Working with GoPro Hero3+ Footage

GoPro Hero3+ on a DJI Phantom II

GoPro Hero3+ on a DJI Phantom II © 2014 Samuel Morse

GoPros have certainly come into their own these past few years, becoming capable of high quality video from the most remote locations. This is particularly advantageous for aerial videography because the smaller and lighter a camera is, the smaller the airframe can be, and the longer it can stay in the air.

Here’s the problem though, sometimes you don’t want that fisheye “GoPro” look. It looks great for in-your-face footage of the X-Games, but not a sweeping vista as your aerial platform floats gracefully past.

This tutorial will show you how to get the most out of your GoPro so you can get near dSLR quality in most situations.

For more examples of what footage looks like using this technique, check out this video.

Dawn at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery from Samuel Morse on Vimeo.

Review of the Sony α7R

Sony α7R

Sony α7R. Photo taken with a Nikon D800 and 45mm PC-E lens. © 2014 Samuel Morse

I received my Sony α7R in the mail a little over a week ago. While I haven’t used it as extensively as I would have liked, I do think I’ve delved deep enough to offer some honest opinions on its functionality. Now, there are plenty of places like DPreview where you can get the full low-down on the specs and features, so I’m going to focus specifically on my own revelations about its functionality.

There was a reviewer who compared the α7R to the original iPhone. I think this thought is spot-on. This camera is ground-breaking and a beautiful glimpse into what the camera industry has in store for us in the future. However, it still has some serious flaws that are just enough that I don’t see this camera getting the mainstream usage future iterations might see. Still, the fact that Sony managed to cram a 36 megapixel full frame (35mm format) sensor into a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is impressive. This means the camera is capable of image quality to rival my Nikon D800.

Let’s get started. Continue reading

Why I’ll likely be buying Sony for a while

Sony NEX-7

Sony NEX-7

Okay, so let’s get the elephant out of the room first. I’m not selling off all my Nikon gear anytime soon, and I still plan to use it extensively for high-profile shooting. In fact, the above photo was shot with my Nikon D800. That said, Sony has really piqued my interest in the past couple of years, to the point that I’m thinking that more of my personal camera gear should be Sony, not Nikon. Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Some of it has to do with my shooting style in my off-duty time. Some of it has to do with unique features Sony is putting in their newest cameras.  Continue reading

Is same-sex marriage a “human right?”

When I sat down and really thought about whether or not same-sex marriage is a “human right,” the answer turned out to be simpler than I thought.

Marriage in its quintessential form is a religious contract, and therefore protected under freedom of religion. Since more faiths exist than just Christianity, and not even all Christian beliefs prohibit same-sex marriage, freedom of religion is actually more of an argument in favor of same-sex marriage than against it. Oddly enough, this fact is lost on a lot of people who confuse freedom of religion with freedom of their religion.

From a legal standpoint, you can make an argument just as strong: the federal government cannot discriminate based on gender, so it can’t prevent you from marrying someone based on their gender. Simple

If you’re arguing whether or not marriage between members of the same gender is a “human right,” I’d actually say no, but not because it’s same gender. This is where things get a little tricky. I argue that marriage in general is not a “human right” in the strictest sense of the word. It’s a contract between two people, whether religious or secular. A contract is not a human right, nor more than a driver’s license. However, it *is* something we should treat with equality because it’s an offshoot of freedom of choice as well as freedom of religion.

Simple enough?

All-in, shooting a triathlete

photographing a triathleteLet me first start off by saying this isn’t a comprehensive “how-to” post, but more of a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to get some compelling imagery of a triathlete. I’ll look at some things that worked, and a few things that didn’t work as well as I would have liked.

I must make a quick caveat that the photos picked for this blog are not necessarily the ones that went into the story (in fact, quite the opposite in many cases). The photos were picked because they show the techniques mentioned the best. Arguably, this blog applies to commercial photography more than journalistic photography.

Also, for full disclosure and credit where credit is due, the triathlete I was covering is Megan Stanton, an active duty U.S. Air Force medic. The full story is here: Perseverance: An Airman’s commitment to health, triathlon and career

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Emerging technology and the fate of photojournalism

InnovationTechnology seems to change more and more rapidly with each passing year, and the technology of photography is no exception. Some of this has had a positive effect on the field of photojournalism while some has not. Some recent technology threatens to change the face of photojournalism forever.

It’s hard to have a conversation about breaking news photography these days without inevitably mentioning the Chicago Sun-Times bold move of firing its entire photo staff in favor of iPhone. Technology has made near-real-time reporting a possibility for just about anyone, but at the sacrifice of absolute quality. There are certainly a lot of people up in arms about laying off the photo staff of the Chicago Sun-Times, but what if the problem isn’t technology or social media, but our own inability to adapt to these new mediums? Continue reading

Airman celebrates being “total person”

Senior Airman Cody Mitchell

This is Senior Airman Cody Mitchell. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month proclaimed by President Barack Obama, Mitchell celebrates the normalcy he enjoys being openly gay, thanks to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (Photo by Samuel Morse)

Throughout an Airman’s career, the “total person concept” is held as the pinnacle of what an Airman can be, not just for professional development, but also for personal resiliency. For gay, lesbian and bisexual Airmen, the possibility of being a total person was only recently made possible. Continue reading

Behind the Scenes: Operation Christmas Drop

Operation Christmas Drop 2012 from Samuel Morse on Vimeo / YouTube.

Ever since the Operation Christmas Drop video went live, I have received a lot of questions about how I put the video together and how I managed to get the feel and emotion that permeates the video. Truth is, there were a lot of factors that played into it, a bit of help from a few key people. The factors could be grouped into the following categories (not necessarily in order of importance): the steadicam, in-flight documentation techniques, the interviews, the music and sound design, the scope and perspective of the video, and the editing.

Accolades:
1st Place, Video Documentary — Pacific Air Forces Media Contest
2nd Place, Multimedia — NPPA Monthly Multimedia Contest
3rd Place, Video Documentary – Air Force Media Contest
3rd Place, Multimedia Feature — Military Photographer of the Year Competition

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A discussion of bits

RAW for the win

Josh Voyles and his RAW shirt.
image © 2012 Samuel Morse

Ever wonder what “14-bit RAW recording” or “24-bit audio” really mean? Hopefully this will help clear some things up.

Bit depth, or the number of bits used to define a pixel’s color or an audio sample’s amplitude, is an indicator of image or audio fidelity. A bit is one digit in binary code, a one or a zero. For instance, 16-bit audio has 16 ones or zeros to define amplitude. I say that this is an “indicator” of fidelity, because a high quality analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is required to accurately translate the analog world into ones and zeros.

Each additional bit doubles the possible number of combinations or values. Two bits has four possible values (00, 01, 10, 11), and three bits has eight. Coincidentally, this is how you can count to 32 on a single hand, using your fingers as binary digits rather than a cumulative total. Here are some more examples of what a number of bits equates to in terms of possible values. I’ve color-coded the values to make them easier to read.

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The Modern Celluloid Closet

A couple weeks ago, I watched an HBO documentary called “Vito” at the 2012 Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. I highly recommend it to anyone if they get a chance to see it. The documentary chronicles the life of a man named Vito Russo, a pioneer in LGBTQ rights in America, and the author of a book called The Celluloid Closet.

In the book (and lecture series), Russo talked about how in the early days of cinema, gays were portrayed as perfectly normal people. It wasn’t until the mid 20th century that gays disappeared entirely. Over the years, they were slowly brought back, but always portrayed as villains, comic relief, or mentally unstable people. It wasn’t until very recently that the LGBTQ community has come full circle to be portrayed as normal people again.

Watching the movie and hearing about Russo’s work has really opened my eyes to the marginalization of the LGBTQ community within film and TV. Today, I realized it’s not limited to western film either. I was re-watching the second season of “Darker Than Black” today, and found that series was somewhat guilty of it too.  Continue reading