Blog

In this blog I will share photo techniques that I learn or know as well as share my photographic journey

Clean your own sensor

Sensor cleaning is offered at most camera stores and repair facilities but at high costs. In today's age of mirrorless cameras, sensor cleanings seem to be needed more frequently. You should not be afraid to clean your own sensor.

This method of cleaning applies to mirrored cameras as well. You just have to take a few extra steps to lock the camera up. Refer to your camera's manual for "Cleaning mode". When I shot with a 5D I still cleaned my own sensor, however it was less often. 

 

The key, like proper lens cleaning, get the big dust that will scratch off first by using a blower or vacuum brush. This is the kit that I use by Delkin.

First you use the sensor scope to look at your sensor in order to get an idea of how much dust is present. Use your blower to remove as much as you can.

 

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Next you will wet the sensor cleaning brush with sensor cleaning solution. Apply to the bottom half of the brush and only on one side of the brush if you have a double ended brush.  

 

 

To clean, angle the brush at about 45 degrees and you do long slow continuous sweeps across the sensor. The motion should be pulling the brush across the surface of the sensor. Be gentle however it is ok to apply some pressure.

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After you have used the wet side of the sensor brush, look through your sensor scope to see if you missed any dust. If you did miss any dust then use the opposite end of the sensor brush or the dry end and push the dust off doing the opposite motion of pulling the brush across the surface of the sensor. If the dust is persistent then repeat from the beginning with a new brush.

 

The reason most people are afraid to do this is because if you scratch your sensor it is a very expensive repair. If you are uncomfortable then perhaps its worth paying the price of this kit every time you need a cleaning. Personally I am faced with a dirty sensor too often to have to rely on someone else doing it and the cost would be atstronimical.

Broken Sony FS5 LCD Mount

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The LCD mount for my Sony fs5 completely snapped in my camera bag. The bag did fall out of my car and I'm pretty sure that's when it happened. At first I used superglue to try to fix it. Big mistake, superglue is not good for any load bearing fixes. My super glue fix didn't last long. Next I did some homework and got some epoxy that would bond the low quality ABS plastic the mount is made with.

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That held up for a couple jobs. I accidentally karate chopped it at a wedding as the ceremony was starting. On the spot I quickly used the microphone mount as a place to hold it with some gaf tape. I had been eyeing zacutos fs5 shoulder rig which has a pretty nice solution for the lcd. $1350 for the whole rig is a bit out of my budget currently but the $100 top plate with a 15mm rod sticking out seemed like a perfect solution. I am allocating funds towards some new glass (will blog about that later).

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It's going to add a bit of extra work on any gimbal setup as I'll have to pull it off. I really like it though, it's very solid.

 

The only thing I wish was a little different is, it would be nice if the 15mm rod could clear the other side, but the xlr port obstructs it. It's unlikely I'll need to mount the lcd on the opposite side but you never know. 

I wish the factory part was built a little bit stronger. It's nice to have all the mounting points available with it. 

I have seen a couple alternates fixes pop up. One is on Ebay so I am just going to add a screenshot. Not sure what its made of, if its metal it could be a better solution. The other is pretty pricey but im sure much better quality than the stock mount. Its made by Vocas and is on BHphoto. 

In my humble opinion this is just one of those things you have to put up the extra dough for. Unless the small rig is made of metal, its just going to break like the stock part. 

Audio Solutions

Before a shoot it's important to think through everything you are going to be doing. I visualize myself on the job and try to think through all of the potential challenges I may face. This OBR application and potential job has become a constant thought throughout my day. I want to ensure that I do everything I can to secure my chances of getting the job. 

Over the next few months I have arranged opportunities to film and photograph aboard some sailboats during races. This will simulate some of the challenges I will face over the 9+ month journey around the world. I have watched many of the existing videos created by the OBRs in past races. I am trying to put myself in their shoes and imagine how can I tell the story like they did but with my own style. 

OBR video links below

Amory Ross's video

Francisco Vignale's video

One thing I noticed from a lot of the existing work was the audio challenges. As you can imagine, we're on a boat, as a one man band, in salty, wet, windy conditions. If you are a filmmaker, you know the importance of audio. When I spoke to the head of Volvo TV in my preliminary interview he mentioned that he really needs for us to be able to follow story lines. Again if you are a filmmaker especially a documentary filmmaker you know the importance of following a storyline. In a world where day in day out, not much changes, how do you tell a new story every day? 

Here is what I know. 

  • they have a new audio setup already on the new boats
  • they have fixed cameras at the OBR's disposal for story telling
  • we can bring around 40kg of equipment

I decided that I want to test out RODE's new VIDEOMICRO and accessories.  I noticed that many of the other OBRs used some variation of a videomic on their camera. The beauty of a videomicro is that is can be used for many applications. My thoughts were that if I needed to, I could quickly throw the microphone into a heated situation. Capturing the story starts with the audio, we can easily use the onboard cameras or a gopro, b-roll, even a photo to accompany the audio. I can gaff tape the microphone to the overhead or on a nav station if need be to get closer to the action while I film from afar. 

Next idea was to attach a gopro session to a micro boom pool pro with the videomicro. This way I can get a bird's eye view on a conversation while capturing good clean audio. First impressions are that its hard to keep the gopro from jiggling around and I dont love the fisheye look. Because I will not be using my phone to view what is on the gopro I will likely have to leave it on wide mode. I think that over the next few months I can develop a use for this set up. I also think I can come up with some solutions to make the gopro more stable on the boompole.

This was purely a test. You can see the shadow in the background and it is not a group conversation.

Documenting Life

"Sunburned, sandy, sweaty..... I'm here"

That's all I could think while out filming the latest adventure. A few months ago a friend of mine from LA brought me in on a project. This project was the beginning of a reality TV show (which has more recently developed into a feature Doc) about 13-15 year old kids racing +-$50,000 offroad trucks. The story is not about the racing itself but actually focuses on the families and the kids unique style of racing. 

My friend from LA comes from a background making feature type, narrative, scripted films. He initially brought me into just do audio. He quickly realized my skillset was more useful in its entirety rather than just focusing on the audio. 

My background in documentary and corporate filming was extremely valuable for a project like this. Additionally having a photography background was a vital asset for the producers looking for social media content. 

This project has been a total passion project. Its one of those projects that you are excited to go do. No matter how hot it is outside or how hot some of tension among the crew gets, it's a project worth doing.

As a filmmaker, I have learned so much on Modkids USA. It's become a bit of a training ground for honing in on stories and following story leads. The beauty of Modkids is that it's a story-rich environment. However finding the connecting tissue between the families is where the mastery comes into play. On the set we have had to learn a lot. How do you capture seven different families stories at the same time on a budget? How do you capture audio from all the family's radios as they guide their children around the course? Obviously a lot of this is not re inventing the wheel but it was for a couple guys who got thrown into a project from two different backgrounds and on a small budget. 

One of the coolest parts of Modkids was coming on and then quickly seeing my work being put to use. A large portion of the photography and video is something that I either took or had a hand in. The producers have also been a lot of fun to work with, and they have worked incredibly hard to make this project become a reality.

It is a full time job just doing the social media which I have seen grow by the thousands in just a few months
I'm the guy on the left of the inflatable tire with the orange vest on

I'm the guy on the left of the inflatable tire with the orange vest on

I absolutely love doing the photography on this project. It's dirty, gritty and exciting. We get right on the track where giant chunks of mud and rock is thrown at us. Then to be that close to the kids who you have either been following or filming at their homes and see them in the zone just feet away from them. I also really love the families. I guess I walked in with some preconceptions about what the families would be like and what I discovered was a lot of families were actually really down to earth. Most of them are truly the "American Dream" come true.  

If its broke, FIX IT

I guess its the former helicopter mechanic in me, or the fact that I've always been a fix it type of person. 

This is what sets me apart from the rest of the crew. When something breaks I'm always the first to try to fix it. In the case of filmmaking or photography it doesn't always have to be something physical that breaks. 

I do live streaming and live events, I often find myself having to think through system solutions or failures. For example just yesterday I was filming a Vietnamese wedding, part of the day's events was at a Catholic church. We were limited to where we could walk around or film as is the case with many Catholic churches. We set up two stationary cameras in the choir loft. We weren't allowed to plug into the church's audio so we set up a wireless lav on the groom. When the ceremony began we realized the wireless was just on the fringe of the range. So I grabbed a small recorder, pulled the receiver off the camera and ran it to the front of the room. 

In this job you have to think on your feet

The other day one of my lav kit antennae got caught in a zipper which pulled off the wire cover (insulator). This was the transmitter antenna, which meant that exposed wires would potentially dig into the talent if they wore the pack. I took a paperclip and some heat shrink from another DIY project and repaired my expensive equipment. I have no idea what a repair of this nature would normally cost, but I have had to pay to repair equipment and it is not generally cheap. 

There have been plenty of situations where we have been filming in remote locations where replacing equipment is not possible. Its important to be able to know how your equipment functions and then be able to repair it when possible.