The Untold Story :: Short Film

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Directing is a bigger step away from photography than I ever expected. My heart has been in cinema probably about as long as it’s been in photography, but it’s a very different change of direction in many respects. (Although, my taste in films is probably just as questionable to most as my taste in photography is). I’m glad to get away from photography for a bit and I’m extremely happy to have taken on this project. I’ve been writing several variations of this story for the past 2 years straight in my English class, and after turning it into a photographic story to use for my college portfolios it seemed almost silly not to take it one step further and turn it into a short film.

This was only possible thanks to everyone who participated and contributed to the making of.  And a special thanks to The Rehns for providing some brilliant music for the soundtrack (I suggest you check them out here – http://www.facebook.com/TheRehns ). This was a pretty strenuous undertaking as it was a first for everybody involved. The film is set to take part in the Kerry Film Festival, Cork Film Festival, IndieCork Festival, and Dun Laoghaire Underground Cinema Film Festival in the coming months and hopefully more in the future.

For now, I present to you, my debut as a writer/director – “The Untold Story”.

‘The Untold Story’, is a documentation of the frequently avoided subject of teenage depression, following the story of one teenage girl as she deals with bullying, social exclusion, isolation, and domestic violence while nearing the end of her time in secondary school. It touches upon the serious topic of teenage life, more specifically – the part of teenage life that people prefer not to discuss openly. The film depicts modern teenage life in school as vile and abusive as it really is. It aims to reveal how two-faced and self-absorbed teenagers can be, while highlighting the pressure to conform to an idealistic image of what your peers deem acceptable, with those who are ‘different’ being looked down on and bullied – both psychologically and physically.

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Portrait of a Place, Volume 1

A few of my friends and I went down to a local chipper for lunch the other day when we had a bunch of free classes in school. Afterwards we were walking around the park next to the chipper and came across this really old, deserted playground. A new wooden playground had been build just beside it and this one was now obsolete. It was in bits, graffiti, rubbish, safety hazards… it was a broken down wreck. I felt that the place had quite a bit of character and after talking about it for a minute or two one of my friends convinced me that it would be a great place to do a photoshoot. So I took out my phone and took a few shots to get a feel for what the place was like and add it to my locations archive. However, I liked what I was seeing a took a few more with the intention of making a series which dealt with the character of the place. I’m calling this series “Portrait of a Place” and I plan to do it for a few things, hopefully the next will be done in a more planned manner!

Here are the photos, taken with a HTC One V phone camera and the JPEG (yuck!) shots were edited in Lightroom 4.

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I post some similar pictures like this on my Instagram which can be found here if you’re interested: http://instagram.com/stuartcomerford

Is the Canon 1D Mark IIN still a good purchase in 2013?

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*UPDATE as of May 2013* I own 3 of these bodies and they are all workhorses. They get me through absolutely everything I come up against.

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With my photographic needs growing significantly towards the end of 2012  and with the expectation of bigger things to come in 2013 I felt like my equipment was holding me back a big. I love Canon, and I’d love Canon even more if I had about €4,000 to spend on equipment. But like most, I don’t have that kind of money. I had needs that my equipment wasn’t meeting and I had a budget of €500. Things weren’t looking good. I had expected to end up sticking with my current equipment but I looked around and found a great deal on a 1D Mark IIN which I instantly snapped up and haven’t regretted since. In fact, I’m considering buying another.

Why the 1D Mark IIN?

Well, simply put… the Mark II felt too dated and the Mark III was a bit too expensive with a few too many AF worries. I was specifically after a 1-Series body, for the build quality, the dual card slots and the AF system.  As much as I love the 5D Mark II it just wasn’t fit for my needs, it has the benefits of low light performance and image quality but I just needed to get away from the 9 point AF system (well, only the centre point has ever been useful on any of these 9 point systems). The Mark IIN looked like it was the one, it fit all my needs, it fit my budget and it had very few drawbacks. So I went ahead and picked it up.

How does it perform?

I’ve used it on quite a few occasions now and I am extremely impressed with it. It produces fantastic images at all ISO values (actually, I don’t think I’ve had the camera below 800 ISO yet!). I’ve shot fireworks, a concert, rugby matches and some night time street shots since I got the camera. ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 are extremely clean compared to the same settings on the Canon 40D, 60D and 500D. They equal the quality of the Canon 5D Classic and ISO 3200 on the 1D Mark IIN is slightly worse than ISO 3200 on the 5D Mark II. (I’m excluding the 5D Mark III, 1D Mark IV, 1DX etc. because, if you have the money for them then you wouldn’t be reading this post…).

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1/60th, F/2.8, ISO 3200

It’s snappy to focus. Better than any Canon DSLR I’ve used before. In lower light situations, the 40D/60D are quicker to start up but the 1D Mark IIN is quicker to find focus and it’s better at finding focus in low light situations. I shot a 4 hour long battle of the bands concert and there were only 3 occasions throughout the whole night that the 1D had trouble finding focus and that was mainly my fault. If you know to look out for the high contrast areas then it’ll be easy to lock focus 99% of the time. The constant changing stage lights didn’t put the camera off once. Music photography is by far one of the hardest jobs a photographer can get, you really need to be able to rely on your equipment to pull through for you.
The 45 point AF in the 1D was phenomenal. Every point, including the non-cross-type points locked on very easily. I stayed in one shot AF for the entire gig as that’s my shooting preference and I didn’t have a single out of focus image from the entire night. The 1D rendered the colours lovely and they were a pleasure to edit. I’ll mention now that all these images were shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom 4, no noise reduction was added to any of them (I went back and checked). The dynamic range of the 1D at 1600 ISO and 3200 ISO surpassed that of the much newer 60D  and the full frame 5D Classic.

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1/320th, F/2.8, ISO 1600

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1/200th, F/2.8, ISO 1600

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1/80th, F/2.8 ISO 3200

Regarding the editing of the RAW files: you can increase the exposure by about a stop but then the image falls to pieces. This is to be expected. Here’s a black and white image which I pushed and pulled to extremes to get just the way I wanted it, I boosted the exposure by about 2 stops and drastically increased the blacks and clarity to get the exact silhouette look I was after:

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1/1000th, F/2.8, ISO 3200

However, when kept within its limits the camera’s RAW files hold up very well during the edit process.

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1/640th, F/2.8, ISO 1600

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1/100th, F/2.8, ISO 3200

So, I mentioned how the AF performed in one shot, how about in AI Servo? Equally as brilliant. I photographed a Leinster Schools Senior Rugby match and I didn’t get a single out of focus shot that wasn’t my fault. I got a total of 3 out of focus shots because I selected the wrong point or focused on the wrong thing (I was still trying to get used to the AF system at this point). At no point did I have to think about the AF, I set it to back button focusing (my preference) and just held it down without letting go. At no point did I have to give the AF any thought. Tracking was exceptionally good and the camera was not easily tricked. Even when the ball passed in front of players faces there was no noticeable hiccup in the AF. I’d imagine if you set the tracking speed faster in the custom functions you might encounter some problems here, but I had it set to standard and it was perfectly fine. I shot during the rugby match with the Canon 300mm F/4L non-IS and the Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L non-IS so AF was spectacular as per usual with those lenses.

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1/800th, F/4, ISO 800

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1/1000th, F/4,  ISO 800

I left AF point expansion off when shooting with the 300mm. It didn’t feel natural to me, probably because I’m not used to it yet, but the camera handled the action fine without it. I was able to keep up with the players by moving the AF point myself. The dual dial system is a bit tricky to get used to compared to the newer joystick method of selecting AF points but I now prefer it, it’s much easier than the joystick for people like me with big fingers.

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1/1000th, F/4, 800 ISO

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1/1250th, F/2.8, 800 ISO

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1/1250th, F/2.8, 400 ISO

Conclusion

It’s fantastic. I love it, it’s a workhorse of a camera. The files it produces are superb, the 8mp sensor is more than most people will need, it will print as big as you could ever want (unless you’re a studio photographer, in which case I doubt you’d be interested in this camera).  The smaller file sizes are much more friendly towards CF cards though, the buffer clears quicker than with bigger files (like with the 40D or 7D), due to the buffer clearing quicker it’s easier to get longer bursts at the 8.5 FPS the cameras offers. A Lexar 8GB 200x CF card gives me a good 3 second burst of RAW files on full speed before it slows down. An even faster card wouldn’t have this problem, I just have no need for faster cards at the moment.
In terms of IQ, it is far beyond any current APS-C sensor camera offered by Canon. I would rather buy a 1D Mark IIN than a 7D. The IQ of the 1D matches that of the 5D Classic, the 5D Mark II is a bit better, especially at high ISOs. It really benefits from the full frame. I love the 1D Mark IIN and I think it is a very good choice in 2013 if you’re on a budget. Other cameras around it’s price range would be a 650D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 60D, 5D Classic – it performs better than each of those models in it’s own way. The AF is far beyond that of the 5D Classic, and the image quality (as well as other features like the AF) is far beyond that of any APS-C offering.

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1/10th, F/4, 800 ISO

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1/1000th, F/4, 640 ISO

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1/1600th, F/2.8, 400 ISO

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1/1000th, F/2.2, 800 ISO

Pros
-Fantastic Image Quality
-Rugged build
-Brilliant 45 point AF system
-Dual card slots
-100% Coverage Viewfinder
-Audio Recording
-Smaller file sizes allow for cheaper CF cards (like 200x as opposed to the 600x needed for similar speeds with a 7D)

Cons
-Big and heavy
-Big battery (twice the size of the 1D Mark III/IV battery and about 3/4 times the size of the 5D/7D/xxD batteries)
-2.5 inch LCD screen, not as high quality as current screens (doesn’t bother me, it’s still a brilliant screen)
-Only goes to 3200 ISO

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I love slideshows

They’re a joy to make, I’ve always thought that. I make slideshows for a lot of the big things I shoot, it’s a shame most of them are actually just pointless.

I was recently extremely busy photographing Mount Temple Comprehensive School’s journey in the Leinster Schools McMullen Cup. Since I had loads of photos from their three matches I decided to make a slideshow story documenting their time in the cup. I plan to make another if they do good in the next Leinster Schools Senior Cup after Christmas. You can watch the slideshow here:

 

Published Work!

This is just a quick blog post. One of the projects I was working on over the summer was taking photos for the cover of a new school journal/diary for Mount Temple Comprehensive School here in Dublin, Ireland.

Anyway, the journal is finished and has been given out to all the students now. Check out how it looks :)

 

Jack of all trades, master of none…?

This is something which has been troubling me for a little while now. Over the past month I’ve been increasingly thinking about what I intend to study at university as it’s only a few months now until I’ll have to make my choices and submit my application form. In regards to what I want to do at university I’m currently torn between…(wait for it)… politics, journalism, human geography, geology, genetic engineering, microbiology, business management and then you can add on multiple media courses to that list. Something tells me that 15 years from now, providing I have some sort of stable income, I’ll have multiple degrees.

Now, this brings me onto the subject of this post which is a bit more media orientated than the introductory paragraph would lead you to believe.
I’ve involved myself in the world of digital media for quite a few years now, I think I started when I was thirteen (four years sounds about right, probably longer). I wanted to make the things I admired, I wanted to design cool stuff that other people would admire. I had always be into painting, drawing and sculpting (I still am) but I wanted to do it on a digital level, so, I got myself photoshop CS3 (yeah, I was definitely younger than thirteen since CS4 was released late 2008). I just started clicking buttons and playing with the tools. Seeking a pat on the back from my mother whenever I felt I had accomplished something new, it’s really amazing what satisfaction the little things provided. I remember freaking out thinking I was so cool when I was able to make a multi-colour gradient, now-a-days I have actions set up so it takes less than 2 seconds to do such a thing.
Through experimentation I learned quite a lot about photoshop, but I felt as if there was more I could do; more I could learn. I turned my attention towards video. I spent quite a lot of time editing videos of random clips or even of xbox game clips, anything to learn more about colour grading, transitions, angles, titles, shakes, crops, overlays and… well, you get the gist. Video is an amazing media form which I always like to keep an eye on, It’s slowly revolutionising the world of the still photographer and I’d really rather not get left behind.

Video opened my eyes to many things, motion graphics and sound design in particular. My time with sound design was short lived but I feel I learned just enough to get me through any situation I may encounter, my intention was never to learn how to build digital songs – I’ll keep the music production to my guitar and harmonica. But I spent many, many sleepless nights experimenting in Adobe After Effects and trying to get over the very steep learning curve. It’s quite a shame now that since I’ve been away from it for so long all my hard work seems to have been wasted. I found After Effects amazing as a compliment to video production, but it didn’t do quite what I wanted it to do. The 2D animation wasn’t right at the time, although, the physics simulators were very intriguing. But alas, on I moved to Cinema 4D for 3D design and my God, that was extremely fun. 3D design is hands down the best way to waste 8 hours making little to no progress on something (that may sound sarcastic, but I’m deadly serious – it was amazing fun). From Cinema 4D it was on to blender for animation and character modelling and then one day, I found myself, in Adobe Lightroom, editing RAW files. I had practically gone full circle and ended up back at the start.

A few days ago, I purchased some photoshop magazines as composite images were starting to attract my attention. After a few hours of reading and watching the accompanying DVDs I ended up spending hours in photoshop doing what I had always wanted to do: create stuff. The satisfaction gained from creating something from scratch in unmatched. I honestly think I could take the best photo in the world but still consider building a 3D computer model of a human face to be far superior.
Well, since purchasing those photoshop magazines I’ve returned to Sony Vegas, After Effects, Illustrator, Cinema 4D and Blender.  If I’m so attracted to motion graphics then how come I’ve chosen still photography as what my life pretty much revolves around? I don’t know, but I sure as hell ain’t giving up photography.

And so this brings me on to what’s been troubling me. People say that you can be great at doing loads of things but you’ll never be able to perfect your skill at one particular thing. It’s got me thinking, many photographers take up a role as a videographer since it’s really simple once you understand your exposure triangle pretty much. But could there be any way of connecting still photography with 3D design, for example? Sure, maybe if I wanted to create digital art such as the work seen in the desktopography exhibitions but is there a practical use which I could integrate into a photography career?  Is there a place for motion graphics/animation amidst this photographer/videographer/designer dilemma? Perhaps I’m way in over my head.  Sure it’s useful, it’s always handy to have experience in slightly relative fields. But in any situation will it actually pay off to be a jack of all trades? Or should you really channel your energy and time into perfecting one thing? – Is there a market for a jack of all trades?

Maybe I’ll study business at university.

Last night I opened up Cinema 4D and After Effects CS5 to piece together a short little video intro for my future videos on my youtube channel. It’s proper short (7 seconds) and is only a few hours of work – most of that time was re-learning how to export illustrator paths into Cinema 4D and then work the extrude NURBS tool and the camera animations, I ended up doing everything the long and hard way but it was enjoyable none-the-less. There are some obvious problems, especially with my render settings and lighting, buts still… check it out!


Attempted architectural photography…

Recently I dabbled in the field of landscape photography when I went on a trip to Dalkey, but the other day I received a phone call requesting my services for a super secret project (that you’ll hear about again in 2 months!) which involved taking me out of my comfort zone and making me think about straight lines, interesting details, textures and skies as opposed to emotion – which is pretty much the only think I think about when capturing a photo of a person.

Anyway, it went reasonably well and I got some decent shots. Here’s a few of my favourites from the afternoon:

As you can see, the weather conditions weren’t exactly idea… my assistant and I kept moving towards the main building as it kept trying to rain. The fact there were loads of foreign students in the grounds didn’t make it easy getting the photos either. Make sure to click on the images for a larger version, especially that panorama!