Our new little friend

Standard Foam Hat

1. Standard Foam Hat (Love that it looks like a Bearskin, this is what comes with the H4n)

Me & Nicky have fallen in love with our new H4n Handy Recorder, not only is he rather useful at adding good quality audio to the Canon 5D, but he’s sooo cute with his little hats on! So funny in fact, that we’ve already decided to make a little story about him walking across New Zealand in the same vain as this wonderful little film about a Wall-E toy:

I’m half tempted to take all the hats with us for costume changes, but we should probably pick just one, but which?

Afro hair

2. Afro hair (I pulled this one off my old Sony mic)

Genetically modified monster

3. Genetically modified monster! (This is the official optional wind breaker for this mic so might actually work best, but it’s a bit of a monster..)

Now all we need to do is hack into his LCD screen so we can display some facial expressions on there, anybody know how to do this without totally busting it..?

Olympic mascots become self-ware and go on a killing spree around London!

Wenlock - Olympic mascot

Ha ha, only kidding they do look like they were sent back from the future by Skynet though ;)

So finally the London 2012 Olympic Mascots by have been revealed. As you would expect from the 2012 committee, they are not really what we expected! Far from cute & cuddly they are cold & hard, more like a Henry Moore sculpture than a kids toy.

Designed by London agency iris, I read that they only cost ”a few thousand pounds”, I think they probably cost a bit more than that! Probably just trying to play it down after the £400,000 logo fiasco.

Mandeville - Olympic mascot

I feel for it’s designer though, whatever you create you’re going to get people ripping the shit out of it (myself included, sorry..) It’s an impossible brief, design by committee jobs always are.. I actually like it quite a lot, everything from the neck down looks awesome, great proportions, clean lines, sweet as in my book. Problem is though, why oh why that eye Olympic Committee?

You can tell by the descriptions on iris’ design boards, that the eye was supposed to be a camera lens, but at some point they decided to stick a cartoon eye on there which looks totally at odds to the rest of the angular design. Pixar have already shown with characters like WALL•E, or even their original anglepoise lamp short, that with the limitations of something ‘less human’, you can get a lot more unique character out of it. Feels like it was almost good, but they fucked it up at the last hurdle..

I actually took part in the original pitch too!

My olympic mascot pitch

Only fair to put my own work up for comparison/criticism. My idea was unsurprisingly the sock monster route. Rather than selling preformed shiny toys to the kiddies, I wanted to make ‘kits’ which were essentially a pair of long sport socks with instructions of how to make your own mascot from scratch! Thought it would be nice thing to do in school as a crafty lesson, give them chance to be creative and add a bit personal flair to their own mascot. The agency I was working for poo poo’d it because it wasn’t ‘commercially viable’, said the committee would never go for it as they needed to pay for the Olympics through some mass-produced piece of Chinese plastic..

What Camera?

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Well this is the big decision I’ve had to make recently and to be honest I’m still quite shocked & amazed the Canon EOS 5D Mark II above is where it all ended?! I’m an amateur film maker and very amateur photographer, what the hell am I doing with a huge DSLR? Some of you probably already know the reason, I didn’t at the time, but below is a summary of how I found out.

Where this all started was me wanting to take my hiking photography up a notch, basically buy a little compact that takes a better picture than my phone! Being a style slag I fell in love with the Leica X1. Easy decision I thought, big sensor, little body, doesn’t weigh much, looks a bit like a M9, i.e. drop dead gorgeous. Job done, I put my deposit down and pre-ordered it months ago.

Then while I was waiting for the Leica production line to get round to making my camera I came across something called a 35mm adapter. This is the review by Tom Guilmette that I first came across and does a good job of explaining what it is:

$400 and I can make my Sony HDR SR12 do stuff like that, I want one! Shallow depth of field is something I’ve always jealously admired in other peoples work, but up until recently I didn’t even know enough about it to know what you needed to achieve it.. Ok I had my mission, find the best 35mm adapter to take to New Zealand, this is going to be awesome! After much research I couldn’t really find anything that beat the JAG35 Pro on weight, price and size.

But..

I started to freak out that carrying 2 cameras (video & still), a fairy large adapter, plus another lens on the end, not to mention all the chargers, plugs and cables for them all was getting out of hand.. There’s got to be a better way eh?

Back on google I came across this film by Sebastian Lopez, shot on a Canon 7D:

Whoa, that blew my pants right off! Ok now I’m getting somewhere, this wasn’t what I was looking for, but I don’t care. In fact how can I use a camcorder anymore after seeing footage taken with this new breed on DSLR? Ah yes, probably got something to do with the price, size and the weight.. Ah what the hell!

Anyhow it’s getting late, to cut a long story short – I cancelled my X1 order, then chose the 5D over the 7D because of bigger sensor blahdy blah, general consensus by reviewers yadda yah and the third party Magic Lantern Firmware, that’s not yet available on the 7D (didn’t want to risk it not being available before NZ).

The lens

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

This decision pained me. There’s a lot of different opinions flying around and it’s hard to find consensus. Please don’t tell me I bought the wrong one, my brain hurts from thinking about it.. I only wanted to carry one lens so I thought I’d get a wide angle with a bit of zoom, I picked the Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM. All I can say is that it’s the best lens I’ve ever used (although that’s not saying much), and it definitely looks bigger in real life than on the internets! I love looking down that massive piece of glass at the front though, feels like I’m talking to Hal 9000 ;)

What’s next? Well I think I can live without the remote controlled D5 helicopter, but when I see stuff like this by Luke Humphrey, I start thinking maybe I need a Merlin Steadicam..

I’m really looking forward to using this camera (I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited), hopefully this blog will soon be full of all the beautiful images I’ve been able to capture with it :)

Gitzo Mountaineer GT0531

Gitzo Mountaineer GT0531 with

This was the first thing I knew I wanted to get for the New Zealand trip and the first thing I bought. I’ve happily and successfully used one of those 6 inch plastic ‘camera supports’ for many years. But to be honest the amount of times there isn’t a convenient rock to put it on, or the grass is too long (without ripping up half a meadow..) means that it rarely gets pulled out.

That’s a real shame, because when I get back home and edit the footage the tripod shots are always my favourite. Partly because they’re steady and maybe a bit more thought has gone into the composition, but mainly because when there’s only two people walking together it can get a bit samey looking at one person all the time. It’s a joint experience and it’s a good idea to get a few shots of you both together from time to time!

So I knew I wanted to get a ‘proper’ tripod, and I knew I wanted to get the lightest one I could find, so with a bit of googling I eventually ended up on the Gitzo website. Turns out the make a range of tripods called Mountaineer, like the sound of that :) They were the first ever carbon fibre tripods and they look like they were built by a F1 team mechanic. Lightest one they make is the Gitzo Mountaineer GT0531, £299 from Cliftom Cameras, weighs in at 0.72kg! it’s a bit short for a ‘proper’ tripod, but to be honest by the time there’s a head and camera on top, even a 6 foot chap like myself hardly has to bend down at all.

Tripod & Head, just over 1kg:

Tripod and head just over 1kg

I have zero experience of tripods so don’t have anything to compare it too. But I did spend my formative years training as an industrial designer, so I can tell you this is bloody well made. I mean there’s hardly anything too it, but what there is oozes quality. Quarter twist a leg lock and and out it pops, quick flick of the wrist and then it’s locked hard, none of that straining to get a tight fit. It was a no-brainer decision for me to get this tripod and now that I’ve had it a couple of weeks I can safely say that I think I made the right decision.

For the head I was less convinced, I could of gone down several different routes, but in the end I was won over by the Gitzo brand, so just stuck with them. I was umm-ing and ahh-ing whether I should get a ball head or a fluid head (for filming). In the end I thought the un-even terrain I’d be setting up on would make the ball head more practical rather than fannying around with leg lengths. I decided on the Gitzo GH1780QR Centre Ball Head, £175 from Clifton Cameras. It’s pretty light – 300g, has spirit levels to help me get a straight shoot and a panoramic base which is smooth and light enough for me to use while filming.

With the head it's about 2 foot long (60cm)

With the head it’s about 2 foot (60cm) long collapsed, and I can almost rap my fingers around the diameter. By the way, that boot is a Zamberlan Ultra Lite GT, couldn’t recommend it enough, can’t quite understand why a tiny little shop in Camden is the only store in the whole of London that stocks them?!

I’m back online!

Pegs on my clothes line

Many apologies to my regular Made in England readers, I’ve been bloody useless at bloggin’ recently :( Ok, so here’s my excuse..

I’ve been doing some heavy research into camera equipment to take to New Zealand (if you’re not aware, me and Nicky will be walking it’s entire length towards the end of the year). Why? I get almost as much pleasure from documenting my trips (blog, photos & video) than actually walking the trails! So with this trip likely to be the most varied and stunningly beautiful to date, I wanted to take it to the next level, not the ultralight level, the uncompromised quality level!

I don’t want to get into gear right now (got work to do), just wanted to post a couple of test shots and let you know the research is over, I’m back in the blogosphere, and will try to hit my target of pushing out at least one post a day from now on :)

Check out the depth of field on this video, hmmm tasty!