What’s a novice like me doing shooting videos?

I’m a photographer of sorts. Have been ever since I used a cheap point-and-shoot Kodak on a world leader. I hadn’t a clue about ‘depth of field’ then, and famously (naively, really) held it within a few inches of the face of John Paul II. They didn’t arrest you for getting too close to a Pontiff in those days.

So shooting videos has been a challenge. Instead of worrying about aperture and ISO rating, I’m now wondering about

  • Use a tripod or keep it natural and do hand-held?
  • Only shoot in natural light or work with the unflattering florescent bulbs?
  • Table top or wide angle?

Most of the cameras I have been using  have been built for novices. The ubiquitous Flip video cam, and my trusty Kodak PlaySport. Funny how it’s point-and-shoot all over again!

And so I’ve settled for happily taking the ‘non-pro’ route in video. The kind of stories I recently recorded have had colorful settings– on golf courses, in the kitchen, down a Disney-like ‘adventure trail’ for kids…

I was doing a video story of an executive chef, today. He was cooking up a lemon sole dish from scratch. The ‘scratch’ part to the photographer meant there was an array of ingredients to zoom in and out of, while he talked to camera, and moved around the kitchen. In still photography you don’t have to deal with things going in and out of focus.

Chef Ryker Brown picked up a gnarled tomato, scored it and submerged in a glass of iced water. It was interesting sidebar to the main dish; the lens whined, decided to stop being confused and locked in to focus.

As I watched it all come together, I realized that stories told in words are a lot like that too. While we hover around our subject, a sudden detail we previously ignored comes into sharp focus. It then plays a starring role in the story.

I’ve always loved tomatoes –the deformed, multi-colored ones that grow in our yard, not the shiny grocery store variety. They puzzle the eye, in the same way they confuse the camera lens. They also bring out a flavor to the otherwise mundane. If there’s a lesson in all this it’s about keeping your subject in focus, but not ignoring the blushing tomato on the side!

As for that early celebrity photo, I got a pretty good shot. I think. A big part of it was his nose, but hey!

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