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Be still my art

In this week's installment of Trying Not to Suck at Video, I'll wax neurotic about balancing the choice between stills and video.

The Canon 7D's hybrid video and still capabilities give you a little more leeway in that decision since you can snap frames while shooting video, but doing so interrupts your video with an audible click and pause.

I've gotten better at juggling the two, however, and have a bit more patience in getting a usable clip along with my still. On Wednesday, I covered the start of the sixth annual Interfaith Peace Walk and wanted a frame with the anti-nuclear message as well as the visiting Buddhist monks:

It's nothing special, but it's a quick simple read with some decent color that I think works OK in the video too.

Earlier that day, I got to fly alongside Lt. Col. John Klatt for some aerial air show photos. I decided early to focus on stills since we already had a great video from last year and I didn't have the gear to get some cool footage from inside Klatt's cockpit. I was also nervous about doing both in an unfamiliar setting, since I wanted to use a slow enough shutter speed to have his plane's propellor blurred. But when you're also in a plane, the 1/160 to 1/200 sec. shutter speed I was shooting at could result in unwanted camera shake.

Plus, Klatt was on a tight schedule, which would have made getting some good voiceover tough, and I wasn't sure how many shooting opportunities I would have in the air.

Klatt asked me what sort of background I would prefer and I suggested the blue bridge and Columbia River. He was happy to oblige, but also said that he wasn't allowed to do any stunts over that area. We started there and on a second loop, I was able to get some pretty cool shots, the second of which ended up in the paper:

It was a close call between that shot and some of these upside-down looks,

but I liked the context of where the races would be held in a couple days.

Klatt had also mentioned some new maneuvers, including the "cobra," which involved going vertical very abruptly and nearly stalling in the air. The move just doesn't translate into a photo, though:

Here are all my frames from that pass in an animated GIF:

In hindsight, I should have realized the move wouldn't look very cool as a still and opted to shoot a quick video clip instead. Despite all my arguing that we should use web videos as visual sidebars, I've gotten into the groove of producing video summaries of what the story already offers. The peace walk video is a prime example, since it doesn't have very dynamic action and the audio is nearly drowned out by the G. Way construction.

It's not all boring work and failures these days, though. Last week, the Phe family had a very special reunion at the Tri-Cities Airport. After getting separated from their children while escaping persecution in Myanmar, Aum Phe and his wife Shuepai Phi got to see their kids again after nearly three years. It had been almost seven for Aum, who had left years earlier to work and raise money for his family.

Having covered a few emotional reunions during my time here, I struggled with when to shoot video and when to get stills. Figuring that the immediate group hug with seven people would be tough to photograph while jammed up at the entrance, I decided to shoot only video until the family joined the rest of their supporters.

I banked on capturing some excitement and emotion then, and managed a few decent frames:

I also produced maybe the best video I've done so far. It's linked up above and I think the nuanced emotion as the parents strain to spot their kids works better in the video than it would have as a photo. You can see by the swarming hug that a photo would have been difficult too and hearing the parents' quiet gasps of joy before the roaring applause definitely wouldn't have translated.

Too bad the video only got 256 views despite my mad scramble to edit and upload it before the 11 p.m. TV newscasts. While I'm slowly sucking less at making these, we're not doing much better at getting our online readers to view them. Here's hoping the two will converge at some point.

While we're on the subject of sucking vs. not sucking...

Infamous crappy Olympic portrait photographer Joe Klamar's exhibit is opening in New York today to coincide with the start of the London games. To see how to do the job right, check out Martin Schoeller's breathtaking work at Time's Lightbox.

Wired has an interesting read on the legitimizing of iPhone photography, featuring work by Brad Mangin and Ben Lowy. Meanwhile, Lowy is working with Hipstamatic maker Synthetic to create the Hipstamatic Foundation for Photojournalism. The foundation's goal is to "help educate and support the next generation of photographic storytellers using smartphones with Hipstamatic to tell and broadcast their tales." They're releasing a special "GoodPak" of digital lenses and films to fund the project later this year.

Not digital or low-fi enough for you? Check out this feature on the growing art of video game photography. Some of the work featured is pretty cool, but I'd say it's a far stretch from the author's description of James Pollock's work: "His black and white pictures of Skyrim’s majestic nature and Red Dead Redemption’s deserts evoke memories of Anselm (sic) Adams and the classics of nature photography." Somebody somewhere is spinning in a grave.

And without any irony, one day after the brass issued an order that police were to respect the rights of citizens recording them in public, Washington, D.C., police apparently took a man's cell phone and kept his memory card because he started filming a public investigation.


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