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In Review — Dealing with a crash…

This past weekend I covered the WIAA state dance and drill competition. It was a really fun event to cover because the performers enthusiasm was infectious. I would compare the state event to drinking two triple shot espressos, then downing a box of pixie stix.

That kind of high comes with a bit of a low too. My computer was giving me fits — crashing when I needed it to work as fast as I was. Because of deadlines I was forced to leave one entire memory card of photos unedited. They never made it into my machine that night because of the computer problems. The next day (that I worked), I gave that final card a try, and the computer didn’t complain and I was able to add them to the online gallery. Here are a few of my favorite photos from that last card, on a second chance try to publish them for our readers.

Click here to see the full gallery

-TJ


Kristy Renee Tackett, left, fills out paperwork after being involved in an accident on North 40th Avenue just north of Nob Hill Boulevard about 7:30 a.m. Friday, March 23, 2012. Tackett was heading south on 40th and stopped at the traffic light when a Mustang driven by Stacie Rae Johnson tried to pass Tackett on the left to make a left turn onto Nob Hill Boulevard. Johnson's car hit Tackett's car and rolled over onto its top, according to Yakima Police Department Sgt. Shawn Boyle. Johnson suffered minor injuries in the accident and will likely be cited for improper passing, said Boyle. "It was kind of an unusual crash," said Boyle. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic).

More time for coffee

“How soon can we get something for the web?”

It’s a question posed often in newsrooms around the world as we all look for the fastest and best ways to gather words and images and get them posted on the web. In our case, posted to www.yakimaherald.com.We can transmit photos back with our laptop and Verizon MiFi mobile hot spot. Not a bad way but a relatively slow way. We have to download the images from a compact flash card and then edit the photos in Photoshop before sending the images. And don’t forget, the photographer has to find a place to set up the laptop and flashcard reader. I’ve used the trunk lid of a car plenty of times as a desk. Inclement weather has also forced me to sit inside with the laptop on, you guessed it, my lap.

It’s a little faster using an iPad with a camera connection cord. But it still means setting up the iPad someplace to work, sometimes an inconvenient task.

Enter the Eye-Fi card, iPhone4s and a couple of iPhone apps. I’ve found this to be a fast, no-hassle way to get a photo back to the newspaper.

I set a personal-best speed record this morning: 3 minutes from the time I took the last image until I sent it to the newspaper. All done while standing on the sidewalk. On my way in to work this morning an accident call went out over the scanner. The result:

Kristy Renee Tackett, left, fills out paperwork after being involved in an accident on North 40th Avenue just north of Nob Hill Boulevard about 7:30 a.m. Friday, March 23, 2012. Tackett was heading south on 40th and stopped at the traffic light when a Mustang driven by Stacie Rae Johnson tried to pass Tackett on the left to make a left turn onto Nob Hill Boulevard. Johnson's car hit Tackett's car and rolled over onto its top, according to Yakima Police Department Sgt. Shawn Boyle. Johnson suffered minor injuries in the accident and will likely be cited for improper passing, said Boyle. "It was kind of an unusual crash," said Boyle. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic).

It took me another minute to dictate cutline information into a text message (thanks Siri! You rock!). Total time: less than five minutes. Which left me plenty of time to stop at Starbuck’s for a coffee and still get to work at a good time. How can you not like something which allows you to work less and drink coffee more?

I’m using the Eye-Fi card in my Canon 1D Mark IV because it has two flash card slots (compactflash and SDHC). There is an adapter available to use SDHC cards in single-slot cameras, an adapter I will have to purchase if I want to use the Eye-Fi cards in my Canon 5D camera.

To edit the photos I’m using the Photogene2 image-editing app and for transmission, the FTPOnTheGo app.

It’s a simple process. The photos shot to the Eye-Fi card are automatically transferred from the card to the iPhone in my pocket. I select the appropriate photo from the camera roll in the phone and tone it in Photogene2. I save the toned photo back to my phone’s photo library. I then launch the FTPOnTheGo app, select the toned photo and upload it to a server back in the office.  Using Siri, I dictate the cutline information into a text message which gets sent to the newsroom. That information will be attached to the photo when it is placed on the website. No muss, no fuss.

This isn’t a new system but it’s new to the Herald-Republic and so far, it’s proven to be a speedy answer to the “how soon” question.

I couldn’t have figured this all out without the help of others (I’m no tech wizard). Many thanks to Herald-Republic staffers Scott Francis, Mark Morey and TJ Mullinax. Also thanks to Cliff DesPeaux who fielded some email questions as I worked through some tech issues.

Time for another cup of coffee!

 

–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.


Two of three cameras survive the B-25

I love remote camera work.  I also like shooting video with a bunch of mounted cameras, just doing their thing.

However, I do expect equipment failures from time-to-time when working with multiple devices and situations.  Over the years, no matter how well I’ve planned for a remote camera’s success, something unexpected usually occurs.  So I plan for contingencies.  Sort of a backup camera for the backup plan.

In the case of the historic B-25 bomber “Maid in the Shade” that was visiting Yakima this week.  I planned for four video cameras: three inside of the noisy, hot and full of bad vibrations (for cameras) bomber fuselage and one in my hands on the ground.

HV20 in the B-25 after it failed to recognize the tape.

I selected three different cameras to go inside the plane because a variety of known issues that could disable either at any time during the takeoff, flight or landing.  I also chose cameras based on their size — the smallest possible.  (A common misconception exists about bombers like the B-25. If it’s a huge aircraft outside, it would be equally spacious inside.  It’s actually very tiny.  Two coach seats in a 737 is bigger than most areas of the B-25.)

Of the three cameras I mounted inside the B-25, two functioned well and one failed because of an unplanned variable — heat.

Cameras: I used 1 Canon HV20 (HDV tape based video camera with wide angle lens), 1 PowerShot 4000 IS point and shoot camera that shoots 1280 HD video (uses a solid state memory card), and 1 iPhone 3GS (it is a solid state hard drive that can shoot standard definition video for about two hours, depending on the battery.)  I used these three because they were available and I thought they could overcome known issues below.

Known issues:

#1 Vibrations:  Excess vibrations can disable video recorders that are tape and hard drive based cameras.  Vibrations can also disable a camera that is attempting to use it’s built-in image stabilization and it cuts out intermittently.  This B-25 was smooth in comparison with other WWII aircraft because it was recently restored, but it does shakes aggressively.  So much so that the crew explained how a bomb instrument mount needed to be re-welded a couple of times in the past year because of the in cabin shake.
Result: the two solid state cameras, (iPhone and the PowerShot) handled the aircraft vibration admirably.

#2 People: People are curious and if a camera is mounted in arms reach, good chance it’s going to get fiddled with or worse.  This B-25 was packed with pilots, crew and donor ridealongs.  With passengers getting up and around during the flight to look out through windows, there was a good chance the cameras would be compromised.
Result: I worked with the crew and talked with folks in the cabin before takeoff to enlist as camera monitors to ensure they did not get touched and/or if they came off because of excessive vibrations.

#3 Mount points with a view: You would assume there are plenty of great vantage points in a bomber to see part of the plane, crew, and the outside in one shot.  Well that depends on #1 and 2.  If your camera has a great vantage point, but is in the way or may come off in flight, then it’s not a good candidate.
Result: With the mounts I had on me, I was able to mount three cameras that I felt would get the shot and not hit the flight deck.

The iPhone 3GS and Powershot SD 1400 IS that survived the flight.

So everything should have worked well because I had the primary issues taken care of before the flight.  The one thing I did not take into account, that ended up killing the HV20 was HEAT.  It was over 100 degrees on the airport tarmac and inside of the aluminum skinned airframe it was sweltering.  Of the three cameras, the solid state memory cameras handled the temperatures very well.  The tape camera… well… the tape got a bit elastic and wouldn’t spool to record.  It gave me a blinky red warning saying the tape was toast.

I learned a lot about the tools that the YH-R has and what I can expect from them in this quick turnaround video.   I have embedded the final video that includes video from the ground based Canon 7D, the iPhone 3gs in the rear gunner position and the PowerShot 1400 IS.  The HV20 video never even took off after getting baked.

-TJ Mullinax