Hawaii Scenery Video - by Tracie Cotta

Tracie put together a nice video compilation of some of the different places we visited on O'ahu... using footage from the Canon T1i, her little point-and-shoot Canon SD800IS, and my iPhone 3GS. The underwater scenes were shot with the Ewa-marine underwater housing on the Canon T1i.

She made the music in Garage Band using Magic Garage Band. If you have never used Magic Garage Band... give it a look. We have used it many times to create music for videoblogs, with great results. It's quick and easy... and offers really high-quality results, although not that much in terms of variety.

This is a nice preview of some of the videos you'll soon see coming from our trip... explanations and tutorials on how we shot!

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

DIY flash grid | Straws + Glue + Time = Cheapo Perfect Grids!

In keeping with the low-budget nature of the Hawaii Trip, I decided to actually make some of my own gear. I didn't get to do everything I had hoped (time has a way of slipping by quickly when you're planning something big) but the flash grid project I was able to do the night before we left.

The grid actually worked out PERFECTLY. I was amazed at how great it was. I am making two more, one with longer straw pieces for a tighter beam, and one that's a little wider as well. The one I made was right in the middle... and ended up being perfect for a general flash grid that lasted me the trip.

What you'll need:

  • black drinking straws (I got mine from Panera Bread)
  • Quick Grip glue (I got it at Michael's)
  • black duct tape (I bought black Duck Tape from Michael's)
  • cardboard (I used thin product packaging cardboard
  • scissors
  • a ruler is good, but I didn't use one
  • black marker (I was going to use it to black out the edges of the cardboard, but didn't show that in the video)

The Quick Grip Glue was very key to the success. I've read a number of posts (the one I used to make mine was HERE) and a lot seem to have trouble with durability. The glue I used made this thing nearly indestructible, it's holding up perfectly by being completely strong without being brittle... and using the duct tape around it makes the cardboard somewhat tear-proof.

This first example showed me that if you truly value your time and don't have a lot to spare... this probably isn't the most cost saving project. If you have a little time on your hands, however, you're easily able to make 3 of these in less than a couple hours... saving about $70. To most amateurs and even quite a few professionals this is TOTALLY worth it.

You might also be worried that the final product will look too unprofessional... but if so... you're likely worried about the wrong things. Cover it with black and it's good enough, no one will look closely enough to see that it's homemade... and if they do you tell them that you make your own because no one out there makes exactly what you need. If YOU are professional... and you deliver professional results... that's truly all you need to worry about. Pros jimmy-rig things all the time, it's a constant necessity.

Here is the glue I used (I get 4% of purchases if you buy):

Quick Grip Glue 2 Ounce

If you prefer purchasing grids and want the same results, I recommend HONL Photo's grids. You can purchase them below through Amazon:

HonlPhoto Speed Strap for Shoe Mount Flashes - you need this to attach the grids to your flash HonlPhoto 1/8 grid HonlPhoto 1/4 grid

Stay tuned for actual results from the grid in Hawaii!

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

Ewa-marine Underwater Housing First Test | Mini Review

Tracie and I took the Ewa-marine underwater housing out for a first test in the swimming pool in my apartment complex. The video above should show you everything you need to know to get started with it... and know if it will work for what you want it to do. We will have more examples of photos and videos in future posts, but this is a quick review to show you all the features and our first use of the bag.

We needed an affordable underwater housing for the Hawaii Fusion Trip, and although I considered purchasing a point-and-shoot underwater camera to accomplish this goal I wanted better quality video and more control over the photos I'd be taking. Shooting underwater will degrade the quality of what you are doing already... first of all because of debris and light-loss... but also because it is mainly blue light that is allowed to travel through water... blocking out the rest of the visible spectrum quickly as you get further from your subject. We wanted to have the highest quality capture possible, so we went with the full housing. The Ewa-marine is actually the most affordable by far, yet it still performs very well within its own limitations.

One of the biggest benefits of the Ewa-marine housing over others, besides the price tag (just $269!), is the fact that you can use it on multiple cameras. Especially if you don't use it much... the housing will likely outlast the camera model you have... and all the hard plastic housings ($1,000 and up) are made with specific buttons to fit each individual camera model. The Ewa-marine is essentially a plastic bag, so as long as your new camera fits in it... you have full use of all the functions.

Pressing the buttons inside the bag proved to be a bit difficult, but with practice it ended up being just slightly slower than usual. Practice definitely improves your performance with this thing... and quickly. Underwater photography is difficult for a host of reasons, which I found out later during a snorkeling trip, but results can be amazing, especially when you have a fantastic video DSLR.

We made a few mistakes our first time out, and there are a few things to note:

  • You need googles if you plan on seeing the screen AT ALL. This might seem obvious... but I totally forgot to buy a pair.
  • Water magnifies everything... so if you have a plan to use a certain focal length, keep in mind that it will be "zoomed in" about 30%.
  • Keep the lens as CLOSE to the front glass of the housing as possible, or you can get reflections in your images of the lettering on the lens. Blacking this out with tape can definitely help.
  • If you have sunscreen on your face and chest... it's going to get on the bag, and will make it really hard to see through it, because it won't wipe off easily.
  • Light bends all over in water... mainly when coming through the surface of it, so direct sunlight will turn into lots of streamy bands of light all over.
  • Focusing isn't easy to do, and isn't easy to verify... but with practice autofocus still does a pretty good job if you can stay still long enough to lock
  • People like to breathe, and breathing causes bubbles, so coach your model in not exhaling while shooting, because bubbles coming out of their nose isn't attractive, unless you're going for that.
  • All-in-all I was extremely pleased with the initial results of the housing, and have a great full shoot to share with you soon!

    Shortly after tweeting about the housing, where I actually mentioned the full name "ewa-marine underwater housing", I got a reply message from a gentleman from Germany (I think) with the Twitter name @ewa_marine. It was a small exchange but very welcome and it shows that the company is looking at what people are doing and saying about their product, which is awesome. He even asked for me to send over a link to examples when I have them. How 'bout that?

    NOTE: in the video I mentioned that I didn't find the manual... it was actually in the front pocket of the case. I forgot to mention that I had found it!

    You can purchase an Ewa-marine housing through the following links, the first is for smaller SLRs (fits Canon Rebel series or Nikon D40 or D90) and the second is for larger bodies (up to the 5DmkII size). If you buy it through this link I get a nice little 4%, and will love you for it.

    Ewa-marine U-A Housing f/ small AF SLR Cameras w/ a built in Flash

    Ewa-Marine Underwater Housing for Large DSLR Bodies like EOS 5DmkII, 7D; Nikon D1, D2X, D300

    This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

    This video is brought to you by:

    Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

    Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

Hawaii Photo Fusion Gear Bag

This video shows and explains all the gear I brought on the Hawaii Photo Fusion trip.

Everything was selected specifically for low-budget shooting. I was confident that even with the entry-level gear I was bringing that I'd be able to do everything I wanted to do as a professional.

Below is a list of all the items I describe in the video... with links where they can be purchased. The ones through Amazon will use my affiliate link and if you purchase I get like 4% (that's my disclaimer).

Gear List

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

Sailing Lanikai | Photo Fusion Workshop Live Demo

This video was edited (using iMovie), scored (using Magic Garageband) and uploaded (to SmugMug) during the Hawaii Photo Fusion Workshop in Honolulu in less than an hour!

The video and photos were shot with the Canon T1i and kit lens (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6IS) in an Ewa-marine underwater housing. It was my first attempt at shooting with the ewa-marine underwater housing, and it performed very well. I still need work in using it efficiently, but overall it was perfect for what I was trying to do.

More great video tutorials and fusion work coming in the following days!

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

DIY Dress Alteration | Wedding Dress for Hawaii Photo Fusion Shoot

Tracie shot a nice, simple and quick tutorial on how she altered the wedding dress that we will be shooting during the Hawaii Photo Fusion trip. This is the first of almost 2 weeks worth of daily videos we'll be posting. Enjoy!

Coming next, a first test of the Ewa-marine underwater housing in a regular pool.

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Fashion Photography | Tracie Cotta Photo Shoot One - part 1


Tracie and I have been planning to shoot together for a couple months now... we were just waiting for the right project to start it for. We had decided to drive an RV across California for a week and shoot in various locations, and had 2 other people coming with us... one was an assistant and one was another model. Tracie, being a makeup artist and hair stylist as WELL as a model was going to do all the hair and makeup... and I'd have 2 models to shoot across California.

Unfortunately as the date approached the other two participants had to cancel... so we decided to change the scope of the project and relaunch it another day. Details about that will be coming... and there will be a cool one-on-one workshop opportunity for one person.

So... we decided to just stay home and shoot at a few local locations... and just try to keep it simple and get one photo done each day for the week. We ended up shooting for 7 days and came away with 20 photos that we liked... and here are the first 9 of them... shot between Sunday and Thursday. The video above has a TINY amount of behind the scenes footage... we actually did a terrible job of recording... but we are planning another shoot week coming soon and we will do a full behind-the-scenes-explain-everything "tutorial" series of videos then.

Sunday

Tracie actually needed a new headshot for something... and while the actual headshot is nice and normal and worked fine... this was our favorite of the 10 minute headshot session in front of her house.

Tracie Cotta

Monday

On Monday we went to the Disneyland employee theater to watch Beauty and the Beast... so we didn't actually have much time to shoot afterwards... we decided to set up a couple of small flashes and a ringflash for a vampirish shot in Tracie's room. I've gotten some interesting/cool feedback on the backdrop so far... what do you think it looks like / reminds you of / actually is?

Tracie Cotta

Tuesday

We wanted to do something with a slightly city feel to it so we decided to head to downtown Fullerton. There is a small street with some cool streetlamps that I thought would give the look I was going for... sorta city girl in the city at night. Then we walked to a little cement park with a bunch of benches for the next shot.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Wednesday

Having a Deluxe Disneyland pass means I can visit Disneyland almost any day of the year except Saturdays and holidays... which works out perfectly since I don't actually WANT to be there on those crowded days.

We started out at The Grand Californian Hotel at an interesting fireplace that just sorta exists outside at a patio.

Tracie Cotta

The we took off into the park with intentions of shooting at the big blue staircase... but also happened upon some gorgeous light on the wooden bridge near Big Thunder Mountain while on our way. We stopped just to look at the water really quick and Tracie said "oooh, sun" and she automatically started posing as I automatically backed off with the camera at my eye. It was actually really hilarious. But you're probably not laughing. I guess you had to be there.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Thursday

Thursday was a bit of a letdown... we actually planned on shooting at the OC Fair but the parking was closed by the time we got there... so we just went to a park and took this. We also witnessed some people doing some sort of cultish idolish thing while wrapped in a blanket... and ended up ruining the fun of 3 guys and a girl on the other side of the park who were doing who knows what in the big rocketship on the playground but took off when we started shooting right outside of where they were... too bad for them (though it was unintentional)!

Tracie Cotta

Friday we actually did our best work... so I decided to save that for the next post... coming Monday... and we revisited the fair after that for the final shots.

Comic Con 2009

Tracie and I were lucky enough to be offered tickets to Comic Con for a day by Steven Knuth... so we drove down in the morning and spent a half day there before heading over to the Jinx party at Tivoli Bar in Gaslamp.

I absolutely enjoy the costumes that people make and wear... even the terrible ones. We saw lots. We recorded some. We show only a few.

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