DSLR Video is Changing the Landscape for Photographers

While I’m primarily a still photographer, I’ve always had a love for motion and have been fortunate enough to shoot video for many clients. With the release of the Canon 5D Mark II and other video capable DSLRs, shooting high definition video is become cheaper and easier. And while DSLR cameras can’t do everything a high-end video camera can do, they do have unique capabilities that are giving video cameras a run for their money, namely variable frame rates and incredibly shallow depth of field with fast prime lenses.

Shrinking budgets and the proliferation of video on the web have created a situation where clients are asking photographers to shoot video along with stills on a single shoot. Sometimes the video is used as the stills would be used – for advertising, etc – but it’s often used to capture behind-the-scenes footage.

I recently did a behind-the-scenes type shoot for my friend, photographer Jim Hughes. You can see the video here. Jim is very talented and could have shot the video himself, but stills and motion require very different ways of shooting so it’s always best to have two shooters: a photographer and videographer. Not to mention that he was plenty busy with stills and never would have gotten all his shots if he had to stop to shoot video all the time.

Along with the growth of these cameras an entire industry devoted to developing accessories to shoot video on DSLRs has sprung up. These cameras are primarily still cameras and are the most ergonomic for that purpose, not for shooting video. To do it right you need things like follow focus, shoulder rigs and monitors to get the shots. And don’t forget microphones! Mediocre sound is the surest way for your project to come off as amateurish and the built-in mics on these cameras are only good for reference tracks, at best.

I’ve done a lot of research on this gear and the choices keep expanding all the time and so have the tutorials on the web to teach photographers about it all. Some of the best resources are the sites of Philip Bloom and Vincent Laforet. These are filmmakers who have fully embraced DSLR video and have great reviews and resources on their sites. Laforet’s Gear Page is one of the favorites.

One of the best sites I recently found for information on gear is the Canon website. There is a whole series of tutorials on DSLR video production and they are very good. Check them out here.

Currently I’m working on a long video project using the 5D Mark II and a 7D. I’ll be using various rigs and mounts and other fun toys – stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes post about that!

Chaumette Vineyard, 2011

Chaumette Vineyard, 2011
Chaumette vines just after sunrise.

My daughter’s boyfriend’s parents own a vineyard in Missouri, just south of St Louis. I went to school in St. Louis and as far as I knew, good winemakers did not exist in the state. A few weeks ago, I was schooled by Chaumette Vineyard.  It struck me as more of a resort, with villas, pool, spa, and even a tiny chapel for weddings and Sunday services. However, the wine was really surprising. I admittedly have a rudimentary knowledge of wine, but I’ve had many very good glasses living so close to Napa and Sonoma, so I can tell the swill from the ambrosia. This was no swill, by any measure. Of the handful I tried, they were all very good and their Chardonel was excellent. I really like Chardonnay and this was their version whose grape is heartier and able to thrive in the Missouri climate better – it’s a hybrid of Chardonnay and Seyval grapes. Apparently, many palettes far better than mine have been fooled by the buttery oak flavor.

The restaurant was also exceptional. We ate on the large porch overlooking the fields and vines at sunset. I regret not having the time or light to photograph the food, so the gallery is mostly scenics. And despite being there less than 24 hours, I got some nice photos; the early morning was misty and  I scored good light, so I couldn’t have asked for more. Make it to the end to see my favorite photo – just because I like firetrucks.

Big thanks goes out to our hosts, Jackie, Hank, Zoe, and Henry!