roots of photography

So here it is as best I can recall. I was in seventh grade. Junior High we called it back then. I was not in sports, I gave up on the sax by 5th grade. I didn’t know how to play chess or talk to the other nerds. So I went to the meeting about Photo Club ( I still have the pin on a camera strap). I think we made photograms. Then we worked our way up to pinhole cameras made out of oatmeal containers. Eventually we made our way to camera film and processing.

By luck my folks had gotten a free gift with a subscription to Time or some other magazine. It was a 35mm camera. It had a fixed focus lens with 4 aperture settings. Cloudy, partly cloudy, partly sunny and Sunny. So basically a ƒ5.6 lens. It did have a flash mount though I think.

My Grandfather, Manville Passer, was an avid fan of photography. He documented the family on slides (which I inherited). Eventually we would talk about lenses and such as I moved more and more into photography. Somewhere I have a polaroid of me buying my first ‘real’ came at camera shop in downtown St. Paul. But I digress. For many years I’ve felt it was the influence of my grandfather and the support of my parents that led me to photography.

I have been scanning images lately to post on instagram in between new images. I came across this one of Manville from Christmas 1985. I believe this was one of the first rolls of film I developed. Manville passed away February 8, 2002.

Manville Passer – 1985

Analog Photography

Recently I have been struggling to reconnect a Lightroom “libray” with its images. I have most of the images across multiple drives (I think). So I’m not too worried that I lost those images. Many of the early kids photos and trips are sitting in a shutterfly folder (probably). So what! Since around 2004 I stopped photographing with film and switched to a convenient digital point and shoot (for trips) and eventually a DSLR (also for filmmaking). So roughly the last 15 years are digital. Somewhere.

Since around 2014, shortly before my divorce, I had my Rollei TLR serviced and started photographing the children regularly with it. At some point starting the tradition of photographing them on their birthday. Since then I have shot a lot more than that. Especially on trips the last two years. I picked up a Hasselblad, then another one (sold the first one). Found I really liked a wide angle lens in the square format. Tried some Lomography plastic wide camera (sold it after shooting one roll). Picked up a Mamiya Press camera which is sort of like a large format camera in the front and 6X9 camera in the back. And it’s a rangefinder so that is interesting (and imprecise).

So after scanning three rolls I process today from the last couple of weeks (I didn’t say I was that prolific), I wanted to sit down and write about it. Or at least collect some thoughts to think about later. As of right now I don’t have a series or book in mind. I like to shoot what I like to shoot. Nature and landscape is nice, but I don’t consider myself hardcore enough to camp out to get the perfect light for image. I like photographing my children but at some point they won’t let me anymore. I’m interested in photographing people, but have never really thought about how to ask. Right now I enjoy having this. Perhaps you would like to buy a print and hang it on your wall?

Brandenburg Gate – Berlin 1993

Motocrane visit

If you haven’t checked out Motocrane, you should do that.

So this company is based out of Minneapolis. The CEO and one of the founders is a former student of mine from MCAD. Yesterday I took my class down to their shop and studio. Zach shared the ins and outs of their journey to get this product to market and what the future looks like. (it looks pretty awesome)

About a year and half ago I got a chance to use the prototype in a demo and the footage was stunning. Even if you are not doing car stuff this makes for a versatile car based tracking machine.

once upon a time

So once upon a time there was Cinema and there were cinema cameras. Along the way you have the democratization of Cinema. What a wonderful thing. A kid could make a film with an iPhone. A Hollywood director could film in a virtual world. All of this sounds very positive if the story is good.

I recently came across this article:

It really pisses me off. So if a cinema camera is too complicated, don’t use it. This attitude that DSLR/Youtube trash video should be easy to film is bullshit. What is the story? What is the right tool for that? So, yes the flagship Cinema camera from Canon may be too much camera for your Youtube channel. Is it too much for a film projected in a cinema? probably not. Is your DSLR, highly compressed, 8 bit footage good enough for the cinema? probably not.

Keep cinema cameras complicated for the artists and craftspeople that know how to use them.

who’s the chump?

On Friday I was working a VIP Super Bowl party for Rolling Stone magazine. I’m stationed on the RED carpet with other press (video and photography and VR). Next to me is this guy that I overhear is working for the PR firm. They ask him if he is shooting video with that (gesture to iPhone on osmo mobile gimbal). He says yes, it is 4K. Later there was some confusing about whether he got an interview of someone that they could use. He wasn’t using any microphones, just the iPhone.

So I’m there hired by Rolling Stone through a production company to basically do the same thing. Film b-roll and grab a few interviews with our guy. I’m using a fully loaded Sony Fs7 with an Easyrig. And we’re not shooting in 4K because it is all going to web and social. I bet his back wasn’t feeling it later.


First time out with the RED Epic W yesterday. A fine camera as it goes. From an operating standpoint it was really no different than using the original EPIC. It all comes down to what accessories you add to it to make it useable in your configuration. I was using the Gratical Eye from Zacuto in addition to the RED monitor bolted to the top. Most of the day was Hand-held so I was using an EASYRIG to take some of the load off. The handle was prone to slipping off the clamp because of the front heavy arrangement using the Sigma Cine zoom and Wooden Camera matte box.

I will say the fan noise was much reduced over that of the original EPIC. I still find the menus and setup of the camera to be cumbersome. A few more quick access buttons and an easy way to configure the ones that do exist?

I didn’t have much time to examine the footage before turning it over to the client but it was much better looking than it looked on the tiny screen on camera. 🙂

Super 8 at a cost

This is shocking and blog worthy. $2500 for a super 8 camera from Kodak in 2018! Yes, that is the correct amount of zeros. Kodak has been teasing this updated Super 8 camera for a couple of years now. I saw a demo unit last fall and it was pretty cool. Essentially it has a built in “video assist” as a monitor. It had microphone and audio inputs to record synchronized sound (onto an SD card). They also expanded the gate to get a little more out of the aspect ratio. Sounds really cool, something I might consider for $800. But for $2500 I could get a really nice Bolex 16, An Arri-S with pin registration or possibly and Arriflex SR! Granted film cost and processing escalates with 16mm, but at that point why not. I get the nostalgia factor and warm fuzzy feeling you get with Super 8 but I could not justify this cost. Good luck Kodak.

2018 is here

It has been nearly a year since I’ve written anything here. What’s new? What’s old?

Current rig is the Sony Fs7. The only upgrade this year was a switch to V mount batteries but not the Sony accessory, just a dumb mount from Core. This years goal is to upgrade to better lenses. Perhaps Sigma Zooms and Primes?

Another tool I hope to get this year is an Easyrig®. After operating on a feature (handheld) in June my arm just can’t do it. We’ve seen the Steadicam get budget models over the years but this item is always expensive.

Excited to see what this year may bring.

early NAB thought / 2017 prediction

Soon we’ll have hard drives so massive and error proof that we’ll never have to worry about backing up footage. ever. Ok, that sounds like an organizational disaster probably.

Thinking about cameras coming out this year and every blog I read points to the Panasonic GH5 as the most amazing tool coming out. For some that may be true. 4K, check. 10bit, check. nearly S35 size sensor, check. But some things like LOG recording are at an additional cost. Raw is not an option though that is less important to me than to others. My experiences with the GH4 were limited but the low light sensitivity was so bad it reminded me of my Panasonic HVX200. Now that was a camera!

My thoughts are on BlackMagic. They seem to pull something amazing off at every single NAB since they released their first Cinema camera. The pocket has been very popular in some circles but extremely limiting in nearby circles. Now with the stability of their URSA mini camera perhaps they will look at a version 2 of the pocket. A super 35 size sensor pocket cinema camera.

I have not used the Sony A6500, but I have used the A6300 and this camera is a great little tool. The crop sensor is about the size of S35. It shoots in Slog3 and 4K! If Sony can put all of this into a camera at $1300-1500 Black Magic will make a pocket 35 Cinema camera. ProRes, RAW, 4K.


A week ago my house was broken into and some stuff was stolen. My theory is that they came for the TV and stumbled on the production equipment. I don’t know, but I do know that a significant amount of gear was stolen.
How many people have renter’s insurance? How many of you have production insurance? Is your gear insured? for how much? What is the deductible? depreciation? replacement value? receipts?

Well now I know a lot more than I did. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough insurance for the amount of equipment I had in my home. Fortunately I did have almost enough to at least replace most of the gear that was stolen. Also, it is fortunate that the thieves did not steal more. You see under a rental or homeowner policy there is a limit to the amount of “work” equipment they cover. If they would have stolen more I wouldn’t have gotten anymore.

So 2017, a new-used camera and additional insurance. And some security shit for the house.

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