Archive for reviews

Documentary filming in the heat of central California

Posted in Audio, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2015 by William Hooks
At Lake Success, CA talking with Donna Johnson from East Portervillie

At Lake Success, CA talking with Donna Johnson from East Portervillie

Setting up to talk with Paul Boyer in west Visalia about the efforts of his company to help residents obtain water

Setting up to talk with Paul Boyer in west Visalia about the efforts of his company to help residents obtain water

I'm monitoring sound before beginning to interview Paul at his office

I’m monitoring sound before beginning to interview Paul at his office

Donna Johnson (16) Melissa Wichnell (8)

James Garrett monitoring video and Melinda Steffen checking audio at Visalia interview

James Garrett monitoring video and Melinda Steffen checking audio at Visalia interview

Melissa Wichnell discussing Visalia, CA emergency planning for water distribution

Melissa Wichnell discussing Visalia, CA emergency planning for water distribution

Melissa Wichnell (13) Melissa Wichnell (15)

Nonpotable water tank near the fire station in East Porterville, CA

Nonpotable water tank near the fire station in East Porterville, CA

We completed a series of interviews with local officials in Visalia, CA and talked with local resident Donna Johnson in East Porterville about what she was personally doing to help neighbors whose wells had gone dry (as was her own).

The level of poverty in East Porterville is intense. Housing prices, already low, are decreasing due to lack of water further burdening residents who might want to leave the area.

We shot with my Panasonic GH4 in 4K 30fps mode, using a Zoom H6 digital audio recorder as well as Audio Technica Pro70 wired lav’s an dRode NTG-4 shotgun in a Rode blimp.Also used a Zoom hypercardioid shotgun mic and when using the Zoom for field notes, the mid-side capsule mic. I was very pleased with the performance of my equipment in very hot conditions, wind and for interior shots with no problems encountered.

There is still much to be done before we begin cutting the documentary’s final look; a tentative title: WATER AND THE LIVES OF THOSE LESS FORTUNATE.

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.

Revised and updated my 3 1/2 season backpacking list today

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2014 by William Hooks

I’ve added the super ultralight (SUL) Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit pack at 12.7 oz, with correspondingly light MSR Carbon Core /titanium skewer stakes for shelters.

My current pack for an overnight trip including water, food, and an alcohol stove system weighs about 10 pounds, so I wear my Nikon camera under one shoulder strap- pull out 2 trekking poles- and go. This setup will allow me to stay out to conditions of about 25 degrees F.

Burning wood for backcountry stove- initial preparations

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2014 by William Hooks

I’ve chosen the 17.5 oz M Tech Survivor hatchet and the Utah-made, Emberlit Ultralight titanium stove to begin burning wood for fuel in selected, legal areas. No plans to use these to any extent in southern CA where fire risk is usually so high, unless restricted to particular situations where I feel very confident that risk can be managed.

These are paired with a True Temper axe sharpener and Petzl leather belay/rappel gloves, encouraging safety using the hatchet and avoiding burns while handling stoves and cookware.

Why do it at all?

First- it’s a skill I find to be fundamental (as in emergencies) and valuable.

Second- free, virtually unlimited, ‘green’ fuel especially for longer trips.

Third- fun.

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MTech Survival hatchet_Emberlit UL Ti stove_Esbit tinder

Snow trip with HMG tarp

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, ultralight techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2014 by William Hooks

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At 7400 ft in the San Gabriel mountains, I finally got a chance to experience snow with this new shelter and it was all too brief, but great fun.

Used the ULA Catalyst pack, snow anchors instead of regular stakes, and 20 deg F Western Mtg Alpinlite 850 down sleeping bag/Vapor jacket.

Stayed on a torso length TR Neo Air pad atop Gossamer Gear groundsheet. This pack seems to be the winter ticket for my use- enough carrying capacity for what I usually use, and very light, well built. Setup was very easy, for both the shelter and the packup.

Light winds, clear with patchy clouds, about 30 deg air temperature…. sweet. If I didn’t have to work this evening……and I ‘ll be sure to bring bright wands to mark the location of this tarp in winter, since it blends with snow environments.

I’m finding that using trees at one or both ridgeline points as anchors yields very strong, versatile attachments for a wide variety of tarp rigs (especially more complex setups also using poles) and sticks easily exceed the heights of my trekking poles where I want to pitch a flying diamond, for example.DSCN1715

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