Tag Archives: fireworks
January 2, 2011

PVX: Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador

Here’s a little video about my time spent in Baños, Ecuador (and no, before you ask, “Baños” does not refer to a “bathroom,” but rather the thermal baths the area is known for!)

A little bit of background info:

We don’t particularly like the song I edited this video to, mostly because it is way overplayed down here. Seemed appropriate, however, since we heard it approximately 342,000 times while we were in Baños.

Not everything you see in the video happened on this trip. I have a lot of footage from last year when I brought a few UAS students down to Ecuador. I decided to incorporate some of those clips because, well, we didn’t get to do all those things on this trip (mostly because Oksana was busy taking 4 hours of Spanish lessons every day!)

Our last two nights were spent at Luna Runtun, a resort and spa perched on a cliff, directly above Baños.  The first night, I decided to experiment with my DSLR and took one photo of Baños every minute over the course of two hours (it was pretty easy, I was sitting in a volcanic hot tub at the time.)  My hope was that I would be able to use the frames to create a tiny video clip of Baños at sunset.  So that I could pan across the image during the short video, I made sure to move the camera a little bit every fifteen minutes.  By cropping the video, I thought I’d be able to center and move the video frame cleverly enough to hide those camera movements.  Well, because of the minor — but noticeable — shift in perspective with each camera move, that didn’t work out so great.  I tried to finesse it a bit in post, but then realized I was spending way too much time on a video that was supposed to be a quick edit, anyway.  So… I just kind of dropped the clip in, anyway.  I think it still looks kind of cool, even if it is jerky at times.

April 23, 2010

Sydney Opera House Fireworks

Sydeny Opera House, Australian Idol finale with fireworks

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To celebrate the finale of Australian Idol in 2007, Sydney hosted a fireworks display over the Sydney Opera House.  Much of the story of how we came to see it is presented in Postcard Valet episode 8, but we never mentioned there how we took our photographs in it.

Oksana and I sort of knew there was going to be a fireworks display (even if we didn’t let on in the podcast), so we made sure to get set up beforehand.  What we didn’t know, was when the fireworks were going to go off.  The results were being broadcast live on TV, but it wasn’t as if anyone at Circular Quay had a television…

So we set up two cameras – one for video, one for stills.  The video camera was perched on a tiny tripod atop a piling.  The best we could do with our DSLR was to balance it a little lower down on a railing.  Unfortunately, there was a short stairway down to the water in front of us and other bystanders kept standing right in front of it.

We had the Opera House framed pretty well, but we had no idea how high up the fireworks would be so we just waited. And waited.

You can see in the podcast that when the fireworks finally went off, they were higher than we thought they’d be.  The camera was already set on manual with long exposures, so while I recomposed the shot with the video camera, Oksana simply tilted our still camera back and began taking successive 8 second exposures.  We had 10 files on the flash card by the end of the show, so I guess that means it was somewhere around 90 seconds long.  Seemed longer.

Some of those photos are overexposed, especially toward the end when they wrapped up the pyrotechnics display with a huge finale.  Others have too much smoke hanging in the air.  While this one might not be the very best of the bunch, it’s my favorite.

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 25 November 2007; 9:03pm
Focal Length: 28mm
Shutter: 8 seconds
Aperture: F/10
ISO: 200
Photoshop: Cropped and slightly rotated.

April 12, 2010

PV008: Sydney Opera House

Wow, finally time to put this one to bed!  I’ve been thinking about and working on this episode for a long time.  Since 2008, if the time stamp on my Word doc can be believed!

Originally, when I was mulling over about how to tackle a podcast, I latched onto the idea of using a homemade teleprompter.  In theory, this would have had all sorts of benefits:

  • I could keep going with my blog-entry style of writing.
  • I wouldn’t have to practice speaking without notes.
  • At the end of the recording, I’d have a Google-ready transcript ready for posting.

In practice, however, the setup was clunky and the free teleprompter software really wasn’t very good.  I used our Sydney Opera House footage for a practice run and gave up well before the editing phase.  I did have the transcript written, however, and for fun, I’ve pasted it in, way down at the end of this post.  It’s interesting to see, after two years, what made the final cut and what was left on the cutting room floor.


January 28, 2009

UAS Peru Trip

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You might think that traveling to Peru and bearing witness to the wonders of Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I would have thought so, too, except that I just got back from my third trip there.

I’m always the one advocating some new and exotic locale whenever Oksana and I plan our travels (with the whole world to see, why keep going back to the same places?), but somehow Peru just keeps falling into my lap.

The first time I went was in 1998, when my roommate and I stayed in South America for a couple months after a university trip to Ecuador.  The second time, in 2002, was when I was invited by the university to help lead a class through the country.  Last month, six years later, opportunity came a’knockin’ once again.  Peru had treated me well twice before; how could I say “no?”

Even with my desire to see something new, these recurring trips never disappoint.  The first time there, we flew to Machu Picchu on a helicopter because the train tracks leading to the ruins had washed out in a storm.  The second time, we hiked the Inca Trail and visited many more of the ruins around Cusco.  This time, I was a part of a group that headed down into the Amazon basin for a few days in the jungle.

This was also the first university trip upon which I lugged my video camera around.  The students gave me permission to point my lens in their direction after I promised to make them a great DVD of their adventures.  I shot 14 miniDV tapes worth of footage while we were down there and I plan to add a few more hours of interview footage in the coming weeks.  Before I started editing a project of this magnitude, however, I needed to familiarize myself with what I already had.  It seemed like putting together a short music video would accomplish that goal nicely.

While many of these snippets of video will only mean something to those of us that were in Peru, I trust that the imagery will convey not only the amazing sites we saw, but also how fun, adventurous, diverse, and just downright awesome the people in our group turned out to be.

December 29, 2006

Independence Day

Independence Day

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Six months ago, I took my fancy-schmacy 8 MegaPixel digital SLR out to take pictures of the Independence Day fireworks show.  Except for leaving my cable release at home, I was completely prepared.  The weather was clear, I had a tripod, and thanks to a friend, we established ourselves in the perfect vantage point: The top floor balcony of the Juneau Public Library.  We had an unhindered view of the channel and I had more than enough time before the show to test out different exposure settings. The above picture is not from that night.  The half-assed snapshots I took in 2004 came out far better. After looking at them, I think it’s because I was exposing for what I saw that night rather than exposing for an aesthetically pleasing fireworks photograph.  It never gets truly dark during the summer in Alaska, so the sky was still bright when the fireworks started at midnight.  I thought the cold blue of the sky was great and exposed my pictures to keep it intact.  Unfortunately, the fireworks were brighter and when the blue of the background sky was kept, the fireworks themselves couldn’t avoid being overexposed. The photo above was taken with a 3-MegaPixel point-and-shoot.  Of course, I didn’t just point and shoot with it; I know how to use the PowerShot s30’s manual controls.  But the shooting conditions were less than ideal, that night.  It was a drizzly and my “tripod” was a staircase railing up on the hillside.  My pivot head was a quarter.  And yet… so many of the pictures turned out that it was difficult to choose a favorite from a directory full of 4th of July photos. Because of the rain, it was dark enough that night that I didn’t even notice the tree on the left until after the first picture was displayed on the LCD screen.  Even choosing my focus point was difficult — I had to wait for the light from the next explosion before my camera could auto-focus again.   Despite all that I got good pictures!  The sky is nice and dark (but still with a tinge of blue), which accentuates the colors of the fireworks.  The silhouette of the tree definitely adds to the composition.  Even the smoke trails seem to align within the rule of thirds.  Lucky, I guess. Canon Powershot s30 Date: 4 July 2002 Focal Length: 12.3mm Shutter: 6 seconds Aperture: F/3.5 Photoshop: Cropped from 4:3 to 3:2, Minor color correction

July 5, 2004

July 4th, 2004

Juneau gets nuked on the 4th of July (25k image)My 4-day 4th of July weekend has come and gone, and I spent most of it planted squarely in front of my computer monitor. Part of it was futzing with my cable modem and GCI’s tech support (only to have them tell me after a house call that “it must be network problems”), but most of it was playing computer games. Every once in awhile I rediscover the catharsis in casting aside my responsibilities and losing myself in frag-filled entertainment.

The weekend wasn’t a total creative loss, though. I pried myself away from the keyboard long enough to show up at a friend’s fireworks-watching party on the night of the 3rd. Years ago I admitted to myself that I didn’t find the festivities on the 4th very exciting. The parade, fireworks, street events and parties, I can take ‘em or leave ‘em, but I do enjoy hanging out with my friends. The house we were visiting was high up on a hill downtown, too, and it offered the perfect vantage point to try to capture the fireworks show.

I’ve been looking for years for a good place to rig up a time-lapse of the Juneau traffic after the fireworks display. Thousands upon thousands of people drive downtown for the show at midnight and before the last explosion finishes echoing off the mountainsides, the mass exodus along the only road out to the valley has already begun. For the next hour (at least!) you can see mile after mile of red taillights filling the north-bound lane contrasted with only the occasional pair of headlights going south. Seeing wave after wave of red running lights turning to redder brake lights at each stoplight’s intersection has always entranced me, and although I’ve recorded it to videotape twice, I’ve yet to do it from a really good spot.

Location, in photography as well as in real estate, is everything. I know that I should be scouting the best vantage point weeks in advance for pre-planned events like this. Photos and video could soar from good to great just by having the right foreground or background element. Why then do I rarely make the effort?