Many of you know I’m a contributor to The Trevor Carpenter PhotoChallenge, a 52-week photographic challenge community. Last winter I started playing around with the idea of vlogging alongside the Weekly Photo Challenge Blog. I wanted to change things up a bit and make it more personable.
I felt that only reading the blog versus having the author introduce it to the community with a video sounded like more of a one-on-one personal approach for The Trevor Carpenter PhotoChallenge.
As much as I admired the idea, I was at a loss as to where to start. As a photographer, you don’t usually carry much video gear except for your DSLR’s built-in video functions. Yes, I could mount my camera on a tripod and go for it. However, I wanted to be more mobile. Using a DJI Ronin with a large Nikon DSLR was counterproductive for self filming and vlogging. For me, it proved to be too heavy to comfortably carry in one hand.
I had to make a gear choice and I didn’t want to use my iPhone. I eventually brought it down to the Osmo Pocket all in one gimbal camera and the Osmo Action camera.
The Osmo Pocket seemed to have a better dynamic range than the Osmo Action but the lens is not as wide. There was an option of a wide-angle lens for the Osmo Pocket, but reviews were mixed as far as its sharpness at the edges. It also didn’t have an HDR mode. The Osmo Action’s size, stability without gimbal and out of the box waterproofing made it the winning candidate. Now that the new Osmo Pocket 2 is out, it could have easily swayed either way.
The Osmo Action did have its little quirks and limitations. Not being able to use the RockSteady Stabilization mode in HDR made me look for a suitable gimbal solution.
I didn’t want to use an action camera gimbal, I wanted flexibility and versatility. This is where the Feiyu-Tech G6 MAX made sense. With a 1.2 Kilogram payload capacity, it also enabled the use of smaller lighter cameras such as the Osmo Action and mobile phones.
Although I didn’t have anything larger under 1.2 Kilo to carry on the G6 MAX Gimbal, I had plans to eventually expand. The Feiyu-Tech G6 MAX cannot control the Osmo Action’s start-stop recording modes as it does with the GoPro. DJI had not released an SDK allowing 3rd party manufacturers to interface with the camera. However, it can provide power from the gimbal head to the camera and still shoot for hours. Full control over the camera’s functions is done via the DJI MIMO APP.
Unfortunately, my days with Feiyutech G6 MAX were numbered. The G6 MAX Gimbal suffers from excessive drift to the left and loss of Horizon. Within two months it had also failed miserably. Returning it to California from Canada was counterproductive as it cost $119 to ship. I couldn’t get service as Feiyutech’s official store sold me a gray market unit not serviceable in Canada. That is when I acquired the Zhiyun WEEBILL-S Gimbal. Heavier than the G6 MAX yet lighter than the Ronin line, I had found not only a sturdier gimbal with a heavier payload capacity but a smoother more capable gimbal as well.
My first video was for WEEK 29 of the Trevor Carpenter PhotoChallenge, Up Close With Urban Nature. Although the idea was well-received, I wanted more from the video.
Yes, this was the first attempt. I barely had the gear in my hands for a day. I just went out to try out the gimbal and ended up coming up with a theme idea for the PhotoChallenge and improvised. I was actually surprised by the Osmo Action’s sound quality for an action camera.
The second challenge I vlogged for was WEEK 32, Water and Water Critters. I didn’t have much direction as far as filmmaking but I did have an idea. I was also greeted by Canada Geese who made an appearance as they came to feed in the nearby field. The pieces were in place but altogether made for too long of a video. Examples and the slideshow needed to be removed from the video as it was but an introduction. These pieces had a utility, they just needed to be placed separately on their own, as videos throughout the PhotoChallenge Blog. I have to thank Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero, one of our contributors for being 100% honest with me and criticizing me when and where I needed to be criticized.
Week 35 came around and I took the vlogging to the big city, Old Montreal for an Antique, Vintage and Historical Photography Challenge. It was more challenging with more people around and especially being bombarded by the sounds of street construction all over the place and the common everyday noises from the urban area. I also vlogged from multiple areas adding a new dimension to the challenge introductions. Putting all of that together on top of a long walk around the downtown area proved to be exhausting and my lack of energy started to show. Fortunately, some bloopers seemed to have made up for all the low energy clips…
WEEK 38: Pet Portraits was by far my favorite one. My friends Claude and Esther invited me to their Ranch, The Mistouk Ranch for the weekend. I was able to put together a little scenario in an attempt to add some humor and lightheartedness to the whole process. My intention is to promote having fun with photography and I want that to come across through my videos for every level of photographer. Following in the footsteps of my previous challenges, I went from vlogging while holding the camera to having someone take on the role of a cameraman. I also created a different perspective with an ending and closing credits filmed from a drone.
My WEEK 41: ELECTRIC Photo Challenge was created on a whim as I was walking along the banks of the Montreal Back River. I was really looking at accomplishing some interesting time-lapse videos when I got the idea of doing an ELECTRIC Photo Challenge. I just set up and started vlogging. The lighting was less than ideal but it worked out OK. This is when realized I needed one more piece of gear, portable LED lights. There’s not much to do when you’re on the wrong side of the river and the sun is setting.
Like all my vlogging to date, totally improvised from start to finish. I get an idea and I start talking about it in front of the camera and let it develop by itself into a new Photo Challenge.
WEEK 44: When Halloween Was Canceled, the 2020 Halloween Photo Challenge. That was supposed to be my cinematographic debut. I had the perfect location with the perfect scenario when all of a sudden, CODE RED, we’re in the first steps of a COVID-19 lockdown and I can’t travel from region to region or socialize with people who live at a different address than mine.
I turned it around in a standard lighthearted vlog and introduced a friendly open to interpretation Halloween Photo Challenge. Not sure at this point how my videos are accepted as introductions, but the participation and the creativity behind each and every submitted image was truly out of this world 🙂
The WEEK 45: Physical Activity Photo Challenge was my ultimate challenge. At the last minute, I filled in for a fellow contributor. Not only was I producing two challenges in a row, but I basically had to create and publish WEEK 45 by Saturday Morning 12 AM and we were Thursday afternoon. I decided to still go ahead and vlog the introduction on Friday morning and post a new challenge by the end of the day without compromising the quality of the Photo Challenge. I was also handicapped on audio as my ZOOM gear was getting some warranty service.
Throughout my videos, I slowly upgraded the audio and on this last one found myself with a lapel microphone and an old iPhone running DOLBY ON audio recording app. I blame the old phone for the less than adequate audio as I’m still quite intrigued by the Dolby audio app.
At first, my audio was straight out of the DJI Osmo Action. It’s actually pretty good for a waterproof action camera. Naturally, as you get further away from the camera, you’re fighting outdoor noises and a more professional setup is necessary. I decided to use the ZOOM H1n as a versatile field recorder with the Rode Lapel microphone. For the Halloween PhotoChallenge, I even used Accusonus’s ERA 5 Bundle standard with the Reaper audio editing application to enhance my audio. All in all I was happy with the end result obtained with the Accusonus plugins.
This is my little story as to why and how I started vlogging. Those who follow the PhotoChallenge know that I did an infrared vlog to introduce the 2016 Halloween PhotoChallenge for the first time. I also spent time in front of a camera in Los Angeles and more recently in Canada for a Lexus Canada mini-documentary in French. I’m passed being camera shy, now I’m just having fun with the concept and hopefully found a good way to promote photography for every level of photographer out there.
If it interests you, below are links to software and hardware used to create my vlogging introductions for the Trevor Carpenter PhottoChallenge. Some of the links are affiliated links which means I get a small commission if you purchase from these links.
Accusonus ERA Bundle Standard (NOT AFFILIATED)
DOLBY ON APP FOR IOS and ANDROID (NOT AFFILIATED)
ZOOM H1n on AMAZON : BUY THE ZOOM H1n (Affiliated Link)
BUY ON AMAZON: Rode SmartLav+ Omnidirectional Lavalier (Affiliated Link)
BUY ON AMAZON: Rode SC4 3.5mm TRS to TRRS (Affiliated Link)