Category Archives: Photography

Cameras, lenses, strobes, f-stops and more

GoPro Hero3 and Hero2 Width Comparison

Keychain-sized, shoots 4k video. Photo: Mike Senese

In addition to amazing specs, an improved lens, and cool new connectivity options like wifi control (that seem to actually be arriving this time), the GoPro Hero3 shaves 30% from the already svelte body of the Hero2. It actually makes the older Hero look like an outdated, clunky dinosaur.

Check out this side-by-side pic for a comparison. This camera just popped onto the top of my “must have” list.

“Sold,” a gripping short film about the illegal sex trade, and a look at filmmaker John Irwin’s indie/DIY film technique

John Irwin is a writer/director acquaintance who’s making some kick-ass projects. Commercial work, music video, short film — and all with impressive results. John recently showed me his short “Sold,” a very intense piece about the horrific world of human trafficking. Very well written and told, the tension and story grab the viewer quickly; suspension of disbelief can be hard to achieve when you’re watching a project that was made by someone you know, but this one had me wringing my hands from the start. Afterwards, I asked him for details about the film, the filming techniques used for some of the tighter spaces, and  the motivation behind it. He graciously supplied me with a thorough rundown — check it out below.


By John Irwin.

Sold is a short film that focuses on Maya and another young girl, Alexa, who are trapped in the trunk of a car on its way out of town, and their eventual confrontation with their captors.

Up until very close to filming, we didn’t know how we were going to film the interior trunk scenes with the time, money and resources we had. On good ol’ craigslist, we found someone with our “villain” car that agreed to let us rent it for a day. This is the car that shows up at the end of the short. We were desperately searching for a trunk lid in junkyards across LA that would match the make/model of this car (a Mercury Marquis). The plan was to put the lid on top of the trunk and cut holes in the four corners so we could lower our small DSLR camera down and film the inside from each hole. A great plan in theory aside from all the dangerous sharp metal that we would have had to deal with — but we called every single junkyard within 60 miles of Los Angeles and not a single one had a trunk lid that matched.

Continue reading “Sold,” a gripping short film about the illegal sex trade, and a look at filmmaker John Irwin’s indie/DIY film technique

Awesome $5 Subscription Deals – Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines (and others too!) – UPDATE: Popular Mechanics for FREE

UPDATE: Here’s an offer to get a year of Popular Mechanics for nothing more than just a few pieces of personal information.

Once again (but only until December 3), Amazon is offering a $5 magazine subscription deal on some great titles. Perfect timing for your holiday gift buying needs — magazines are one of those gifts that are always appreciated, and they last a whole year.

Two great choices: Popular Science or Popular Mechanics — I don’t know anyone who would mind this as a present.

And there are many others to choose from at this price too. American Photo, Bicycling, Details, Backpacker — even Cosmo —  all jump out at me as fun reads.

Again, their offer is only until December 3rd, so best to get them now while the deal is still active.

Earth Fly-Over From The ISS: The Most Glorious Time-Lapse Video Of All Time

Hands-down the most amazing time-lapse video ever produced.

From the vimeo description:

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

Note: Still couldn’t find any appropriate, reliable source describing the technical setting for this footage. The same applies to any specific information about the responsible person in charge of the photographs. Please let me know, if you have any information, links or the like.
Time lapse sequences of photographs taken with a special low-light 4K-camera by the crew of expedition 28 & 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October, 2011. All credit goes to them.
HD, refurbished, smoothed, retimed, denoised, deflickered, cut, etc.
Music: Jan Jelinek | Do Dekor, faitiche back2001
w+p by Jan Jelinek, published by Betke Edition |
Editing: Michael König |
Image Courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
Shooting locations in order of appearance:
1. Aurora Borealis Pass over the United States at Night
2. Aurora Borealis and eastern United States at Night
3. Aurora Australis from Madagascar to southwest of Australia
4. Aurora Australis south of Australia
5. Northwest coast of United States to Central South America at Night
6. Aurora Australis from the Southern to the Northern Pacific Ocean
7. Halfway around the World
8. Night Pass over Central Africa and the Middle East
9. Evening Pass over the Sahara Desert and the Middle East
10. Pass over Canada and Central United States at Night
11. Pass over Southern California to Hudson Bay
12. Islands in the Philippine Sea at Night
13. Pass over Eastern Asia to Philippine Sea and Guam
14. Views of the Mideast at Night
15. Night Pass over Mediterranean Sea
16. Aurora Borealis and the United States at Night
17. Aurora Australis over Indian Ocean
18. Eastern Europe to Southeastern Asia at Night

iPhone 4s Video Footage Looks Fantastic

Vimeo user and new iPhone 4s owner Benjamin Dowie (check him on Facebook here) posted a fantastic demonstration of the much-improved video capabilities of the iPhone 4s. As someone who is still blown away with the quality of the camera on the iPhone 4, I have to say this footage looks stunning. Smooth, crisp, fantastic depth-of-field. It’s going to be hard to determine what camera our shows and movies are shot on pretty soon. Still doesn’t appear to be as high quality as the compact Canon Powershot S95 (which adds in additional parameters like 24p frame rate), but that has a bigger lens and possibly larger sensor, and will cost you an additional $340.

You’ll have to click through to Vimeo to experience this in its full-HD glory (unless someone would like to buy Benjamin the gift of Vimeo Plus…).

From Benjamin:

Holy cow. Time to throw my 7D in the bin.
Got an iPhone 4S yesterday and got up this morning to go for a surf. No surf, so thought I’d shoot some stuff to see what the new camera is like on the 4S. Got home, looked at the footage, and couldn’t believe it came out of a phone. Was so excited so thought I’d quickly cut a vid to share the goodness.
It’s actually amazing. The automatic stabilisation seems to work wonders, and gets rid of most the jello. Depth of field is flipping awesome. Colours are really good straight out the camera, but I did give this footage a slight grade.
Yesssssss //////////
Cut with Final Cut 7.
Music: ‘Blach’ by ‘Elks of Envy’

And make sure to check out some of his other pieces–I like “Morning Surf.”

Here are some screenshots from Benjamin’s iPhone 4s demonstration video–click any to see enlarged.

How to Make a Balsa Wood Canon DSLR Mockup


(Note–if you like this post and other cool DIY projects, make sure to add me on twitter and grab the DOIT feed)

In 2003, Canon posted a how-to on their website about making a Canon 1D mockup in balsa wood. The post sat on their site without much attention for five years, until October 2008, when it got “viral” and spread around the web on all the major sites.

About nine months later, for as-of-now unknown reasons, Canon’s writeup was removed from their site, including most of the associated image files. But thanks to the Wayback Machine, much of that original post is still salvageable. I’ve transposed as much of the information here to help keep it available.

You’ll have to fill in the blanks on the missing images for each of the steps (there were a lot of pics) but you can get a good idea from the ones that are still around.


Continue reading How to Make a Balsa Wood Canon DSLR Mockup

Wide-angle HD Micro-Camera Mounted to a Firework


Happy Fourth of July! Here’s a fun way to get a first-person view of a rocket’s trajectory and mid-air detonation.

The setup was put together by Jeremiah Warren (friend him on facebook). The camera is the 808 Car Keys Micro Camera #11. 720p HD capabilities in a keychain housing that weighs 15g, with a price around just $15 – sweet! The rocket itself is a professional-grade pyrotechnic firework, the type you need a license for (although I’ve seen some pretty burly fireworks for sale in certain states).

If you decide to try this yourself, PLEASE do it safely and responsibly. There have been some big wildfires this year, so let’s not cause any new ones with carelessness. Not to mention handling explosives.

Secret Surveillance Garden Birdhouse – Notes and Plans from my Build

This Friday I’m doing a workshop for Craftsman in Chicago, for their first annual blogger summit. The different presenters each introduced themselves by building a birdhouse project that represents them.

I started the project by drawing a set of blueprints, knowing that I wanted something with multiple compartments and a remote-access rear hatch. I adjusted things on paper a few times, and then built a small model of the birdhouse to make sure the pieces would work together, and the hinge apparatus would function correctly. Glad I did this first because there were a couple key modifications from it.

Once the model was built, the actual birdhouse came together fairly easily, with just a few small changes. I really like the way the tiny bird apartment conceals the high-tech inner workings.

I painted the exterior green and stained the roof red. I’ve been wanting to use the dead, dried tree from my yard for a project (or as fuel in my pizza oven) so did some resawing, cutting it into rough 1/2″ planks. The addition added a fantastic rustic charm that would make this birdhouse look great in any garden.

On the inside, I used an RC servo to control the rear door, with a second servo that pans the webcam side-to-side. A high-gain wifi antenna allows the setup to be placed a distance away from the house but still have access to internet signals, in case you want to stream the video feed, or just check up on facebook while gardening.

There are a number of tweaks I’d still like to do, including transitioning the entire thing to Arduino, but for now, I’m very happy with how the birdhouse came out.

Check it and the others out on Craftsman’s Facebook page.

Continue reading Secret Surveillance Garden Birdhouse – Notes and Plans from my Build

A Very Peculiar DIY “Hip-Neck Mount” Camera Extension

Check out this wacky “above the crowd” camera rig spotted at the royal wedding. What IS this thing?

My friend Travis is an awesome guy and a talented photographer. He’s the type of guy that I admire for finding life curious and fascinating. Case in point: an email he sent this weekend about the photos from the royal wedding, not of the newlyweds, but of the crowd that gathered to watch the event.

flickr had a post this morning with the official royal wedding photos. while i don’t care about the wedding, i was interested in seeing the photos and what they were like. looked few a through. flickr pointed out one large, overhead crowd shot. it was like a “where’s waldo” illustration. flickr also recommended to view the photo at the original size. it was pretty cool to drill into the photo and see people’s details. i noticed one guy with a crazy camera contraption so he could shoot over the crowd. i thought it was pretty genius. hence this email. thanks for playing.

Here’s a link to the full size image.

An impressive gathering, no doubt – but the “above the crowd” camera extension Travis spotted really piqued my curiosity. What exactly is that thing? And how can I make my own on the cheap?

Looking closely, it appears to be a long extension pole/monopod with an adjustable head (this one fits the bill, only costs $22). A leash/nylon strapping connects to the top of the pole; the bottom of the leash straps around this inventive photographer’s neck (it appears the neck segment has padding of some sort).  Buckles adjust the length of the strap to control the angle/height of the pole.

I’d love to see the base of the extension pole. A flag-pole holster would work well to help keep things stable.

Maybe most importantly, triggering the camera. A wired remote for the shutter release? Or, perhaps easier, an IR remote (I recently got this $10 remote for my Nikon – and I love it), although I imagine there might be interference issues with a crowd that size.

A shame that this photographer is anonymous – I’d like to chat about his setup, and see the resulting photos he took. Regardless, I might try to build one of these things for kicks too.

The DIY Cheapo Thermocam

While filming Catch It Keep It and Rock and Roll Acid Test, we had a couple segments that were very heat-dependent. The scenes needed a way to show the temperature and changes of the stuff we were researching (one scene, frozen steaks; another scene, women’s panties–I know, classy). We used Flir B50 thermal imaging cameras which capture a real-time, “Predator”-style visualization of the temperatures of the area it is pointed at. I didn’t realize at the time that these cameras cost thousands of dollars.

If you want to recreate the same effect but don’t need the immediate, live visual, here’s an easy build to create your own at a fraction of the cost, using a basic infrared thermometer, a webcam, and an arduino.

The whole how-to can be found here.


– Pan/Tilt Bracket $5.95
– Servo – Small $8.95
– Servo – Medium $10.95
– optional: Laser Card Module – Red $7.95
– optional: ProtoBoard – Square 1″ Double Sided – $2.50
– MLX90614ESF-DCI $34.64
– 2 x 4.7kOhm Resistor $0.06
– Harness for Arduino/Seeeduino kit $6.50
– Seeeduino V2.21 (Atmega 168P) $19.00 (or any other Arduino)
From (or another retailer):
– Microsoft LifeCam VX-700 $7.49  (as far as you dont’t have a comparable webcam yet)
What you also need but most likely already have at home:
Cables, Soldering Iron, Wire Cutter, Heat Shrink Tube, Tape, USB Cable for Arduino
All the parts in this list cost together 104$, but if you already have an arduino or a webcam for example it’s a lot cheaper