Monday, December 19, 2011

Shooting Lessons: Pt. I - Patience

This lesson is about patience, waiting for that perfect moment to start recording your video.  

I'm finding that learning to shoot video is much the same as learning to shoot still photographs.  Though I have been photographing airplanes for ten years now, I feel as though I'm starting from the beginning when it comes to video.  A perfect example of this is wanting to shoot everything I see, even when the aircraft/subject is waaaaaay off in the distance.  To the naked eye it "looks cool" and sometimes even through the view-finder/display screen it may look especially cool, since I can zoom in on the subject.  However, once I get home and sit down at the computer and review it, I realize I wasted 40 seconds of video which I could have used later in the day, on a subject I can hardly even see.

Lesson I - Patience:  Only shoot when your subject can fill 1/3 of the frame or more. 
Think of each clip you shoot as an individual photograph.  Would you want to sit and look at a speck of an airplane against a solid blue sky for 30-seconds?  Probably not.  Once that aircraft/subject fills at least 1/3 of the frame, you will be able to make out greater detail.

The other thing to take into consideration is that you will probably be at full zoom.  As we all know, trying to keep any camera rock-steady at full zoom is very, very difficult.  As a result, this video will be very shaky. That is, unless, you have a nice tripod setup.  In that case, I find it even more tempting to record when the subject is far away.  Remember to be patient, and keep your finger off the trigger until you can get a decent, interesting shot.

With every rule of photography there is an exception.  With this, the exception would be if you're trying to catch an interesting background or you're trying to capture the motion of the subject.  If you're at an airshow you may want to show an aircraft making an exceptionally tight turn, or rounding off the top of a loop or other aerobatic maneuver.  If you're at an airport spotting, you may want to show aircraft in the traffic pattern turning base to final.  For this to be successful, in my opinion, you must have a background other than solid blue sky.  Clouds, ground references, or maybe even airshow smoke must be visible to show motion.  This follows a lesson I will discuss at a later time, when in doubt, zoom out.

Equipment Consideration:  Focus point

With my Canon VIXIA HG20 I find it extremely challenging to record an interesting scene due to the fact this camera only has one focus point, and it is dead center.  As a result, this unfortunately means most of the time I cannot follow the rule of thirds.  If I want the subject in focus, it has to be in the middle.  Otherwise I get continuous focus searching, or a blurry subject.  If you have an older piece of equipment or one with limited functions, be aware of that and shoot accordingly.  Sure, in PP I can zoom and pan the scene, but this will result in a generally degraded image quality due to pixelation and increased noise.

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