More on Star Trails…

Wacousta Time Lapse Stacked



A few weeks ago, I went back to visit my parents in Michigan for a weekend, and spend some quality time with them for the Lunar New Year (a.k.a. Tet). In addition to the good food, and the spending time with the parents, another one of the benefits of leaving Chicago is the ability to get away from the light pollution. Granted, it’s great living in a big city, where street lights allow you to see where you are going, and give you some feeling of security at night, but if you’re trying to look up and see the stars, it’s no bueno, as they say. All those bright lights reflect back into the sky, and diffract in the atmosphere, making it much more difficult for the already dim star light to find it’s way to our peepers (a.k.a. eyeballs). In any case, using the Photographer’s Ephemeris app, I was able to find the times of the sunset and the moonset, and then using the Star Walk app, figured out which direction to point my camera. After getting the settings dialed in, I set up my camera to manual, using a remote timer to take 99 shots. 16mm, F/5.6, 20s at ISO 1600. And just like with a RonCo rotisserie cooker, I just set it and… FORGET IT! Well, not quite, I still hung around out in the cold for about 40 minutes trying to stay warm as my camera fired away.

The eventual shots I took, converted to jpeg, and imported into Adobe Premiere Pro to turn into this 9 second timelapse (Best viewed in 1080p, fullscreen, if possible).

It’s kind of crazy how many shots you need to take to turn into a timelapse video of a respectable length.

So now, you’re probably wondering, what does this video have to do with star trails? Well, I’m glad you asked. Previously, I would shoot with low ISO, small aperture, and a long shutter speed to get the star trails. This time, I went with a different method. Taking a large number of discrete shots, and then stacking them in photoshop. There are pros and cons to each method, especially since this method takes a whole lot more effort to get the final star trail photo. I’m lookign to do a little camping this summer, so hopefully I can do some more star trail photos. That’s it for now! So, how are you doing?

Old Thirty Bastards… In Vegas

Vegas, baby, Vegas…

This past weekend, I left the city of Chicago to head to the City of Sin to celebrate the birthdays of some college friends. We crashed in a suite at the Cosmopolitan, which had a wonderful view of the strip as well as the water show at the Bellagio.

This time ’round, with it being such a quick weekend trip, there was no time to head out to Red Rock Canyon, there was only time to party.

Continue reading

Buried Treasure…

Yashica Mat-124

Yashica Mat-124 (front). A solid garage sale find.

What’s new?

A lot of new and exciting things have happened since I last blogged.  I know it’s been a while.  But where have I been you ask?  What could have kept me away for so long?

More international travel!

I was able to work it out with my new manager to allow me to take a week off to travel to Italy.  I was going with a group of my friends from college, to celebrate the marriage of my old buddy/college roommate Thien, and his husband, Stephen.  I was honored to be one of his three best men. It was my first time there, and I would love to go back again.  I will likely blog about this in a separate post, just like I will for my trip to Europe last year, or my road trip last year.  I have so many photos to share, it’s pretty ridiculous.  But, my blog isn’t a buffet, it’s like a soup kitchen.  I don’t want my readers to over-stuff themselves on the abundant, but slightly bland heaps of 12 different types of pasta, but to appreciate it when I provide tiny tasty morsels every once in a while.  So, hopefully you haven’t died of starvation, and you’ll be coming back for every tasty bit.

New Digs!

I finally moved into my new apartment, in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.  I’ve been slowly organizing my stuff, and one the things I’ve really enjoying is having my photos printed, cutting some mats, framing them, and hanging them.  I had a few unfortunate mishaps, as I found out the hard way that Command adhesive strips aren’t quite strong enough to support some of my larger frames.

And lastly, but not leastly…

New Knee!

So, this one is a bit of a bummer, but unfortunately for me, I tore my ACL playing soccer, when an opposing play collided with my fully extended (and quite shapely, might I add) leg.  It looks like I will have to have surgery if I ever want to be as active as I want to be, but it’s not urgent, and rehab is typically about a year.  I haven’t scheduled it yet, but I’ll probably wait until the end of the summer to do it, when I have less stuff I want to do.  I can get around just fine for the time being, as long as I’m not trying to run or anything.

New cameras!

In the past month, I’ve been able to buy 4 new cameras.  Well, to be honest, I bought 3 old used cameras, and received 1 new camera that I had bought in March.  The cameras I’m referring to are the Yashica Mat-124, the Kodak Duaflex II, the Voigtlander Vito II, and the Nikon D800. I actually got my D800 a few weeks ago, but haven’t really gotten the chance to use it. And for the other 3, if you’ve been following my instagram, @justinjle, you might have seen them already, and know that I found them at a garage sale in Minneapolis.  I am so stoked about these old cameras though, as I got the 3 for a great deal (I think, anyway).  My friend, Anh-Tram went garage-sale-ing, and came across a box of old cameras, and showed me a pic of them on her iphone. I just had to get down there and check them out for myself, and I ended up walking away with these 3 for $75. I’m not sure the Voigtlander works, and the Kodak is a bit scratched, and pretty dusty, but the Yashica seems to be pretty clean, in great condition, and the light meter seems to be working as well.  In any case, it’s really nice to look at, and feels really solid in the hands.  I ended up buying a roll of 120 film to run through it to see if it works.  In any case, it’s so nice, I thought I’d post a couple photos I took of it with my D800 & a couple of old Nikon manual focus lenses.

The Yashica Mat-124

Yashica Mat-124

Yashica Mat-124 (front). A solid garage sale find.

Yashica Mat-124

The Yashica Mat-124 (top-down view through the waist-level viewfinder). Inside of the viewfinder, is the Kodak Duaflex II.

Pretty cool stuff, right? Also, the detail with that D800 is pretty dang awesome! I’m hoping to be back to blogging in a few weeks, and posting more photos from my other trips, but not this week (I’ll be turning 30, and celebrating it like I was still 29).

But until I get back to blogging, I’d like to hear from you… So here’s my question:


What’s the best garage sale treasure you’ve found so far?

I hardly do any garage-sale-ing, and tend to opt for looking occasionally on craigslist, fredmiranda, or the National Camera stores I lived near in the Twin Cities, but with this great score, it makes me want to start going more often. I used to love going as a kid, as that was the only time me and my siblings got new toys, and we loved it.  Much simpler times then.  Anyway, what’s some good stuff you’ve found lately?

Making a Music Video: Manhattan by Jenny Dinh

“Manhattan” by Jenny Dinh

[Note: The first minute or so of the video doesn’t have audio, so you don’t need to adjust your audio settings.  Just an FYI.  I’ll probably fix this later. Also, you can like, comment, rate, and subscribe on my cousin’s youtube channel: JennyD12345]

Behind the Music Video

So, a few weeks ago, my Aunt and Uncle told me that my cousin (whom I had taken photos of in a previous post, here) was in need of a music video.  My cousin had recorded a demo of original songs, and were asked to provide a music video for one of their songs to participate in a contest.  They were referred to, and had spoken to, some guy who makes videos.  Apparently, in exchange for his services, he was asking for a woven basket full of beanie babies stuffed with unmarked twenties. Well, maybe it wasn’t specifically asked for in that manner, but the point is that it was an amount my aunt and uncle weren’t willing to pay that amount.  So, they came to me, their awesome nephew, looking for help.

Now, I had never done much video work, but since I have a camera that shoots video (the Nikon D300s), and I’m almost always willing to learn and try something new, I said, “Well, by golly, why the heck not?!” (But not really, because who really talks like that?  Not me, by golly!)

We shot this video at a park near Jenny’s home.  We didn’t realize how cold it was going to be, as it had been in the high 40’s (Fahrenheit, that is) that week, and only snowed that morning (and melted the following day).  We ended up having to go back home to get extra socks and a warm water bottle for Jenny as she was getting cold.

The Gear:

So, I shot this with my Nikon D300s, mounted on a Manfrotto 561bhdv-1 video fluid head monopod (for stabilization), a LED video light, and a handful of my prime lenses (the 85mm f/1.4D, the 50mm f/1.4D, the 35mm f/2.0D, and the 20mm f/2.8).

Overall, the D300s did a decent job.  It only shoots in 720P at 24fps (not the 23.98fps most cameras shoot), which is fine, but the overall control for video on the camera isn’t great.  But as long as you are aware of it, you can totally work around it.  For example, there are no manual settings for shooting video.  You can set your aperture only while outside of Live-View, and then use the AE-Lock to lock the exposure.  But in order to get the right exposure, you have to meter on something bright if you want it darker, or dark if you want it brighter.  Once you lock it in, it only stays locked in as long as you don’t exit Live-View or turn your camera off (which you would probably do if you want to change aperture, lenses, or the battery).  So, there were a few times when I forgot to lock the exposure, but this wasn’t a problem as long as the metering area didn’t move over to a darker or lighter spot during recording, as that would cause a visible stepping-up or down of the overall exposure).

What I would have done differently:

I wish I had shot more moving shots.  It would have added a lot more to the video.  I had relied on a lot of static shots, because I’m not really used to handling a DSLR to shoot video, so I wasn’t confident in being able to handhold the camera steadily.  I think if I had one of those LCD Viewfinder magnifier things (like a Zacuto Z-Finder, or a cheaper one, like this one here), it’d add another point of contact, and give me a little more confidence to handhold the camera.

It’d also be nice if I had multiple cameras.  This video was made using multiple takes, instead of having multiple angles of a single take.  This made it harder on my cousin (as her fingers were getting cold, so she couldn’t play through the whole song without putting onto a warm water bottle), and more difficult to synchronize in Premiere Pro. I had my other cousin, Brian, help out by playing the song on an ipod speaker, so Jenny could try and sync closely to the actual song.  So I used a lot of transitions to tie it together, and hide the majority of inconsistencies between the takes, although, if you’re paying close attention, you’ll still spot them.

Since this was my first time editing actual video, I didn’t have much experience with Premiere Pro.  I had initially screwed up the sequence settings when opened up my project, so the audio bitrate wasn’t matching up, and I spent hours trying to figure out why my audio was crackling with static.  Also, as I said earlier, the intro scene doesn’t have audio, and that was due to me screwing it up in Premiere Pro, something which I didn’t know how to fix at the time, but now I do.  So even though I didn’t start out with knowing how to use Premiere Pro, I was able to google, and youtube just about anything I was trying to figure out how to do (aside from the audio issue I had to troubleshoot for hours).  But, I guess next time, I’ll know a lot more about how to do what I want, or at least where to start. Also, I had Brian helping me out, and learning alongside me, which helped out with the frustrating parts.  He also added the title in the intro with After Effects.

So, that’s about it… I’d say, it’s not bad for a first effort, but, there’s always room for improvement.  If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!  Thanks for checking it out!

Like Super Toats Jelly…

I just tried out my dad’s new Nikon D3s with the 85mm f/1.4, and now I’m like super toats jelly (super totally jealous)… He took some shots of me in a dark room lit with just the iphone, and it basically lit up the whole room, and looked really crisp on the LCD.

It really put my E620 to shame… But than again, I now understand why it’s 10x the cost of mine, and why people pay that.

I’ve been in the market for an Olympus pro series camera, but I’ve been holding out on their new model, which they should be releasing soon, but still there’s been no word on that, and they are keeping pretty mum.  Hopefully, whatever they are releasing is worth the wait.  Olympus is a niche camera, and I understand that.  Great in good lighting, and small and portable, and the weather sealing is great.  So definitely makes sense for the outdoor photographer, but for a guy like me who’s more into candids, low light, indoor, portrait, action, strobist, landscape, and just about everything kind of photography, switching up brands sounds like it might make more sense to me.

Then again, with a pricetag like the one dangling from the Nikon D3s, I would have to save up quite a few more cents for it to make sense, if you know what I’m sayin’…