We are KAGE | Backstory

Last spring I received an email from one of the organizers of the Photon Festival, a gathering focused on photojournalism that takes place in Valencia, Spain every year. They were doing an evening featuring photography collectives and wanted to spotlight KAGE as one of the groups. Obviously we were very flattered and even thought of attending in some capacity—the logistics, unfortunately, didn’t pan out.

We decided to create a short video documentary to explain our motivations both as a group and a collective, something that would ultimately give a sense of who and what we are, why we stick together. As is usually the case, the schedule proved rather tight and we had to scramble in order to put something together in a relatively short amount of time. So I asked everyone to record about a minute of audio, something personal about their relationship with photography, the collective… Material I’d be using as the main thread throughout the film, the backbone. It sounds easy enough but we don’t often stop to think about “why” we do what we do and I believe this proved to be an interesting exercise for all of us, forcing us to reflect on a subject we don’t necessarily question all that often. In fact, it triggered an emotional upheaval we hadn’t expected: our friend and colleague Craig Litten, faced with this forced introspection, realized his life had taken a different course and decided to move on; mirrors sometimes send back images quite different than the one we expect...

The project was of course completed but with one compromise: there was no time to create an original soundtrack, so the film was edited on songs and music for which we didn’t have the rights. This is par for the course in this day and age of video sharing but as creatives, we all take licensing issues very seriously; you can’t expect others to respect your rights if you trample on them yourself. So we agreed that the film would remain private until a new soundtrack could be added.

Fast forward a couple of months: Charlene Winfred joins the group. Perfect opportunity to recut the video, dive into creating an original soundtrack and finally get this ready for public release. Here it is.

For the techies out there:

  • The video was entirely edited in Apple Motion 5.
  • The score was written, composed and recorded in Apple Logic Pro X. All audio elements were also assembled and finalized in Logic. 

A lot of work overall but it’s nice to sit back and finally have something to explain this project.
Plus: now you’ll know how to pronounce the name too :) 

Later

P.S Share away if you feel like it :)

Still photographs: KAGE COLLECTIVE
Editing and original soundtrack: Patrick La Roque
Additional music: Spartacus (feat. Kenny Baron) by Tommy Smith (used with permission)












Eight hours, windswept | An X-T1 time-lapse experiment.

As most of you know I’ve been using the X-T1 extensively — it’s become my main camera. Any minor gripes I had have effectively been swept away by daily use and rewiring most of my reflexes to this new body. I’ve even stopped hitting the dedicated video button by mistake… Although on that front I still have my fingers crossed for a customization update ;)

I’d been meaning to do something with the new Interval Timer Shooting function for some time now, but while I’m often impressed by conceptual photography and projects involving tons of preparation and forethought, in my case it’s not the type of work that comes naturally. I also needed a subtext, a reason to do it beyond “Look Ma! Time-lapse!”…

I’m not going to claim this is the most impressive example of time-lapse photography ever produced — we’re talking baby steps here, a first attempt. But on the whole I’m happy with the results and I think it fits in with what I usually do. So, before we dive into the BTS stuff, here it is (if you click on the HD icon you can see the 1080P version on Vimeo - well, a compressed version of it.)…


I’m not sure what’s been pushing me all this time; I’ll probably never know. Some visceral urge to glance sideways... A taste for the sub-layers of reality. I guess I’m probably addicted to anything existing slightly out of range.

But sometimes I fear I’m missing out... What if all these hundreds of thousands of frames are nothing more than a testament, a proof of my inability at experiencing life the way most people do? What if I’m the one standing out of range?

But then all this beauty...
Eight hours becoming a century
Eight hours, windswept
across the millennia.
— Eight hours, windswept.

 

Setup

The weather was uncertain so I set the X-T1 on a tripod in our living room and aimed it at a raspberry bush through the window. I switched the camera to manual focus to lock the frame down and chose aperture priority to keep my chosen depth of field constant and help with exposure variations I knew would happen throughout the day (sun and clouds playing hide and seek) . I used the XF 55–200mm lens zoomed all the way in and wide open at f/4.8, ISO 1000, resulting in shutter speeds between 1/340 sec and 1/1900 sec — It was extremely windy so this was a compromise between motion blur and possible noise.

First frame was shot at 11:20 AM, last frame at 07:01 PM; one frame every minute for 7.5 hours.

All the files were imported into a new Lightroom 5 catalog created specifically for time-lapse experiments (no reason to crowd my main library with this stuff). The images were shot in jpeg using the Pro Neg Standard film simulation and then processed in LR with one of my goto black and white presets, a tweaked version of VSCO’s Neopan 1600. I chose a midrange shot and synced everything once I was happy with the results.

The files in LR5. Click for a larger view.

Assembling in Motion

Obviously, when doing this sort of work the idea is to automate the actual stitching of the files into a sequence as much as possible; doing this manually is the last thing you want to be stuck with. The king of the hill in time-lapse photography for Lightroom users is a plug-in called LRTimeLapse. It looks like a very powerful bit of software that even allows animated variations of parameters, to tweak exposure or any sort of filter across time for instance. But it isn’t cheap and I’m not there yet. Instead, I used Apple’s Motion 5. Motion is a compositing and animation application that’s perfect for these types of very short subjects. More importantly, it supports image sequences — meaning it can treat thousands of images as a single file. Let me explain…

The trick with images sequences is in the naming: you want a naming scheme that will allow the software to properly identify the order of the files. It’s also essentially telling the application “Hey! These files go together Bucko!”. I went with leaves–0001 to leaves–0431, all exported to a single Images folder for the sake of clarity. Then, in Motion 5’s File Browser pane I get this:

Huh? But… but… That’s just a bunch of individual files! Settle down young Jedi… See that little button that looks like a slide with other slides behind it? This one:

That’s the image sequence toggle. When it’s ON it tells Motion to treat image files with identical sequential names as a single unit. Like this:

As you can see the file type has now changed to JPEG Sequence, the name now displays the number of images it contains and I’m even getting an estimate of the sequence duration at 30 fps. We can also now treat this single entity like any other asset in Motion without having to worry about the number of files linked behind the scenes. The entire stitching and assembly has been done for us. Kewl.

Coming back to that estimated duration I mentioned: you may have noticed it was 14 seconds. I did the project at 24 fps which gave me a bit more but certainly not enough to cover the entire length of the video. I’m not going to enter a full blown tutorial but just so you know, I slowed down the sequence and created two sub clips using two different types of frame blending which I then re-imported and used as masters. I used Apple ProRes 422 HQ, a high quality, editable codec to preserve quality (never use H264. It’s a fantastic delivery standard but it’s NOT meant for editing and will give you all kinds of headaches).

Here’s a screenshot of the Motion project:

For the soundtrack — in case you’re wondering — I scored directly to video in Logic Pro X.

Parting Thoughts

A few notes on the Interval Timer function of the X-T1:

- You can only set a maximum of 999 frames. This may actually be standard across cameras (perhaps due to file naming restrictions?) but it somewhat limits what can be achieved.

- The camera goes to sleep between shots if the interval allows it to do so. This is great. Conserves energy and keeps the battery from dying too quickly.

- As mentioned, the camera will meter before firing the shutter in aperture or shutter priority — VERY useful in changing conditions.

I know I probably wont’ be using this very often. But like many other features in this camera, it’s a nice option to explore. Great way to beat back the doldrums too…

Have a great weekend guys :)

P.S I initially wanted to do this in 4K… You know… Buzzword et all. But I got a nice message in Motion telling me my computer wasn’t up to the task. Damn. Can we stop moving that goalpost already? And now 8K? Sigh.

Cobra Fakir and an X-Pro1 Video Experiment

When the guys from Miriodor call me up for… Well, anything really… It’s always a treat. We go way back and any project with them is usually more like a playground than a gig. It’s a chance to try different things and experiment.

Their new album Cobra Fakir is coming out next week on Cuneiform Records and while I didn’t get a chance to work on the album itself this time around, we did get to collaborate on an experimental video and a quick promo shoot. This video is part of something we plan to explore further in the relatively near future, a trial run if you will. It was shot with the X-Pro1 using the XF 35mm and 18–55mm lenses.

For the portraits I used the XF 18–55 on the group shots and the XF 55–200 on the close-ups. We did everything in a corner of their small rehearsal space, with lighting provided by a single Elinchrom strobe fitted with either a medium softbox or a set of barn doors with grid.

So how was it shooting video with the X-Pro1? While it’s obviously not its primary function I was pleasantly surprised, especially when using the stabilized zoom. I’ve since shot another video that’s more of an essay of sorts, something I’ll show you in a few weeks, and I have to say I find myself enjoying the process much more than I thought I would.

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A bit of an aside before I leave you: my friend Robert Boyer sent me a terrific gift as a follow-up to my Root of all Evil post — a stunningly beautiful 1978 black Nikon FE with a roll of Fuji Superia 400. This is going to prove either interesting, frustrating or a money pit… We’ll see ;)

Have a great weekend!

 

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