Some changes to this blog.

I’ve been thinking about kind of upgrading the content of this blog to a more personal one. Mind you, it would still be about photography, film and musicmaking.  Yet I would write about the thoughts, reflections and plans I have.

In the final days of August 2019 my Princess, my girlfriend for the past 8 years, suddenly broke up with me. It was an emotional decision she told me. Mostly because her children never approved our relation let alone wanted to get to know me. They found their mother was cheating on their father who ended his life about 6 months before I met Princess who, at that time, was already divorced from him for over 3 years.

I tried to convince her this could be a mistake but without avail.

We are now 16 months further and I am still single. I find it very hard to connect with somebody new because the separation did not only come as a shock but left me with many unanswered questions.

My youngest daughter, Little A., is 20 and lives with me. She studies in Antwerp. Obviously at this age she isn’t interested even a little bit in the life of me, an old fart aged 61.

I’ve always been a recluse, with only a few close friends. Now I am even more a recluse, like many of us, with this pandemic.

Writing more in depth about my ‘creative’ process, thoughts et al feels like a logic move to a more personal blog. I have in fact nobody to talk to. I know, this sounds a wee little sad, but I don’t mind really. Just the pleasure of writing some of my emotions down is a relief and maybe, just maybe, of some value to somebody else.

These weeks, months of confinement have led me to learn more about my hobbies, gave me the freedom to venture into new things like making music. But taking this last example, why did I suddenly invest in this? There is a story to tell and because nobody is really listening, I thought what the heck, let me write it down.

And maybe it isn’t a stupid idea at all. I’m known on social media as A Fortunate Traveler.  And what is travel about? It is about our trip from birth to death and what we do in between these 2 major goals.

Happy days.
Happy days….

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.

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.

 

The documentary and the photos

I finished my nature documentary. It was a self-imposed assignment as I want to use my photo exhibition in the visitor’s center of De Averegten as a starting point for a new direction in documentary filmmaking.

The exhibition started on March 2 and runs till May 5.
Past Monday, March 9, a full-page interview with yours truly appeared in one of our bigger newspapers.

Two days later I delivered my almost 7’ film at the visitor’s center.
“Use this moment, old man”, my youngest (20) daughter told me. “This is a great opportunity for you, pops, to build on.”
The last night the Belgian Government decided, finally and in fact they should have done this at least a week ago, to shut down a lot of happenings and other stuff to prevent Covid-19 to do further damage. A very correct decision.

My photo exhibition

So my photo exhibition will be closed until at least Easter.
Fortunately, we live in an era of social networks, so I set up a site with the photos and my film is on YouTube, IGTV, and Vimeo.
Links at the end of this article.
So why the documentary?
At the end of the seventies, I graduated with a photography degree. Then I did an entrance exam for the RITCS, a well-known art school where I wanted to study cinematography. They accepted me. I dropped out of school 8 or 9 months later and went to work in a photography finishing center. For my mother, a widow, the cost was too high.

At that time I was also a member of our local film club and the only young man midst, in my eyes at that time, elderly men. I did some Super 8 but got frustrated because I didn’t have much money to spend. And the company where I was working was struggling and I made long hours.

Looking back it seems like quite a list of lame excuses. Maybe they were. Most of all, certainly in that period of my life, I missed my father, his support and approbation. He passed away a few years earlier, in 1972. I was 13, my father 64.

Now that I am nearing the end of my professional career, I’m looking for ways to use the sea of time I’ll have in a few years from now in a productive, creative, and meaningful way.
So, a year or two ago I picked up filming again.
We live in a time where so much is possible. Technology, social platforms, etc…

The few people whose opinion is important to me told me they love my photography but think I’m doing a better job filming. I like to believe them and yes, I do enjoy the narrative of film more than the narrative of (a) photograph(s).

What did I learn about making my nature documentary?
First I feel very comfortable filming and I have the impression the way I tell the story comes naturally. I didn’t really think about establishing shots for example, but almost every new important chunk of the documentary has the necessary establishing shots.
Albeit I understand how the combination of shutter speed (shutter angle in film lingo) and frame rate affects motion blur I don’t master this technique well enough yet.

In order to get a normal, filmic looking motion blur, the shutter angle should be 180°. This means that the shutter speed should be double the frame rate. When one films at 24 frames per second, the shutter speed should be 1/48th for that natural-looking motion blur.
I use a variable ND-filer to achieve this, but I is something I don’t master yet. Also, I’m pretty sure the ND-filter I own leaves a color shade when closed too much.

Working with the gimbal, the slider, and the fluid head on my tripod works well. No issues there.
With my Lumix GX-80/85 ,I use the Cinelike-D flat profile. The GoPro is set to Protune and my Xiaomi Pocophone f1 uses Log v2 in Filmic Pro.

Editing is done with Davinci Resolve 16.x and over time I’ve become familiar with the software.

I kind of make my own music using Magix Music Maker.
What I really overlooked was the quantity of footage that is needed to make something interesting.

My documentary is a little over 6’ long. When you take into account that one scene takes about 4 seconds one needs, technically, 90 perfect clips. To tell the story, to keep people interested, I was glad I had about 240 clips available to play with.

I love problem-solving. Like filming the isopods or the underwater scenes. A terrarium and an aquarium made this possible. But isopods don’t show up when you are ready to film them. Then thinking how to shoot footage in the field leading to the “studio” scenes, was also fun.
My daughter didn’t like the idea of having this aquarium or terrarium in the house.

I am quite happy with the result. Maybe the music is a little too dramatic. The film to fast, to slow. I have no idea how viewers perceive the documentary.
I am open to your thoughts, tips, and constructive criticism.

My Photography Exposition 2020

I have a new photography exposition in my home town.
The exposition is situated in the visitor’s center of De Averegten, a provincial nature domain.

The exposition is open between March 2nd and May 5th on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 13:00 and 16:00. As I don’t work on Wednesdays I’m available on request for a meeting at the location.
The second and fourth weekend of April the exposition is also open, from 13:00 – 16:00

My first nature documentary “De Averegten” will be shown there starting March 11.

I understand most of you won’t be able to visit my exposition so I have created a website just for that purpose. I’ll be sharing the link at the start of the exposition.

My Photo Exhibition
The expo is open between March 2nd and May 5th on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 13:00 and 16:00. As I don’t work on Wednesdays I’m available by request for a meeting at the location.

A Cheap but effective LED ring flash/continuous light

When trying to film, for example, mushrooms in the woods I often don’t have enough light. Days are getting shorter and sunlight more and more rare.

I do have portable led-lights. A cheap Yongnuo YN-216 3200K-5500K with 216 LEDs (80 €) It accepts 8 AA-batteries, a Sony NP-F series battery or 12 V mains.
I taped the reflecting side of the barn doors with black tape.

This light with a fold-able reflector does a good job.

Sometimes though I come so close to my subject the YN-216 isn’t much help anymore.

Browsing the web, I found a possible solution. It is the Commlite CoMiray Macro Ring flash CR-RFD. It has 48 LEDs and the controller uses 4 AA-batteries. There are some extra accessories like a white, an orange and a blue diffuser and several rings to fix the flash on your lens.

For Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, and Nikon.

According to the manufacture the flash has a guide number of 15 at 1/100 and an effective working distance between 5cm and 1.5 m.

Output power can be set on the controller, mounted on a hot-shoe mount.

What attracted me most was the fact it can be used not only as a ring-flash but also as a continuous ring-light with variable output.

So, I ordered this flash, not entirely convinced, for 49 Euro.
It arrived the next day.

Adaptor and color rings.

Albeit everything looks flimsy the flash controller and ring-flash are made from high quality plastic.

I can’t use it as a flash on my Lumix GX-80/85 but that is not an issue as this is the camera I film with. Continuous light works great.

On my old and trusty Nikon D2h it does flash.
The best way to know if this flash/continuous light has balls is to test it.

So, I set up my Nikon D2h with a fully extended Nikon PB-5 bellows and added 3 macro rings for a total of 68 mm and added my Sigma 180mm f3.5 macro creating thus an extension of 46 cm from film plane to front lens.

At 1/80, f5.6 and ISO 400 I got only one eye on a 30mm high figurine.

A steal for 49 Euro.