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Falcon Chasing A Downhill Mountain Biker — Behind-the-Scenes on the Photoshoot That Captured It

Been shooting some freeride mountain biking lately and was poking around the web when I stumbled on this yesterday…behind the scenes on how this crew filmed a peregrine falcon chasing (and grabbing at) professional downhill mountain biker Gee Atherton over bumps, jumps and at insane speeds.

Love the The Earth Unplugged crew’s approach and patience, plus the ingenuity that thy used in a)the concept; and b)the filming techiques. #muchrespect

I’m not a gear guy, but wondering if you caught the equipment they were using? None of this would have been possible just 5 years ago, or it certainly would have cost 50x what this probably cost to make today.

Here’s the finished product:

The Fuji X100s Review: Brutally Simple & Highly Effective (Even If You Didn’t Want to Admit It)

I was onto the rush of mirrorless cameras pretty early – mostly from manufacturers sharing with me what was “coming soon”, but I admit that I didn’t really “get” it, until I started receiving early versions, prototypes and demos from the marketing folks at all your fav manufactures. Only then did I truly understand the punch that these little cameras pack – because they’re good. I loved the concept, but hated the tiny sensors and the poor performance. Well, those days are gone, and now these cameras are really good. I’ve highlighted mirrorless a bunch in the past, but those were just my initial impressions… In this post, I tapped my tech homie Sohail to sound off on a proper camera review for the Fuji X100s. He’s tackled the Nikon D7100 in a past review that received high marks from this community, so we’re gonna keep it rolling. The dominant view is that this camera is pretty hot. So hot in fact it’s a wonder Fuji kept the name X100 name because it’s so amped up from it’s predecessors. You’ll find a better autofocus, improved manual focus, and a number of other upgrades that suggest Fuji is intent on keeping the pace. But alas, I’ll let Sohail take it from here.

Thanks, Chase.

The Fuji X100s has been my main carry-around camera for almost a month now, during which time I’ve used it for a number of shoots, ranging from a test with studio lights to simply pointing it out of my car window and hitting the shutter release. Truth is, it’s brutally simple and highly effective.

During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to put this little thing through its paces, and I’ve come out quite impressed. Fuji has come a very, very long way from the days when it produced cheap point-and-shoot cameras from the consumer crowd. Chase’s pal, photographer and educator Zack Arias sees Fuji gunning for the Leica crown, although that may be a little far reaching. But certainly Fuji are giving them a run for their money at a fraction of the cost.

In the beginning

Fuji’s first attempt at a large-sensor compact was the X100, a camera that received glowing reviews that were punctuated by incessant complaints about the camera’s quirks. Slow autofocus, an almost unusable manual focus system, and other quirks made it a difficult camera to wield. Despite those quirks, it gained a die-hard following of photographers who loved the images coming out of it.

The X100, the camera that started it all for Fuji.

The X100, the camera that started it all for Fuji.

Fuji followed the X100 up with the X-Pro and X-E1, both of which shared some of the quirks of the X100, but have upgraded sensors that, to be perfectly honest, are flat-out amazing. Those sensors did away with the Optical Low-Pass Filter most digital cameras come with these days and they featured a new array of the pixels on the sensor that randomizes the location of the red, green, and blue pixels.

The result is that images are sharper since there’s no low-pass filter in front of the sensor, and moiré is minimized thanks to the random array. Fuji says this arrangement is inspired by the natural random arrangement of the fine grains of silver halide film which is a nice bit of marketing-speak. To their credit, whatever they’ve done to this sensor was definitely cool. When the X-Pro1 was released, it had the best low-light performance of any crop-sensor camera I’d ever seen. That camera had incredibly clean images at ISO 3200, and the noise present at that and at higher ISOs was gorgeous and film-like.

Fast-forward to today

When they came up with the X100s, Fuji basically took the sensor and graphics processor from the X-Pro1, vastly — by an order of magnitude, actually — improved the autofocus, added in a few key features to aid in manual focusing, changed a few other things and put out an update that is far, far more usable and powerful than its predecessor.

The Fuji X100s. Better, Faster, Stronger.

The Fuji X100s. Better, Faster, Stronger.

Where the X100 was a quirky camera that took a number of firmware updates to get to a point where it was reasonably reliable, the X100s was a well-oiled machine right out of the box. The difference between versions is surprisingly vast, and that’s to Fuji’s credit as well.

Appearance and Form Factor

Looked at from a distance, the X100s is almost indistinguishable from its predecessor. It has the same look and feel, right down to its dimpled faux leather wrapping.

Close up, there are a few things that set it apart, and one of those things is a long-requested feature: The “Q” button.

This button is a carryover from the X-Pro1, and pops up a quick menu screen where you can adjust a number of things, from ISO to Dynamic Range, to film emulation choice, and more. X100 users have been pretty envious of this feature, and speaking as one, I’m really glad to have it.

There are other small improvements, too. The button to activate the Auto Focus point selector mode has now been moved from the left of the LCD to the 4-way rocker/scroll wheel, making it easier to shoot one-handed with this camera. Also, the knob to set exposure compensation is a lot stiffer, and therefore harder to move accidentally.

X100 on the left, X100s on the right.

X100 on the left, X100s on the right.

Handling

The X100 takes a very manual/mechanical approach to shooting. Aperture, shutter speed, focus mode, viewfinder mode, and exposure compensation are all adjusted via hardware dials and switches. In this regard, the retro design draws heavily from film rangefinders of the past, and that’s a really, really good thing.

In my hands, the X100s (and this is true for the X100 as well) has the feel of a rangefinder. It’s solidly-built; no squeaks or creaks in the manufacturing are evident. The dials have been somewhat reinforced and are therefore (thankfully) stiffer than those on the X100, and the slightly changed layout of the buttons makes it easier to get to the some of the most important functions one-handed.

The X100s, like its predecessor, is also equipped with a threaded shutter release that takes an old plunger-style release cable. This is both good and bad — good, because those releases are ridiculously cheap, and bad because that precludes using the X100s for time-lapse photography (if anyone knows of electronic cable releases for the X100s, please sound off in the comments).

One slightly major quibble I have is about the location of the screw for tripod plates. Mounting a tripod plate on the X100s still partially blocks the battery and SD card slot door, which is a pain. I have to take the tripod plate off every time I need to dump the card, which is, to say the least, not ideal.

Performance

Autofocus

The one bit of performance information that everyone is looking for with this camera is this: How fast is the autofocus?

The thing that everyone who got the X100 complained about so darn much was the terrible autofocus performance of that camera. Sure, it took great pictures, but only if the autofocus worked. Which it didn’t more often than it did. And forget about achieving focus in dark areas; it would hunt and hunt for several seconds before it would just fail to lock on.

Worse was the fact that manual focus on the X100 was simply unusable. The flat, pancake nature of of the 23mm f/2 lens meant that the focusing right was pretty thin to begin with. Manually focusing that lens would involve spinning that ring through what seemed like an eternity of revolutions before you could get it in the ballpark of your subject.

Subsequent firmware updates improved focusing on the X100 a lot, to where it’s actually usable now. Manual focusing is still a pain, but at least the AF is far better than it was at launch.

So how good is the AF on the X100s? Much, much, much better than the X100’s AF. On par with most mirorless/Compact System Cameras out there, in fact. The only one that I’d confidently say is way better is the Olympus OM-D E-M5’s AF, which is just plain scary-fast.

The X100s' AF had no problems keeping up with dark situations. DNG processed with VSCO Film. © Sohail Mamdani

The X100s' AF had no problems keeping up with dark situations. DNG processed with VSCO Film. © Sohail Mamdani

Even better is the fact that the X100s will achieve focus in some pretty dark conditions. I haven’t yet found a reasonable situation where it wouldn’t lock on at all, though sometimes it does take a second try in some really dark and low-contrast areas.

Manual focusing is a pleasure as well. The X100s includes two focus-assist modes for manual focusing, a “peaking” mode, which outlines areas in focus with a white highlight, as well as a digital “split image” mode, which is reminiscent of the old split-image focusing screens used in film SLRs.

I didn’t spend a lot of time doing manual focus with the X100s, as the AF was dead-on for me almost all the time. In the few minutes I spent in manual focus, I noticed two things: the focus ring has a much shorter throw (i.e., you don’t have to spin it as much) and the focus peaking highlights could be a bit stronger. Sometimes, they’re a hair too subtle.

Image Quality

The X-Trans sensor from the X-Pro1 is an awesome bit of technology, and in combination with the X100s’ gorgeous 23mm f/2 lens, produces some impressive shots with deep detail.

Flesh tones and colors are rendered beautifully, with no nasty color casts or any other such problems. The camera does have a tendency to over-expose images, so I normally shoot with the exposure compensation dialed in at about −1/3 to −2/3rd’s of a stop. This tends to still keep shadow detail while preventing highlights from blowing out.

The camera just kills it when it comes to high-ISO performance. Like the X-Pro1, this thing will give you more-than-usable shots at ISO 6400 (see below). Noise reduction for in-camera JPEGs can be a bit overdone, but the RAW files hold a surprising amount of detail at ISO 6400. I’m confident enough of the X100s’ capability in that regard that my camera is set to Auto ISO with an upper limit of 6400 all the time.

Transamerica Pyramid Building. JPG shot in B&W straight out of camera at ISO 6400. © Sohail Mamdani

Transamerica Pyramid Building. JPG shot in B&W straight out of camera at ISO 6400. © Sohail Mamdani

Dynamic range is also better than I expected. I was, in a crunch, able to push my exposure by as much as 3 stops to retrieve detail in shadows. There was some loss of detail as well as some luminance noise when I did that, but it was more than I had thought I’d get out of a compact camera.

Highlights retained detail and color pretty well too; I think there’s a latitude of about 3–4 stops in the highlights. In the image below, the sky totally blown out (as shown by the red clipping warning) till I did a global adjustment of about −2 stops to pull some blue out of it; at −4, the blue is a nice, deep color that I can bring back selectively with a brush later on.

The X100s holds details in the highlights pretty well. Image on the right has a global exposure adjustment of -4 in Lightroom.

The X100s holds details in the highlights pretty well. Image on the right has a global exposure adjustment of -4 in Lightroom.

All said and done, there’s really nothing to complain about with this camera’s image quality. I don’t even feel like quibbling over its tendency towards overexposure, as most of that highlight detail is retrievable in post.

Conclusion

I’m off to Hawaii in June for a vacation, and the X100s is the only camera I’m taking with me. With all the gear at my disposal, this is the only thing I feel like I need. I will, no doubt, occasionally wish for a telephoto lens, or a super-wide, or some other bit of kit, but despite that, this is the camera I’m taking.

What the X100s excels at doing is helping me distill the process and experience of photography down to its barest essentials. For someone used to lugging three bags worth of gear to every other shoot, moving and shooting with the Fuji is like shedding several pounds of dead weight; it’s just you, the camera, and your subject. I won’t be shucking my DSLR and assortment of lenses, mind you, but I also won’t be carrying them around with me all the time.

The X100s is all the camera I need for everyday shooting.

PS from Chase: There’s a gallery of cityscape shots Sohail has taken with his X100s on his 500px page. Some are straight out-of-camera B&W others were treated with VSCO Film.

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

How To Reboot, Refresh & Refocus Your Creativity — The Fine Art of the Sabbatical

Photo by Chase Jarvis.

Many of us have …ahem…fantasies about shutting down the laptop and closing up the studio for an extended period to go try something different. Pick up horseback riding. Learn a new language. Fly a plane. We all know our creative souls need it, but making the move is frightening. A couple months ago my writer friend Ben dropped in to share his thoughts on strategic renewal and scheduling breaks throughout the work day. His post about doing more by doing less was a hit with many of you. Well he’s back, and he’s talking about breaks again. Big breaks. Weeks, months, even…um…a year. Read on to find out how a sabbatical may help you keep that love feeling fresh. Take it away, Ben.

Thanks, Chase.

My second love is soccer. I play it, I coach it and I follow it. (And for those of you who didn’t know it, Chase went to college on a soccer scholarship and loves the game too…) As a US citizen, I am a passionate supporter of the US National Team, which is currently in the middle of qualifications for the 2014 World Cup. Anyone who gives a damn about US soccer will know the name Landon Donovan. Easily one of our nation’s best players ever, Landon announced last December that he was taking a 4-month break from the sport following the title-winning Championship match for his MLS club team, the LA Galaxy.

In the middle of World Cup Qualifiers and at the top of his game, our nation’s best player decides to take a sabbatical. “What the F?” said half the US soccer nation, instantly polarized. On the one side were the haters who called the act the epitome of selfishness and narcism. On the other, less-populated side were those who got it. Dude needed a break. He’s burnt out. He’s been the poster boy of the entire sport in the States for as long as he’s been representing the country on the field. Let him surf. Or snorkel. Or learn tennis. Or whatever it is he needs to do.

I thought about this for another hot minute. My Father is a professor at a University. I learned the meaning of the word “passion” by watching him devote his life to his students and to his discipline. But I don’t remember anyone calling him “passionless” for taking a sabbatical. So given Donovan’s moves, learning from my Dad, and some conversation with Chase, I’ve asked the “when do you know you need a break?” question. This is not the definitive list, but it’s a start to some answers:

_All your work starts to look the same
_You dread getting out of bed in the morning [not just once in a while, but routinely]
_You haven’t had an original, “eureka”-moment idea in weeks
_You spend a good portion of your waking day fantasizing about travel, learning a new skill or craft, or marking a bucket list item off the list
_You truthfully answer “nothing much” to the frequently-asked question “what have you been up to lately?”
_You feel like your passion for something is waning
_The things in your routine that used to be easy and fun seem hard and annoying

But don’t feel like you’re alone in these feelings or “getting soft”. History is full of amazing creatives who take time off… Up high on the list are:

Daniel Day-Lewis. Master of the Sabbatical. Photo from Wikipedia.

Daniel Day-Lewis — arguable the greatest actor of our time — routinely takes breaks for as long as 5 years between his [award-winning] roles. In fact, it’s been rumored that he is planning another 5 year break to focus on family and learning “rural skills” like stonemasonry. Director Terrence Malick famously took a 20-year sabbatical between the critically-acclaimed “Badlands” (1978) and the thought-provoking “Thin Red Line” (1998).

Alternatively, check out this TED talk below by renowned NYC designer Stefan Sagmeister, who closes his studio doors once every seven years to take a full year extended break from work.

And then there are some companies that support this…. Greeting card giant Hallmark — which employs a staff of over 700 writers, illustrators and designers — owns a 180,000 square foot “innovation facility” where staff can pursue myriad artistic endeavors, from stitching and woodworking to ceramics and leather tooling. Hallmark’s renewal program sends employees to the innovation facility for up to four months at a time to learn a new skill or craft and get a much needed break from the computer screen. The company also owns a farmhouse retreat on 172 acres, which it uses for similar employee getaway purposes. This sort of forced creative renewal keeps workers inspired and prevents burn-out and creative drought.

Not all employers are as cool as Hallmark. And we’re not all university professors who get a year off every 7. Some of you are wondering how you can afford to take extended time off from your work. If you are currently ‘stuck’ in a corporate job and looking for a way to take a strategic job pause without losing your job, take a look at YourSabbatical.com. The company helps employees put together convincing proposals to negotiate a career break with the bosses. If you’re short on ideas for ways to spend your sabbatical, the site put together a top 100 list. Some of the gems include:

_Circuit Iceland by car
_Tackle Kilimanjaro [Chase would attest to this being a having climbed Kili in January]
_Travel without an itinerary
_Trap and track puma in Argentina’s pampas grass
_Raft the Zambezi with your dad
…and you get the picture…

The company draws an important distinction between a vacation and a sabbatical. The former, for example, is often not goal-oriented and pays little mind to enhancing one’s life or career. The sabbatical, on the other hand, is designed to restore creative juices, enable the attainment of personal goals and achieve greater career success.

It’s a daunting step to take. Unknowns and what-ifs abound. Great security probably lays with the status quo. But status quo is creeping death to the creative. So take a moment and ask yourself if you’re creative side would benefit from a planned sabbatical. Then start planning.

60 Second Portrait – Ishmael Butler

Shabazz Palaces front-man Ishmael Butler was gracious enough to pose for this 60 Second Portrait back when he was on set for the cjLIVE episode with Ian Ruhter. Ishmael was one of the subjects of our massive tintype portraits along with Chris Ballew. Enjoy!

chasejarvisTECH: How To Build a Pro Cine-Boom on a Shoestring [literally]

In my last chasejarvisTECH piece you got a peek at the gear I packed away for the 19,000 foot climb up Kilimanjaro for the Summit on the Summit. There were more than a few comments on how much “stuff” went with me. It’s all relative I suppose, but when you get down to it that was a fairly bare-bone operation for a job that still yielded high-end results.

As you see in this next installment, we had to make do without some of the other gear that we would have loved to have had along the way but left out for obvious reasons. I’m talking about cranes, jibs, dollies and the like. So sometimes you have to get creative.

My man Chris did just that, by lashing some cordelette climbing rope to a tripod to create a makeshift cinema boom. As the footage at the end proves, you can’t tell the difference.

Here’s what went into this fine piece of jury-rigging:

_Manfrotto Support
_Canon 5D Mark III
_Cordelette [Find it at most outdoor gear stores or online -- often listed under "Accessory cords."]

If you’re swinging that camera out over an edge (like Chris does), make sure you’re on solid footing and keep a tight grip on that cordelette.

And that’s it. Super-cheap, super-effective boom solution done at altitude.

Music: Small Face – Heavy Cloud

Kickstarter of the Week – The Glamour & The Squalor

Before the Internet made sourcing new music and rising bands a simple matter of keystrokes, bookmarks and RSS feeds, there was the radio DJ. Those with an insatiable thirst for the fresh and undiscovered relied on the savvy DJ with the right connections to feed us a steady diet of the up and coming, the unsigned, the ones-to-keep-an-eye-on.

For the unsigned and undiscovered, it was said DJ who provided the air time, created the buzz and could ultimately set the stage for stardom. Or at least greater notoriety.

One DJ who epitomized this role was Seattle’s Marco Collins, a local legend whose work on 107.7 The End helped propel the careers of notables like Weezer, Beck, Deathcab for Cutie and The Prodigy. And that’s just using the fingers on one hand. As Chris Ballew of Presidents of the United States of America puts it: “He was the on/off switch for your potential career.”

Such is the story behind Marco’s rise (he’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a DJ) and fall (battles with addiction) that Seattle-based director/producer Mark Evans & his team have set out to create a documentary on the man, which they’re calling The Glamour & The Squalor. They’ve interviewed 32 people for the film but need a little help rounding out the interviews and editing down the footage and archival material.

Marco’s story deserves to be told. He turned his passion for new music into a career and he battled some seriously determined demons along the way. And he’s still standing.

Check out the Kickstarter video for The Glamour & The Squalor above. If you are keen to help see this project through to the end, donate here.

Marco Collins, still hard at work. With Allen Stone. Photo by Michael Profitt Photography.

Dream Job — Color Cannons, Flying High & Turning Dreams Into Photographs for Samsung

A NO BRAINER.
When someone comes to you and asks you if you’d like to create a photograph of your most vivid dream on their dime — let’s be clear on this one — you say YES.

Such was the case with Samsung and their creative agency Possible several weeks back. I got one of “those cool phone calls” where all your hard work comes into focus just for a second. (Dialogue in my brain = Wait a minute. Any photograph I want? Of my dreams?! And you’ll be my benefactor to make this happen? Yes Chase, creative freedom. We want to enable your imagination. Are there any images you’ve been excited to try to create but haven’t had the means or the opportunity?) Um. Hell yes. They had approached me with a completely blank canvas. Their only requirement? That the image would be a colorful expression of a dream to prove out the color quality on the Samsung Premium Monitor Series 9 for professional photographers. My only requirement? That I could make a video of the process to show you how we pulled it off.

It was a deal.

THE CHALLENGE.
I immediately knew the image I’d make. I’ve had this reoccurring dream where I’m floating in a sea of insanely vividly colored clouds. You know those flying dreams… well, this is similar, except more floating than flying or falling. (there’s water below in my dream, but that’s of no consequence here…) In short order, I pitched them the idea, they loved it, said “yes”…and then I jumped in… only to realize a moment later that I had no idea how I’d possibly make this happen. How does one “make” clouds? How could I pull this off with in-camera capture? How could I accurately translate the stunning colors into real life? And how would I do this with just a couple weeks lead time? Gulp.

If you’re a photography buff or just plain curious, then read on to get details on the process, how we made the set + the “clouds”, the gear, the monitors, the final image, and all the good stuff that went in my mouth and up my nose.

ENTER–> THE PROCESS.
chase jarvis powder compSketch of the idea. My original sketch was so neanderthal in nature I can’t believe my team had any clue what we’d be up to. The first whiteboard scribble led to this superquick, subsequent mock-up, a speedy photoshop file using some of my other photos and some puffy clouds tweaked into rich colors. It was a hackjob at best, but it got us started down the path of what to do next. We had to find those clouds.

The colors from my dream. This was fun… I went into a paint store and, from memory, selected a handful of paint chips that matched the colors from my recurring dream. This was the basis of moving my dream into reality. The goal is that my wardrobe, the clouds, the environment and the final image would be a perfect match based on these paint chips.

Chase and Loren matching the Celebration Powder to the colors from Chase's dream.

Clouds. First we worked through 101 ways to make clouds, from A-Z, smoke machines to mist. And where we ended up — after a good bit of experimenting — was absolutely awesome. Know that stuff called “celebration powder“? If you happen to be tuned Hindu celebration of Holi in India then you know what I mean…it’s a big thing. It has also migrated its way into seemingly endless fun runs here in the USA. In short this powder is made 100% bio degradable and non toxic from cornstarch. You can eat it (and I ended up eating a LOT of it). This powder, we discovered, can be ordered from some select outfits online. We ordered about 40 pounds of this stuff… some pre-made, others made to match the paint chips (above) we sent the manufacturers. Huge thanks to the Art Department on this shoot –> Loren and Darcy made this shoot happen because of the ingenius way in which they sourced the powder and — even more importantly — devised the “air cannon” mechanisms through which to fire it up into the sky and make the perfect clouds. The air cannons are, like the video explains, simply a series of tanks of highly compressed air with quick valves that can be tripped remotely. Upon flipping the switch – BOOM – you’ve got canned air firing that powder into the sky.

chasejarvis_powder_bts_samsung

Hindus celebrated Holi and believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colors and saying farewell to winter.

chasejarvis_bts_testingpowedercannon_samsung

Testing the powder canons

chasejarvis_bts_samsung_testingpowdercannon

Boom!

chasejarvis_bts_smansung_powdershooters

Loren and crew setting up the powder canons

THE SET
The “cloud tent”. Now this stuff is messy. And when I say messy, I mean…like the messiest stuff you’ve ever dealt with. After myriad of outdoor tests we discovered, duh, that it gets EV-ER-Y-where. So we built the set to be a giant visqueen tent in very large sound stage to keep it all contained. Approx 30 feet x 30 feet x 20 feet high. Our own gigantor see-thru cube.

Flight. Anytime I get the chance, I’ll do my own stunts. Since we’d agreed in advance that – if this were my dream – I’d need to be the talent… So into character I went. In order to get the floating sensation, we decided after some practice, that a trampoline was the best way to create the look in the studio. With a couple of pulled neck muscles and some body position tweaking, it’s possible to get this floating / hovering look right at the apex of a big bounce on the trampoline. Took me a few hundred tries to be able to nail the effect on autopilot, but it indeed became automatic. Not gonna lie, it had been a few years since I’d jumped on a trampoline, but this was good fun… And, as I was to soon learn, it’s an entirely different thing to do it in practice vs. wearing the wardrobe, goggles and having canons fired at you… but more of that later.

chasejarvis_trampoline_bts_samsung

Moving the trampoline into position

THE GEAR
Stills. For the still portion of the shoot, we shot with the Nikon D4 tethered to our monitoring station, which consisted of three Samsung Series 9 monitors + Mac Pro.  As for glass, we used the Nikon 24-70mm zoom lens stopped down around f/11 for a nice deep depth of field. The Nikon D4 was secured to a light stand and raised to a hole cut into the visqueen at the height that I would be jumping to so we could get a clean shot without jeopardizing the electronics of the camera. And of course it was tethered to the computer so it could be fired remotely and – most importantly so that the images could be reviewed immediately on the Series 9 to check focus, color + file integrity.

Strobes. We used two Broncolor Scoro A4S Power Packs and four Broncolor Unilite 1600′s to give us the light we needed. And since the strobes were positioned outside the visqueen tent (for safety and cleanliness) – aka- the one huuuuggge softbox — the only modifiers we used were directional dishes soas to aim the light in the general direction of yours truly, the bouncing kook. We used PocketWizards to fire the Broncolors remotely off the camera.

Continuous light. Since we were also making the BTS video above, we knew we’d also need continuous lighting for the motion capture. As such we decided to go with two 9000 watt Maxi Brutes. The Maxi Brutes (9 x 1000 watt bulbs in a single unit) were phenomenal pumped out the continuous light needed for the high speed behind the scenes video cameras to get the exposures and frame rates that we wanted. This also allowed us to have to use less light in the strobes above, which kept the flash duration way quick. The Maxi Brutes are huge, look here:

Here’s a quick sketch of our lighting + setup diagram:

chasejarvis_samsung_diagram

Motion Capture Cameras. For the behind the scenes video capture, we thought it’d be fun to bring out the big guns…and the small guns too. We hired our pal DP extraordinaire Chris Bell to shoot with his fancy Arri Alexa [stay tuned for another video about that camera]. We also brought along a Sony FS700 to shoot high speed…480+ frames per second, a Canon 5D mkiii for quick on-the-fly shots, a Canon 7D for timelapses, and lastly, we grabbed every GoPro we had in our shop – I think it was 9 of ‘em.  These came in handy for rigging up shots that we didn’t want to stick our expensive high-end cameras in. We wrangled some Manfrotto pods + spreader dollies, plus a tasty Kessler crane to keep things moving. And you gotta know we made this sweet quick-and-dirty array for a Matrix-esque shot that you can see in the video if you watch it a couple times…:

chasejarvis_erikHecht2_samsung

Cinematographer Chris Bell with his beloved Arri Alexa

chasejarvis_erikhecht1_samsung

The Sony FS700 shooting into the tent.

chasejarvis_erikHecht2_samsung

chasejarvis_bts_samsung_monitors

Post capture - reviewing the work on Samsung Series 9 - happy with the results.

chasejarvis_bts_samsung_monitors

Image + color review

The Aftermath

HERE’S A FINAL CAMPAIGN IMAGE (keep eyes peeled in all markets).
ChaseJarvis_Samsung_Series9_1000px.jpg

If you made it this far and wanna see more stuff like this, here’s the coordinates to subscribe: facebook.com/chasejarvis, twitter.com/chasejarvis, G+, or my extra special email list.

IMPORTANT NOTEA ABOUT MUSIC!
Music is a huge part of the fun we have when making these BTS videos. As such, huge shout out to the legendary beat maker Big Chocolate, without whom this vid would not be possible. You can catch him at his fBook here, twitter, or pickup this very track and other radness here (please support him) on iTunes here. Alas, he will also be crushing it all summer long on the Vans Warped Tour too.

OTHER RELEVANT STUFF.
In addition to the final still image which you may see all over the globe, there is a web commercial produced some good friends of mine – that is pretty damn funny. Check it here.

Super duper big shoutout to crew who worked on this…obviously the art dept, production, and cinema crews got shoutout, but also to my stylist on this one Alvin Stillwell.

For monitor specs etc go here and for more Samsung vids here’s the Samsung YouTube channel.

For more badass work from Possible Worldwide, go here.

Thanks yo!

Size Matters: How to Build a HUGE Panoramic Photo, From Capture to Final Image [272 Gigapixel !!]

Earlier in the week I shared my gear list for the hike up Kilimanjaro with Summit on the Summit. While on the mountain I snapped off a slew of panoramas and sent them to my buddy Mark, who does digital retouching with his company PARADOX VISUAL. I wanted him to build a BIIIIIG panorama that could be auctioned off for Summit on the Summit. And when I’m talking big, I’m talking 4 feet tall and 20 feet long. (see them in context of the gallery at the end of this post). Big, right? I’ve asked Mark to give us a little insight into the methods he used for creating that panorama, which you see in digital form above. I’d say he did a bang-up job. Take it away, Mark.

Thanks, Chase. First things first. I want to thank Chase and his crew that I worked with on building these panoramas — Kate, Megan, and Norton. It was a privilege working with you and a privilege to be a part of Summit on the Summit’s campaign for water conservation and awareness.

Now on to the technical business.

The advent of digital photography has not only created easy access to photography like never before, it also has opened up creative and technical possibilities in image making that were once unimaginable. Creating large panoramas with theoretically limitless resolution is just one of those new frontiers. Photographers are pushing the processing limits of computer hardware with interactive panoramas well past the gigapixel range. The largest I found is a 272 gigapixel panorama of Shanghai, China. Pretty huge.

I’ll be talking about something a little easier to attain for those of us working on Mac Pros and iMacs (and even Windows machines I guess) — panoramas composited from far fewer frames than that needed to get a 272 gigapixel panorama.

SOME BASIC TIPS TO SHOOT FOR PANORAMAS
To get the best results it is recommended to use a tripod. Ideally you would also shoot using a tripod head that allows the camera to rotate around the nodal point to avoid issues with parallax. Unless you plan on shooting a large amount of panoramas, these tripods may not be an investment you want to spring for now (unless you wanted to rent one). Luckily there is plenty of software out there to save our bacon, let us shoot handheld and still get great results.

Of course there are a few tips to help while shooting handheld:

_The wider the lens you shoot with, the harder it is for software to overcome distortion. It’s preferable to shoot with a 28mm over a 14mm or make multiple rows with a 50mm over that 28mm to cover the same area. And the bonus is you get even more resolution in the end.
_Shooting more frames with the camera in the vertical position reduces the apparent distortion.
_Most recommendations are to have at least 15% overlap between frames. I tend toward 33% to give software as much real estate to work with.
_Keep the camera level through all the exposures.
_Shoot in manual exposure mode to lock in the same exposure settings through all the frames and to have the same depth field through all the frames.
_Shoot in manual focus mode to keep the same focal distance through all the frames.

There are many sites on the Internet with plenty of additional tips and tricks. Have a look around and you’ll have no problem bumping into one. This article will focus on the stitching process involved in producing the gargantuan panoramas Chase Jarvis shot on Mt. Kilimanjaro with Summit on the Summit. We did five panoramas but I will focus on the one panorama that needed the most work.

THE MT. KILIMANJARO PANORAMAS
Chase shot several panoramas on a Nikon D4 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens. We ended up building five to be auctioned to benefit Summit on the Summit. The frames were shot vertically and there were 5-8 frames per panorama. Up until now I have used Adobe’s Photomerge that is part of Photoshop to stitch panoramas together. Before I saw the panoramas, all I knew was that Chase wanted them printed large. Really large. They were to be 44 inches tall, which meant some of them would be nearly 14 feet wide. I thought this would be a good opportunity to purchase a piece of software I’d been admiring for awhile. PTGui is one standalone panorama stitching application that caught my eye. I had researched many of the stitching software applications available and I chose PTGui based on many good reviews, a personal recommendation from a photographer that had been using it for awhile and the fact that it has the capability of creating HDR panoramas for use in CGI image based lighting. Knowing how big these panoramas were to be printed, I wanted the best tools at my disposal. And why not take a little risk testing new software to make some of the biggest prints I’ve ever made for? What’s life without some risk taking, right?

Adobe’s Photomerge is pretty amazing in its own right and I’ve had it stitch some wobbly frames into some clean panoramas before. It’s main drawback, though, is that there is not much user control (other than the type of projection it stitches the frames with) if it runs into problems. If it can’t create a clean panorama, that’s the end of the road. There will be much repair work to be done in Photoshop.

With PTGui you have the ability preview the panorama before it is actually rendered. You can try out different projection methods to see which best suits your needs. I used cylindrical projection for most of the panoramas. It offered the least distortion to the horizon. But I still needed to do some warping in Photoshop to get the horizons perfectly straight and level and to pull the corners out to fill the frame.

While we’re on the subject of warping, I prefer using the Warp tool over the Liquify tool for larger tweaks of pixels. When used for little tweaks Liquify is great, but when used for larger movements over larger areas the stretching and smearing of the pixels can be quite apparent. First, I draw a selection with the marquis tool that is significantly larger than the area that I’ll be transforming. I then hit Command+J (Layer/New/Layer via copy) so that I can work on the area without affecting the main layer. To bring up the Warp tool hit Command+T (Edit/Free Transform). Once the Free Transform handles are visible use either Control+Click or Right Click to bring up the contextual menu where Warp is found. You can manipulate any of the points and/or handles or click+drag directly on the areas in the middle of selected pixels. The trick though is to only manipulate the middle areas. This leaves the edges unaffected so they remain seamless with the surrounding areas. Once you’re satisfied with the Warp hit Return/Enter or doubleclick on the selected area to accept. If the manipulation is significant you may have a seam appear at the edges. Simply add a layer mask to the Warped layer and subtly mask the little area out and you should have seamless image again.

If PTGui can’t get a clean seam for some reason, you can help it along by giving it more information to work with. You are able to access PTGui-created paired control points between frames that identify shared features between frames. Sometimes the paired points PTGui automatically creates are lined up correctly. You can go in and manually move the points to make sure they are over the same spot in each frame. You can also add your own control points to help PTGui identify where the frames align. The more points the better.

Control points.

Another powerful feature of PTGui is you are able to force the software to include or exclude portions of specific frames. Along the left third side of the panorama PTGui was not creating a good seam of the ridge in the background. I played a bit with forcing PTGui to only use portions of the #2 frame. It helped it create a cleaner seam along the ridge. In the screenshot, the green is where I painted and PTGui was forced to use that area of frame #2 to create the final panorama.

As good as software is these days, they can’t do everything perfectly. No matter how I cajoled PTGui there were some areas of the panorama it couldn’t pull off seamlessly. In a few spots the ground gave PTGui trouble. If the final destination of these panoramas was just the web, these slightly soft seams would probably have been unnoticeable. But at nearly four feet tall they would be obvious. In these cases I needed to process individual frames from the original RAW files of the ground to bring into the panorama. Since any panorama software distorts individual frames to create the final panorama, these portions I brought in needed to also be distorted to fit into the panorama. I’m guessing one of the least-used layer blend modes in Photoshop is Difference. How it works is quite simple and can be useful in the right situations. This is one of those situations. When a layer is set to Difference and the pixels below that layer are exactly the same, it displays them as solid black. If they display as any other color they are different. This often works great for aligning layers. You can see in the screenshot below several spots that are black.

Once the patch layer is as close as possible, it then took some delicate masking to fit the patch in nicely. I find it works best to paint the mask to an edge already in the image, like one of the rocks. The natural edge is a good way to hide any edge created from the mask.

Ground, before.


Ground, after.

A small touch that I find very useful when scaling images well beyond their native resolution is adding some simulated grain. It is also useful for panoramas because in the stitching process pixels get stretched and squeezed and the natural noise pattern or texture of the camera’s sensor is warped. So, the simulated grain can cover up some of the pixelation from scaling the image up and create a uniform texture over the whole image. Even if the grains need to be large to cover up the roughest parts of the image, it most often looks better than the distorted and abused pixels underneath. Adding noise or grain can also help if you are having any banding issues in areas with gradients.

The grain process is simple. Create a new layer with the blend mode set to Overlay or Softlight. Fill it with 50% gray, the neutral color for these blend modes. Add noise — Gaussian, Monochromatic.

Adjust levels by bringing up the black point and bringing down the white point. This adds contrast and makes the noise a little more clumpy or grain-like.

And last, it needs just a touch of the Gaussian Blur Filter. When the Grain layer is set Overlay, the grain will be more apparent. Setting it to Soft Light makes the grain a little less apparent.


Please note, these settings were specific for this size image. Adjust to suit a particular image’s needs. One last note on adding grain: add it after you’ve scaled an image up to its final print size. If you add it before, the grain gets scaled with everything else and will huge and scary and ugly.

The other bits of retouching I needed to do were less specific to building a panorama. I had to remove all the people other than the group on the rock on the right. I replaced that group on the rock with another group from a separate frame Chase shot just of the group specifically to put in the final panorama. I was also provided PSD files with layers of the panoramas as guides. I just needed to repurpose and fine tune the adjustment layers from those files in the final panoramas.

Two important points I like to remind folks of when I teach:

_In Photoshop there is rarely only one way to get from A to B. I share how I work as a starting point for people to start experimenting and to help get a better understanding of how Photoshop behaves.
_I find it extremely helpful to have someone else look at my work to see if I have done it cleanly and believably. After staring at an image for a long period of time, sometimes it can be difficult to be objective. In my case, I have a client who is making the final judgment call on an image. But the second person can be a friend or spouse who can look at the image with completely fresh eyes. If another person is not available, take the image to what you consider final. Go away for awhile. If you have time, go away for some days. Then take another look over the whole image looking for problem areas, especially for seams that are soft and unnatural looking.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Want more Panorama tutorials? Check out this past post on How To Shoot a 7 Gigapixel, 60-foot Wide Photo in 5 Easy Steps.

chase jarvis summit on the summit sotsk

Never ‘Work’ Again — On Following Your Passion with Photographer Ian Ruhter [When Dreams Collide]

They say that when you leave your old life behind and walk the path you’re meant to be on, be prepared to leave some friends behind, and be prepared to make new ones. This has definitely been the case on my own personal path. When I finally ditched the things in my life that everyone else wanted me to do and began a fulltime charge of my life’s dream of being an artist, it put my life on a collision course with energy, vitality, and some seriously creative / talented people who have both inspired me and strengthened my resolve to continue on this path. That’s not to say shit doesn’t get hard, and that there’s an unending amount of work…but it’s just one kind of work – the kind that draws you in – not the kind that sinks your soul.

One of those cool people I’ve met along the way is my homie Ian Ruhter, another man on a mission to be different, not just better. If you keep your eyes peeled here on my blog, you know that one of the ways he’s done that is through his most recent personal project titled “Silver and Light,” in which he creates photographic art using a wet plate process that dates back to the 1850s with a camera the size of a truck. I had Ian on the show last year to demonstrate his technique and teach me how to wet plat. (Episode at the bottom of this post)

Ian’s latest video posted up top, “When Dreams Collide,” he documents his journey before our meeting -across the past and present and up to his drop-in on #cjLIVE. This particular vid, while beautifully shot, really delivers on how he crossing all boundaries and bowled through all obstacles to follow his dreams. If you need to abandon your current dead-end path, it’s worth your time.

Follow Ian across these channels:

website
Instagram: ianruhter
Facebook
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Moving The Camera Pays Big: New Gyro Game-Changer used by Teton Gravity Research [interview + video]

Teton Gravity Research Aerial Reel – The Bay Area in 4K from Teton Gravity Research on Vimeo.

Fancy gimbals are the rage these days and I love ‘em all. Not withstanding some homies of mine from my action sports days, Teton Gravity Research, recently announced a partnership with Gyro Stabilized-Systems and launched the GSS C520, a game-changing 4K camera platform that makes that footy that you and I shoot look like sh*t in comparison. Having worked with these cats a bunch (see here – that’s me hanging out of the heli with Todd…) and having seen a sneak peek of the Bay Area aerial footage video above, I wanted to know more. So I sat down with TGR founder Todd Jones to get the scoop and see the new work behind this aerial gimbal game changer.

I know the details of course, but share with the readers your production company Teton Gravity Research.
The short version is… TGR is an action sports brand founded in 1996. We specialize in media creation and distribution. The core components of our company are films, television, commercials, film tours, and our digital platform, www.tetongravity.com.

From a creative standpoint what does this crazy cool GSSC520 do for you as a filmmaker?
From a creative standpoint the GSS allows us to capture the highest quality footage we possibly can. In the past, when working with 16mm film and DSLR’s, we had amazing tools, but they had their limitations as well. Our push now is to use the same tools and cameras that the most high profile films in the world are shot on. We believe that the ultra hd/4k movement is here and is necessary to provide a certain level of quality delivery to the audience. I never bought into the HD cameras and distribution space. It just was not equivalent to film. I was always impressed with the cineflex footage for its stability, but it also had the HD video edge too it. The C520 allows us to get those super stabilized motion shots at true cinema resolution. We have already been getting calls from some big feature films that are interested in using it on their films. It is pretty cool to think that Hollywood is now calling us to help them create their films with our camera systems. After all, 18 years ago we were just a couple of kids who wanted to make a ski and snowboard film from our point of view.

Break it down for me and the people…what’s the difference between this camera gyro and what you’ve used in the past?
This system is the first 4k resolution system of its kind. It has the most highly sophisticated stabilization technology that has ever been released. There are so many creative ways to use this system. We film highly visual action in stunning locations. To be able to have this camera in those scenarios is a dream.

Yeah, but why is this a game changer?
I think I was touching on it above, but it is the camera system of the future. We also have the ability to put the newest cameras in the world in it. We are currently working on putting the Sony F55 in it and will follow with the new 4k Phantom. The fact that we can rapidly integrate the newest cameras in the world into this system is huge.

Give us a glimpse into the future… Does this technology point to more/new things to come?
I think it does. For one thing it points to the Ultra HD/4k movement. That is coming at us fast. If you’re going to rent helicopters and shoot aerials you might as well shoot them in cinema resolution if you can afford it.

Ok, handwaving and high-fiving is nice, but give me a specific example of where this camera creates an advantage for you…
On the above point, any footage shot with our system will be relevant as the Ultra HD movement takes over. We are already in a situation where the 16mm film we shot for years has very little stock value beyond historical pieces or the TGR brand story. It will need to be presented as archival footage in those scenarios. We can’t even put some of those super epic shots on reels anymore. I am really psyched that the stuff we have been shooting is more future proofed – at least for the next iteration of technology.

I know the answer on this one, but for the benefit of those who might now, what makes you and the TGR team so uniquely qualified to create with this tool? Hollywood here we come?
We have been filming aerials for 18 years. We have worked with limited resources up until now and made them work. Shooting with this system is crazy. The quality of shots is like nothing we have ever captured and it opens doors for us. I just spent the last three weeks working with it in Alaska and it is our best footage to date. We can’t wait to show it to the world.

And we can’t wait to see it. Thanks Todd.



A Good Interview. Photography + Entrepreneur Stuff [ Tearing Down Walls - A Podcast with Jenni Hogan]

I had the distinct pleasure of being a guest on Jenni Hogan’s “Next Big Thing” podcast a couple weeks ago to talk a bit about my life path(s), pivot points and the way that creativeLIVE is systematically re-shaping access to the best education.

For those who don’t know Jenni, she’s a super smart, sharp journalist who has a passion for connecting with like-minded people who impact, inspire and inform. Equally at home in the worlds of tech, media and fashion, Jenni pressed me on my origins as a creative, from my early pivots away from school and PhD’s in philosophy of art to my career as a photographer and entrepreneur.

In these days of media sound bites, those of us who are lucky enough to get a stage rarely get to give lengthy accounts of our experiences. This is a more lengthy account.

What we discuss:
-beginning as a photographer
-how “making it” is really not “making it” at all – just another chapter
-my #1 iTunes app from 2009 (Wired, Macworld, NYT top app) Best Camera – and what I learned
-how creativeLIVE came to be
-how creativity is the new literacy and cL is a big part of that future.

Big thanks to Jenni for having me on the show. Here is the complete podcast, below:

Chase Jarvis TECH: Packing Photo Gear For Hiking [whether for a day trip or up to 19,030 feet on Mt. Kilimanjaro]

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to be part of an expedition to bring greater awareness to the scarcity of fresh drinking water experienced by many countries around the world. Called Summit on the Summit, the expedition was a 60 mile hike up Kilimanjaro and included some artists, educators and guides who shared my interest in this awareness project, including Mark Foster, Justin Chatwin and Beau Garrett.

I put together this short video to give y’all a glimpse of the gear I packed for the trek. I kept it pretty light and stuck to two main camera systems:

_Nikon D4 platform
_14-24mm
_24-70mm
_70-200mm
_Other Nikon Lenses

_Olympus OM-D platform
_12mm
_14-42mm
_40-150mm
_75-300mm

Other Gear:
_Manfrotto Support
_MacBook Pro + Macbook Air
_GTech External Hard Drives
_LowePro Bags
_Dakine Photo Brick

Watch the vid for the full deets on my tech choices for this amazing journey.

Those slick beats underneath the video are compliments of the one, the only mr BIG CHOCOLATE…here on iTunes.
Big Chocolate Facebook
@bigchocolate

We Are Not Our Toys. Or Are We?

Ragnar - Iceland

A recent NPR story “Why Politicians Want Children to be Seen and Heard” spoke to the effectiveness of children as political messengers. Federal gun law supporters use images of children to play on the emotions of the masses. “Save Our Children” and all that jazz. Annoying as hell to get ‘used’. But real. And effective stuff, no doubt.

Children have long been the fodder of photogs. Back in January I shined the bloglight on Danny Goldfield, who spent seven years photographing children from over 169 countries — all of whom happened to live in New York City. The portraits are heartwarming and powerful for their diversity and depiction of the innocence and resilience of youth.

Flashback also to the World Press Photo of the Year. The cries of anger and sorrow captured in the faces of a group of men carrying two dead children.

Which brings us to today’s work, with a twist. Gabriele Galimberti’s “Toys Stories” project took 18 months and brought him everywhere from Malawi and Zanzibar to China and the Ukraine. His concept was simple enough: capture children from around the globe, posing with their favorite toys.

Despite the obvious socio-economic differences apparent across the subjects captured, Galimberti observed a thread common to every child he shot:

At their age, they’re pretty much all the same. They just want to play.

We are all the same, right? Well, interestingly, Galimberti did find one difference of note… that the children from more affluent backgrounds tended to be more possessive of their belongings, requiring a bit more coaxing and persuading from the artist to get them to share. Of the children from poorer countries, Galimberti had this to say: “In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”

You can connect the dots on that one – I’ll say nothing.

Regardless, here’s a fantastic sampling of Galimberti’s work below. Please pay him a visit to view the project in its entirety here. #respect.

Bethsaida - Haiti


Stella - Italy


Pavel - Ukraine


Tangawizi - Kenya


Ryan - South Africa


Shaira - India


Norden - Marocco


Niko - Alaska


Kalesi - Fuji Islands


Davide - Malta

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