/ optional uncompressed 4K: no significant complication of basic postproduction workflow in Adobe Premiere Pro. In fact, it allows expansion of editing choice because of ‘zooming’ into shots to achieve true 1080p derivative shots when needed, after completing of shooting

Practical video capture for very long periods exceeding 29 min US limit (as multiple files), with appropriate media

2 included Cine picture profiles: Cine Like D (flat somewhat like LOG ) and CineLike V (vivid) for relatively painless color grading

Electronic viewfinder (excellent when it’s too bright to see the touch screen, for example) and tilting touch screen control of many functions, very user- friendly features

Small form factor with very light weight and bulk-great for POV, aerials (or just mix files from GoPro Hero 4 and later!), backcountry applications and covering events where mobility may pay substantial dividends- and less stress on monopod heads.

Native monitor features dedicated to video production such as zebras, focus peaking, Synchro Scan, Variable Framer Rate for fast motion and slow motion; timelapse can be created in-camera; stop-motion animation;STMPE timecode; 10-bit option for 4:2:2 HDMI output,luminance and master pedestal level control, advanced audio control and color bars.

Silent control of settings during capture

Fantastic slow motion at up to 96 FPS in Full HD

WiFi control

Option of adding a very capable interface unit beneath the camera, the YAGH, incorporating 2 XLR inputs and 3G-SDI connectors for output

Extraordinary battery life, capture all afternoon on one charge

Highly customizable function buttons

There’s more.. but I ‘m not even going to start on the ‘stills’ side.

So the next journey begins. I rented a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 and Nikon F mount Metabones Speedbooster for the weekend.

Applewhite camp, CA

Posted in backpacking, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2015 by William Hooks

Spent a full day and evening at Applewhite elevation 3300 ft, in the Lytle Creek region of southern CA. The Titanium Goat Ptarmigan biv sack was excellent underneath my HMG square tarp, in a 40 deg F Marmot Atom sleeping bag. Hardly even noticed the smoke from 10 campfires blazing around me… should have chosen site #2…..

 

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Managed to break a tubular tarp stake. I rarely use them unless car camping, prefer MSR Mini-Groundhogs/titanium skewers/MSR Carbon /Cores for backpacking.

Enjoyed getting some field video refinements finished.

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