Hmmm. Where to begin? I can’t believe that it’s been seventy days since I last posted. Well, in all honesty I can. I haven’t felt very inspired over the last two and a half months. This year in the Mac Lab has been exactly what Mr. Skocko said it would be: amazing on a scale we had never before seen. The reach and scope of the Mac Lab has expanded further than ever before, our little classroom is being called upon more and more to complete projects for the school, and Mac Lab students are accomplishing feats never before dreamed of. And yet, I can’t help feeling like I have gotten almost nowhere in the past seventy days.
Last year, Danny Owens and I decided that I would inherit his role as leader of the Mac Lab Video Team come the start of the 2010/2011 school year. I have done my best to assume this mantle of leadership and drive our little group of dedicated students into greatness. However, I can’t say that I am enjoying it. The year started with Kyle W, Philip B, Josh K, James W, and myself frantically pushing video after video through what felt like an assembly line for the school. For the first few weeks, I was so caught up in the adrenaline of this fast-paced workflow that I failed to realize how what I loved about the Mac Lab was crumbling around us. Simply put, I have not felt proud of a single video that we have produced for the school, despite people saying that they are good. And that is why I am unhappy. Perhaps the defining factor of my epic year in the Mac Lab last year was that I finally felt proud of something I had done, and now that is gone. That pride drove me day after day to work for hours on end in front of my computer at home, striving to be the best that I could be. The never-ending onslaught of projects this year has not allowed me to work at the best of my ability and that has diminished the quality of our projects. This decrease in quality has then sapped away my pride in what I am doing in the Mac Lab. And that is a problem.
At the same time, I encountered problems within our Video Team. People not wanting to work hard, being lazy, not liking to be told what to do, not being professional, and not holding themselves to Mac Lab standards tore a massive hole through the heart of Mac Lab Media. However, in the past month I have backed off, listened more, and lead less and that has in turn seemed to stabilize the social and political situation within MLM. Nobody is perfect, especially not me.
So how am I going to fix this problem of me not being happy in the Mac Lab right now? Well, first I need to identify a more concrete source of my unhappiness. After a few days of introspection, I realized that what made last year so great was that I had time to learn. I had time to learn, practice, and successfully (or not) implement new skills. That and my own determination strapped me to a rocket bound for Mac Lab greatness. Happiness ensued. So the logical way for me be happy again is to start learning again. (Some people are rolling their eyes right now. “Learning……I HATE LEARNING….How can learning make this lunatic happy?” My answer: find something you love doing, then learn about it and then ask yourself the same question.) Well, to learn, I need time. Ah, time, the illusive thing that has escaped me these past eleven weeks. In order to find time to learn, something else has to go. If I don’t deem a project to be conducive to my learning, I won’t take it. Period. That should clear up my schedule a little, and if it doesn’t I’m man enough to do whatever else is necessary to make sure that the rest of my Senior Year is better than these past eleven weeks.
And now on to a more positive topic: what I have liked/loved about these past eleven weeks. First and foremost, I have been able to build friendships that would never have grown without my time in the Mac Lab. In general, the friendships that I have made in the Mac Lab have been one of my main reasons for returning day after day. Mac Lab Media has become a tight-knit group of friends who do their best given the task at hand. Regardless of the projects we have worked on, the other members of Mac Lab Media have been true heroes to the Mac Lab, the school, and to me. Thank you guys. This year has been, above all else, a team effort.
My second reason for surviving these past months has been my Mac Lab work outside the Mac Lab. Specifically, the time I have spent working with Steven Moyer on his projects for Digital Group Audio has been, without doubt, the highlight of my summer and the past eleven weeks of this school year. Steven has taken all my classroom experience in the Mac Lab and channeled it, craft it into something I can use in the real world. For the details of the many-pronged Zipbuds project, read Steven, Kyle, Christian, and Philip’s detailed descriptions.
For me, the Zipbuds project took my skills as a photographer/Photoshopper to the next level while at the same time giving me real world experience that will have repercussions for the rest of my life. “What? You’ve gotta be kidding me. You expect me to believe that those endless hours in front of the computer or in Steven’s garage are going to have an impact on the rest of your life?” Hey, beyond the internal benefits and happiness that working on such a wonderful project has brought me, the successes of the Zipbuds project will fatten my resumé quite nicely. And that is extremely important in today’s gladiator battle for college acceptance. To all you people out there who live for your grades, there is another, equally important side to a college application: the extracurricular activities section. (And hey, I have been able to do all this stuff for the Mac Lab, continuously building my resumé, while still maintaining my straight A’s. That sounds like a good deal to me.)
The Zipbuds project is a true testament to the power of teamwork, because teamwork was the driving force for the greatness of the final result. Steven, Kyle, Danny, Philip, Christian, Evan, and myself could not have done it without each other. And what do we have to show for it? See for yourself: www.Zipbuds.com | Gizmodo | Gadget Review
I will build a gallery of the roughly two dozen Zipbuds pictures that I personally Photoshopped sometime in the next week (they are stored on a different computer than the one I am writing this post on).
There is no doubt that the Zipbuds project will go down in Mac Lab history as one of the greatest examples of how students can, given the opportunity (thanks to Steven), create work that is good enough to stand proud beside the best in the industry. To come right out and say it, the Zipbuds project has demonstrated how, in the Mac Lab, the sky really is the limit.
And so now I finally get to talk about that featured image. I took that picture almost two months ago and have been saving it for a really special post. Obviously, I did quite a bit of enhancement in Photoshop, but that is how I work. For me, an image isn’t complete until I have torn it pixel from pixel in Adobe’s king of pics. This post’s featured image symbolizes the turmoil and conflict of the skies, but given the success that I described in the preceding paragraphs it can be interpreted to illustrate the power of the Mac Lab to elevate a student’s abilities to the level where they can survive such chaos. But that’s just AP Literature talking. I think it’s a great picture.
I have taken a keen interest in the sky lately, and so here is another of my attempts to capture the beauty of nature. I know that the orange glow is lopsided.
While filming a history movie with my friend Chadd Cady, we noticed a horde of bees swarming a nearby bush. I put down my T1i and ran home to grab the 5D Mark II and 100mm Macro. Here is my first attempt to use that wonderful lens.
While taking a break during the same video shoot, I snapped these pictures of a nearby fence post. Check out that beastly depth of field, courtesy of the 100mm Macro.
I have not had much time to work on projects of my choosing, but one thing that I did do was try stop motion photography. I’ll spare you the details for now. Only one of the four test videos I made turned out semi-interesting. I learned a lot from these tests and next time I try stop motion photography the results will be much better.
Mr. Skocko printed one of my pictures during my seventy-day vacation from post-writing, but I don’t think it turned out good so I haven’t hung it. I did go frame-shopping a few days ago and took notes of various frame sizes. Now I have to decided which pictures I like enough to crop, reprint, and frame.
In the next few weeks, I will try stop motion photography again, give FLOAT my first honest attempt, learn more about Adobe Premiere, and do my best to keep learning, start having fun again, and find that zone of intrinsic motivation that made last year so epic.
This picture is quite mind-boggling, if you think about it. The light that struck the image sensor of the 5D Mark II and created this beautiful stellar photo was forged in the center of a nuclear fusion reaction over 75,000 years ago. What you are looking at is the Milky Way Galaxy; our celestial neighborhood.
My quest for a picture of the Milky Way started a long time ago and was one of the reasons I took up photography in the first place. I first mentioned this goal here, way back in January, and have been striving to reach it ever since.
A little over a month ago, I went on a camping trip with my Dad and cousin Alex to Mount San Gorgonio, the tallest mountain in Southern California. I had three goals: have fun, climb the mountain, and take the picture featured above. For once, I accomplished all my objectives. I had loads of fun. The three of us walked 22.8 miles carrying a total of 125 pounds of supplies for two days until we reached the peak, at 11,503 feet in elevation. And I got my picture (well three actually).
So how did I do it? Well, it involved a lot of trial and error but in the end I found a recipe that consistently produced good results for my elevation (we camped at 10,000 feet) and time of night (9:30pm): 30 seconds at f/1.8 and 28mm with the focus turned almost all the way to far away. In my efforts to slim down the amount of gear I would have to carry up the mountain, I elected not to bring a tripod and instead settled for the gorillapod. Unfortunately, because I was not about of crawl around on the bug-infested ground, the height of the gorillapod meant that I was unable to frame my shot or focus the camera. I was left to trying different angles and focus measures at random until something worked. But in the end I achieved success.
But why did you have to go to the mountains in order to get a good picture of the night sky? Well, the answer is something called light pollution. The light from cities and houses blocks out the light from stars, so in order to get a detailed night photo, one must either go to the middle of nowhere (like the desert or forest) or go up (like the mountains). Being so high in elevation meant that I was far enough away from civilization so as to not be shrouded in light pollution. I took this picture at around 9:30pm, just after the sun went down, so I can’t help but wonder what it would have looked like if I had had the energy to stay up even later, thus allowing more stars to appear in the night sky.
When it came to post-production, I sort of hit a wall. I got a good result that was astronomically correct (as far as color) but was not satisfied. So, I asked Steven Moyer for help. I sent him the file for the image above and he managed to help me overcome my problems. The trick (what I had failed to do) was to raise both the Fill Light and Blacks but lower the temperature significantly. The result was a photo that was less color-correct but looked better overall. I spent an hour or two making minor adjustments and color tweaks before reaching a truly wonderful result. I implemented the same tactic in the next two photos, and they turned out quite nicely. One problem that I never overcame was the challenge of finding a balance between noise reduction and sharpening so as to retain detail but minimize noise.
So, there are at least three lessons to be learned from my experience with this photo. The first is that you need to experiment. I tried dozens of different settings and camera positions before I found what was just right and I did not let the lack of a suitable tripod get in my way. The second lesson is that if you take the time to give something a little extra effort, you will most likely be happy with the results. When nightfall came, I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. I was sore and wanted to get in as much rest as I could before getting up early the next morning. Even though I had been planning for months to take pictures of the sky that night, I wanted so desperately just to sleep. But in the end, I muscled up enough willpower to go out into the freezing night and give it a try. I overcame my reluctance, knowing that if I did not just try, I would regret it. And well, the results speak for themselves. The third lesson (that I can think of right now) is that it is okay to ask for help. I knew that my picture had more potential that I was capable of extracting in Camera Raw, so I asked Steven for help and he gladly assisted me in making that picture everything it was meant to be. So thank you Steven.
And here are the other two photos.
Although not as impressive as the first three, I decided that nine other pictures from that camping trip are worth displaying. The truth is that there are dozens more of superb quality, but I just don’t have time to edit them all.
I especially like the next picture, because the mountain you see is Mount San Jacinto, which my Dad and I climbed last year (on the day before school started). It is about 500 feet shorter than San Gorgonio and can be done in a single day, whereas Gorgonio is a two day hike. The valley between San Jacinto and me is the San Gorgonio Pass, which is the primary route from San Diego to Palm Springs. In order to train for our next climb, Mount Shasta, my Dad and I are going to return to San Jacinto and climb the Snow Creek Trail, a grueling ascent from the backyard of Palm Springs straight up over 10,000 feet in the single greatest elevation change in the continental United States. Extreme temperatures mean it can only be done in winter, and even then the ascent is quite deadly. That should be fun.
One thing that I would like to add is that this time, I took extra care to frame my pictures correctly and therefore eliminated a lot of cropping. I highly suggest taking an extra ten seconds to make sure that the frame is good before taking a picture and hopefully you too will find that your images have a little extra beauty.
Well, that’s it for now. It’s been quite a while since my last post, but now I am back in full force and ready for whatever challenges the Mac Lab can throw at me.
Up until today (Thursday) at 9:00pm, I had not really been on Spring Break, as I had a massive 20 page research paper (Specialties for AP U.S. History) looming over me. After about 20 hours of work, I have finished it. So now my Spring Break begins. Ahhhhhhh! Freedom!!!!!!
The first thing I said I would do this Spring Break is make live-action light painting demonstrations. Well, some of them have arrived. I have about ten different videos filmed, but so far only four have made their way through Final Cut Studio for editing and sound boosting. It just so happens that those four have to deal with painting with beams of light (lightsabers). Please remember that I am new to making tutorials, so don’t expect them to be perfect. Check them out here. No one tell Danny that I have Final Cut Studio or he’ll make me work more. Let’s see how long it takes him to find this.
While editing the light painting demonstrations, I realized that those lightsabers of mine look really realistic when filmed. So, today I filmed some fight sequences to see how they would look. The idea needs refining and superior editing skills that I can deliver at 11:00pm , but the possibilities are cool. Man, those lightsabers look real.
All my time has been put towards this research project, so I haven’t touched Photoshop since Saturday. I’ll make up for that in the next few days.
Yesterday (Wednesday) was an interesting day. We (the video team) filmed the anti-bullying video for the iVIE awards. Read more about it here and here. I learned two things. 1) We can film an entire video in 4 hours. 2) Danny has anger management issues. Ok, so I learned that last thing a while ago. Those anger management issues were exacerbated by the fact that the fire alarms kept going off and ruining our shots. Oh and then there was the other thing (5D. Sensor. Cap. Off. For. A. Minute. ARGH!!!!!!!!). I am trying to forget that last thing. I won’t say who did it to save them the embarrassment and the wrath of Mr. Skocko, but it wasn’t Danny or me. Except for a few minor issues, the day went well. We got some Oscar-worthy behind-the-scenes clips too.
Tomorrow (Friday), I am going to Borrego Springs with my Dad and sister. I will try to do some standard photography, but the day is supposed to be a relaxing family trip. We will be back by the time its dark, so I hope to light paint a little afterwards. (If only we were there at night. That would be some amazing light painting and photography!!!!)
That’s it for now. Rally together and help push this little site over 5,000 hits. I (as it seems CRDESIGNLAB is now a single-man venture) am only 31 hits away from the 5K mark. If all had gone as planned, I’d be in Greece right now.
As Christopher mentioned, this weekend was filled with photography, and lots of it, with close to 2,500 pictures taken over a three day period. And let me say right off the bat… the 5D Mark II is an absolutely amazing camera, and with it we got great results, both with light painting and traditional photography in my backyard. The picture that goes along with this post is one of several taken in sequence of a bee drinking the nectar out of a large rosemary bush down on a hill of my backyard.
Being one of my favorite pictures of the day, I thought it would be one worth editing in Camera Raw, and my premonition was correct when I saw the final result of an already beautiful photograph. Is it still in need of work? Yes, of course; nothing in the Mac Lab is ever finished. But as it currently stands, it’s not all that bad.
As time permits, with finals and all coming up, more editing and posting will take place and we will show some of the great pictures we took throughout the weekend.