Averegten, a morning walk – November 23. 2020

A morning walk in the Averegten, Heist-op-den-Berg (B).

Unfortunately, I was too late though to capture the beautiful morning mist lingering in the woods.

I filmed this with my Blackmagic 4k.

This clip’s music is also a creation of mine.

Originally intended only for Instagram and my blog, I decided it merits a place on my Youtube channel.

Vivitar (Komine) 400mm f5.6

I am a nature photo/videographer on a budget.
Yes, I am aware that, in most cases, it is better to have very good glass and a decent camera than the other way around.

Six months ago I invested in a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k. I have some good glass and a handful of vintage lenses. By the way, the Blackmagic is a formidable camera, and its image quality extremely good.

I own a Panasonic 100-300mm F/4.0-5.6 and I’m happy with it. On my BMPCC 4k, this means having a 600mm and, using the HD Windowed crop even a little more.

I want more though. Like a 400mm or a 500mm. Or the Tamron or Sigma 150-600mm.
My daughter’s studies at university are far more important. Besides, she lives with me.
So forking out about 1000$ for a lens, well, not any time soon. Maybe next year.

A few weeks ago, while browsing a well-known second-hand site I came across a vintage Vivitar f5,6 400mm with an Olympus OM-mount. I still use an Olympus OM-1n occasionally, so that’s a bonus.

I checked a few online reviews, a few YouTube clips, and examples on Flicker and wasn’t very convinced but, well, who knows.
I offered 80 bucks for the lens and my bid was accepted and a few days later the lens arrived.

This is really a heavy lens and made for full-frame cameras. It weighs 1277 grams (2.8 pounds). The filter thread is 77mm. The iris is an 8 blade one and it had internal focussing.
The closest focus is about 6 meters.
It has a retractable lens hood and the lens measures 28cm in length.

Fortunately, it has a built-in tripod collar because there is no way you’ll be shooting handheld.
Obviously manual focus, basic lens coating, if coated at all, and it goes all the way to f32.

On my BMPCC 4k, this is a whopping 800mm lens. Best part? I have a 2x Tamron teleconverter for OM mount lying around giving me 1600mm shooting pleasure.
Well, no.
Not really except if you have an extremely sturdy tripod and a smooth head.

I haven’t used it much yet but I tested it out filming ducks on a pond.
At used it without and with the teleconverter. Focus peaking and a decent monitor are a plus. I did not shoot wide open but around f8 to f11 at 400 or 800 ISO.

The results?
Well pretty good actually. Soft, even at f8 or f11 but using some overall sharpening in DaVinci Resolve helped.
I tried adding some USM in Fusion and together with the sharpening in the color tab of Resolve I did get reasonably sharp images.
It is good enough to be viewed on mobile devices.

A wind still day

Somewhere at the end of May 2020, my first trip shooting with my new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. Almost a wind still day so many of the shots look like photographs extended in time.

Past Sunday was a cold and gray and rainy day. September is coming to an end, October is already knocking at the door.
So I looked at those first clips, most of them I never showed, and decided to give them a makeover.

Using the tools in DaVinci Resolve, adding more controlled changes using Power windows I tried to make this footage as “cinematic” as I could.

Same world, other light

Filmed in infrared with my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k and a Cokin infrared filter. I used a Nikon 50mm f1.8 and a Viltrox NF-M43X Lens Mount giving me 1 stop extra. Wide-open and at 3200 ISO I got an ‘ideal’ histogram. Less grain and a better black & white result.

Filming in IR with the BMPCC 4k

Infrared (IR) light starts in the high-red area of the visible spectrum at around 750nm and goes up beyond 1000nm. This light is not visible to the naked eye. The IR cut filter on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is weak and is susceptible to some IR pollution under certain circumstances. I wondered if I could film in infrared with this camera. I used a Cokin 720-89B Infrared filter. This filter only passes light at 720nm (high-red) and above. These are my first results. I did not bother to remove the noise as this is simply a test.

The lens I used is an 8mm f4 from SLR Magic.


Local Nature

August 2, 2020.

On June 15 the borders opened and traveling to and from Belgium was possible again. New Covid-19 cases did not increase, staying stable at about 90 per day.

Then, and in my humble opinion a huge mistake, on July 1st, we could see 15 people and change our bubble every week. Two weeks later new Covid-19 infections started increasing again. It went up like crazy.
Today we are at almost 500 new cases per day.

In the Province of Antwerp protection masks are obligated wherever you go, backed up with 250 € fines.
So even in the woods, all alone, I’m wearing a protection mask. Foresters can also write fines.

So, during my 2-week holiday I stayed mostly at home with a trip to the nearby woods of woodlands to film.

Back to work tomorrow. Well, working from home that is.

Stay safe, friends!

My first “professional” gig as a filmmaker

A few weeks ago, a friend called me asking if I knew somebody to make a short video clip about her talking about a new aid-tool she had developed as a cohabitation and cooperation coach.

I told her I knew just the right guy for the job but he didn’t come cheap.

So, in exchange for a healthy salad and being mentioned as the creator of the clip throughout her network I drove to her office in Ghent.
Albeit she doesn’t see it the way I do I guessed doing this was an appropriate return gift.
Indeed, she offered me some free counseling a few months after Sweetheart, after almost 8 years, and in an emotional decision, dumped me. Her counseling helped me with what had happened and put it in the right perspective. This doesn’t mean Sweetheart is still haunting my dreams.

I took with me the SO-28 TD (28” diameter) Falcon Eyes soft lighting LED continuous lighting thingamajig and it’s tripod. The Boya BY-WM8 wireless lavalier microphone set and, of course, my Blackmagic 4K camera.

At her place, we talked things through. I told her I would start recording, wait a few seconds before clapping my hands, and then she could start talking.
The few seconds of silence I would use to clean up the audio from any noise.

She could see herself on the monitor placed just above the lens and I used the 12-35 Lumix at 35mm. I could have also used the Lumix 25mm f1.7 but I didn’t although it would have been a better choice.

I cranked up the ISO to 1600.
Placed the Falcon at 100% at a 45° angle slightly above her. I decided to let the natural light do the rest. An error of choice I only noticed later.

Everything went well and her 10’ was shot in 3 separate takes. No need to do retakes as she is a natural born and very confident speaker.

Everything sounded well in my headphones too.

I did not put my phone in silent mode and during filming I received a text message. Luckily the sound is hardly noticeable.
Also, I did not ask to put her phone in silent mode, but nobody called her. Maybe she had put her phone in silent mode before I arrived.

I noticed I wasn’t nervous at all and that is a good sign. I felt pretty sure about myself even if this was the first time, I filmed stuff like this.

Looking back, I made only one mistake and it took me quite some time to correct.
I relied way too much on natural light. So, during the sequences, I shot clouds passed in front of the sun not only darkening the frame occasionally but also changing the color temperature.

I solved this using layers in Davinci Resolve and fading in and out. Extra work that could have been avoided.
The sound quality was my greatest fear but the relatively cheap Boya wireless kit performed very well

Shooting with the Blackmagic 4K

I haven’t been shooting as much with this camera as quarantine rules rightly so still rule.

Besides, like a zillion reviews can be found on Youtube.

My needs are not that high so I shoot one step (12:1) above the highest compression rate in BRaw, 8:1. Still the files are huge.
One of the first things I ordered was a 6 TB hard disk to accommodate the files I shoot.

The dual ISO chart is crystal clear when you understand it and knowing about Ansell Adam’s zone systems helps a lot to understand the principle.

I bought the camera secondhand with a case, a handle, an external SSD Samsung T5 and a battery plate to accommodate Sony NPF batteries. So I have no issues when it comes to battery or storage.

But let the above be utterly unimportant. Because what really counts is the image quality.

When exposed correctly with the right ISO, image quality is simply unbelievable gorgeous.