Category Archives: Equipment


DIY: Overhead Camera Stand


Studio stands are great but when shooting from above, the legs of the stand will get in the way of the shot. Hence, we created one ourselves. We got two 20ft. aluminum squared pipes, three pieces of plywood, two Avenger plates and two tall boys to create a rolling, adjustable studio stand. We still need to tethered the camera to a computer but unfortunately, the firewire cord is not long enough to reach our tower on the ground. Instead, we tethered to a MacBook Pro up high next to the camera and controlled it using Screen Share with our MacPro from below. It worked great. To top it off, Capture One now has an app for the iPad. It’s amazing and works well from shooting to viewing to changing camera settings and more.







iPhone 4 photo closeup



Some folks have been asking for a higher res example of the iPhone 4 cover photo. The sample that I posted here was a screen grab from the Zinio version of the magazine. Zinio adds compression to photos to save on spacenot the best way to judge quality of an image, which is certainly of interest in this case.

So here is the full image, followed by closeups of certain details.







Macworld iPhone 4 cover



Ive always thought it would be cool to photograph the cover of Macworld magazine using an iPhone as my camera. When the new iPhone 4 was released with the 5MP camera, the editors at Macworld were excited to see if it could be done. What better way to showcase the phones new camera than to have an iPhone take the photo of the iPhone on the cover?

Normally when I shoot the cover of Macworld Magazine, I use a Phase One P65+ which is a 60 MP digital camera. It has twelve times the megapixel count of an iPhone 4. This was going to be a very challenging task for the iPhone. My goal was to photograph the cover using only the iPhone and any available app for the iPhone (I couldn’t use Photoshop on my Mac!)

For the most part, my strategy for photographing the cover didn’t change from how I normally would photograph with the Phase One digital camera. I still had my normal set with lots of lights, flags and stands. I did have to change my light source from strobes to tungsten lights because the iPhone can’t sync with studio strobes. I did end up making my own camera mount for the phone to go on my tripod (monopod). I hadnt seen one that would do exactly what I needed (even if I did I didnt think it would ship to me in time) so I picked up some parts from the hardware store and rigged one myself.

Normally when I photograph the cover I use my Mac to add the iPhone’s screen, clean up dust, scratches and any other imperfections. I wasn’t going to have that same control on my iPhone so I had to ensure the photo looked good and close as possible to final in-camera. During the shoot I would send the image files over to the art director at his computer so he could drop the image into layout. We needed to be sure the scale and crop was perfect.

The iPhone’s Retina display was truly awesome. I was really able to see the detail in the photo as I was shooting. It made me wish Apple produced all their desktop monitors this way. The final photo was dust-free and looked great. I was extremely impressed with the detail that the iPhone was able to capture. For post production I used two iPhone apps: PhotoForge and Resize-Photo. PhotoForge was used to remove a slight green cast from the photo. Resize-Photo was used to increase the photo from 216 dpi to 290 dpi in order to meet printing requirements. One app that I wish had been available when I was photographing the cover was Camera+ 1.2 with separate touch exposure and touch focus.

Also check out the Editor’s Desk inside the magazine where Jason writes about me and my process for creating this month’s cover or view online here.

The digital version of the magazine is out now on Zinio. The printed version should be on newsstands soon. See what you think:












iPhone 4 goes underwater

Recently my vacations have been very water based. I think my kids might be part fish, they never want to leave the water. We were in Lake Tahoe this past weekend. Usually, my camera gear is stranded on the beach as I spend most of my time in the water. I could get high end underwater gear but this is a vacation not work so I wanted something small and fun. Therefore, I ordered an Aquapac 104 Phone/GPS Case from L.L. Bean ($30) for my iPhone. For the most part, the case worked great. My iPhone didn’t get wet or damage. The material that the case is made out of gives a slight softness to the photos and videos, which I didn’t mind. At the end of the day, you really need to clean the Aquapac case with soap and water to keep it clear.

When I was out of the water I was able to take photos and video without a problem. Once the camera was in the water I couldn’t get the iPhone screen to respond to my touch. I’m not sure if this would happen in warmer water like Hawaii. The water in Lake Tahoe is ice cold. In order to take video I started recording before going under water and that worked fine. I used iMovie on the iPhone to edit the movie. It’s amazing that the whole thing can be captured and edited right on the iPhone. Above is a quick movie I made with my kids.

You can see the video on Vimeo or Youtube


Weekly photos April #1


Macworld GPS opener

I’m working on the opening photo for a Macworld article about iPhone GPS software. Unlike last month’s red carpet shot, we didn’t start with a sketch. This time we discussed in length what they were looking for. The concept is to show an iPhone mounted on the front windshield of a car. We started by contacting Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco to see if they would let us photograph one of their cars. They were extremely helpful and gracious. The only stipulation was we couldn’t drive it or take it off the lotwhich wasn’t a problem since we were planning to composite the street view later. We were even lucky enough to have a break in all the rainy weather so we could shoot outside.






To photograph the view out the car window I rented some suction cups and mounted a camera to the hood of my car. We scouted possible locations by previewing the street view in Google Maps. The camera was tethered to my MacBook Pro, which I was manning from the passenger seat. I used the Canon capture utility to adjust exposure remotely and take the photos. Then I used Adobe Bridge to view the images after they were taken.







All the necessary parts have been photographed. The next step will be assembling everything in Photoshop.



Weekly photos Jan #4


Weekly photos Jan #2


Weekly Photos Jan #1

Here are some more photos from my “Weekly photos” series


Merlin Steadicam test

I’ve been wanting to try out a Steadicam for my Canon 5D Mark II for awhile now. I wasn’t sure which kind to get and the more research I did the more confusing it became. I finally concluded that the Merlin Steadicam was the best fit for what I needed.

I’m a strong believer in renting something before you buy. Everyone that I spoke to said that a Steadicam was something that needed lots of practice and it wasn’t something you could rent for the day. I went against my own advice and bought the Merlin Steadicam. When the Steadicam arrived I thought I was going to pull it out of the box and start filming (duh, see above about the warnings regarding practice).

I spent most of the day learning to balance the camera. Setting up the camera was much harder than I thought. Once I got things configured I went out and started filming. My assistant Michael and I tested walking, running, panning, and walking on stairs. Things were looking good, but we wanted to test something that combined all the challenges at once. We found a block-long flight of stairs to test on that would work perfectly. We needed something to track as we were testing, so of course I volunteered to ride my bike down the stairs as Michael filmed.

I was very impressed with how smoothly things looked considering we didn’t have much practice. If this had been filmed without the Steadicam the movie would have been extremely jumpy and unwatchable.

The purpose of the movie was really an exercise to see how the Steadicam would perform in a difficult situation with very little training. I was very happy with the results and am excited to see how much better it will look once we REALLY figure things out.

You can also watch the video on