A tweet from Lance Armstrong yesterday :
So, how does one get a job as a photojournalist? It’s a tough career to get into, especially these days with newspapers making drastic cuts in staff or outright shutting down. But for the talented, persistent photographer, a job is out there. Patience and luck also help. I know, I was lucky to get my start!
Here’s how it happened.
I was self taught in photography. Never took a class. I was actually studying to become a marine biologist because of my love of the ocean. I was living in Monterey, California going to school and just hating it…the school part that is. But I loved photography. I loved taking photos, especially landscapes thanks to the beautiful Monterey Peninsula.
I had a friend in Livermore, California who was interviewed by the local paper, the Tri-Valley Herald. During the interview, while she was being photographed, she learned that the photographer taking her picture was quitting and that there was going to be an opening at the small 13,000 circulation paper. She thought of me right away and told me about the opening.
I thought, why not apply? What did I have to lose? I love photography and to get paid for it would be sweet! So, I grabbed a few of the landscapes I had and made the drive up to Livermore.
A portfolio of landscapes is not what a photo editor of a newspaper wants to see, but that’s all I had! Fortunately Gordon Clark, the man who interviewed me saw a glimmer of promise in those photos, but more importantly he told me later, he saw the enthusiasm and passion for photography that was in me.
But rather than out-right hire me, since I really had no experience shooting the kinds of photos you see daily in newspapers, I was given a test, a trial assignment. If I passed, I was hired…talk about pressure!
I was told to shoot a Friday night high school football game for the paper. A tough 1st assignment on so many counts. First of all, it’s on a tight deadline giving me just 30 minutes to come up with a photo, secondly it’s at night in a dimly light stadium meaning I needed to shoot with a strobe which meant no motordrive. And, because of the strobe, the action needed to be somewhat close to me. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, I needed to have a sharp image! Remember, this was 1973…we’re talking ancient history here – no auto focus whatsoever. Fast action, on deadline, at night…this was all so very different than the comfort of my landscape photography. Was I nervous? Just a bit. Oh yes, I wasn’t even a football fan…I had no idea what 3rd down and 4 meant!
I had to use my own equipment which consisted of 3 lenses; a 28mm 3.5 I think it was, a 50mm 1.8 and a 100-200mm 5.6 push pull zoom all on a non-motorized Canon FTb. I didn’t even own a strobe so Gordon loaned me one of his, a Honeywell Strobonar and told me how to shoot with it. I was to set my camera at 1/60th sec at f5.6, put the strobe on full power, set my zoom lens at 100mm and the focus at 50 feet and wait for the action to happen…at 50 feet away. In other words, pray! Gordon told me with such a slow lens, shooting fast action and without a motordrive, my odds were better to set zone focus than trying to follow focus.
He was right…I made deadline and came up with a sharp well exposed photo. Just so-so action but let’s not be so picky here. I also in my first assignment nervousness happened to forget where I parked my car that night so rather than waste time looking for it and possibly missing deadline, I ran to the office which fortunately was only 4 or 5 blocks away.
So, last week we looked at some of the advantages and disadvantages of shooting video with the DSLR. Here’s another look at the disadvantages and what we can do to make these cameras a bit more user – friendly.
These cameras are designed for stills and work great for that but trying to hold them steady for video is another matter. The camera is just too small and even too light. Some sort of support is needed. A tripod helps of course but you need support off the tripod at times and that’s where a shoulder rig comes in handy. There are all kinds of companies now offering shoulder rigs specifically for these DSLRs. Zacuto, Redrock, IndiSYSTEM, Jag35, just to name a few of the more popular ones. Most come with a hefty price tag.
No auto focus while shooting
No solution to this right now. Although pro film makers rarely rely on auto focus, there are times when it comes in handy and with the DSLR, you can’t auto focus due to the mirror. The mirror blocks the viewfinder.
Difficult to manually focus
Since the mirror blocks the viewfinder, you need to compose and focus with the lcd screen – not ideal, but it works. Outdoors or when critical focus is needed it helps greatly to have a magnifying loupe over the lcd. This magnifies the image, blocks any possible glare and adds another point of contact to minimize camera shake. A must have accessory in my opinion. Zacuto, Hoodman, Cavision, LCDVF and Letus now make loupes for the lcd.
Poor audio : no balanced xlr, no audio meters, no headphone jack
Audio in a film is as important or some will say more important that the visuals. The DSLR has a very poor quality mic which picks up all the camera handling noises. Most also have evil AGC (auto gain control) with no way of turning it off. And without a headphone jack or visible audio meters, you have no idea what the camera is recording. The best way around all of these issues is to record on a separate device with high quality mics. The Zoom H4N and The Tascam DR-100 are two popular compact recorders that take xlr mics, show levels and have headphone jacks. Only disadvantage to recording to a separate device is that it requires extra time in post (editing) syncing the video to the audio. Another solution to poor audio is using a high quality preamp along with an external mic. JuicedLink and Beachtek make great somewhat compact amps which eliminate the AGC in some of the DSLRs.
No auto zoom
No solution here although this is not a huge disadvantage in my opinion. It’s rarely used by the pro shooters and way overused by the amateur. You can do some zoom in post if you really need to.
No image stabilization built into the body – need to rely on noisy lens stabilizers
The image stabilization even on the cheap consumer cams work much better than the ones on these DSLRs however that said, anything helps so when looking at purchasing a lens for video, look for those that have the IS feature. Every little bit helps. Just be aware that the IS motors in the lens makes noise that your mic can pick up.
No built in ND filter
When shooting in video mode, you are usually shooting at shutter speeds of 1/50 sec – 1/125 sec so you need neutral density filters to cut light when shooting outdoors. Also, one of the great advantages of shooting video with these DSLRs is the ability to shoot with fast lenses that allow you to produce very shallow depth of field. To do so outdoors, you need a very strong ND filter.
Records only 12 minutes at a time
The 12 minute limit is because that’s roughly 4GB at full res HD… 4GB is relevant because that’s the maximum file size on the FAT32 file format used with these compact flash cards. If you drop down to standard definition you can record about 24 minutes of video. After that, you just need to power the camera off, then on again to resume shooting.
Can produce rolling shutter and aliasing
Rolling shutter is an issue because of the CMOS chip and how the camera records the image. Only way to prevent or reduce it is to try and keep the camera movement to a minimum. Aliasing is an issue for any camera thanks to the great lenses we have these days. Best way to avoid or reduce aliasing is to watch for it and change angles or focus. Also, turning down the sharpness of your lens can help.
The DSLRs in video mode can really tax the camera’s processor – especially if left running to the 4 gig limit when shooting in heat. The camera will warn you that it’s over heating so all you can do is turn the camera off to let it cool.
The files coming from these DSLR’s look beautiful on the computer screen but unfortunately are highly compressed and not so great for editing. Canon uses the superior H.264-based codec which is of higher quality than the MJPEG codec of Nikon and Pentax and the lower-bitrate AVCHD offering from Panasonic. But, we’ll see better codecs from all in the near future.
No raw format
This is a huge drawback. Your post production work suffers without the image control raw offers. Just like not having raw format for your stills. When will we see it for DSLRs? Not soon enough!
So, that’s a look at the drawbacks of shooting video with a DSLR. Some are certainly a hassle but the image quality these cameras produce makes it all worthwhile.
In later posts, we’ll look in more detail at some of these issues and solutions.