Matt and Nell’s Wedding Video

I was absolutely thrilled and honored to be able to take part in Matt and Nell’s wedding in Houston, TX this past weekend. Matt and Nell have been dear friends for years and they are some of the nicest, most generous, and amazing people I know.

During my time there, I shot about 90 minutes worth of video, which I then condensed into the 5-minute video above.  Everything was shot using 60 fps, and some footage was slowed to 24 fps. The video was shot entirely handheld, using a Canon 60D and a 50mm f/1.4 lens.I agonized over which lens/body to bring with me, and what other equipment might be necessary. In the end, I went with something light-weight and simple, and I think the final setup allowed me to grab a few more shots than I would have if I’d used a bulkier setup.

Music via PremiumBeat with some color grading help from Color Grading Central.

One Year in the Life of David Chen

Here it is. After endless seconds recorded and a dozen hours of editing, I’ve finally completed this video that features one second for every single day of this year of my life. I don’t know how much I have to add beyond the previous blog posts I’ve made on this topic, but a few lessons learned come to mind:

– The biggest challenge is to continue making seconds each day. It becomes exhausting to either a) create interesting moments, or b) find unique images in day-to-day life. As days went by, my motivation started to waver, as did my willingness to pull out a camera whenever something spectacular was happening. In these moments, I had to trust that the final product would be worth it. But to be sure, when I show this to people and they get excited about doing it themselves, the one thing that I warn them about is to make sure they have the commitment and discipline to take this project to its completion.

– On that note, recording food became a huge temptation. The reason for this is because if you think about it, food is one of the few things that is noticeably different from day to day, especially if you work a regular 9-5 job. It was an easy fallback, a crutch. As a result, more shots of food ended up in the final video than I probably would have preferred.

– Storing, organizing, and editing the video snippets became onerous. If you attempt this project, I’d strongly recommend you update the video every few months or so, rather than doing them in one fell swoop at the end. Cesar Kuriyama’s 1 Second Every Day app apparently automates this entire process to a huge extent.

– Watching and editing this video was an emotional experience. I remembered profound moments that I might’ve otherwise forgotten. I re-lived moments of lasting significance. My heart broke while contemplating the connections I’ve lost, and swelled at the relationships gained. More importantly, the project encouraged me to try to live life to its fullest – to find beauty in every day, and in the subtle moments that we might not think of. I might not have always succeeded, but I tried. In the end, the production of the project became as worthwhile as the final product.

– I’m still looking for a way to go beyond this project. One Second Everyday can convey a lot, but I still find it restrictive and wish there were a better way to capture my life and the lives of those around me in a way that will result in a watchable, enjoyable final product. Oftentimes it’s within significant constraints that art is made. I’m just searching and hoping to try out some different constraints in the near future (let me know if you have any ideas!)

– I’ve put together a version of this video that features a no audio except for a soundtrack backing it. I’ll release it later. I’m pretty happy with the version featuring a soundtrack, but I think this version with audio is the definitive version.

– If I were to title the video, I’d go with this: Huge Stretches of Monotony, Punctuated by Moments of Awesomeness. Perhaps that’s an apt description for many of our lives.

On a personal note, it’s been an absolutely crazy year. I changed jobs, changed lives, changed everything I’ve ever known. The least I can do is thank the people who appeared in these seconds or made them possible. They have made my life in Seattle what it is and have inarguably changed it for the better.

Sasquatch 2013

For the second year in a row, I had the privilege of attending the Sasquatch music festival, out at the Gorge Ampitheatre in central Washington. Just like last year, the views were spectacular, the music was mind-blowing, and the atmosphere was electric.

This year, I was able to bring my Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200mm lens, along with my Fuji x100, to shoot some footage. The below video is what resulted.

It was also a joy to photograph the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performance on opening night. Macklemore (age 29) is an incredibly gifted performer, and gave us a show we would not soon forget. Click through to see the full set of photos.
  Macklemore 11

Shooting the Pacific Northwest Regionals Yo-Yo Championship

PNWR Yo-Yo Championships 1
I had the privilege of shooting the Pacific Northwest Regionals Yo-Yo Championship this weekend at The Armory in the Seattle Center. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I had guessed that it would either be 1) a few guys doing some mediocre yo-yo tricks, or 2) an awesome display of talent from a subculture that I was only barely aware of. It was definitively the latter. Hundreds of people showed up at The Armory (dozens of yo-yo enthusiasts, along with their parents). These people have spent thousands of hours honing their skills and it shows. After watching them do a myriad of yo-yo tricks over the course of two days, I started to realize the appeal: there’s something magical about the ability to make a small, circular device at your fingertips appear to defy gravity.

For the entire shoot, I used only my Canon 5D Mark III and my 50mm f/1.4 lens along with my trusty 70-200mm f/2.8. There are unique challenges to shooting a yo-yo competition that I did not anticipate. You are shooting in a low-light environment, in a situation where both the subject and an object in the subject’s hands are moving rapidly. Thus, I had to shoot with the aperture wide open (f/2.8 or lower) but still be focused on the subject to get some decent bokeh out of it AND have a high shutter speed to freeze the action, lest both subject and his yo-yo become blurred beyond recognition. For most of these shots, I used an ISO of 2000 combined with f/2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/400th to 1/500th of a second. As expected, the Mark III’s high-ISO performance was exceptional.

I took a few hundred shots and only a few dozen were at a sharpness that I’d consider to be usable. There were two failures here: one is the fact that I haven’t mastered all the intricacies of the Mark III’s incredibly complex autofocus system, and the other is the fact that the 50mm f/1.4’s focusing motor just doesn’t feel like it’s well-designed for action. After some experimentation, I realized that all I really needed to make some compelling shots (compelling for me, at least) was to try and capture these performers’ expressions as sharply as possible. If the yo-yo was in focus, that was an added bonus.

Video on the other hand was much easier. I shot at 60 fps and ran the shutter speed fairly constant at 1/125, thus giving me the freedom to close down the aperture significantly. Even so, maintaining focus was challenging on some occasions. Note that I was going hand-held for nearly all of these shots, carrying a very heavy lens with no rig, and trying to focus simultaneously.

Here’s a video I put together of the event:

And here’s video of Zach Gormley, who I believe was this year’s champion. After you watch the mind-blowing things he does in this video, you won’t be surprised:

Taiko Drum Motion Study

I had the pleasure of witnessing Kaze Daiko’s Youth Taiko drum performance at the Lunar New Year Festival at the International District in Seattle yesterday. I’ve seen a few Taiko drum groups in the past, but this group outclassed them all. The pieces they played were inventive and energetic, plus the members all looked skilled and happy to be there.

This video was shot on a Canon 5D Mark III using primarily a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 60 fps, which was then slowed down to 24 fps. I considered setting it to music/sound that I recorded live, but decided that using extremely rhythmic drums set to slow motion drums would have been a jarring and confusing experience. I also didn’t have enough coverage to make it a conventional “music video.” Thus, I decided to go in the completely opposite direction and set it to “Winter” from Vivaldi’s four seasons.

Still need to work on that color correction…

You can learn more about Kaze Daiko at their website

Vegas, Baby. Vegas

In my never-ending quest to develop some killer slow motion video skills, I brought my brand new Canon 60D with me to Vegas and shot a bunch of material at 60 FPS, which I then assembled into the above video. The effect was achieved by slowing the video down to 24 FPS, a 60% reduction in speed that resulted in some pretty dramatic effects.

My strategy was simply to work on composition first and foremost. Would the shot look good as a photograph? If so, there’s a significant likelihood it would look good as a brief video clip as well. And I also had to hope that there was some sort of interesting movement happening to justify the video component of it.

One regret is that I only brought two lenses: the 50 mm f/1.4 and the Rokinon fisheye lens – because I was traveling, I didn’t want to carry too much weight in lenses. But I had forgotten how much of a crop factor the APS-C sensor introduces, and I constantly felt like my shots were either way too tight or way too wide. Maybe the 40mm f/2.8 pancake is the way to go?

Thanks to Vegas Tripping for featuring this video on their website!