The Good, the Bad, and the Screwy

New to anime? Want a fresh take? Follow along as we explore the best and worst and most out there Japan has to offer.

New to anime? Want a fresh take? Follow along as we explore the best and worst and most out there Japan has to offer.

We have a new show here at Halfacre Pond.  It involves anime – a topic near and dear to my heart – and broadening my friend Max’s horizons in that regard.

We call it The Good, the Bad, & the Screwy.

If you’ve read some of my posts, you’ll know I’m somewhat of an aficionado on anime, and derive a lot of entertainment from it.

Not all of the entertainment is because it’s good.  Some of it is just so mockingly bad.  I like all flavors of anime because I appreciate breadth and variety of the offerings.  From the intense, gut wrenching action to the light hearted fun and joy to the absurd gags that tickle my funny bone, I like it.

Max is a Toonami kid.  He grew up watching the dubbed versions of the classics like DBZ, Sailor Moon, Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Tenchi, Macross, etc, etc…but that was about it. He likes it, but never really got into it and had a few distasteful encounters that left him soured on it for a while.

Then peer pressure kicked in when I and a few other friends got him to watch Attack on Titan and he loved it.  The door opened a little and now we’ve come upon a grand experiment.

Up first.

Up first.

Max has agreed to watch the first 4 episodes of any 4 anime series I give him each month and give his reactions.

My challenge is to cultivate this list each month, and expose Max to many varieties of anime and gauge his reactions.  I’ve decided the best way to do this is to put a good anime, a bad anime, and some sort of screwball goofy comedy anime on this list…bonus, each month there will be a themed show on the list!

Here’s the kicker… Max won’t know what show is which.  Each month from now on he’ll go in blind and figure it out the hard way.

We’ll try to release a new episode each Friday.  All the series will be chosen from what’s easily available for streaming online.  Watch along with Max as we venture down this rabbit hole.

Enjoy this brief introduction and tune in next week as Max tackles his first challenge :)

How To Be Happier With Your Photos

How to be happier with your photos.

Tough subject.

There are many articles and posts and videos and tutorials about photographic techniques and how to improve and expand your skill set, but there are few that deal with the photographer’s mindset.

Clarity of thought and vision is the path that leads to creating better photos. It’s easy to get lost in the technique and rely on set patterns and caught up in gear and sometimes  you get just a little too comfortable.

When something works, we stick with it, blindly shooting away as we trust our standard settings to get an acceptable image. I’m guilty of this. There have been many shoots where I get things dialed in ‘just so’ to get a usable image and just blank. I press the button, the shutter clicks, the flash fires, things happen, an image is recorded. I’m barely registering the image though and am left wondering later during editing why I have so many of the same boring shot.

Conversely, sometimes the technique and the gear gets in the way. When the set up just isn’t working. For some reason your flash isn’t firing. The light balance is just all wrong and no matter what you do to fix it, things get so far slanted from normal that you feel lost in the woods, staring at the readouts of the back of your camera and the ugly image plaguing you, that you lose all connection with the subject and end up firing away at nothing because you’re so caught up in what’s wrong you can’t see what’s right.

Yes. That was a run on sentence. The reeling you feel in that situation is twice as fast and four times as breathless – seriously, sometimes I forget to breathe.

Neither of these situations is conducive to clarity or creativity.

How do you improve?

Step 1: Slow down and think.

Stop fiddling with settings and take a look around. Put the box down for a moment and really look. Notice shapes and lines and form in the subject of your intended photo. Sit with it a while and quietly observe. As one great article on fstoppers puts it, Linger.

You’re going to have to ignore the itch, the one that tells you you’re wasting precious light when you’re NOT firing away on a shoot.

I know it feels counter-intuitive to take a better picture by not taking pictures, but do it, it works.

Step 2: Breathe.

Sometimes you do forget to breathe. Steady, measured breaths are a good calming technique and helps you slow down and think. Breathing also is important for continued living and all, but more importantly, it helps you focus. Always shoot on an exhale.  You are more steady then and it will help you get the eyes in focus.

How?

It’s something I’ve noticed. I like to shoot hand held and I like to shoot with a shallow depth of field. No matter how good your eyes are, or your auto-focus is, you’re likely focusing on  your subject’s nose or forehead. If you focus on the inhale and release on the exhale, you’re going to sway just enough to compensate for the slight recess of the eyes. I noticed when I held my breath to take a shot, it was just out of tack sharp, but when I exhaled, I hit it.

So breathe, you stay conscious and tend to improve sharpness.

Step 3: Stop relying on gear.

The camera does not take the picture, you do. I hate it when people say “that’s a nice camera, it must take really great pictures,” or “I’ve got the latest greatest SuperSLR3500S, it’s mirrorless and takes the best pictures ever!”

-_-‘  Ignorant people irk me.

Point is, before the picture is ever put to the pixels, the image must be made in your brain. You don’t need a camera to make images. To see the world. To know what’s a great image and great composition.

You only need a camera to express to others what you see.

Do this. Walk around without a camera, shut one eye, look at something, and make a picture in your brain.  Do it everywhere you go. Train your eye and your brain to think in terms of those moments where you would take a shot so that when you do have a camera in your hand, the expression of your vision becomes second nature.

Enjoy living in the moment first, work on capturing the moment for others second.

Step 4: Get out.

This should be the most obvious part.

Get out. Get out. Get out.

Quit sitting around like a bump on a log and get to exploring. In fact, you don’t even have to get out, but for the love of all that’s good, get off yer ass and explore the dust bunnies living under your couch.

I’m absolutely shocked at the number of people who bemoan their lack of decent work when they never seek out new photo opportunities.

I’ve been stuck, and am still stuck in some senses, for material or places to shoot or people to work with, but things aren’t just going to fall in your lap.

One day, I was feeling particularly insipid in terms of my creativity and what I was photographing, so I went for a drive. I drove and drove and drove. Then I drove some more. Nothing came to me. I drove for a hundred miles up and down highways and back roads, and round about the one hundred and first mile, I glanced out the side window of my car and saw horses along a ridge in a pasture, with the light just right. I pulled right off the side of the road and snapped a few frames. Here are two.

Serenity Ridge

Serenity Ridge

Hundred Mile Horses

Hundred Mile Horses

 

Step 5: Get over it.

I think I suck. You probably think you suck. Get over it. I have.

It’s true. Most of the images photographers make are not good. It’s a leaden weight around our necks, the tens of thousands of shutter depressions that resulted in sub par images, that drags our confidence down. We only release what’s good or great and hope to goodness the rest stay buried.

It makes accepting praise difficult, actually. Really difficult. Someone says, “I’ve never seen you take a bad picture,” and my neck bursts into flames, and I feel a fraud. I know they’re trying to be complimentary, but all I think is “Yeah, because I WON’T show you the bad ones…they far outnumber the good.”

What I am good at is editing and filtering. I’ve made somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000 photos in the last five years. I’ve seen every single one, you haven’t.

You just have to accept that bad pictures will be made, it’s part of the process, you aren’t a failure, your camera hasn’t betrayed you, it just happens. Just don’t show the bad ones.

Step 6: The hardest part.

Don’t compare yourself to others. No good comes from it.

You have to realize that you were not in that place at that time under those circumstances with that person’s particular skill set, history, and technique.  So you are never going to make that shot.

All you can do is make your shots. Learn what you like, why you like it, improve your skills, improve your situation, so that you can be in an improved position, to take a better shot. One that’s your’s.

The only person you should compete with is yourself. Progress, not perfection. Am I a better photographer than I was yesterday?

If so, you’ll be happier with your photos.

 

The Curious Case of the Canon EOS M

3 Ninjas-1The Canon EOS M.  The manufacturer’s first foray into a mirrorless world dominated by Fuji is largely considered an abysmal failure commercially.  BUT. This little gem went UP in value after it was discontinued.

Why?

After its maker gave up on it, retailers started slashing prices heftily, almost giving them away. Then something odd happened…a camera that was yesterday $600 was now only $300, then $250, and finally dropping as low as $150 for the body only some places. People started to take note, and find a use for them.

Here’s the thing. In my opinion, the EOS M is a terrible camera. The original auto-focus is atrocious – this has been fixed with version 2.2 of the firmware. Much snappier now. Secondly, it’s probably the most poorly designed body ever conceived. There’s simply NO WAY to hold the tiny thing.  If I try to hold it like a normal camera, the palm of my hand presses all the buttons on the back. It’s no wonder this thing flopped.

Which is a damn shame because while it’s perhaps the worst camera in the world, the EOS M is the best damn lens accessory I’ve ever seen.

3 Ninjas-2Here’s the beauty of the M. Inside the infuriatingly unfriendly body is an 18mp sensor with a DIGIC 5 processor – same sensor as the 60D with the processor being one generation better. The body is only 9 ounces.  It has a brilliant 3″ touchscreen on the back that can control everything. The video it shoots is absolutely gorgeous.

So what you do is this…you get the adapter ring to put EF/EF-S lenses on the M. Then you mount the M to a tripod or some other video rig.  Problem solved, advantage gained. Lightweight, agile, and cheap.

The most horrible part of the M as a camera – the too small to hold size – becomes an asset when you aren’t actually holding it.  When you’re using the M as a video back mounted in a rig, everything changes.  The large touch screen on the back makes a great monitor and allows for one to easily adjust settings and literally touch exactly where you want the camera to focus – though be sure to turn AF SERVO off, it’s incredibly annoying.

At $150 for the body, $60 for the Vello adapter, with the image quality of its big brothers, the M became the best choice for a video back in the DSLR filmmaking market.  I originally bought it to use as a second camera.  A back to put on the luscious glass sitting in my bag while the primary camera was recording. Something to make use of good lenses and get another angle in the process. Something that didn’t add much weight when slipped in an already full camera bag.

Instead, now it’s become my main video set up, and I own three Ms to cover my filmmaking needs.

It’s all about proper technique and using a little thought to overcome the problems of the M to bring out its true strength. Beautiful video from a lightweight, agile, mobile body.

That being said, there are a couple more things to watch out for.

1) Dust. Dust is ever the enemy of camera gear, the M is especially susceptible to dust as there is no mirror to protect the sensor when changing lenses. Be careful and carry a blower. Check your footage regularly.

2) Battery life. It’s horrible. I get maybe 90min-120min of runtime out of one charge. That crisp LCD screen is on all the time, sucking down juice.  Have some spare batteries.

3) White Balance & ISO. Unfortunately the M lacks fine white balance controls out of the box, you can’t dial in the color temp, only set to the defaults. It also lacks fine ISO adjustments, only your standard stops.  To get more control, you have to use Magic Lantern.

All in all, the EOS M is a handy little back when used properly. The value of it comes from its being undervalued though. It’s a strange creature. Now that people have taken notice of it, you can hardly find them.  If you see one for under $300, grab it.  That’s the top end of what it’s worth though.  More than that and you’re better off sacrificing the slight weight increase for the finer control of a used DSLR.

Here are some samples of the results.

Cutting the Stitches: The Scarecrow Speaks

Let’em Live Upstate

Silent Soul – Neil Lee Griffin

 

It’s not about the size of your camera, it’s about how you use it.

Cacophony of the Mind

Greetings all.  Welcome to Halfacre Pond, the centralized home of my creative endeavours.   Here you will encounter the short films I make, web serials I produce,  photography projects, podcasts, etc.  Along side these visuals, I shall present you with articles of thought sparked from my brain on topics various and sundry.

First up on the schedule is a short film I created for the Rode MyReel 2014 International Short Film contest entitled Cacophony of the Mind.

CotM was born when I asked myself one question: What is the simplest, easiest to shoot with no budget idea I can execute in 3 weeks?  The idea started as a lark – with the obvious answer to that question being one long shot in which nothing Quiet Peoplehappens.

Ideas started percolating from there and in fact the entire creative process behind the film is what became the subject matter of said film which eventually found some context in an unusual place – an internet meme.

I let the concept simmer for about a week, bouncing it off a few people, growing it as I did so. The reception was surprisingly positive for something I thought would be just a lark. It grew into more of a thought piece than I expected.

It isn’t the best short film in the world, the most insightful, the most awe inspiring, or any other superlatives, this I know, but I am still proud of it because it is the first film project I have actually completed (nearly) to my satisfaction.

Ever.

Yes, there are minor quibbling details about the final product I am not happy with, and of course no creative project is ever finished, but for once I got it done the way I wanted it to the absolute best of my ability, given the time and circumstances presented to me.

It is a cohesive piece with a message, meant to provoke thought and cause you to take notice of yourself and others around you, which delivers on the promise of all stories told.

I am proud of myself and feel a sense of accomplishment.  This, world, is what I can do.  Look out, there’s more on the way.

Until next time.