The Pilates Collective

New promo piece for The Pilates Collective here in Denver.

We based this around highlighting their new piece of equipment, the fuse ladder. You can think of it as a mashup between a pilates reformer and a swedish wall.

The folks at the Collective were awesome to work with, not to mention their awesome clients who stepped in to model the exercises. After a class. Where they had already done the whole thing.

Anyway, if you need to work on strength, balance, agility, etc., head on over and chat with Clara, Melissa or Claire and maybe, you might see me down there giving this thing a try…

Climate Strike

Last Friday was the kick-off to the Climate Strike Action Week here in Denver. I’ve documented several political protests the past few years. It’s important to make a record of the events even if it’s just for myself. It’s the act of being a documenter that’s important. Making pictures whether they are still or moving.

In the past, I had just focused on making still images. This time around I took both a still camera and a cinema camera. I’m still training myself to decide which moments work better as stills and which work better as motion but it is getting easier.

The event began at Union Station and headed up the 16th Street Mall to the capitol building. My guess is that close to 80% of the participants were 25 years old or younger. The local schools let kids out for the day to participate. My daughter’s high school let kids out to walk down to City Park to participate.

Lots of energy. A wee bit of anger underneath it all.

Promotional project for Rocky Mountain Ballet Academy

My wife was, is, a dancer with a Masters in Dance from UC Irvine. My middle daughter is a dancer, specifically ballet, and currently living in Moscow training at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. My oldest and youngest daughters also have an innate ability to dance.

I do not have this ability.

That’s not to say I can’t move. I can but, my movement is flowing with nature. In the ocean, on a bike, on skis. My dancing is like an elephant riding the bull trying to walk through the china shop. In other words, not pretty with a high propensity for breaking things. Namely, my lovely wife’s toes.

With that out of the way, I’ve been around and involved with dance for a very long time. I’ve worked a lot with dancers, choreographers and companies both as personal projects as well as promotional. Some of that work involved studio portraits of the incredibly talented students at Rocky Mountain Ballet Academy here in Denver as well as performance coverage.

Alexei and Maria, the owners of RMBA, are extremely talented and dedicated. They believe very strongly in creating a strong and healthy foundation for ballet. That comes through when you watch any of their students dance whether it’s during class, at a performance or competing at YAGP.

Recently, they brought me in to create a series of films highlighting the studio and their teaching techniques. We completed the first film last week which focuses on conditioning, technique and pas de deux.

I will be back in their studio later this week filming more and working on the next installments. Keep an eye out here and on Instagram.

Remote record triggering for Blackmagic Pocket 4k

For the past 6 months or so, I’ve been filming all of my video projects on the Pocket 4k from Blackmagic. It is an absolute joy to use so much so that my 1DC is starting to whine for attention. There is only one thing that has become an inconvenience. It is so minor that I almost feel bad for kind of complaining about it. Almost.

When I first built out my system, I picked up the Ikan PDMovie wireless follow focus system. It’s small, self-contained and works great with my lenses. It fit into my cage setup and I had perfect reach with my left thumb. My only gripe is that the focus motor’s battery life was pretty bad. Not as bad as the Pocket 4k but close. Carrying multiple batteries, as always, is the easy fix.

Where things got slightly inconvenient is when the camera was mounted on a gimbal. With the Ronin-S, I use the DJI follow focus motor which is seamless with the whole setup. Focus wheel is responsive and the motor has no problem driving the lenses. The issue came with starting and stopping the recording. Again, not a huge deal but after awhile running around with the gimbal setup, reaching with one hand to get the record button can get a wee bit shaky. So, I started hunting for a solution to a remote record trigger.

The Pocket 4k does not have a LANC interface which rules out almost every solution currently out there. However, that isn’t a big deal as Blackmagic has an SDK available for 3rd parties to build their extensions to the camera platform whether that be the URSA, Pocket 4k, Pocket 6k or any of their hardware solutions. As someone who was a software engineer in a past life, I appreciate that immensely even if I’ll never write another line of code in my life.

With a little digging, I came across a post on the Blackmagic forum. It spoke about using the Tilta Nucleus Nano follow focus system with a hardware extension that would connect to the Pocket 4k via Bluetooth to trigger recording. Sweet baby kittens! Exactly what I was hoping to find. The post pointed me over to the BLE4K website which was going to handle the purchasing and distribution for the Bluetooth hardware.

The Nucleus Nano arrived a few days before the BLE4K hardware and I find it much better than the PDMovie system. The focus motor is powered via USB, not a battery, which means I can use a D-Tap to USB cable off a v-mount battery. Or I can use my small Jackery battery mounted to the cage. Or I can use the power ports on the Ronin-S. The focus wheel is powered from a rechargeable battery and the life, so far, has been very good.

The other day I tried setting it all up but, for whatever reason, I couldn’t find the wifi being broadcasted from the BLE4K unit. I tried again this afternoon and everything popped up. Here is a pic of all the components.

Tilta-Nucleus-Nano-BLE4k.jpg

The setup is pretty painless. The focus motor has a 3.5mm jack next to the USB port. The BLE4K gets plugged in first then power to the motor. On the Pocket 4k, go to the last page of the Setup menu and turn on Bluetooth. I found the BLE4K network with my phone and once connected, the configuration popped right up.

ble4k-config.png

Once in the configuration, you tap ‘Pair Camera’ then ‘Connect’. The Pocket 4k responds with a Bluetooth code. Back in the BLE4K configuration, you tap ‘Pairing’ and enter the code. The BLE4K is now paired to the camera and auto-connects from here on out.

Now, the fun part. Hitting record on the focus wheel triggers the camera. Woohoo!

Super stoked on how well this works. Now, time to break out all the cage pieces and adapters to make it all fit on the cage and the Ronin…

Secret Spots

Many moons ago, when I used to swim through surf with a camera, I learned the value of secret spots. I also learned that there are no more secret spots. What makes them secret is the knowledge of when and where to be to take best advantage of the location, the weather and the light.

Late afternoon, winter swell along the Orange County coast.

Late afternoon, winter swell along the Orange County coast.

Some spots might be considered right in your backyard. Others might take a little bit of effort to find. The ones that require an adventure are almost always the most rewarding. The effort put into learning those locations, learning their light, learning their weather, always, always pays off. For me, sharing those locations with my clients, and my family, is really what this job is all about.

Early morning, Indian Peaks Wilderness area.

Early morning, Indian Peaks Wilderness area.

Sometimes, Mother Nature swings your way and sometimes, she doesn’t. She isn’t as predictable up here in Colorado as she was along the Southern California coast but, I enjoy that unpredictability so much more. This image is from one of my ‘secret’ spots. Next to RMNP and the San Juans, this is one of my favorite places to be.

High alpine fly fishing as the storm clouds roll in.

High alpine fly fishing as the storm clouds roll in.

If you know it, I’m stoked for you. if you don’t, go find it. Explore and enjoy.

Fleeting moments

The world is full of unnoticed moments. Things happen. Beautiful things. Gone in an instant. Never noticed.

I think this is where my love for photography originates. No. I know that’s where it originates.

You could call them fleeting moments. I call them the moments between the moments. They are the ones with the fuzzy edges. The ones you knew happened but can’t describe. It could be the last kiss a father gives his daughter before walking down the aisle on her wedding day. It could be the crash of a wave on a lonely beach. 

These moments are why I fell so hard for surf photography in Southern California.

It was a challenge. Find the moment in the midst of that wonderful watery chaos. So many variables. So many visuals to separate. Then focus. Put the world in slow motion and focus. Find that singular moment that is the essence of a breaking wave. The beauty within the chaos.

I pulled that challenge out of the sea. Rinsed it. Dried it. Applied it to my other photographic work. Weddings. Families. Street.

Even without a camera in hand, I am looking. Making mental photographs. Mental images that I can use later for inspiration.

Looking for that next moment. Studying the world. People watching. 

It’s fascinating. Never boring. There’s always something new. Constant discovery.

When I work with families, these moments are endless. Children are masters at stringing them together. Everything in the world excites them and it’s infectious. 

Weddings are different. Emotions and nerves are on high alert. There are a lot of moving pieces. A little bit of chaos. Organized chaos. Lots of visuals to separate and prioritize. The most important moments are the ones in between. The fuzzy ones. 

That’s why I am there. 

Capturing those fleeting moments. Building a story. 

The story is what’s important. It’s what allows you to remember. The moments are what immerse you. They bring the story to life.

That’s why I love this job. Finding the moments. Building a story. Presenting it to a client. Seeing their reaction. 

Preserving their memories through moments.

For the Love of Film

Life moves fast. It is getting faster. The entire Internet is in our pocket. Knowledge, for pleasure or purpose, is very nearly instantaneous. People take immediacy for granted. The average number of images uploaded to Instagram per day is around 50 million. Take a second to let that sink in. 50 million. Per day. Average.

That’s a whole lot of instant gratification.

That’s a whole lot of images created on impulse. Created to be seen for a few brief seconds then swiped past.

Created but not seen. Not truly seen. Not by the creator nor the recipient.

Film changes all of that. 

Film is a process. Not that the act of making an image, digital or otherwise, isn’t a process. Film is just a different process. A slower one. A more involved one.

I started photography with film. I continued with film long after many of my compatriots had switched to digital full time. Part of my hesitation was that I wasn’t happy with the available cameras or the software. The other part was my love with the process. I just wasn’t ready to give it up.

Eventually I did. Though not completely. I couldn’t because I loved the process.

The darkroom was the only part of the process that I let fade. Soon it will be back but I’ll save that for another day.

There is a very well defined act in shooting film. A tangible one. One that lets you feel, literally feel, the image being created. You handle the film in the canister. You touch the emulsion as you load the camera. Then again when you develop it into negatives. Finally, you have contact when you make the print. That image is part of you.

The darkroom is magic.

Sure all that stuff above is mechanical. Mostly done by muscle memory. It was the fast part of the process. The part that needed to be done with just a tad of urgency. Shooting weddings on film teaches you that awfully quickly.

The part where things slow is the physical act of pressing the shutter. 35mm gives you 36 frames. In 120, 645 gives 16. 6x6 drops you to 12. 6x7, only 10. 4x5 and 8x10, you get one. One frame. It isn’t instant. It isn’t infinite. Every frame needs to count. Needs to mean something. 

It’s okay if it only means something to you. Not every frame needs to be shared.

On my desk sit three 35mm cameras of varying ages. A Minolta SRT303b. A Canon F-1. The Lake Placid Olympic edition no less. A Nikon FM. 

In one bag, you’ll find a Hasselblad 500 C/M as well as a Mamiya 645afd. In another bag, my EOS 1v HS, a camera that became attached to my hip and has seen many adventures in far flung corners of the globe. Like a good Timex, it’s taken a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.

In the fridge are boxes of my favorite films in both 120 and 35. Portra. Ektar. Velvia. Provia. And a newcomer, CineStill, which definitely needs a 120 size. Back on my desk you’ll find various flavors of Ilford. HP5, PanF, FP4 and Delta. In between those is the odd roll of TriX.

I use those cameras for personal work. I use them with clients too. Not often enough but I do.

I use them when I need a creative recharge. When things need to slow down. When I need to see.

To really see.

Each frame needs to count. Needs to count just for me. Shadows. Light. Dark. Color. Faces. People. I use them when I need to study.

They are my Zen moment.

Because I am still enamored with the process, I treat my digital cameras just like the film ones. In my head, there is no LCD. Just like there is no spoon. Did I just date myself?

Go find an old camera. Check the garage sales, KEH, eBay, wherever. Load up a roll of film and find a place to sit. To watch. To study. To breathe.

When everything lines up, press the shutter. Slowly. With purpose. Listen. Wind. Then wait.

Find your Zen moment. The next image.

Revel in the process.

Bear Creek trail, Telluride, CO. Hasselblad 500 w/ 80mm lens. Kodak Ektar 100.

Bear Creek trail, Telluride, CO. Hasselblad 500 w/ 80mm lens. Kodak Ektar 100.