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Loving the iPhone 6 Camera

(Note: This post was actually written a couple weeks ago. Due to an unfortunate glitch in Squarespace's new beta of their platform though, it seemingly completely vanished from the webbernet before I could actually post it. That wasn't great, but I'll tell you what was: Squarespace's customer service. They really were responsive and somehow managed to track the post down. I've only been using Squarespace for a couple months now, but I really like it. It's nice feeling like I'm not all on my own creating a website... something that I have no idea how to do. Anyway, on to the actual post!)

I was lucky enough to get a new iPhone about a week ago, and so far, I love it. It feels great in my hand. It's way faster than my iPhone 5 was. Touch ID is really handy and feels totally natural. I'm sure Apple Pay will be nice when they actually release it. (On that note, I'm so ready to just skip ahead to 2020 when I won't need to even carry a wallet around.) The display is gorgeous, and I love the size of the new screen, although I did find the phone to be just a little too big until I learned about reachability. (Another side note: I was complaining to my friends about how my new iPhone was so big that I was having trouble reaching the back button in the upper left corner of the screen in various apps, and they said that was about the most 1st world problem they had ever heard. They were not wrong. Additional side note: The 6 Plus is a MONSTER. These should really only be reserved for NBA players, but you will no doubt see petite 15 year-old girls snapping selfies with them soon, if you haven't already.)

Yet with all the new features, the one new thing that I'm most excited about is the camera. It's the biggest reason that I wanted to get the new phone before I got it, and it has remained my favorite thing after getting it. I take A LOT of photos and video on my phone. It's kind of an addiction and the reason I opted for the 128 GB because I was just too tired of dumping all the photos and videos off my phone every month. I take pictures that I will never look at again of stuff that has no personal significance to me... I just like the way it looks. I take at least a video every day, partially just because I like to, and also because I use this app, which I have found is a really fun way to remember what you did on a given day, and captures the actual mood much better than a single photograph does. I figure there are worse things that I could be addicted to. At least with this I'm fulfilling some desire within myself to create, and hopefully, as I'm doing it, I'm becoming a better creator. Perhaps for those that upgraded from the iPhone 5s, the difference is not that significant, but coming from the iPhone 5, it's a HUGE upgrade. Here are some of the things that I'm loving about it:

  • SHARPNESS. There is so much detail in each shot. Edges look razor sharp. Part of that probably is that I have been looking at the images largely on the phone, which has an upgraded display, but that's definitely not all of it.
  • DYNAMIC RANGE. I don't know any details about this, but there is definitely a noticeable difference in the contrast that you can have in a shot before it starts blowing out to pure white on the highs or getting crushed to pure black in the lows. Add to that the HDR feature, and it's crazy the range that you can capture on something this compact. Check out the shot below of my adorable niece which is un-retouched. This was shot with HDR (although the non-HDR version actually looked pretty good, too) in really tough backlit mid-day lighting conditions. There is still plenty of detail and color in her shadowed face while not blowing out the background at all. In fact you can see detail in the white foam of the wave behind or, which is pretty impressive, given that it's basically pure white.

Click for full image.

  • SLO-MO. Talk about addictive... this feature is just too much fun. And the results you can get with it are downright impressive. Coupled with the digital image stabilizer, slo-mo shots take all of the jitters out of your shot and makes it one buttery-smooth dreamlike shot. On top of that, at 240 fps, the shots are already slow enough that the change from one frame to the next is so minor (unless you're shooting something absurdly fast) that I have no doubt that with Twixtor it could be slowed down to whatever speed you want without looking digitally slowed at all. I feel like the shots that can get are almost good enough to be used in a professional context. Really everything about it is except of the fact that it only captures at 720p. However, if I was shooting something that was for 720p delivery, I would not hesitate to get shots with it. We're probably only one or two generations away from that getting bumped up to 1080p though and seeing iPhones duct-taped to Technocranes. Seriously though, it is amazing the technology that is being put into these tiny devices nowadays, which in many ways, blow away $20,000 HD cameras from 10 years ago.
  • DIGITAL IMAGE STABILIZER. I mentioned this in the previous item, but the digital image stabilizer really works well. You can record video and walk with the camera hand-held and at normal speed, it almost looks like a steadicam shot (okay, maybe someone who's just learning steadicam, but still, it's pretty good).
  • FOCUS PIXELS. This sounds like one of those gimmicky marketing terms created by a bunch of frameless glasses-wearing 40-year olds in a sleek, all-white conference room, but really they work. Whatever they are, they work. This was one of the big annoyances with my previous iPhone. It would search for focus so much, especially in low light. It would pop in and out of focus and I had to perfectly time when it was focused to get a good shot or wait until it had made up it's very fickle digi-mind™ (a marketing term that I just made up). Now when I pull my phone out for a shot, it seems like it's always ready to go, perfectly focused on whatever I'm taking a picture of. Sometimes I just try to throw it off by whipping quickly between objects at different focal distances, and it keeps up. Definitely try this in the Apple Store. You'll really like like somebody that knows what they're doing.
  • FLARE. Another area that I have very limited knowledge of... I don't know what causes certain lenses to flare certain ways (I suspect it's some pretty complex physics, which I actually would probably love to research, but could better spend my time in other ways), or why some flares seem to instinctively look better, but I have definitely noticed that the new lens flares in a way that looks much prettier and more natural, not in a way that screams "THIS WAS SHOT WITH AN IPHONE!"

Amazing shot? No. Amazing flare? Absolutely.

This video shows what the flare looks like in motion. It also shows the limit of the digital stabilizer as it gets a little wonky (and understandably so) with us running down a rocky trail.

  • And finally... MANUAL CONTROLS. Ok, so this is technically a feature of the new OS, not the phone itself, but it's a big one. Specifically manual exposure control is really nice. Before, you could only choose which part of the image was to be "properly" exposed. But the camera's definition of what is proper really just boils down to it being somewhere near the middle of the histogram. When I shoot things, I often want to capture them as they really appear to me, with my naked eye. That means that, many times, nothing is "properly" exposed. Everything in the scene is darker than the middle of the histogram, and because of that, it has a very specific mood... a mood that is completely lost when the camera brightens everything up to make sure that the majority of the picture has detail. Now I can capture things as I see them, and it's really simple to do it from the native camera app. You simply just tap and hold on the part of the image that you want to focus on. Then, after it locks focus and exposure, you simply swipe up or down to raise or lower the exposure. It's great. Beyond that, you can actually control every aspect of the camera now, from ISO to WB to focus (this is a godsend to everybody out there trying to take pictures of rain drops on a window. However to access these other features, you will need another photo-taking app... I find the interface of Camera+ pretty intuitive for all of these features.

Click for full image. Again, not an amazing shot, but it's terrific that I was able to capture it as I saw it in the late day sun. The gate is black, so I want it to appear that way, not a mid-tone grey that still has a lot of detail. With the new manual exposure controls you're able to capture the mood of a scene much better.

So that's my list. With the improvements to the camera and expanded manual control the iPhone is becoming more and more like a camera that you could actually use professionally. In fact, some people already are. And yes, they pretty much are doing it to show that you can shoot professionally with iPhone, not because it's actually the best option, but still... impressive. And anyway, I think there probably already are scenarios which would require discretion, traveling light, or speed from time of taking picture to upload for which the iPhone would be the best option.

It's awfully fun to be living in a time when there is mass access to technology like the iPhone. I can't wait to see the pictures I'll get with it over the next couple years.

Also, if you want to see some more impressive pictures and learn more about some of the upgrades with the new iPhone, this blog post about a shoot that Austin Mann did in Iceland is a good read.

Shakey Graves

Over the weekend Lauren and I attended The Bluegrass Situation, a small music festival held downtown at the recently refurbished Ace Hotel Theater. It was a great time in a really beautiful venue.

I love folk/bluegrass/Americana music. I sort of rediscovered that this weekend. I feel like it suits my temperament more than any other genre, and instantly makes me feel cozy and at ease. I think that part of that is that it's a genre without pretense. It's not really trying to be cool. It's not pushing into the future. It's about enjoying the present and, if anything, reflecting on the past. It always makes me want to slow down, live a simpler life and enjoy the things that really make life worth living.

I haven't listened to much of it lately though, partly because I think I listen to it seasonly, more so in the Fall and Winter months (and it doesn't feel anything like fall in LA currently), and partly because I just haven't heard any new artists or albums that really grabbed me. So I was happy when my friend Paul, whom I trust implicitly when it comes to this style of music, found this festival and recommended that I attend. Looking at the lineup, it had just the right mixture of bands that I was already familiar with and loved (Langhorne Slim, Lord Huron, and Josh Ritter) and those that I had either heard of and never listened to or had never even heard of.

Shakey Graves was one such artist. I hadn't heard so much as one note from the guy. A couple days before the event, I texted Paul to let him know that I was, in fact, going to the festival, and he said he wished he could come out and join because the lineup was so good, mentioning specifically Shakey Graves. That of course piqued my interest, and part of me thought to go listen to his album (he only has one currently) as many times as I could before the concert, learning the songs so that I could enjoy them more and possibly even sing along to make me look in the know. I decided to go the other way though, and didn't listen to anything before the show. I wanted to be completely surprised by whatever this guy sounded like, and I was indeed surprised in the best way possible.

It was just him (along with some crazy suitcase kick-drum thingy) and his electric guitar for about half of the show, and the other half he played with a drummer. It seems like the tendency lately has been to bigger bands, epic songs, and more noise lately, but not always to great effect. I was surprised at how captivated I was the whole time I was watching this one (or two)-man band perform. Each song seemed to have a distinctly unique sound from the one prior, in spite of the exact same, limited instrumentation. Even within a song I felt like it would often take off in a different direction than I was expecting. It was thrilling in all of its stripped-down glory. The sound ranged from folk to southern rock to blues, with Shakey Graves' voice morphing slightly from song to song to fit the sound. I loved the whole performance. I loved many of the other performers too, specifically Langhorne Slim, Josh Ritter, and Carolina Chocolate Drops, but Shakey Graves was definitely the one that I walked away from the show wanting to hear more from.

I've been listening to the album over the past couple of days since the concert and I love it too. I don't know if it fully captures the electricity of his show, but it's very good nonetheless. Some personal favorites are "Only Son", "Dearly Departed", and "Family and Genus". Definitely give it a listen and if Shakey Graves ever comes to a venue near you, go check him out. He puts on a great show.

What a great album cover. It's so visually arresting, and given the album's title, feels like you could make up a whole novel just based on this image.

What a great album cover. It's so visually arresting, and given the album's title, feels like you could make up a whole novel just based on this image.

VSCOcam: A Review of Sorts

VSCO Cam has quickly become not just my favorite photography app, but one of my favorite apps, period. In fact, the app has recently made it's way on to the home screen of my phone. I use it that much. A short time ago, it would have been unnecessary for me to have any photo app anywhere near the home screen because I simply wasn't taking and editing that many photos on my phone. Now, because of the app, I find myself taking more and more pictures, and I'm astonished at the results I am able to get in a short period of time.

Back in the Olden Days...

Let's back up to the beginning though. I've been using VSCO Cam for awhile now... probably a little over a year. I was told about it by a friend who was pretty obsessed with it. Given the number of photography apps out there, many of which I already really enjoyed (Snapseed, Afterlight, etc.), I didn't really see what this app seemed to do better. There was a fairly limited number of preset filters, many of which I felt like didn't fit an aesthetic that I was normally drawn to. Some were nice though, not over-processing the images so it looks nothing like the original scene, as many apps do. I generally like to just try to lightly enhance what I really like about the original image, which is more what VSCO Cam was designed to do. It took your image and applied some light color and exposure tweaks to give it a little more of a "feel". Beyond that, there was a pretty rudimentary group of manual controls. It didn't have any of the fancier sliders, such as "Clarify" or "Detail," of some apps that seem to instantly give an image more punch, and it definitely didn't have area-selective adjustments like Snapseed or iPhoto.

What I did notice though, was there was definitely a certain quality to the images it produced that I liked. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it is, but there was just a softness to it... not a softness like your images were out of focus, but just not harsh. Not digital. I think that part of it may be the grain that it adds to your photos, but I think that there are also some nice curves or algorithms going on in the background that smooth out many of the transitions that the iPhone has trouble with because of its limited color latitude.

So in spite of some of it's shortcomings, I found myself using the app fairly frequently... mostly for portraits or quiet little moments throughout the day that I thought could benefit from the subtle tones that the app did very well. It was far from the only photography app that I was using though, and specifically whenever I captured something grand or featuring vivid color, I found myself gravitating to something else.

VSCO 2.OH!

Recently though, they released a new version of the app, and now it is practically the only photo app that I use. It improved upon every aspect of the original, and now I feel like it can be used in a much broader range of situations. First off there are way more preset filters, which cost money this time, but I think they're worth it. It's $5.99 for the full set of filters, which cover everything from black and white to muted tones to vibrant, punchy colors. Because of these additions, I now no longer feel like I have to reach for something else when I take a picture of a gorgeous sunset. I can bring those colors out brilliantly with some of the new filters. Thankfully with the addition of all of these filters, VSCO organized them into intuitive groups based on the kind of look that you're going for. Manual controls for things like exposure, contrast, tint, vignette, etc. also got a boost with a much finer level of control. Like before there is still nothing to change your image as dramatically as a "Clarify" slider, but that's not what this app is about. It's about taking what you like about your image, refinining it, and giving it a feel, something that it does very well. The result is photos that still look like something from the real world, instead of a destroyed, heavily-altered version of the image, but not the cold, digital, original version that the camera sees either. It's like your idealized version of that image, as if looking at a memory.

There is also a built in camera mode, which has some nice features, including grid and square overlays for framing and separate exposure and focus controls. I'm going to be honest though, I'll probably never use the app for that because it's so much easier to just pull my phone out and swipe up to go straight to the camera, rather than having to find the app on my screen. I feel like the only feature here that it offers that would possibly come in really handy at some point is the "Big Button" feature, which just turns your whole screen into the shutter button. I could see myself using this at a concert or something where I'm having to hold my phone up at a weird angle to get the shot that I want and don't want to miss it just because I was off clicking the little button on the screen.

Ahhh...

I can't tell you how nice it is to no longer be switching back and forth between apps trying to figure out which one will help me create a great image out of the shot I just captured. Nowadays I just take the picture, open up VSCO and see what I can do, and usually I'm pleased, sometimes even shocked with the results. There are still times when I wish that I could do selective adjustments on an image because the ol' iPhone couldn't quite handle the exposure range very well, but I'm happy to go without this convenience for the sake of simplicity of having one app to go to. Also, this limitation keeps the images from ever straying into that realm of the uncanny, where the everything in the image is properly exposed, and pin-point detailed. VSCO Cam shots all carry an air of authenticity.

The result is that I'm creating more and more images that I really like in a short amount of time. There was a time when I thought that photography had to be expensive DSLRs and twenty-five Photoshop adjustment layers to get just the perfect look. I suppose that comes from my perfectionist instincts. But lately I've come to feel like "why can't it be just fun?" Don't think too much... just *click* and go. I think it can be, if my recent history with VSCO Cam is any indication, because I'm definitely having fun.

Here are a few of my favorite images that I've created recently with it:

Bonus!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the app is the creation of a new service to display all of your favorite images from the app, called the VSCO Grid. At first, I thought that it was going to be a pretty useless feature. After all, we already have Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, etc. to share all of our images, so why would I possibly need another one? As it turns out, the reason is pressure. The VSCO Grid is about as low pressure as you can get. You just post images to it and if people want to view them, fine, but that's it. There's no commenting, likes, or favorites. If someone wants to tell you they like your image they're going to have to do it elsewhere. It really frees you up to just post the images that you really enjoy... not the ones that you think others will enjoy. There are certain things that I wish that it had, such as the ability to easily follow others Grids, but perhaps even that would make the experience too competitive. I don't think that it's going take over as my go-to photo sharing resource anytime soon, but it is a nice added bonus, and I'm enjoying creating a sort of photography gallery on the web.

You can check out mine here.

And for some truly impressive work that shows you just how good iPhonography can be with VSCO Cam, check out their currated Grid here.

Exporting a Still Image (JPEG, TIFF, or PNG) from a Quicktime Movie

Often I'll need to grab a still frame from a video to use as a thumbnail on a website, or to use as the preview frame on a video service like Vimeo, or just to send a still frame to a client. However, for some reason this task is not as easy as it seems like it should be, and while I feel like I've searched around a decent amount, I've never been able to find an easily workable solution. I knew that within QuickTime 7 Pro I could do file:export and then choose "Movie to Still Image" from the drop-down menu, but for some reason the only option they give you is to export it as a PICT file, which no websites I've come across will accept. Also, Photoshop can't open it to convert it to anything, and Preview can only convert it to a PDF, which is pretty useless. But FINALLY I found a way to do this fairly painlessly, so I'm posting it here in hopes that anyone who's searching the Internet frantically for a solution to this problem will come across this page. I wish it could be one simple step, but this is still, by far, the easiest solution that I've found. Surprisingly, it uses QuickTime X. (Side note: I really wish that Apple would get it together and make a Pro version of QuickTime X so that I wouldn't always be wondering if I should be using QuickTime 7 Pro or X for a given task.) Anway, here it is:

The Solution

  1. Open the video in QuickTime X
  2. Move the playhead to the frame that you want to capture
  3. Edit:Copy (⌘C)
  4. Open Preview
  5. File:New from Clipboard (⌘N)
  6. File:Save (⌘S) - here you can choose from a number of much more useful formats like TIFF, JPEG, and PNG

And that's it! Obviously, this is intended for a Mac, but for anyone on a Windows machine there's probably a similar program that you can paste the image in. Hope this saves someone out there a headache! If you know of a better way, let me know!

Instagram

Ok, so I'm really late on the Instagram thing, but now that I'm in, I'm loving it. I held off on Instagram for the longest time because I just didn't quite understand it. I downloaded it pretty much right when it came out, played around with it for a few minutes, and then stored it away in my photo apps folder where I never looked at it again. I basically just saw it as a photo filter app, and as far as that goes, I already had a number of apps that I thought were superior to it in that way (Camera+ and Snapseed, for instance). Sure, the filters in Instagram were cool, but they were basically the same thing I could find in one of these other apps, and then I wasn't limited to a square crop, which I thought was ridiculous. "Don't limit my creativity, man!" I thought (apparently I'm a pretty big hippie in my imagination). If I wanted to make a 3x1 image, why shouldn't I be able to? Also, the last thing I needed in my life was another social network to keep up with. I could already share photos on Facebook, so why not just do it there, where I would be constrained to a certain ratio and probably more of my friends would see it anyway? Then came my friends Matt and Alana's wedding in LA where they did one of the more fun things that I've seen at the wedding. They set up a computer at the reception to play a slideshow of all the photos that people had taken with the hashtag #alanaandmatthew on Instagram. It was an incredibly fun way to get to see little glimpses of the whole event from a number of different perspectives, instantly. Everyone really got creative and it was so interesting to see the things that caught different people's eyes. It managed to capture and cover the event in a fun way that no wedding photographer ever could. Then, after the event was over Matt and Alana were able to take all of the pictures and put them into a book that they also made available to all guests of the wedding that will forever remind them of what a fun day it was.

When I heard before the event that they were going to be doing this, I knew that it was a fantastic idea, and that I would have to join in on it. Since then, I have continued to Instagram occasionally and I'm starting understand what makes it so addictive. First of all, it's a social network that is strictly built for sharing via photos. So while you can share photos via Twitter or Facebook, there is something about a service that only allows you to share visually that makes it a lot more appealing. People are more likely to value and engage with images that you take because they went there just for that one purpose of seeing a visual representation of what is going on in people's lives at that moment. A picture really is worth a thousand words, and so while status updates are good for certain things, a quick picture will convey what is going on in your life so much better than an entire page of writing will.

It's also a fun challenge to think about the most unique/exciting/concise way to express your current status visually. I love anything that challenges me creatively, so I view this as just another activity to hone my skills. Yes, I'm never going to become a professional Instagramer (or am I!?), but I think that the creative thinking that it forces will translate to other creative endeavors that I take more seriously.

And as for that absurd square crop, I've grown to like it. No matter what you're creating you will always have some form of constraint, whether it is budget, a certain message that needs to be conveyed clearly, a given audience it is intended to reach, etc.. The square crop is just that, a creative constraint to operate within, and after you accepting that, it forces you to think even more creatively. You have something to ground you -- "I know I need to fit this image within a square, so what is the best way to do that?" I've found, for instance, that I think that the square crop really lends itself to symmetrical photos. With other crops, the rule of thirds is what one usually wants to follow to create a balanced and interesting image. With a square, it seems that it's easy to make a very unbalanced feeling image using that technique. Sure, there are times when I think it could be used to great effect, but a symmetrical photo with a square crop just feels solid to me and creates a clear focal point (if there is one in the photo). I find the challenge of creating interesting square images exciting, and now whenever people stray from the square crop by using a matte on Instagram I just want to say, "You're doing it wrong!" (couldn't throw on the "man" at the end of that one because in that imagined scenario, I'm clearly much less of a free spirit).

So if anyone out there is on the fence about Instagram, let it be known that I am for it, and encourage you to try it out. And if you want to follow me, my Instagram handle is theparkness. Here are a few of my favorite shots since I started:

Miniature Atlanta Airport

This is a video that I made a couple weeks ago from footage that I shot while eating at the Chili's Too at the Atlanta airport before boarding a flight. I had been up to this spot before and knew that it was the perfect perspective from which to get this kind of tilt-shift effect, so I was excited when we got sat at the exact same table this time. Didn't have my 7D on me, so I just busted out the ol' iPhone, rested it against the glass and let'er roll. Then I took that footage into After Effects, applied a lens blur with a depth matte, and voilà, miniature planes! Miniature baggage carts! I also decided to apply some sketchy-looking (as in drawn-on, not dangerous) text just for fun and because it was something that I wanted to learn how to do. Then I applied 3D shadows to the text to make it feel like it's in the space. It really makes no sense... it's meant to look like it's drawn-on over the image, and yet, also a part of the image. Oh well, I like it.

Overall, the whole tilt-shift thing has been really overdone, but I do think that it's a cool effect that can be used effectively. I'm excited to have learned how to create this effect in post, and hopefully I can use it more extensively in a piece sometime.

Honeymoon!

Ok, so this isn't really new, but for the sake of trying to get back into posting stuff on my website (at least occasionally), I'm posting it. This is just a short video that I edited out of the footage Lauren and I had captured on our honeymoon. It wasn't ever intended to be some kind of cinematic masterpiece, hopefully just an entertaining look at our time there. I had wanted to do something split-screen for awhile so that's what I did.

With that said, I did still learn some thangs:

  • Final Cut isn't really the place to be doing split-screen or motion (at least not FCP 7). I kind of already knew this but decided to do it anyway to avoid the extra step sending it to After Effects, where I would've had a lot more and easier control. If I went back and did it again I would have probably sent it to After Effects via Popcorn Island or Automatic Duck (if I could afford it) and done all the split-screening and motion in there. Or I would possibly try doing it in the new Final Cut if I did it today. I'll do another post on that because I just finished cutting a video for a friend that was also split-screen that I did in FCP X, and it did offer a lot easier control with cropping and placement (although still not perfect).
  • DSLRs are the worst possible camera to use for video in a helicoptor. This kind of goes without saying because of the rolling shutter, but it's what I had, so obviously I was going to use it. It doesn't really bother me too much in the video because like I said, it was just for fun, but definitely not something I'd use on a professional shoot. Or maybe with a gyro stabilizer it'd be ok. I know I saw some Vincent LaForet shoot awhile back where he was using a DSLR in a helicopter and it looked fine.
  • Try to get things close to how you want them in camera. I shot a lot of the stuff with a really flat profile because I had all the best intentions of doing some proper grading on it, but in the end, didn't want to spend too much time on it so I just did a really quick pass. I think a lot of the footage would've looked better if I would have just realized as I was shooting that I wasn't going to want it that flat in the end, and it wasn't really saving information that I cared about anyway.
  • Just do it. That's a good slogan, and I wish I knew how to actually follow it. Sadly I started this project a year and a half ago, and although I did have a lot going on in the past year and a half, I don't think it's really a valid excuse for it taking this long to get around to finishing the video. I really have a problem bogging myself with different possibilities for projects, wanting it to be the best that it can be, and I think I need to learn to be better about just learning to trust my instincts, be happy with the results, learn from it, and move on to the next thing.

Quick Pics: The World of Coca-Cola

As I said in the last post, I now want this blog to be more focused on visual storytelling. So, this is going to be a series that I will try to do semi-regularly in which I just post some of my recent photos. It will probably be one of the segments that is more visual than storytelling, but my hope is that I will be able to learn from these photographs to later apply them as I tell stories. Also, if you follow the series of photographs, I suppose it does visually tell the story of what I've been up to lately. And who knows, maybe every once in awhile I'll even take a good one that tells a story all by itself. With all that said, here are some pictures of Coke stuff, taken during our recent visit to the World of Coca-Cola here in Atlanta.

The Drink Selector
The Drink Selector
OK
OK
Drink Coca-Cola
Drink Coca-Cola

Thinking About This Blog

It's been a really long time since I posted anything, but in my defense, I have been quite busy. I quit my job, worked about three other jobs, road tripped across the country, and then of course, started a new job. Now that things have calmed down a little I want to try to post on here a little more regularly... you know, like at least once every two months. Also, I've been considering what I want this blog to be about and have come to the conclusion that I want it to be a place of visual storytelling. That's still pretty broad, but it's about as specific as I can get right now with what I'd like to do with my life (you know, career-wise). So, I want this blog to be a place that reflects that and is a place for me to showcase work, inspiration, and some of my trials along the way. Hopefully it will drive me to get better at what I'm really interested in doing. I love strong visuals, and have long questioned whether I would like to work in arena that is purely visual but have determined that when those visuals go beyond just being beautiful/exciting/interesting and tell a story in some way, it completely takes it to another level for me. I want to create things that move people in some way, whether it's to laughter, action, thinking, or a feeling. I want to be able to tell fascinating stories, whether it's through a video, a photograph, or maybe even a diorama (ok, I won't ACTUALLY make a diorama, but lists of items need at least three). So from now on, I'm going to try to keep my posting on here to stuff that fits within that realm. Sometimes it may be mostly visual, and perhaps other times it will be pure storytelling (although that's probably less likely because I don't do much story writing. Hmmm... I should though. OK, maybe I'll try to do more of that. Wow this blog is working wonders already!), but ultimately I want it all leading me in the direction of being a better visual storyteller.

Here's to a new start!

Team Ramrod

Well the Rams are 0-2, but it certainly wasn't for lack of an awesome open video. I edited this for them awhile ago, but can now finally show it since it has played in the stadium. I also was lucky enough to go on the shoot for this one, which was a blast. Got to hang out at the Rams practice facility, throw some footballs at targets, and even had time to work a little, setting up the lights and grabbing many of the b-angles that were used in this piece with a 5D (The rest was shot on RED). The post was all done here at Famous, and in the end I think it came out pretty cool.

A couple other fun facts about the piece:

  • Everybody on the team was great, but surprisingly the most outgoing, easy to to work with, and nicest (he shook everybody's hands after he wrapped) was the very large and very intimidating James Laurinaitis. Did I mention he was the son of a pro wrestler?
  • The open was originally edited with A.J. Feeley for all the quarterback shots, but after he went down with an injury we had to change everything out for the Rams #1 draft choice Sam Bradford. Oh well, it was probably only a matter of time anyway.
  • And finally, those flames were actually there, and they were actually very hot. The looks on the cheerleaders' faces the first couple times they went off were priceless.

Time for lapses!

After stretching some of my birthday money that was intended for a bike (thanks moms and Lauren!) I was able to get an intervalometer for my camera as well, giving me the opportunity to shoot some super-sweet timelapses!... or in this case, a very average timelapse.

I got home from work today and noticed the great color in the sky. Anxious to try my new toy I quickly ran outside and set the camera up. Unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot of daylight left by this time, but it was still fun to get a first legitimate timelapse. Anyway, I'm hoping to explore this more and I think I'll be able to create some pretty cool stuff. Can't wait to post some more here!

A Random List of Things I'm Liking

I haven't really decided what I want this blog to be yet. Should it be Professional? Personal? Prosonal? So anyway, while I wait for it to take some kind of a form I'm happy with, here's a random list of things I'm liking lately.

MINT GOALS

I've been a big fan of Mint for awhile. Its clean interface and simple integration with all of my bank, credit card, and investment accounts make it one of my favorite websites. Honestly, it's probably a little TOO favorite. I know I spend more time than is necessary poring over every detail of the budgets I've set and last months transactions trying to find where I could save money, but hey, there are worse ways I could spend my time than trying to find ways to save money. Mint has already helped me save more money in a couple ways, and their new feature for setting goals is great. While this one won't technically help me have more money like some of the others have, I think that it will actually be very useful in helping me meet certain goals. Basically it just asks you what your goal is, and then breaks down how much you should try to be saving for it every month. It's pretty simple stuff, but I certainly wasn't about to bust out a calculator to try to figure out how the monthly savings break down. Now I just know that for Lauren and I to take a trip next spring, given the parameters we set, we need to save approximately X amount of dollars. Nice. Also, if you choose one of the major goals that Mint already has in their system (getting out of debt, buying a home, taking a trip, etc.) it will give you other pointers along the way for what kinds of things you should be doing at that time. It's definitely all worth more than the $0 it costs.

INVISIBLE HAND

I've been kind of a fickle Internet browser user lately. I had been using Safari for quite a while and then switched right over to Chrome when I saw their clever "Chrome Fast" ad campaign. What can I say, I'm a sucker for clever advertising. It did seem to back up the commercials though with blazing performance. Then, probably less than a month later, I switched right back to Safari when the came out with version 5 and most importantly, an infographic showing how it was faster than Chrome. Apparently infographics trump advertising. Plus I've of course always been a fan of the clean, Apple-i-ness of it, and while it was fun having a ridiculous skin on my browser for awhile, I was happy to be back to the shiny metal. One thing that Safari has always lacked though, in comparison to Firefox, Chrome, or others is extensions. But just recently they finally opened up extensions and their own online gallery of them. And the one that is by far the most interesting and useful, in my book, is Invisible Hand. It's a simple, unobtrusive extension that only shows up when you're on a page that is selling an item. If you are on one of these pages, it pops up at the top of your browser and tells you if the item is listed for a lower price anywhere else in its database of websites! It's terrific. You save money without having to try harder or losing anything. (Side note, I hadn't even thought that my first two likes were both money related. I'm really seeming like Frugal McFrugalson right now. Oh well.)

GOOGLE READER STYLES

While we're on the subject of Safari extensions, let's talk about Google Reader Styles. I really like Google Reader for keeping up with some of my favorite blogs. It's simple to organize them into categories and see what's new. But while it's certainly very functional, it's not exactly beautiful. Usually I like the Google minimalism well enough, but for some reason I feel like Reader just has too many dividers going every which way and different colored icons going on. So I decided to clean it up a bit. Google Reader Styles allows you to choose from a variety of styles. My favorite so far though, is Helvetireader. It really cleans the whole interface up and makes it beautiful and easy to focus on the content.

SPRAWL II (MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS)

Arcade Fire's new album just came out, and so far, I like it. Can't say I really LOVE it, but it's good. Overall there just aren't really any songs that have grabbed me the way "Wake Up" or "Rebellion" or "Power Out" did when that amazing first album came out. They seem to have calmed down a lot and I miss the punch that their old style carried. Still there are some good moments, and one of my favorites in my first few listens has been Sprawl II. It's a little bit of a different sound for them, and one that I wouldn't mind hearing them explore more.

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Lauren made some of these recently and they are DELICIOUS. Yes, I've had them before, but this is after all just a list of things I've been liking lately, and I've definitely been liking these lately. So if you have a chance sometime soon, you should make some (or find someone who will).

Well, I think that's it for this random list. Hope you enjoyed it and maybe found something that you can like too.

The 4th of July, Unfocused

This is just a very hastily made video that I created with some of my footage from the 4th. I had seen the idea previously here: http://vimeo.com/6157370, and I was just kind of mesmerized by it. So at the next chance I had to capture some fireworks footage, I decided to give it a try. I've always loved the look of out-of-focus light, and I think fireworks have to be the most exciting form of this that I've seen. Wish I would've had a tripod for this, as I think it would've made it a little better, but I was just traveling light and taking all the video from my back while watching the show. Also, sometime I'd like to spend a little more time on the edit. I just really wanted to get something up, even though I don't have a lot of time right now, but I think some very cool things could be done with time remapping and reversing the footage. Maybe sometime.

My Expensive Fake Toy Camera

Well I got the new iPhone this past week, and it really is amazing, but no matter how great new technology is, it always does sort of disappoint me. Every time I get a new phone, camera, computer (ESPECIALLY computers) I have these visions of how it's going to change my lifestyle and how much more awesome stuff I'm going to be able to do. Then after playing with it for hours (half of which is spent trying to seek out what's actually new about it and how I can change to benefit from it) I'm left with the realization that it's more or less the same. Oh well, at least I'm mature enough to now recognize that I feel this way...

...but still not mature enough to not fight it! So after getting the new phone and FaceTiming with everyone I possibly could I decided that some new apps would perhaps give me that feeling of newness that I was craving. I've always loved photography, and my friend and former roommate Matt does some terrific toy camera photography. So I decided to get a couple apps to try and make cheap replications of that style (plastic bullet and camera+, if you were wondering).

It's incredibly addicting. I don't know what it is about taking these shots with bad focus, misbalanced colors, and uncontrolled light leaks that is so fun, but it just is! We've spent so much time developing all these new technologies, and now what are we doing? Creating programs to mimic the bad technology of the past. I don't know what that says -- that we're realizing technology will never satisfy us in the ways we dream it will or we're finding some of the charm in imperfection or we're just idiots or what -- but it certainly is a complex time we're living in.

Anyway, photos!!!:

Drivin' Somewhere
Drivin' Somewhere
TJ's Parking Structure
TJ's Parking Structure
Leaving Work
Leaving Work

Go Boy!

Over the weekend Lauren and I went to Vail for my sister's wedding. It was a fantastic time with my wonderful family and friends. And then, there was this... a dog long jump competition. It was hilarious. (The longest jump we saw was somewhere around 27 ft. Also, click on the photo and go see the full-size version. The dog's face is PRICELESS.)

My First Weblog

Hey everyone! Isn't this exciting... I now have my very own little place on the web to publicly air my grievances where anybody that really wanted to could find it! I also look forward to sharing some juicy gossip and hopefully some poetry as well... Oooh! Should be really exciting. Parker Wilson, welcome to 2004!