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Motion use during emotional story

A still photo I took of a girl crying at the memorial.

Rarely do I dive into Apple Final Cut Motion software unless I have extra time on a project. It is very useful when you need a bit of polish to your visual effects, but it can really bog down your workflow.
When planning to cover the yearly event, remembering homeless persons’ who have died, I expected to use the names in my video.
However, while editing I was not happy with the traditional fade-in, fade-out, of their names.
Since the light in the video was so wonderful, I decided not to scrimp on the text for the names and use Motion.
It took awhile to organize the Motion timeline (as seen below) that animates each name but the final video looks very nice.

I chose a moment in the video where the text is in the midst of animating to the next name. It's a 3D revolve type animation.

Watch the video and the animations below.

What I see from behind the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board interviews.

Behind the scenes: Editorial board interview videos

What I see from behind the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board interviews.

What I see from behind the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board interviews.

Every year the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board conducts election related interviews to provide recommendations to the public.  Even though this is a relatively closed process, the YH-R actively pursues ways to make the editorial boards more transparent and available to the public.

One way the YH-R provides greater access to this process is through shooting video of the editorial board interviews and publishing the videos online. The quickest way to watch the videos is by going to’s election page.

The setup:

The goal is to record the candidates or initiative spokesperson’s responses and post them online.  It’s not the most active video because, well, it’s an interview process, not theatre.

Challenges: lighting, audio, streaming software and consistency.

1. Lighting — The room lights are dim so they must be augmented with additional lights, stands and power cords.
2. Audio — We currently use an on-camera microphone. If someone is talking quietly they are barely heard.
3. Software — We use two different services depending on the use. One has consistent quality and annoying ads.  The other has fewer annoying ads, however it has inconsistent quality and sometimes crashes.
4. Consistency — The recording area is a multiple use meeting room and the setup has subtle variations day-to-day. There are no set places for the lights, camera or computer. Also, if the software fails, portions may go unrecorded.


What I see when recording the editorial board interviews on the computer screen.

What I see when recording the editorial board interviews on the computer screen.

Taking flight

Sometimes you’ve just got to get high.

This happened recently as we covered the Monastery Complex wildland fire. Access to the area was uncertain; the state highway going to the fire was closed off and on throughout the first day of the fire and the only other route to the fire would take hours longer.

Not knowing if we would get any ground-level access we decided to charter an airplane for aerial photography of the fire.

(I want to give credit to my bosses for ponying up the $250 for the flight. Despite tight-as-a-drum budgets they came up with money)

The Monastery Complex Fire, photographed from 8,500 feet Sept. 8, 2011. Nine homes and 10 outbuildings have been destroyed in a forest and brush fire that continues to grow in the Satus Pass area. About 300 people in 150 homes have been evacuated in the fire that some estimates place as large as 2,100 acres. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)

Aerial photography poses a unique set of challenges. A few basics I’ve learned over the years of aerial photography:

1. Helicopters are best but planes are cheaper. WAY cheaper.

2. Make sure your airplane is a high-wing aircraft.

3. Make sure the passenger window opens up enough to provide an unobstructed shot from the aircraft.

4. Remove all the lens shades from your lenses. Lens shades will catch the airstream  if you poke the lens/camera out into the airstream.

5. Small planes vibrate a lot. Use as high a shutter speed as possible to minimize any vibration effects on your photos.

6. Do not rest your arms on the window edge as you shoot because you will transmit vibration from the plane to your camera and photos.

7. Dramamine motion-sickness pills can be a big help if flying makes you queasy. Take two an hour before you fly.

8. Fly on an empty stomach if flying makes you queasy. Less to throw up, if it comes to that.

9.  Communicate your needs to the pilot before you take off to ensure he can accomplish what those needs.

10. Check for any flight area restrictions. No sense wasting money on a flight if flight restrictions are going to keep you too far from the news event. The pilot should also do this so he knows where he can fly. If he doesn’t I’d recommend another pilot.

11. If you are photographing a forest/wildland fire think about possible smoke and haze issues. There may be too much smoke in the area of the fire to get good photos. Often it’s a crap shoot – it was quite hazy and smoky as we flew from Yakima down to the Monastery Complex fire but the haze and smoke had parted by the time we got to the fire.

11. An experienced pilot is key (besides just keeping the plane in the air). A good pilot understands your needs and can get you to the right spot for photographs in a minimum amount of time. Remember, time in an airplane is indeed, money.

Pilot Joshua Grubb brings the aircraft into the Yakima airport. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)

As it turned out that day, staff photographer Andy Sawyer got some great photos and video from the ground. The following day Sara Gettys did an equally-fine job capturing the scene in Goldendale, the town closest to the fire.

–Gordon King

Harry Potter loves the LumiQuest

Or at least some Harry Potter cosplayers…

Some photo tools work well for today and others simply stand the test of time.   For me one of those tools has been the LumiQuest Softbox II.  It’s been used and abused for over 15 years following me from my time as a journalist-in-training at WSU to today at the Yakima Herald-Republic.

And yesterday it was a faithful companion shooting exuberant Harry Potter fans outside Yakima’s Majestic Theatre.  (See gallery here) — Watch video at bottom of post

Mariah Wildgen, 17, dressed as Harry Potter for the midnight showing of the final Harry Potter film at the Majestic Theatre in Yakima, Wash., on July 14, 2011.

No matter how much I love natural light, I oftentimes find myself wanting to dabble in strobe work.  Not often enough I admit, so I try to break out lights every now and then.

So before the Potter assignment, I broke out an old friend, my LumiQuest and Velcro’d up the head of one of my work Canon 580 EX strobes and tested it out.

My well used and abused LumiQuest Softbox II

My initial though of shooting the Potter assignment was to shoot them on a black background.  So I tested using a single strobe with the LumiQuest attached in the darkened basement of my home.

The best part, I had exuberant kids on hand to help me test.

My son Declan running around in our basement

NOTE: This is how I have almost always used the small softbox: While having the strobe on manual and on a cable or chord.  The softbox is not a ring light and can be a bit too much as a camera mounted strobe with close in subjects.

Now I know there are some LumiQuest haters out there, but I have found the medium soft light and shallow falloff a comfortable friend compared to bouncing or using a complex lighting setup.

The photo of Declan above is a good for instance.  He was running around me in circles.  There was no way I could have predicted where he would be to eliminate the background and just cast him in soft light without direct control.  I just pivoted around following him by holding the chord-mounted strobe relatively in the same place above him to get several shots to choose from.

My younger son, Liam, trying to grab the camera.

This next shot of Liam was just as challenging.  He was basically attacking me on the floor. It was really close-in.

To get precise light control, like in this situation, I prefer to put the strobe in my hand.

As for the Harry Potter portrait above and the ones in the gallery?  I used the LumiQuest to soften the bounce off a nearby wall. I did that because I didn’t have a black background at work to duplicate the tests I did with my boys.  Even with the change of plans, it helped me do my job yesterday and I expect it to help me out for years to come.

There are a few more images in the video I shot for this story.