The Migrant Crisis

A powerful sequence of words and images that will open your eyes to the migrant crisis going on right now.

By far the most perilous route is the Libya-Italy sea crossing, where more than 2,500 people have perished since March. In the worst incident, in late April, a grotesquely overladen fishing trawler capsized and sank within sight of a rescue ship; of the estimated 800 migrants aboard, only 28 were saved.

The Rise of the Sh*tpic

Brian Feldman at The Awl charts the rise of low-resolution internet images that continue to degrade in quality as time goes on:

The Shitpic aesthetic has arisen from two separate though equally influential factors, both of which necessitate screencapping instead of direct downloading. The first is that Instagram, which has no built-in reposting function, doesn’t let users save images directly. This means that the quickest way to save an image on a phone is to screencap it, technically creating a new image. The second, more important shift is the new macro format that divorces text from image.

As a photographer it’s sad to me that, in a world where we can replicate digital objects with 100% accuracy, our most popular memes are those that have degraded to almost being unrecognizable due to unintentional compression.

Seattle Urban Craft Uprising 2014

I haven’t been shooting enough recently. 
Between my full-time job, the new cello videos, and finishing up work on the film, and all the podcasting, it’s been tough to find the time and will to get out there and do some photography. Thus, I decided to head to the Urban Craft Uprising today with my Canon 5D Mark III and a 50mm f/1.4 lens. I’ve been shooting a lot with the GH4 recently, but despite how convenient, portable, and fun that camera is to use, I occasionally crave the beauty of full-frame. 
It was pretty great seeing all the cool things that craftspeople from the Pacific Northwest came up with. Pro tip for these situations, by the way: Artists really appreciate it when you ask for permission to take photos. It’s their livelihood you’re dealing with, and they’re graciously giving you control of how it’s presented to the world. Tread carefully. 
Thanks to artists such as Clarissa Callesen and many others for allowing me to photograph their work today. You can find all the photos the photos from this set right here
[Side note: This photo set was made using VSCO’s new Film Pack 06, their Cross Process collection.]

Shooting a Wedding with a Panasonic GH4

I had the honor of shooting a friend’s wedding last weekend in British Columbia, so I decided it would be a good opportunity to try doing a professional gig using the Panasonic GH4 and my brand new Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8 lens (a full review of that lens will come later, hopefully). I’ve shot dozens of weddings in the past, but I’ve used a Canon camera for every single one (occasionally supplemented with a Fuji X100). Could a Micro 4/3rds camera measure up to full frame?

Here are some of the pros and cons of shooting a wedding with a GH4, compared to, say, a Canon 5D Mark III.


Weight – WOW this setup is light! You can pack a single small camera bag with the Panasonic GH4, a 12-35mm lens and a 35-100mm lens (the rough equivalent of a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm on a Canon 5d Mark III) and switch between them all day without feeling any impact on your back and shoulders. Those who have shot weddings using Canon gear will know the pain of which I speak. (One of my mentors actually got a pinched nerve from all of her gear!) By far this is the hugest advantage of using the GH4 compared to any full frame camera.

It also has other implications. Since you’re traveling lighter, you can carry more stuff and be more nimble and experimental when it comes to finding the right shot. For instance, the photo at the top of this page was taken using a bare LumoPro flash, remote triggered from behind the couple. But it was done in haste between group photos. If I’d had a heavier setup, I might not have been able to move as quickly to try and snap this shot.

Cost – Buying a Canon 5D Mark III and a 24-70mm and 70-200mm lens will cost you roughly $7000, give or take $500 or so depending on whether you buy all the stuff new. Through some deal-hunting and eBay-ing, I was able to purchase a GH4 with lenses of equivalent focal lengths to the above for about $3500 total. That is a huge difference in price, especially if you’re just starting out.

Drive mode – The GH4 can shoot up to 12 frames per second. It is SUPER fast. And at a wedding, this can be particularly useful when you’re trying to capture specific moments during a ceremony, or with interactions between the couple and their guests. Whenever I saw something interesting happening, I’d just let the drive mode rip and then have a ton of options to choose from in post.

File sizes – RAW files on the GH4 are significantly smaller than on the Canon 5D Mark III. This means fewer cards and more photos (P.S. This is also a negative, as I will discuss below).


Shallow depth of field – I’ve already discussed this in previous posts, but obviously the shallow depth of field on the GH4 will never measure up to what you can get on a full frame camera. That’s particularly unfortunate for a wedding, because a lot of clients are looking for that creamy bokeh in their wedding shots. This camera, even at a 200mm focal length, really struggles to deliver on that front. You’ll have greatest success when there’s a lot of physical distance between yourself and the object.

Aesthetics – As of this writing, the GH4 retails for $1700. But because of its size and weight, it certainly doesn’t LOOK like a professional grade camera. People expect to see a Canon/Nikon-size full frame camera at weddings. It’s hard to look “legit” when you are toting the GH4 around. I realize this isn’t really a con from a photography perspective, but it’s worth noting for people considering this as a tool to build a career on.

Low light performance – The GH4 does just okay up to ISO 3200, but a Canon 5D Mark III blows this camera out of the water when it comes to low light performance. I took tons of shots in low light situations that were just completely unusable. Honestly, I wouldn’t go above ISO 1600 on the GH4, which is practically impossible at weddings (nearly all of which involve at least some low light situations).

On that note…

Megapixels – The GH4 has about 16 megapixels. The Canon 5D Mark III has around 22. I’m aware that megapixels don’t necessarily determine picture quality and that there were other factors involved, but there were definitely instances where I took photos with the GH4 that I needed to crop, and on a smaller sensor with fewer megapixels, you definitely “feel” that crop a lot more in terms of loss of quality. The resulting image can be muddier or noisier than the same image would have been on the 5D Mark III.


So overall, is this a setup I would recommend for weddings? Yes and no. This gig was for a friend, so it wasn’t a conventional client situation. I was pretty happy with the photos that I got and so was the couple. But I also was able to enjoy the evening – the camera was so light that the process of taking the photos wasn’t onerous at all from a physical perspective. This can’t be understated.

If you are already a videographer/photographer who has decided to go with the GH4 for the advantages that it provides, you should definitely feel good about shooting a wedding with it (but only if you have the 35-100mm lens). The drive mode in particular can be an amazing benefit, and the photos obviously have great focus and sharpness.

However, if you’re still deciding between a GH4 and a full frame or APS-C camera for wedding photography, there’s nothing that’s going to beat a larger sensor for getting great low light photos and shallow depth of field. If I had to choose only one type of camera to shoot weddings with for the rest of my life, it’d be a full frame camera. I’m fortunate to not have to choose, so I will probably use the two for different scenarios as time goes on, based on which advantages from each are important to me at the time.

Five Things I Miss: Switching to a Panasonic GH4 from a Canon 5D Mark III

When the Panasonic GH4 was first announced, I heard numerous reports that there were filmmakers who’d be selling their 5D Mark III’s and going with the GH4 exclusively. I was a bit stunned at all the positive buzz, just because I love my 5D Mark III and think the image quality is fantastic, even if the video codec is pretty terrible. Could anything possibly serve as a full replacement for the Mark III?

I recently purchased a Panasonic GH4, and while I’m kind of in love with this thing, I’ve already decided I won’t be selling my Canon 5D Mark III anytime soon.

The Panasonic GH4 has some really awesome selling points. It is the only camera that can shoot at 4K for under $2,000, and it does a pretty great job of it, with insane amounts of detail. It has video features that DSLR video users have been longing for for quite sometime, including zebras and focus peaking. And it does it all in a really small, light package, that’s extremely easy to handle.

That being said, as someone who’s shot exclusively with Canon for the past 5 years, there were a lot of thing I missed about my Mark III when I picked up the GH4 and started trying to use it. Here are the top five things I miss about my Canon:

1) The bokeh – It’s a scientific fact: it’s harder to get shallow depth of field on a smaller Micro 4/3rds sensor than it is on a full frame sensor. The shorter focal lengths mean that your aperture needs to be wider to achieve the same creamy bokeh you’re used to. That’s not to say you can’t still achieve great results with lenses like Voigtlander Noktons or the Nocticron. But it can still be a challenge. On that note…

2) The lenses – Canon now has a ridiculously large assortment of EF lenses to use from, a truly mature system that has pretty much every focal length and quality level one is looking for. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome Micro 4/3rds lenses out there, but they’re simply not as many to choose from (a difficulty which I ran into when I was first kitting out my Blackmagic Pocket). So you may not get the exact focal length you’re looking for, or it may not have the preferred build quality. Of course, for Canon, you can probably get the exact thing you’re looking for, but it’ll cost an arm and a leg, and the lens itself could be really, really heavy.

3) The buttons – One thing that’s annoying: On the Canon 5D Mark III, the aperture dial is in the back, and the shutter speed button is in the front. These crucial positions are switched on the GH4, and that is definitely going to take me some time to get used to. I also love that huge gigantic wheel on the Canon – nothing is really going to beat how easy that is to use, and the GH4’s equivalent wheel, which feels pretty flimsy, certainly doesn’t match up. UPDATE: Apparently, you CAN switch these buttons via the GH4 menus.

4) The viewfinder – I never thought I’d miss the viewfinder on my Canon, but it’s really hard to get used to a digital viewfinder/EVF on the GH4. I was fine doing it on my Fuji X100, because that was more of a “leisure camera,” but on the GH4, which I’m considering using for professional applications, I find the experience unsatisfying. There’s just no substitute for being able to look through a viewfinder and see, through a prism/mirror, the exact thing that you’re going to take a picture of. The software and screens on the GH4 are great, but software will take awhile to be perfect in this regard, and show us what we’re looking at with perfect fidelity.

5) The top display panel – I realize this is a gripe that is specific to people switching from a Mark III, but I really have grown to love the panel at the top of the camera, which the GH4 doesn’t have. It displays basic settings like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and drive mode, and if I’m in a situation where I need to be discreet, it makes it really easy to change my settings without putting the camera up to my face. Not a big deal, but just something I missed when I was shooting my first video on the GH4.

UPDATE: One more thing that really grinds my gears – there is very little third-party RAW support for the GH4’s .RW2 files, and it will likely be weeks/months until programs like Aperture and Lightroom release updates with GH4 RAW compatibility. I can’t believe we are still living in an age when one of the world’s most anticipated cameras can be released without an easy way to manipulate the files.

The Panasonic GH4 is essentially useless for professional photography jobs until RAW support arrives.


Those are just a few of my thoughts on making the switch, but overall I’m a huge fan of the GH4 and plan to use it far into the future. Just sometimes, a few things bother me about it. But for the amazing video features, incredible lightweight, and hyper-competitive price, the GH4 is still a formidable camera and one that I’m really enjoying using.

The Making of That Close-Ups Video Essay

This week I published a new video essay at /Film on the art of close-ups. I was grateful and honored to have Edgar Wright’s participation on this essay. But how did it come to be?

This essay started as a much simpler supercut of all the close-ups in Wright’s Cornetto trilogy. I cut together what this would look like for Shaun of the Dead as a proof of concept:

I showed this video to a few people and…it didn’t really do anything for them. They didn’t react with “Wow, this is so cool!” or “This mashup is illuminating!” so I kind of put it on the back burner for awhile. Separately, I’d been wanting to do a feature with Wright for /Film for quite some time – we’d always meant to get him on as a guest of the podcast around the time that The World’s End was released but the timing just never worked out.

The thing with filmmaker interviews is: they are legion. Filmmakers go through a press gang bang every time they promote a movie in a big way and over time, all the questions/answers have to take on the feeling of sameness. It is virtually impossible to ask questions in a way that feels novel or revealing. I felt bad subjecting Wright to yet another press interview, so I wanted to try an alternate tactic. I reached out with the proof of concept video above and asked if he’d like to record an interview with me on the art of close-ups to be released in video essay form. Fortunately, he agreed.

We chatted for about 20 minutes or so on Skype. I edited that interview down into a 8.5 minute monologue, then proceeded with the painstaking process of finding all the footage that matched what Wright was talking about and putting the essay together. The entire video essay took about 4-5 weeks of work, on and off, on nights after my day job and during weekends.

This video hit the web on Wednesday morning, and gained some traction via Youtube thanks to a few prominent tweets:

The art of close-ups with @edgarwright via @slashfilm
— Wes Craven (@wescraven) January 29, 2014

Check out this interview I did with @slashfilm about close ups. Don’t count the number of times I say ‘like’ though.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) January 29, 2014

On Saturday morning (2/1/2014), Vimeo made the video a Staff Pick, giving the video a whole new life.


It’s been a long-time goal of mine to make the Staff Picks page, so I was incredibly grateful and honored to be chosen.

As a video-maker just starting out, it is quite challenging to monetize these types of videos. There are a few possible pathways for it. You could build a massive following on Youtube/Vimeo, then sell ads or get a bunch of cash via Tip Jar. Or you could run your videos on a site that has a high-tech custom video player and a seasoned ad sales team, and is thus able to pay you handsomely for your efforts. I didn’t really have access to any of the above, so the only substantive reward for this project was the feeling that I contributed to our collective knowledge on a specific topic of interest – a challenging bar that I generally try hard to reach with all my work.

I joked a few times that if I had known how long this whole process would take, I never would have attempted it in the first place. Having seen how many people have enjoyed the video, all of that work now feels worth it. Simultaneously, there are thousands and thousands of people who are way more talented than me at this, who toil endlessly to produce videos of far greater craft and import, and who never get their work noticed on a significant scale. As much as possible, I try to rectify this by highlighting their work whenever possible using the platforms I am blessed to have. But the feeling I’m left with after the exhausting process of creating and promoting this video essay is this: I can always do more.

On Trying to Fall in Love with the Fuji X100 Again


I recently traveled to Portland bringing only my aging Fuji X100 to shoot with. I’d kind of fallen out of love with this camera awhile ago, even though I never lost respect for the quality of images it’s capable of. It wasn’t that the pictures were bad. The problem is that a significant amount of the time (I’d peg it at 20-30%), getting the image you want is really kind of a crapshoot. The focusing on the X100 is still really lacking and the menu system is a pain to navigate.

Since I now own a Canon 5D Mark III with its easy-to-access dials and controls and monstrously good autofocus system, it just didn’t make sense to rely on the X100 when I could achieve a much higher consistency in my images. Combine that with the fact that Fuji recently released the X100’s successor, the X100S, which has been insanely well-reviewed, and I was thinking I should retire my X100 and save up for its more attractive, expensive younger sister.

But an impromptu trip to Portland was coming up and it was only going to be a few days, so I didn’t really need a heavy-duty camera. Plus, Fuji recently released a significant firmware update to the X100, improving startup time and autofocus. So I thought, why not? Let’s bring this camera to Portland and see if I can fall in love with this thing again. And while I still don’t think I’m going to be using this camera in my regular rotation, here are a few things I did really appreciate about it.

Caveat: Due to the recent firmware update, I discovered after the fact that all my settings had been reset and that the following images were all taken in JPEG mode. D’oh! 

Portland 15

Traveling is one use-case scenario where I do think the Fuji X100 still shines. I think that this will definitely still be my go-to travel camera in the future. The Fuji X100 is super light, nearly silent, and very inconspicuous compared to a DSLR. Plus, the retro design looks beautiful – many strangers comment on it when I take it around. I have a compact camera bag that I put this into and I can easily throw it in my backpack on the way out the door. Oftentimes I will literally leave this thing hanging around my neck all day and it feels totally fine, even though it definitely marks me as a tourist.

There’s a certain comfort to knowing that I can still achieve professional-quality images with the camera I’m carrying, even in low-light scenarios. This camera provides that comfort for me.

Portland 5

Here’s a reason why this camera is awesome for portrait photography: people behave differently around you when you’re holding a Fuji X100 than when you have a DSLR. I often ask people to let me take their picture, and if I have a DSLR, they’ll tense up or even refuse. Not so with the Fuji X100. The Fuji X100 is not intimidating. It looks like a rangefinder film camera. And it’s so silent, people often won’t even know that you’ve taken their picture (you have to tell them and thank them). This allows for a quality of candid shots that you just can’t achieve with DSLRs.

Portland 22

This thing is perfect for food photography, if you’re into/not incredibly annoyed by that kind of thing. With its F/2.0 max aperture, its spectacular low light performance, and its adequate “macro mode,” you can get some pretty appetizing results.

Portland 3

One last random thing: I used VSCO filters for a lot of these images and I find they work really well with Fuji X100 images for some reason. Not sure what it is but I think it’s the quality of the image combined with the focal length (35mm equivalent) that just creates a feeling that’s really vintage-looking and attractive. Here’s the full set of images I took.

So overall, this camera is still great. True, there were several shots I missed, and several that I had to try multiple times to capture. But I’m really happy with the ones I did get. The firmware update did improve things but I didn’t find that difference to be night and day- it was more of a subtle, evolutionary improvement.

Given the improvements and given that I only use the X100 occasionally, I’m probably not going to upgrade to the X100S quite yet. But once the latter drops in price, I’m all over that thing.