Shooting at Night with the Panasonic GH4

Shooting at Night with the Panasonic GH4

The Panasonic GH4 is an amazing little camera. I’ve been putting it through its paces from the moment I got my hands on one, and just like any gearhead, have been reading practically every review and comment about it on the internet. What can I say? It’s an addiction. I confess. One thing that stood out to me in all the signal and noise out there was that this camera isn’t a great performer at high ISO. My initial quick tests bore that out; at ISO 800, the footage is pretty noisy and by 1600, it’s unusable for a lot of work. But what I wanted to know was something a bit more subtle. I wanted to know if I could shoot at night, in a place like San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, and still walk away with usable footage? See, what a lot of people don’t get is that “low light” and “high ISO” aren’t synonymous. Just because you don’t have bright daylight doesn’t mean you have to force your camera into stratospheric ISOs. There’s more than one way to skin this particular cat and so, with my GH4 and some bits and bobs, I set out to find out if I could get the footage I wanted. Here’s the gear list: Panasonic GH4 Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, Nikon-mount Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 Metabones Nikon G to Micro Four Thirds Speedbooster Video tripod and head The video is below, but before you watch it, here are a few notes to keep in mind so you know what to expect… The video is shot at 4K, 24p. ISO was kept between 200 and 400 for...
The Bokeh Effect: How Sensor Size Affects Background Blur

The Bokeh Effect: How Sensor Size Affects Background Blur

Of all the things that photographers argue about in our secret monthly meetings, sensor size and its impact on our work is perhaps one of the most heated topics that can come up. From the true “bigger is better” snobs (“Sensors? Bah! 8X10 film is where it’s at!”) to the ones who prize portability above all (“Micro-Four-Thirds rules!”), the debate between advocates of MFT, APS-C, and full-frame sensors often reaches religious fervor. Contentious topics related to sensor size include resolution, high-ISO performance, and dynamic range, but the quality and characteristic of bokeh, or out-of-focus backgrounds, is perhaps the most fiercely contentious. While there’s no contest that the bigger sensors can clearly produce much smoother and, well, blurier (not a word, I know), it’s also an unfair statement that the smaller sensors like the ones in Olympus and Panasonic Micro-Four-Thirds cameras can’t produce good bokeh. The Prerequisites Now, before you get into this article, if you have questions about what crop sensors are, how they work, etc., you want to read a few of these articles: Tip of the Week: Understanding Sensor Crop Factors, Part 1 Transitioning from Point-and-Shoot to DSLR: Understanding Full Frame vs Crop Frame Sensors Best Wide Angle for a Crop Sensor Camera These articles will give you a good understanding of what crop sensors are, and what using a crop sensor camera implies, for the most part. In this article, we’re going to drill down to one specific thing. We will take a look at just how the size of your camera’s sensor affects the bokeh characteristics of your image. To do this, we devised a pretty...
Illuminating the Face, by Peter Hurley: A Review

Illuminating the Face, by Peter Hurley: A Review

Back in 2011, photographer Peter Hurley teamed up with our friends over at FStoppers to create a tutorial video called The Art Behind The Headshot. That 4+ hour video more or less became required watching here at BL for anyone shooting any kind of portraiture, not just headshots. In fact, I still refer to it from time to time to prep for a new client; it was equal parts motivational video and coaching tutorial. Now, three years later, Peter Hurley returns with another tutorial called Illuminating The Face. This is the next logical release after The Art Behind The Headshot, and Peter sent us a copy for review. Here’s the one-sentence review: This is yet another home run for Peter Hurley, and if you happen to photograph the human face, regardless of your genre, this needs to be on your “must watch” list of tutorials. What came before… Let’s talk for a moment how Illuminating The Face differs from The Art Behind The Headshot. The Art… was very much a non-technical tutorial. It was a lot like having Peter Hurley coach you on how to interact with your subject, how to direct them, what to look for when pressing that shutter button. That’s not to say that there was nothing technical in that video; Peter did cover his trademark square box lighting technique that had turned heads on the internet and spawned a slew of  copycats and admirers — including, I’m not ashamed to admit, yours truly right here on this blog. Yet The Art… wasn’t a technical tutorial. It was very much a “human” tutorial, and was gloriously welcome at a time when...
Capturing the Surf: an Interview with Photographer Seth Migdail

Capturing the Surf: an Interview with Photographer Seth Migdail

Seth Migdail is a surf photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A regular at Mavericks, his work has been featured in a number of outlets, including Surfline.com and theinertia.com. I sat down with Seth to talk about his work, his process, and what it takes to break into the insular surfing community. How did you get started in photography? I grew up as an artist, doing drawing and painting. I found photography in college, and ended up dumping two years worth of art school and pursued that. I have a fine art background, a BFA in photography, so I came up in the analog world. I shot a lot of large format, medium format – that’s how I got started. Back then, in fine-art school, you take a lot of time to try and find your identity. It took me a while, but I eventually did. I did a lot of documentary photography, what I’d call “social landscapes.” I got a solid foundation in the craft that way. I also did a lot of work in the studio. What is your favorite subject, and why? Definitely surfing. I found surfing when I moved out to California. Growing up in New York, I hadn’t surfed at all, and I only discovered it when I moved up to San Luis Obispo. I’d actually put photography aside for a few years and kinda became a surf bum down there. When I moved up to the Bay Area, I suffered an injury that kept me out of the water, and I started shooting again. At the time, Mavericks was just re-forming...
Fuji X-T1: First Impressions

Fuji X-T1: First Impressions

One of the most eagerly awaited cameras of the year arrived earlier this month, and I took some time to put it through its paces. A more detailed review will follow, but I’ve worked with it long enough to put forth a few first impressions. The tl;dr version of it is this: the Fuji X-T1 is the best camera Fuji has ever made, and is the best mirrorless camera on the market. In my personal opinion, anyway. I’ve been a Fuji fan since the X100s came out, and eventually started using the X-E1 and X-E2 as my primary stills cameras (with a D800E for specific projects requiring high megapixel images and the Canon 5D MKIII for video). When the X-T1 was first announced, I looked at the images leaking onto the web and my first impression was, “WTF??” Looking at it, you can see that it kind of harkens back to retro SLR cameras. To me, it looks a bit like a blunt-top version of the Fuji STX series of film SLRs, and at least at first, it wasn’t something that caught my attention the way the rangefinder aesthetic of the previous X cameras did. Then I got one in my hands and my first thought was, “uhhh… what…?” On the one hand, this is most definitely a Fuji camera. It has loads of dials means you rarely have to drop into a menu once you set it up right. There’s a nice, firm heft to it that we’re used to with the X-E and X-Pro series. It’s small and light despite feeling dense. It is, in other words,...