THE PROBLEM: I was operating a long lens camera for the General Session of a large corporate meeting. During rehearsals the director asked me to give him a shot of the person asking a question from a microphone in the audience.
Since this was a rehearsal, there was no one actually standing at the microphone, the unlit mic stand was halfway across the large auditorium and almost invisible.
THE TIP: Sound tech Alex Mendiola of San Francisco helped me out by placing his empty white drink cup on the stand making it easier to find in the dark. Of course, the cup was removed before showtime.
Because I have been writing this column of tips for so many years, I am frequently referred to as MacGyver. But I may have found another candidate for the title when Cameraman Benny Tran sent in a photo of his setup.
It was warm in the venue so he attached an electric fan and drink holder to the legs of his tripod.
He lowered the viewfinder from the top of the camera to the pan handles to avoid a stiff neck. That moved the camera center of gravity beyond the tripod’s balance point adjustment range so he taped several AA batteries to the lens shade as a counterweight.
Finally, instead of standing through the long program Benny has borrowed a high stool from the convention center bar so he could sit down and relax.
As someone once said, “Work smart, not hard.”
It Doesn’t Have to Be
I think one of the best working smart tips I ever heard is the simple phrase, “It doesn’t have to be. It just has to look like it is.” Once I got that through my head, I no longer found it necessary to clean and light a whole office when I was only shooting one corner. It was no longer necessary to hide a cable which was visible in the room but not through the camera. It was no longer necessary to wait until the machine I was photographing was actually working, as long as it looked like it was working.
In other words, if it doesn’t show through the camera…it doesn’t matter…so don’t spend time, money and energy worrying about it.
Shooting the Stars
Star filters are the gadgets which produce radiating lines of light around bright objects. They are most commonly used to give candles or street lights an arty look or glow. They can also be very expensive. You can achieve basically the same effect without the cost by following this tip shared by Simon Dennison of Culver City, Calif.
Cut a circular piece of aluminum window screen the same size as your normal filters. Mount the screen on the front of your lens (you can use tape around the edges to do this) and shoot through it. Simon says the results are surprising and the more the lens is set towards telephoto the better the effect will be.
No Tape Gunk
A piece of cord is much better, but if you must use tape to secure coiled cables, avoid leaving adhesive gunk on the wire with this tip from Chris Church.
Start with a piece of tape long enough to go around the coil three times. First, fold one-third of the tape onto itself, sticky side in.
Second, fold a short tab from the other end onto itself. The long folded portion is then wrapped around the wire coil so the remaining sticky area comes in contact with the back of the tape and holds it in place.
This way the sticky part of the tape never touches your wire and the wrap can be reused several times.
Which Cable Is Mine?
Speaking of cables, we have come upon a very nice way of identifying ours. I type my name, the length of the cable and a random letter of the alphabet on a small slip of paper. (A self-adhesive return address label also works well) Wrap the paper around the cable and cover it with clear shrink tubing.
Once the tubing is shrunk, it holds the label in place nicely. With one of these on each end, you can also tell which cable is which by matching the letters.