Archive | Gear RSS feed for this section

10 Gifts for Photographers + WIN a Sexy Sony a7 Camera

UPDATE – Happy New Year to all who entered my camera giveaway over the last month…AND a big congratulations to MARK BEHRENS, the winner of the brand spankin new Sony a7. Thanks to everyone who participated and to our homies at Adorama + Sony. BTW, for those of you who signed up for my email list — I’ll be in touch with soon more exclusive content and opportunities to connect.

Good morning friends! I get lots of emails, tweets & Facebook posts from all over the world – husbands, wives, partners, girlfriends of photographers looking for gifts for the creative loved ones in their lives. I know the gift-giving paralysis that can come from not having a few solid ideas for the creatives / photographers (photofiles?) in your life….so in an attempt to be a help to my gift seeking friends and answer all those emails in one fail swoop…. I’ve wrangled a little gift list ranging from $20 to $4000 (yikes!). I’m not big on shopping events but I do appreciate some well-curated suggestions, so rest assured this list is focused enough that any one item won’t disappoint and broad enough that there are things for literally every photog.

Annnndddd… in acknowledging that buying cameras and gear can be expensive and painful (sometimes prohibitively so…), I wanted to offset that with an opportunity for you to win a VERY tasty new camera for free… Remember that super hot Sony a7 camera that I was ranting about last month? Well, thanks in large part to support from Adorama for hosting this, they are allowing me to give away one of these delicious Sony Cameras along with the 28-70mm Sony lens.

To help wrangle this giveaway, we’re trying out a new widget below. It does a few things really well:
1. manages all entries into a secure database and properly randomizes a winner
2. gives you info about how much time is left in the giveaway / how many entries there are etc
3. allows you to earn extra entries by participating more deeply in the community (watching vids, sharing, reading posts etc)

To enter just fill in your info below and follow along. And note: this giveaway is live all the way through the 28th of December. Feedback welcome on the widget if you have any.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens

This is a seriously great all-around lens for your kit. Don’t let that low price fool you. The 50mm 1.8 one of the best kept secrets in photo gear. The lens body is plastic, but it still kicks tons of ass. I have had this lens since it first came out – even replaced it with the same thing once when I dropped it into a lake.
Price: $109

SanDisk 32GB Class 10 ExtremePRO SDHC Memory Card

Another quality little stocking stuffer for any photographer. One can’t every REALLY have too many SD cards, unless you’ve got a collection of 50 1GB cards, in which case it’s really time to poke your eyes out consolidate. The Class 10 checks all those boxes that a photog is looking for in a memory card.
Price: $60.95

SanDisk ImageMate All-in-One USB 3.0 Memory Card Reader

For just a few bucks more, you can throw in this all-in-one card reader as a goes-with gift for the above. [If you want to get creative, pull the SDHC card out of the packaging and pop it into the reader before wrapping.]
Price: $32.95

PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver

A quality trasceiver is a must-have for any aspiring photographer. The freedom to move your flash around opens a lot of doors for more creative illumination of the shot. And at under $150, you’re not breaking banks.
Price: $134

Think Tank Airport Security V2.0

For the traveling photographer who wants a safe and secure way to transport all that gear, this Think Tank rolling solution should more than do the trick. Comes with combo zipper lock and the steam-sealed raincover keeps your gear bone dry.
Price: $364.75

Promise Pegasus J2 Thunderbolt 512gb

I love this portable thunderbolt drive. It’s about the size of a smartphone and it’s super fast on the read and write speeds. It will also run without the conventional power adapter, making it perfectly for off-the-grid shoots.
Price: $499.00

Joby Ball Head + Gorillapod SLR-Zoom

For playful but solid support on the fly, nothing beats Gorillapod with the Joby Ball Head. These are great little numbers for attaching GoPro’s and other smaller cams for a sweet little time lapse.
Price: $79.95

Sony Alpha a7 Digital Camera, with FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens

I had the chance to play with the a7, and let’s just say this is a no-questions-asked, “I love you (or yourself ;) ” gift. No regifting or returns to worry about on this one, that’s for damn sure. Great design, great quality, compact and sexy as all get out.
Price: $1,998.00

Think Tank Retrospective 10-GR Small Shoulder Bag

Two Think Tank prods in one list? What’s up with that? Think Tank rocks, that’s what. THIS is how you carry your every-day camera kit around, people. Like the travel bag, this one has a nice rain seal on it for those infrequent Seattle showers.
Price: $165.75

Broncolor Senso Kit 22

This is a big-ticket gift, make no mistake. But there really is no price you can put on good lighting. I wouldn’t recommend this for the teenage son or daughter on a flavor-of-the-month kick, but it’s a no-joke upgrade for any aspiring commercial photographer.
Price: $4734.00

DJI Phantom

I’ve toyed around with the DJI Phantom quite a bit. The weight-bearing limitations do more or less count out super high end camera loads, but the aerial footage you can get with a GoPro will really take that budding videographer’s footage to the next level.
Price: $679

And always, if you’ve got some gift ideas of your own you want to share, sound off below – I may add your suggestions to this list.

DJI Drone Fail Over Iceland Waters – chasejarvisTECH

WARNING: CONTENTS OF THIS VIDEO MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME, ESPECIALLY PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO HAVE FELT THE PAIN OF GEAR LOSS.

In the days before my trip to Iceland, I had the chance to play with the DJI Phantom, an affordable, out-of-the-box quadcopter for budding aerial videographers. As I establish in that test flight post, the footage you yield from the DJI Phantom + GoPro combo may not be pro quality, but it’s perfectly serviceable for BTS material, AND it gives a person the opportunity to cut their teeth on a rig that comes in under a grand (or just slightly over, if you include the camera).

Ever the hacks, we tried to circumvent the GoPro limitation and mount a Sony RX 100 II, for three reasons:

1. The RX 100 II has image stabilizations (many commented on the shakiness of the GoPro footage on our first test flight).
2. It has a nice sensor and shoots RAW images.
3. Built-in Wifi. Our plan was to use the iPad Mini with the Sony app and control the camera shutter from the ground.

Seem pretty reasonable, right?

When you watch the video, know this: It brings us no joy to lose expensive gear, ever. I don’t encourage people to go out and perform needless hacks and unsanctioned upgrades, especially if you’re not insured, like we were. In our case we had a legit interest in yielding some higher end footage with a DJI Phantom we had invested in.

Couple UPDATE points… any assumption that i was just goofing around at tourist site just plyaing with my camera couldn’t be further from the truth. we had chartered the entire site for the shoot, been out on boats there at the site earlier – were working with the management there, paying high fees to be there with permits for very specific objectives. We also sought to potentially recover the unit out of concern for the environment but were discouraged from pursuing that option because of danger to divers due to swift current, big tides and huge floating chunks of dangerous ice.

Thanks again for going on this journey – and others – with me. And I hope you don’t mind my sharing all the stuff – even things like this that suck.

chasejarvisTECH: Three Timelapse Toys

Timelapse shots have achieved ubiquity, yet it’s still a technique I get asked about on the reg. I’ve touched on the timelapse How-To in past posts, but I’m touching base again with a new look at what has become must-have.

I love using timelapse in my work. Alternating between real time, slo-mo and timelapse contributes to the temporal tug on the viewer, which keeps them present and guessing. Cloud movements and dipping suns over beautiful landscape is the norm, so we’re always looking to change up our style and try something a little different.

Adding camera movement is one way to do that. In the vid above, we use a slider, a motor, and a 5D to pull back and reveal some stunning Icelandic beauty. Keep the last in mind as I break down the equipment we used, because I come back to this again and again: more than the gear in your bag, it’s your vision and execution that matter most. In our case, we had Iceland’s ridiculously photogenic land and light working in our favor. Scouting the site, we found a cool ice formation and decided on a shot you don’t see daily. I’d say the gear we use is secondary. Which is why I’m mentioning it second.

Anatomy of a timelapse:

_Kessler Pocket Dolly v2.0
_Kessler Elektra Drive – set to slowest speed in “continuous mode.” The Elektra drive is the motor that moves the camera up/down the dolly, giving the shot movement.
_Intervalometer – set to shoot a picture every 3 seconds. We let that baby go for about 20 minutes.

Add’l equipment:

_Canon 5D Mark III
_Manfrotto support
_Viking 12 oz

You can see how we integrated timelapse footage into our Iceland edition of chasejarvisRAW. If you want more Iceland in your life, check out some of the stills that convinced us to put Iceland in our list of 10 Spots to restore your creative juices.

Music by Small Face.

LENSTOPIA – The 5 Top Lenses For Your Camera, Part I: Canon

So you just dropped an entire month’s pay on a super nice camera body. Ok. Take a breath. That was a big jump, and we want you making smart moves going forward. Yes, the lens is important. And yes, you can spend 10x what you just spent on a body on good glass. But before you go cashing in that 401k to buy one of each (dear god don’t), soak in the knowledge below. We shoot almost EVERY camera brand for one thing or another. Nikon for stills. Canon dSLR for video. Hasselblad for high end studio / fashion, etc etc. So my video guru Erik, yours truly, and my gear editor pal Sohail decided to put together a little series of blog posts. Over the next weeks we will break down the top lenses from several manufacturers, with an eye on application. If you know what kind of photography you want to do [or are already doing], there’s a great lens or two for you.
—-

“Which lens should I buy?” is a question I get just about as often as “which camera should I buy?”, and in both cases, I respond with the same two words: “It depends.”

Yet despite that rote answer, there are a few standouts from each major manufacturers that can be cited as their “top” lens. We’ve had the (somewhat dubious) privilege of using pretty much all of them, and we’re going to present the five best lenses for each platform we use on a frequent basis. This is a four-part series, and we’ll be publishing them in the following order:

  1. Canon
  2. Nikon
  3. Hasselblad
  4. Mirrorless cameras, including Micro 4/3, Sony E-mount, and Fuji X-mount.
That said, we’re starting today with Canon – our default dSLR video rig but you can consider the below advice for stills too.

Canon

100mm f/2.8L IS Macro

Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro

Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro

This is perhaps my favorite single lens of all time. When the folks over at DPReview did a review of this lens, this was the first sentence of their conclusion:

Just occasionally a lens turns up which delivers such implausibly good results in our studio tests that I have to go back and repeat everything, double checking all settings to make sure I haven’t done something wrong.

This lens really is that good. You start with a hybrid Image Stabilization system that compensates for horizontal and vertical shifts as well as lens direction, then throw in an 9-bladed rounded iris that makes for dope bokeh. Add optics that give you the some of the most razor-sharp images you can imagine, and you have a knockout combination.

And if you’re looking for a good portrait lens at the same time as a solid Macro offering, look no further; the 100 L Macro makes for an tidy portrait lens as well.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Image from a work in progress series of still lifes. Shot with a 5D Mark III and a 100mm f/2.8L Macro. © Sohail Mamdani

Image from a work in progress series of still lifes. Shot with a 5D Mark III and a 100mm f/2.8L Macro. © Sohail Mamdani

85mm f/1.2L USM

Canon 85mm f/1.2L

Canon 85mm f/1.2L

The “Magic Canonball” [sic] as it’s come to be known, is perhaps one of the most popular portrait lenses, ever. If you’ve got the coin to drop on it, the Canon 85mm f/1.2L has some of the creamiest bokeh we’ve seen. It’s also one of the largest 85mm lenses outside of the Zeiss or Canon Cine versions. That front element even makes the posers look like pros.

Sohail once wrote of this lens, “You could shoot a portrait in front of a dumpster and as long as you shot it at f/1.2 or f/1.4, all you’re going to see is some soft, blurry shapes in the background that give no indication that you’re in that nasty alley behind your local convenience store.” That’s completely true, but be aware of one thing: I’ve often gotten a subject’s eyelashes in perfect focus, while their irises are soft. Be aware.

Then why would you buy an f/1.2 lens? Because, to quote my homie Zack Arias, “The optics in faster lenses are ‘typically’ much better than in the slower lenses. f13 can still yield a better image from a pro fast lens than a slow kit lens. Not all lenses are equal once you get past f8.”

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Canon 24mm f/3.5L TS-E II

Canon 24mm f/3.5 TS-E II

Canon 24mm f/3.5 TS-E II

Tilt-shift lenses are strange ducks, but they are, without a doubt, some of the coolest lenses to play with. I used to shoot action sports with them in the early 2000′s and it would blow the minds of art directors and editors everywhere. Get to know them well and you’ll find yourself using them for all kinds of things you didn’t know you could pull off with them. (But don’t overuse them or you’ll be “that guy/gal”

That said, it’s not the Canon 24mm f/3.5L TS-E II’s tilt-shift functionality that we love this lens for (though have used that extensively). We dig it because it is one of the sharpest 24mm optics that Canon puts out. And that makes it a go-to landscape lens on the Canon platform as well. It’s fun. Even wide-open, the lens is tack-sharp. Close the aperture down a bit and you’ll kill the tiny bit of purple fringing in your stars overhead, and sharpen up that image even more. Then use the shift functionality to ensure against converging lines and viola! You’ve got a killer combo in your hands.

One last thing to keep in mind here – this is a manual-focus lens, as most tilt-shift lenses are. Bad eyesight? Get glasses or pass on this sucker.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Taken with a 5D Mark II and 24mm f/3.5 TS-E II lens

Taken with a 5D Mark II and 24mm f/3.5 TS-E II lens

Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II

While it was certainly a workhorse, the original Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 was getting long in the tooth, and enjoyed a love-hate relationship with many a photographer. On the one hand, it was the ideal mid-range zoom, had a fast aperture, and was the first lens most photographers, pro and aspiring, bought. On the other hand, it suffered from less-than-stellar optics (compared to the current crop of lenses from Canon) and was notoriously soft in the corners. When Canon announced the new version of the 24-70, the first thing that hit most folks was sticker shock. The lens retailed for a groan-inducing $2300 (street price), far more than its original counterpart. Worse, there was no image stabilization included, despite the high price. Add to that the fact that Tamron had just introduced a 24-70 f/2.8 with Vibration Compensation for about half the price, and the photographic community was ready throw rotten tomatoes at Canon’s money-grubbing tactics.

After the fervor settled down and folks started to realize that the optics on this new lens weren’t “pretty good” they were “Superb, almost flawless -DPreview.” This was born out by even the simplest of tests – shooting an Edmunds resolution chart with the old and new models side-by-side. People began to rave about the build quality, the flare resistance, the quick and accurate focusing, and sure enough, Canon turned what could’ve been a liability into a new legend.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Canon 600mm f/4 II

Canon 600mm f/4 II

Canon 600mm f/4 II

Got about $13,000 lying around? That’s how much this baby from Canon is going to set you back (though of course, you could rent it for a lot less).

But for those needing a long, fast lens (wildlife photographers, for example), this is about as good as it gets in the Canon lineup. Pair it with a 1Dx and you’ve got what is easily one of the finest long lens combos we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with. It’s a good 3 lbs lighter than the Mark I version of this lens, which honestly does make a good bit of difference when you’re lugging this down a rough path to get to that perfect vantage point. Moreover, Canon has improved the autofocus speed and accuracy on this lens. On tests with the 1Dx and the 600mm Mark II, Sohail shot about six or seven bursts of between 8 to 17 shots each, and each time, I’d have no more than one shot out of focus. For someone who photographs birds more as an amateur passion, getting this sort of accuracy is nothing short of remarkable.

This is, no doubt, a specialty lens, and requires a few accessories to go with it, such as a sturdy tripod, a gimbal head, and a fast camera at the small end. But get all those in place, and the first time you fill your frame with a swooping bird as it comes in for a landing, or a tiny hummingbird hovering in mid-air, and you’ll find that it’s well worth the cost and hassle.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Great Egret touchdown. Shot with a 1Dx and a Canon 600mm f/4 II

Great Egret touchdown. Shot with a 1Dx and a Canon 600mm f/4 II

That’s it for this edition of Lenstopia. In the next installment, we’ll take on the best Nikon has to offer.

Gear provided by BorrowLenses.com - where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

5 Crucial Thoughts on the New Nikon Df. Does It Deliver?

ChaseJarvis_Nikon DF_1
Wow. Two new cameras on my blog in one week (here’s the other one). I’ve never been a gear whore and don’t like dedicating too much real estate here to it, but I do like me some of these compact cameras. So here we go – quick like.

Nikon got the aesthetics right, that’s for sure. If it does nothing else, the new Nikon Df is going to make you look like a legit photographer from the 70′s. Even more so perhaps like a photographer shooting film (but you won’t be.)

Specs: Within the tasty leather, chrome, and gunmetal exterior of this Nikon Df hides…

// the legendary sensor from the Nikon D4 – my favorite still camera sensor of all time
// Nikon’s latest + greatest Expeed 3 processor
// Optical viewfinder with 100% field of view (thank god – not having this sucks)
// Full wireless capability [requires WU-1 wireless adaptor].
// We’re still waiting on the side of french fries, but this full-meal of a camera may just satiate even the hungriest of critics.

Yeah, but does it deliver?

Before we can answer that question (because I can’t – haven’t used it), I want to set my expectations. Because they are (were?) high for this little bugger. But when the hype is this big, the goods had better follow. So here’s what it has to do to get my five stars:

1, Ergonomics. I like how all the dials for shutter speed, exposure compensation, and ISO give you the option of being really hands on with setting your exposure. Shooting this way really increases my connection with what you’re creating with the camera. The Nikon DF looks like it’ll do a nice job of recreating (or perhaps simulating) that experience of “making” pictures like the cameras of old… That feel helps me be connecting to the art just a little bit more–ie slowing down a tad– than some of my other tools in my shed.

2. The size. The size is nice. Or rather, the size is nice compared to a D4 or pro body. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m on a gig I need the pro body to lean on, bang around, pound nails and otherwise be tough and sturdy. With this little guy? I prefer the portability, sorta. It’ll make a great vacation camera for jet setting photographers….unless you also like to capture video of your travels like I do. If you want video you need another camera, or an additional camera, and then the whole compact selling point is thrown out the airplane window with no parachute. So what gives here? I dunno. They made up a nice advertising story about “back to basics” with a “real camera” but rumor has it they couldn’t keep the guts cool enough to shoot video because mechanically that stuff takes up space. Jury is out. I like the purity angle, but it’s 2013…

3. The sensor. It has the same 16.2-megapixel sensor as Nikon’s pro-focused D4, which is the best still sensor of all time. There, I said it. It has ISO range up to 12,800 and expandable to ISO 204,800!! You can basically shoot this thing in the dark – let’s just hope it (or you) can focus in the dark. What good is the sensor if you can’t pull the trigger in focus?

4. Focus. It better be decent. Nikons have historically kicked everyones ass in this department. This better not be a let down. I hope the focus is fast and accurate. (Speaking of fast…we know it’s not fast in frames per second department. 5 ‘n’ change. Not bad. But not fast. Who cares really – that’s not what this camera is for.) We really do want the focus to be fast, however, if it’s to stand out from it’s peers. BTW, how is the manual focus mode? It better kick ass. I’m curious to see if there are any features to assist with this. There’s a lot of marketing around this camera pimping its ability to use all the old non-AI lenses, but the cameras from that time had focusing screens built for manual focus. Without tools like focus peaking, a split image screen, or a microprism screen, shooting with manual focus lenses might just be a pain in the ass. Let’s hope they get it right

5. Pro shit. I’m excited to see how “professional” the camera can be. Can I pound nails with this thing? Is it heavy and durable? We use a ton of different cameras for video, but the D4 is my go-to camera for EVERY SINGLE commercial photo shoot we do. Could the DF could come along on our shoots as a good BTS rig? Even in our BTS stuff we expect pro quality That would be nice if this delivered. I will always have a couple D4 backups, but for the solo photographer, the DF could potentially save pro photographers some weight and coin if (and only if) it can produce professional results in a pinch.

All this said, I can’t wait to get my hands on the Df and take it for a rubber-burning test drive. Good pals like McNally are oogling over it, but Joe would have to use a Nikon mobile phone if they had one, so take that with a grain of salt. Anywhooo. Stay tuned for a more meaty pile of feedback when I get my paws on this thing.

The Df is available for pre-order in four options. Check out the goods here:

/// Black body w/lens
/// Silver body w/lens
/// Black body
/// Silver body

ChaseJarvis_Nikon DF_1

A Hot Minute Hands-on Review of the Sony A7r

The field of affordable mirrorless cameras is widening, even as the gulf in quality between said cameras and DSLRs narrows. I’ve gone so far as to call them DSLR-killers in the past. A little tongue in cheek there, but wrapped in a nice dose of optimism. On the whole these rigs are lighter, more compact and pack a decent punch. They’re definitely the bomb for for street photographers and the kick the shit out of any point-and-miss er…point and shoot that is…without a doubt.

To that end, the not-yet-released Sony A7r [or Alpha 7r] and A7 magically fell into my hands last week prompting a brief but meaningful walk/shooting/note-taking session with my crew, the results of which I’m sharing here. Given that this little beauty doesn’t hit the market until December, what you’re about to read is one of the first true hands-on reviews. I can’t go into hand wringing detail about everything w the camera (save that for others), but this is rather my first quick impression. (And seeing as the bulk of my time was spent with the A7r, I’ve limited my notes below to that model.)

FIRST, THE UPSIDE:

1) The Tactile. The ergonomics are great and the grip is the perfect size. I carried it the whole time without a neck strap and never worried about it slipping out of my hands. Camera ergonomics are vastly under-appreciated IMHO – really important. I’m a stickler for it and this camera delivers on it.

2) Presence. The A7 is light, but not cheap feeling. It feels similar to the Olympus E-M5 in weight and dial placement, but easier to grip with better spacing in the button layout. Good lines.

3) Design. I dig the placement of the exposure compensation wheel. I could make adjustments easily and intuitively without taking my eye away from the viewfinder.

4) Focus. Focusing speed is acceptable but nowhere near groundbreaking. Norton’s E-M5 and Erik’s Panasonic GX7 a both seem to focus faster (this might be different on the A7 vs the A7r).

5) Image quality. Image quality is really nice, though we were only able to view and edit the Jpegs since Lightroom doesn’t support the A7′s raw files yet and only had the camera for a qwik spin. (also we can’t share our images since the camera is technically a pre-production model…sorry) The shallow depth of field on the 2.8 lens is dreamy. Getting a nice shallow depth of field in a camera this compact feels like cheating.

6) Looks. Aesthetically, the camera is very inconspicuous. In a short walk in a part, people stopped and commented about Norton’s silver retro looking Olympus E-M5, but nobody asked about the A7r. The murdered out black finish on the A7/A7r is stealthy for sure. This will be a nice nod for the street photographer in you, but will work against you if you’re one of those kooks who is trying to be …er…”impressive” with gear.

NITPICKS ON THE NEGATIVE:

1) Shutter. I’m not crazy about the shutter button. This is super nit-picky, but it’s sorta gummy. It takes a little too much pressure to fire the shutter. It feels to me like it’s likely to cause unnecessary camera shake, which could hurt photos taken with a slow shutter speed. AND…speaking of the shutter…it’s damn noisy. This camera is not sneaky.

2) Battery. The battery life is wack. I only had one, and I had the feeling right away that it wouldn’t last. I had to keep turning the camera off between shots, and that’s no fun. Hopefully Sony addresses this quick-like.

4) Boot-time. The start-up time overly slow. I seriously thought the camera might have had issues when I first turned it on. (this might be because the camera I was using might be a preproduction model???)

OVERALL SIDE OF THE EQUATION:

Anybody thinking about getting into the world of mirrorless cameras, or even mid-range DSLR’s, should take the Sony A7r and A7 into serious consideration. If you by chance have a NEX-7 then this upgrade is really really desirable since your glass can migrate with you.

Both models are available for pre-order here and here.

Scroll down for a more detailed look at the Sony A7r:

Underwater iPhoneography – The Gear I Used to Find Nemo

While in Belize a couple months ago, I took the opportunity to field test a new iPhone case designed for action sports photography + video. (I’m a big fan of field testing new tech/gadgets; see my out-of-the-box successes with the DJI quadcopter—> here).

Without getting in the weeds here, let’s be honest. We’re not aiming for the Oscars with this footage, but I’m not gonna lie… I quite frequently need a little breather from all the high end work that I’m focused on doing. Not everything needs a $150,000 Phantom camera to be good or fun. You with me? Good. Then ENTER—>The Optrix XD5 — a waterproof housing for the iPhone 5 that gave me a nice 175 degree wide-angle lens and control functionality while coasting from reef to reef. It couldn’t have been easier or more chill to use… I’d recommend this to family vacationers and pros alike who dig the occasional goofing around with some gear. Watch through the end of the video to see a few super basic stills I was able to take on one very very short swim about the reef.

Note: the video above was shot on an iPhone housed in the same XD5. Totally passable, in my opinion. And an idiot-proof design, as the video reveals.

Check out the Optrix line of iPhone housings.

For more behind-the-scenes action from my Belize assignment, you can go here, here + here.

Music by Small Face.

GoPro Hero3+ is the Fairest of Them All

GoPro’s Hero3+ dropped like a bomb today, splitting atoms and shattering computer screens with some of the most bad-ass footage yet seen. The new Hero3+ is GoPro’s sexiest iteration to date, with some notable improvements over its predecessor. Lest you Hero2 or Hero3 owners think this money ill-spent, consider these upgraded features that you’ll get with the Hero3+:

_20% lighter + smaller (case)
_30% more battery life
_4x faster WiFi (built-in)
_Auto Low Light feature, which automatically adjusts frame rate to maximize quality
_sharper lens
_SuperView movie mode allows you to shoot 1080p (1920 x 1080 video resolution) w/ the Ultra Wide field of view, so you can capture more of yourself and the beautiful landscape. Or a lion’s face.

There’s been some chatter from folks who feel wrong-done by GoPro’s “Apple-like” upgrade, but the truth is they’ve been pretty consistent in the time + release of new products and it’s not their fault if you just bought a Hero3. [Note to those who did: If you bought it from GoPro.com less than 30 days ago, the company *should* honor your return requests so you can get in the "+" game.]

Will I be adding the Hero3+ to my OCD-inspired GoPro travel bag? Definitely. I’m thinking I may need a re-do of my GoPro aerial footage experiment, too.

I Will Give You $50,000 + a VIP Trip to NYC + I’ll Be Your Mentor For Life

I’m not much known for just dipping my toe in the water. And this is no exception.

“It’s gotta be real money and real access” I said.
“How about $50,000 cash, plus a trip to NYC to receive your mentorship and spend some quality time with you.”
“Um. DEAL.”

An that’s how it went down on the phone with my friends at Shopify, the powerful e-commerce website solution that allows you to sell online by providing everything you need to create an online store. In short I will be giving one winner — one of YOU — a check for $50,000 and a promise to be a mentor for life if you start an online business using Shopify and earn more money than anyone else in the Art & Photography category. I’m not getting a cent from this. This is all about firing up our community of creatives and helping make shit happen. So join me by entering.

Even more news? Since this is a diverse readership, let’s say instead of Art & Photography you prefer Music, Electronics & Gadgets, Jewelry & Crafts, Health & Beauty, Food & Beverage, Fashion & Apparel, Sports & Recreation, or…hell…anything else! Then you’re in luck because the competition extends to you too. But if you win one of these other categories you will be assigned another mentor… How bout billionaire Mark Cuban? Or Tim Ferriss? It’s THAT good. In fact here’s the complete list of my peers with whom I’m working on this project for you to choose from:

_Lil Jon (hip hop legend)
_Tim Ferris (4 hour everything)
_Tina Eisenberg (aka swissmiss)
_Selita Ebanks (model & health star)
_Gary Vaynerchuk (wine & food guru)
_Damond John (founder of FUBU – star of shark tank)
_Mark Cuban (billionaire entrepreneur/owner of Dallas Mavericks
_Arianna Huffington (media maven)
_and yours truly

chase jarvis mentor build a business shopify

Never before in history have creativity & business come together in such an obvious, simple and radiant fashion. Like Gary V says in the above video, “This is the most practical time in the history of time to be an entrepreneur. If you even have 1% of a thought about doing it [starting a business], do it.”

YOU’RE SAYING RIGHT ABOUT NOW…

SO HOW DO I WIN? The short version is that you if you start a business with Shopify and have the most sales in your category over a particular window between NOW and MAY 2014, then you win. The longer, more detailed version of all that is here on the Shopfiy site. There is plenty of time to kick ass and sell your heart out, but the time to start is now.

AND WHAT DO I WIN AGAIN?

You win a check for $50,000 USD. Shopify will fly you to NYC to join me & the other mentors and winners (that’ll be a nice gathering), and then I will be your business mentor for life. (Or if you’re in another category, you’ll get mentorship from THAT categories mentor).

Boom.

Again, YOU have the tools and vision to win this sucker, it’s all about focusing on your passion, using your business skills, and making shit happen. I’m doing this purely out of love and a desire to see creative businesses thrive. I’d appreciate your helping me spread the word by linking, pointing, RT’ing FB’ing whatever you can to contribute to this cool contest. I’ll be doing lots of talking about this over the next several months, so get used to it. This might just be your big chance. All the details can be found here.

19 Behind-The-Scenes Photos from a Land of Endless Light – Iceland

chasejarvis_cover What I remember from elementary school about Iceland is my teacher telling me, “Iceland is green and Greenland is ice.” While I have not yet been to Greenland I can attest to the fact that Iceland in August is definitely green.

Iceland – the well-known film and photo destination at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans – has been on my list of locations to visit for seemingly forever. Finally had the chance to check out last week on a sizeable commercial production. On one hand, I was surprised to learn how many Hollywood features have recently been shot in the harsh landscape (Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Oblivion starring Tom Cruise are two of the big budget examples…). On the other hand, it makes complete sense – the landscape is bonkers-cool, the quantity of light (18 hours or so of it each day this time of year) and quality of that light truly makes Iceland a dream destination location for photo and film work.

Some fun facts about Iceland:

// as a country of just over 300,000 people they have the highest per capita number of golf courses, hot tubs and trampolines.

// most of the Iceland population believes in elves – or will certainly not deny their existence (we tested this and found it to be the truth)

// 30 post-glacial volcanoes have erupted in the past two centuries, and natural hot water supplies much of the population with cheap, pollution-free heating

// the Icelandic horse has a “5th speed” or gait that other breeds do not possess

// the size of Iceland is roughly the same size as Pennsylvania in the US.

// the people are lovely and warm, but good luck learning the language – the mutha is tough!!

As always, local knowledge was key and we had some incredible local producers through ProFilm. Marteinn Ibsen and Arnaldur Halldórsson drove us all over their country in the short 5 days we had in-country – and knew exactly where to take us and when. Having local knowledge is always key.

We scored some especially high quality offerings from the air (we chartered helicopters again this trip and flew some cameras on affordable drone quadcopters too ) and along the south coast… So many rolling green hills abutting glaciers with rainbows, I expected to see a Unicorn at any second.

Of course knowing what to do with it comes down to your ability as a photographer/filmer. (TIP: check out Corey Rich’s outdoor photography workshop over at creativeLIVE for more on the skills: here.)

Below are some BTS moments with my crew snapped on iphones and point & shoots. We’re all passionate about the work – and despite some brutally long 16 hour days we won’t soon forget the trip.

chase jarvis glacier lagoon

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chase jarvis surfing photo

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

chasejarvis_iceland

Behind-the-scenes photo by Yours Truly, my man Erik Hecht and homeskillet Christopher Jerard

chase jarvis TECH: Complete Guide to Aerial Photography & Video

Although I’ve mixed a whole lotta R/C helicopters into shoots, there are many more times in my profession when climbing into a real A-star is essential to get the shot. A recent assignment in the Caribbean presented another on of those lovely occasions…and while I’ve touched on shooting film + photos from a helicopter in some past posts, I’ve never gone deep on the how-to of shooting from a heli.
chasejarvis_aerial_photography_howto
And before you dismiss this and say “This is so outrageous, when will I ever get to shoot from a helicopter” …I’ll just say that every photographer who has ever shot from a chopper has said those same words, only to find themselves ripping heavy G turns and shooting from blue skies at some point in their career. So stick with me. And one other note – yes flying around can be expensive, but it can also be done relatively affordably depending on how long you fly, what chopper, and of course…who’s paying ;)

Here’s a few teasers of some of the stuff I cover in this video:

// Helicopter safety. It is critical that you understand how to navigate your way safely in and around this machine. There are two hard and fast rules that all helicopter people live by when it comes to helicopters: 1) Never walk around the tail-end of the helicopter while its on the ground and 2) the pilot is always in charge. Always.

// Personal safety. Strap in! There are a couple of ways to get this done and the video runs thru several of them… If you walk away with one piece of advice, it’s if you’re hanging out of the helicopter – always be connected to it by at least two (2) connection points.

// Gear + settings. In the vid I lay out exactly what gear I take up with me (it includes the D4 and D800), but for the sake of driving some points home I’ll repeat… here two of my gear guides:

1) Remove the lens hoods – this will prevent excessive movement due to rotor downdraft as well as your forward motion, and 2) keep the gear well attached to yo and always pass or move gear with both hands when the door is off. 3)I always shoot manually, mid-ISO 400 range, and a minimum of 1000 shutter speed (I really like 1600 or greater). 4)Shoot with large volume cards to avoid having to change cards while hanging out of the bird.
….and many more in the video

Good luck – hope this helps those of you who are just getting into it, have a fantasy of flying that you’ll someday realize, or hell maybe even a seasoned pro will pick up a tip here and there. And as always if you’ve got other tips to share – please do.

Music by the one and only Big Chocolate.

Flying Cameras On a Budget — My First Flight With Affordable Drone Helicopter + GoPro

Because there are few establishing shots that can compete with the one you get above 250 feet, I frequently take my shoots airborne. Whether it’s yanking the doors off a Bell Ranger traditional style or the…ahem…new school way of sending an 8-bladed octo-copter to do the dirty work, if it’s outdoors these days, aerial footage is, well, the new black.

Neither option mentioned above is cheap, however. I’ve been paying thru the mega-schnoz to rent A-Stars ($2000 + per hour) and such for years. And then was superduper excited in 2010 to go remote aerial at about half the cost of a real heli for this project launching the Nikon D7000 (here’s some more BTS with the same flight crew from a commercial i shot in Telluride…). But it’s still pricey. $2k – $5,000 per DAY or more. And although going the R/C route is the lesser of two budget busters, it’s still a rough lump to swallow, particularly if you’re just getting in the game.

ENTER the DJI Phantom, (picked mine up at Dronefly.com) the out-of-the-box R/C quadcopter.

Now before y’all jump into a tizzy that this thing isn’t close to the same quality – doesn’t do X and Y…I know those things. It’s ok that it can’t fly an Arri Alexa or do this or that other thing. BUT damn this is a great entry product that A) allows budget conscious folks the ability to fly a camera; B) makes some pretty solid footy for web videos and such; and C) is a helluva lot of fun to fly. All at fraction of the cost of any previously mentioned option.

Designed to fly the GoPro (you know I love ‘em in this video), this little rig comes in at under $700. Nothing to sneeze at, but chump change compared to what was available just 5 years ago. My crew has two of these little buggers now — and within 5 minutes I had achieved a comfort level great enough to try the stunt at 0:45, terrorize the other people at the GasWorks park in Seattle, and even chase a seaplane.

Although it’s not suitable for high end work (yet?), this is a nice budget breakthru. And truth be told it’s a fricking blast — I’ll be doing more soon. Perhaps…ahem… even on my next photo shoot in Iceland…

chasejarvis TECH: How to Pack, Prep & Travel with GoPro Cameras (<—bonus, also works for almost camera system)

I’ve been shooting religiously with GoPro cameras since they came out way back in the day. Love those little monsters. At a minimum, I travel with three or more Hero3′s for any shoot – I’ve just found they just come in super-duper handy for all sortsa great stuff. BUT…. taking into account mounts, memory cards, chargers, spare batteries and all miscellany associated with the GoPro and you’ve got yourself quite a load of gear to keep track of.

That’s why I’ve come up with a pretty tight little system for packing & traveling with my GoPros. The above video really gives the full insight, but all cooked down into a tasty little reduction, it smells something like this:

1. Find ONE bag/pack that can carry everything (for Belize I brought a Dakine Mission)

2. Separate gear & accessories into smaller pouches (ThinkTank little pouches described in the vid work nicely here)

3. Clearly label said bags (make the labels moron proof – and really visible in low-light / bleary eyes / tired person can read them without question)

4. Take EVERYTHING in this bag with you every time, regardless of shoot location – you never know when the need/opportunity for a funky mount may arise. (I know this might not sound like good advice, but trust me, it is. Take it from me, this is the only way you’ll ever NOT forget something random.)

5. Get creative. There are tons of ways you can mount a GoPro (see the egg-timer and scuba mask mounts in the vid), as well as clever ways to extend battery life. Use them all.

This vid above comes at you pretty fast, so feel free to ask questions and I’ll jump into the comments and answer. Got GoPro tips / thoughts / hacks of your own? Do share ‘em.

Highslide for Wordpress Plugin