The Joy of Birds

Finally figured out how to embedd this video... This is a short video I produced last month with Nisha Ligon, Tom Welch and Camilla Ruz for the Guardian website. It features BBC wildlife presenter Kate Humble and Martin McGill who were promoting their new book 'Watching Waterbirds with Kate Humble' at the London Wetlands Centre.

We got really lucky with the weather. Turning up at Hammersmith station in the morning we were greeted with a torrential downpour - not ideal for shooting wildlife outside. Thankfully the rain subsided just as we arrived at the Wetlands Centre and we were granted with an afternoon's worth of sunshine to walk round the site and capture some of the wildlife on camera.

Check out the video below to have a look for yourself!

Watch here:

... or below if it works:

[vodpod id=Video.15415961&w=425&h=350&]

The London Wetlands Centre is an unusual oasis of wildlife and greenery which is situated surprisingly within the city confines near Hammersmith. It provides people with a great chance to break free from the usual urban surroundings and take in some of the natural scenery usually reserved to those living outside the city limits.


Painting with Video

Content is Queen

Below are two very novel and dynamic video portraits generated by artist Sergio Albiac. He has come to call the technique used to create these pieces 'generative video painting'.

You can see in the movie above, that the portrait is constructed from a 'collage' of different video clips, similar (but wonderfully more complex) to the effect seen in a photo mosaic image.

Albiac describes that his technique...

 “...uses regions of video content to effectively represent or “paint” heterogeneous regions of the image. Both the partial content of the videos and the whole image are fully visible at the same time, widening the possibilities to deliver meaning in a contemporary aesthetic language.”

The effect creates a duality in the work; presenting an un-synced mish-mash of partially visible video content which is used together to construct a more complete, unified form, in this case portraits of two very famous women.

Vue Lumière No 765 - Serpentine Dance, 1896

One interesting piece of media I came across today (whilst reading about the origins of cinema) was an early piece of footage shot by the Lumiere brothers in 1896:

The silent film depicts an unnamed dancer quite hauntingly perform Loie Fuller’s Serpentine Dance. Each frame was hand coloured to help vividly depict the striking motion conducted by the dancer.

Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière were among the earliest filmmakers in history and produced some of the most pioneering and influential films of their time. The brothers are best known for producing their series of short ‘actuality’ films, which captured everyday events on film. These ‘actuality’ films are considered by many to represent the earliest incarnation of the documentary film.

Focal Power

A short film I found whilst browsing Vimeo this morning, I recommend watching in HD and with some boomy speakers:

Although the aerial shots would be interesting in themselves, the film has been manipulated to give the impression of 'miniaturisation' which transforms the film into a collection of enchanting scenes. The miniaturisation of these scenes provides an interesting contrast against the true scale at which power generation and consumption occurs across the planet. The poetically conceived caption for the video describes the scenes as 'examined, microscopically, zoomed in from afar. Dimensions without scale.'

If you look at the film closely you will see that there is a short depth of field with a narrow band of sharp focus running across the image. This false 'miniaturisation' effect can be obtained through a method known as tilt/shift (although it usually only involves tilt) and can be produced optically using specialist lens adaptations or through post-production trickery. In essence, it works by employing the Scheimpflug principle in which the lens plane is 'tilted' relative to the image plane (e.g. the sensor on a digital camera) and produces images similar to those taken at close range with a macro lens.

Usually the point of focus lies parallel to the subject, which means that objects which lie at the same distance from the camera all appear in sharp focus (in other words these objects lie within the 'plane of focus'). By employing the Scheimpflug principle it is possible to orientate the plane of focus so that it passes through the subject creating a much shallower depth of field, which reduces the area of the subject in focus. This can be achieved by 'tilting' the lens (for example upwards) which moves the plane of focus relative to the image and subject plane; a much smaller region of the subject now exists in focus. The diagram below illustrates how the lens plane is no longer parallel to the image plane after the lens tilt.

If you were to shoot a high-rise building face on, with the camera parallel to the building you would obtain an image in which all of the building within the frame was in focus. When employing the Scheimpflug principle and the camera lens is tilted (e.g. upwards), the camera lens and building are no longer parallel. The lower portion of the building is now closer to the lens and the higher portions are now further away, this creates a shallow depth of field and as the plane of sharp focus is tilted the lower and upper portions of the building fall out of focus.

The photo I took below demonstrates the effect of which tilt/shift photography attempts to achieve. This photo, with its shallow depth of field, is taken at close range and involves objects which are very small in size.

Tilt/shift photography is able to recreate this 'miniature' aesthetic in much larger compositions such as those involving stadiums, cities and landscapes. These types of images are most effective when taken at a high-angle and can be shot using specialist tilt lenses or created by applying a false focal gradient in post production (simply with the selective addition of blur).