Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shooting Stock Video on Oahu

Video shoot in Hawaii

David Fischer, an old friend and fellow photographer, and I just finished our first joint video shoot in Hawaii. We wanted to add to our stock video collection and test out a gyro device used to stabilize video (and still) cameras. Our thinking is that the gyro might be something we could use instead of a steady cam. Each has its place; the gyro tends to make the camera steadier while the steady cam is better at keeping the camera level. David and I are both enjoying the collaboration process. David is more experienced with motion having directed commercial productions.

We are staying at the Ko Olina resort. We first arranged to get permission to shoot on the property (a property release). The resort, actually a condominium complex, is located right on the beach on the island of Oahu. The grounds include a meandering stream filled with Koi, several pools and hot tubs, and assorted gardens.

Shooting with a Panasonic HVX-200

We mounted the gyro on my Panasonic HVX-200 video camera. We were also shooting with an FS-100 hard drive. The Panasonic records directly to the drive. It takes a bit of figuring out, but enables us to shoot over an hour of 720p 24 HD video at a time. This camera is the one that was recommended to me by Getty when I first talked to them about getting into stock footage. They felt, at that time, it was one of the best entry-level cameras. I also purchased a Manfrotto tripod and a Manfrotto 501 fluid head. This system has been working well for me. The next purchase may be a higher capacity P2 card. I have heard you can now buy 64 gig cards. I bet they cost a fortune though!

Getting our feet wet with Koi

We started off filming the Koi. For any of you who are not familiar with them, Koi are actually a member of the Carp family. Koi have been documented to live up to 226 years and in Japan are actually passed down from generation to generation. In Japan they are known as “living jewels’, but are also known as water pigs because they will eat just about anything. Koi grow up to three feet long and can weigh fifty pounds. They can be expensive, and championship Koi have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars! Watching them undulate lazily through the clear water with their brilliant colors of reds, oranges and yellows was almost a meditative experience. I am anxious to see how the video looks.

After filming the Koi we moved on to the pool. There we had a model (my girl friend’s daughter, Anabelle) dipping her feet into the water. We panned across the rippling water, up her feet, and then continued panning on up the palm trees and into the sky. Finally we headed to the beach and shot her walking along the edge of the surf as we followed behind, a few inches above the sand. We shot variations of this for about fifteen minutes until a security guard informed us that we could not shoot on that beach without written permission. Oh well….

The gyro makes it smooth…and jerky!

As far as the gyro goes, it has both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand it can make the camera movements more steady, but if one moves a little too quickly the gyro can make the camera jerk. As with anything, practice helps! The gyro also adds more weight. After the shoot I was starting to feel like Popeye! I am not yet sold on the device and need to give it more of a work out. Stay tuned on that.

Hitting the road

From there we hit the road. David and I drove North up to Turtle Bay and spent some time shooting 10 to 15 foot high waves, and surfers, on various beaches. I managed to shoot some stills too. I know it sounds really cornball, but I think if I replace one of the surfers with a businessman in a suit it will sell. Stay tuned for that too. I do intend to make the image, corny or not, and will share the sales results. Expect to hear more on that in about six months. Stock is a long, slow process and it will take that amount of time for me to make the image, get it accepted and up online, and start seeing income from it. I will say, though, Getty’s upload portal works very well and has considerably shortened the time-to-market.

To sum it up, our first little shoot was fun and productive, and while we haven’t made a final decision on whether we should purchase the gyro, it definitely makes for smoother hand-held operation. Adding video to my stock efforts not only increases my earning potential, but also is helping keep my working experience fresh and fun. Not a bad combination!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shooting a waterfall for stock, or not.

Photographing a waterfall on Oahu for stock

Yesterday I decided to find and shoot a waterfall for an image I want to create. The image I have in mind is a concept stock photo of a man going over a waterfall in a barrel. I photographed the man in the barrel, in my studio, a couple of months ago. However, I don’t have a suitable waterfall image.

So here I am in Oahu, a seemingly great place to shoot a waterfall. Not so fast. It seems that finding a good waterfall to photograph here is actually rather difficult. I did a Google search and didn’t come up with much. The only one that seemed it might do for me is called Manoa falls. The various articles I encountered on the internet indicated it is a relatively easy hike of about one mile in each direction, through lush jungle foliage including a bamboo forest. The falls are 100 to 150 feet in height (depending on which article you read). Sounds pretty good!

Somewhere between a trickle and a vapor

Well, there was some jungle foliage, though the bamboo forest was barely twenty yards long. I have certainly encountered “jungle foliage” that was much more lush, and bamboo forests that were much more impressive, on other Hawaiian islands. The falls themselves fell somewhere between a trickle and vapor. Not exactly what I need for my stock photo.

A magnificent vista

It was good, though, to get some exercise; and I am sure that at some point in the future some of the foliage shots I got will come in handy. One scene in particular did get my adrenalin going. Near the start of the hike there is an open expanse just before the trail starts heading uphill. Thirty yards up the trail, when I turned and looked back, the scene looked like something out of Jurassic Park. It was really a magnificent vista and there is no doubt in my mind that I will find a use for it someday.

A service to others

Even though the falls were not adequate for my waterfall needs, I was glad I did the hike. The hike also led me to something that perhaps is more important than photographing falls. As I reviewed the hike in my mind I realized that I could write an article about my experience and illustrate the article with the pictures I had taken. I am sure I could put together this review of my experience that would very helpful to others in my situation and that are considering photographing waterfalls in Oahu. I could write the article that I wanted to find. My hike could end up being of service to others. These others, in turn, would be brought to my site where they might find a photograph to license, a product to purchase or even click on an ad. I could take that whole experience and turn it into a service to others that would in turn drive traffic to my site.

It further dawned on me that this is a strategy that I can apply to many of my shoots. I can write about the shoots and end-up with more viewers for the images I create, more traffic for my site, and a very satisfying lifestyle. Hmmm, enough blogging for now, I have an article to write!