Video editing and publishing on the go

I just wanted to talk a little bit about the latest addition to my film making kit - the Samsung S8 smartphone. It's got the largest screen in relation to it's size and it packs a serious punch In terms of it's videography and photography abilities.

On the technical front the rear camera captures images at 12 megapixels and at an aperture of 1.7 (that means it works well in low light situations) Which is pretty impressive! The front camera is 8 megapixels and also aperture 1.7 so not bad at all. Video wise it has digital image stabilization, slo mo and all the other features you would expect from a ridiculously expensive smartphone.

So it's a great camera - good in low light and and in bright light too! It's not cheap though at around €900 SIM free. You can get it for free on a long and expensive mobile contract. So is it any good?

My main reason for buying the S8 was as a film making tool. So in that respect it's great! The screen is huge and super clear and bright. Perfect for showing off my video work to my friends and clients alike. It's got plenty of storage at 64GB internally and it takes Micro SD cards to further increase space for storage (this compared to my old iPhone which was constantly too full of data to take new pictures - The main reason i ditched it)

The battery life is not great and if you are using it heavily you can just see the percentage dropping but with moderate use it should last you until the evening. Honestly I haven't actually used it to shoot much video since I got it. I shot mostly still images so far which I hope to go into in more detail in another later blog post.

I decided to test out the video capabilities on a road trip to a GAA match in Tullamore yesterday. The challenge was to film, edit and produce a short film using only the Samsung S8. For a further challenge I also wanted to write and publish this blog using only the S8 as well!

I am new to the world of Android so I decided to go with a video editing App called Adobe premiere clip. I use adobe software all the time in my main video projects. This app is available for free on the play store. It's really basic and not the easiest to use initially but you can learn how to use it in a couple of minutes. It's functions are pretty basic but it works.

So without further ado here's the film  I shot and edited on the S8 yesterday and you can see what you think yourself.

I hope to delve a bit deeper into the video capabilities of this phone over the next few weeks so watch this space.

St Patricks Day 2017

This years St Patricks Day parade filmed on my new favorite camera the GH4! We found a great spot right by the start of the parade so managed to catch a good view of all the parade. We also managed to avoid the rain which arrived 5 minutes after we had left..... thanks be to St Patrick!

The misty Slieve Bloom mountains

Welcome to the first blog post of 2017. This was intended as the last blog of 2016 but the revelries of Christmas did get in the way a little! I had a great time over the holidays and I hope 2017 is a great year for everyone, full of promise and prosperity! 

My last wedding of 2016 on the 28th of December was all the way down in the Southwest of our beautiful little country in the most Southwesterly town in Europe - Cahersiveen. It's a stop along the famed Ring of Kerry. It's a beautiful rugged area filled with eye dropping wild Atlantic scenery. The Skellig Islands and Vanentia Island are only a short hop further down the road. Unfortunately I didn't have time to check them out this time. They'll have to wait for now!

Cahersiveen, Co Kerry.

Cahersiveen, Co Kerry.

Congratulations to Louise and Alan who tied the knot in the beautiful Foilmore Church (Pictured below) just outside of Cahersiveen. After the ceremony and a few pictures we traveled on to one of my favorite wedding reception venues - Ballygarry House in Tralee. The staff there are just the soundest bunch around. I couldn't recommend the place highly enough. I also had the pleasure of working with a great photographer and all round gentleman John Beasley. We had a good chat about music and surfing (not that I know much about it!) and much more over the course of the day.

Foilmore Church, Cahersiveen.

Foilmore Church, Cahersiveen.

It's a long drive back to Dublin from Tralee so I decided to stay the night in County Limerick. Before I set out on the way home the following day I scanned the map for something interesting to check out along the drive home. The midlands of Ireland which I would pass through is a distinctly flat area with a lot of bog and little elevation. I was pining for a bit of the mountainous glories of the ring of Kerry scenery so I spotted the Slieve Bloom mountains not too far off my course back to Dublin. It would be an hour and half or so of extra driving but I had some time to kill.

I took a detour off the motorway and on to the first stop which was the sleepy little village of Kinnitty in Co. Offaly (pictured below). Probably best known for it's famous wedding venue Kinnitty Castle where I have shot many a wedding (Including this lovely one).

Kinnitty, Co Offaly.

Kinnitty, Co Offaly.

From Kinnitty I followed the R440 road heading east rising gently up over the mountains with the ultimate destination being Mountrath in Co Laois some 24km of undulating roadway ahead.

The R440 (bottom middle) with the village of Kinnitty in the background

The R440 (bottom middle) with the village of Kinnitty in the background

The gentle gradients of the R440.

The gentle gradients of the R440.

The Slieve Bloom mountains, along with the Massif Central in France, are the oldest mountains in Europe; they were once also the highest at 3,700m apparently! Weathering has reduced them to a more managable 527m. On a clear day it is said that one can see the high points of the four ancient provinces of Ireland. They are best described as gentle hills with a mixture of terrain which varies from woodland to blanket bog. The first section is a little reminiscent of taking a drive through the Shire (If they had roads in the Shire!)

The mixture of scenery along the R440

The mixture of scenery along the R440

There are numerous picnic spots, pull in points, forest walks and wild and managed forests.

An old stone fireplace and picnic spot along the R440

An old stone fireplace and picnic spot along the R440

Glenregan forest recreation area

Glenregan forest recreation area

As the road approaches the highest point the scenery is dominated by the blanket bog of the Slieve Bloom nature reserve. This high point also marks the boundaries of counties Offaly and Laois. At over 2,300 hectares it's Ireland's largest state owned nature reserve.  It was set up ensure the conservation of the mountainous blanket bog ecosystem. One of it's resident's is the hen harrier, a rare bird of prey - I didn't see any. Maybe they were all nesting up on the giant mobile phone towers which sit smack in the middle of the reserve. (You can see these pictured below in the top left corner of image)

The top of the mountain with the Slieve Bloom nature reserve in the distance.

The top of the mountain with the Slieve Bloom nature reserve in the distance.

The Offaly - Laois border

The Offaly - Laois border

All the aerial shots were taken on my trusty Phantom 4 Drone. It's just made from terrain like this. I have to confess I was pretty lazy I didn't stray more than 50 feet from my car to take the photos. The drone however lets me soar down into the valleys and up over the hills and obtain vistas of the landscape that were previously impossible to capture. Here's me taking a picture of myself taking a selfie on the drone.

The Phantom 4 - It rocks!

The Phantom 4 - It rocks!

The mist and cloud rolled in as I crossed the highest point on the road and over to the Laois side of the mountains obscuring the view somewhat on the way down. There were still some lovely forest walks and more Shire like landscapes to take in before descending back down to ground level and to the flat plains of the midlands.

The Laois side of the R440

The Laois side of the R440

An old farmhouse on the Laois side of the R440

An old farmhouse on the Laois side of the R440

The Last couple of kilometres into Mountrath and back toward the motorway are decided flat and very midlandsy (I just made up that word). The town of Mountrath seems to have suffered the fate of many other midlands towns. The good times have long passed it by and boarded up shops and houses and the deserted streets are testament to it's slow passage into being yet another midlands ghost town. Sad to see really but at least it looks good from the air. Doesn't everything look great from up in the air.

Mountrath, Co Laois.

Mountrath, Co Laois.

I also made a little film of the Slieve Bloom drive and you can check it here.

Autumn over Garbally Woods

I was back in my hometown of Ballinsloe last night to check out the excellent Zombie Walk in Garbally Woods. It was a great event! It's a 2K walk through a forest in the dead of night! The path is dimly lit with LED lights to keep you from getting lost and walkers are ambushed along the way by an array of terrifying characters from witches, zombies, demon butchers, a terrorist (yes a terrorist!) to chainsaw wielding maniacs.

There was also a frightening stalker who followed us down the road for about 10 minutes. Or maybe is was the legendary white lady who is the ghost rumored to haunt the halls of Garbally House. I went to school in Garbally and I remember one of the stories - a mysterious blood stain on the floor that always came back even after being scrubbed off!

The hour also went back last night - winter is coming! So this morning I woke up early for a change and I decided to head back to Garbally woods to take the drone out for a little flight. I was hoping to catch some of the spectacular autumnal colors. There were no signs of any zombies left in the woods so I guess they only come out at night!

Large Product Photography

I just finished editing work on a product photoshoot with a difference some of the products were rather big! So how do you go about shooting some rather large objects on this occasion various types of shelving units?

You start off with a backdrop. A blank canvas or in our case a giant pull down white screen of plastic vinyl. We went for the largest width roll of plastic available. The roll of vinyl needs to be supported with a couple of stands and a roller mechanism to pull the sheet up and down

The backdrop was ordered from the extremely helpful people at DML and shipped direct to the shooting location. The stands were picked up by myself along with the lights at DML's store in an industrial estate somewhere in Dublin 12. It all packed neatly into the boot of my car.

Here's me standing on the white screen for a test shot

Here's me standing on the white screen for a test shot

Onto the lighting again DML supplied this and gave some helpful advice on how to configure the lights. To light up the products from all angles we needed four lights. Two at the rear fitted with reflective umbrellas to bounce the light back onto the white screen and to the rear of our product.

Bouncing light off our 1000W lights with an umbrella.

Bouncing light off our 1000W lights with an umbrella.

Two more lights are set up with soft boxes to illuminate the front of the product. All the lights are then triggered by one master light. In our case the light on the below right of the image is the master. The other 3 lights are set to a "slave" mode and will obey the master lights commands.

A receiver for a trigger is plugged into the back of the master light. Thus controlling all 4 light once you press the shutter button on the camera. Awesome.

Wide shot for our product photography shoot.

Wide shot for our product photography shoot.

The trigger is a little plastic thing that you slot into the flash shoe on top of your camera. That connects the camera to the lights. It worked like a charm! In fact it's amazing to have a huge bank of 4 1000W lights fire each time you press the shutter on you camera. Let there be light!

We also connected the camera via a USB cable to a computer running adobe light room. It lets usview the images instantly after we take them so you can check focus and the lighting. Like so.

The camera with remote trigger on top connected to Adobe Lightroom

The camera with remote trigger on top connected to Adobe Lightroom

Over the course of the day we shot various products with a wide variety of materials everything from Wood and metal to plastic. Each material reflected light differently meaning the lights have to be constantly tweaked. It's a tricky business getting it right.

Product being set up for Photoshoot.

Product being set up for Photoshoot.

So after an epic 11 hour shoot the images were in the can and now it was time for some Photoshop magic. The better your lighting set up the more your subjects should be popping off the white backdrop in the images.

However due to pesky dust, dirt and unwanted shadows finding their way on to the backdrop it can still be necessary to cut the images out manually on Photoshop. This is painstaking work so crank up some good tunes in the background and get clicking.

Using a combination of the lasso and magic wand tools in Photoshop you can make short work of anything and you should end up with something like this.

Finished Photoshopped image.

Finished Photoshopped image.

The Best Awards 2016

The BEST awards (Ballinasloe Entrepreneurial Skills Tournament) is an annual competition for student entrepreneurs. The competition now in it's 8th year challenges students from a number of schools around the Ballinasloe Area to come up with creative business ideas and concepts that could be developed into successful businesses.

After the students have honed and developed their business concepts they are invited topitch their idea’s to a panel of judges in a dragon’s den style competition. A number of the most promising ideas are short listed for the finals which took place in the Shearwater Hotel in Ballinasloe on the 9th of March.

I had the pleasure of being invited to document the event and put together a short film that captures the spirit and events of the night. You can check out the highlights of the event in the video below:

Flooding in Athlone and Ballinasloe

Being Christmas time I went back to my hometown of Ballinasloe to spend a couple of days hanging out with my family and friends. I had been following on the news the desperate flooding going on there and also effecting neighboring town of Athlone for the last couple of weeks. So I went out with my camera to take a look.

In Athlone Burgess Park located beside the Golden Island shopping is partially submerged by the swollen river Shannon.

flooded park
Burgess park athlone flooding

At the edge of the park leading onto the water side street of Wolfe Tone Terrace some families fed the swans who seemed to be relishing their new expanded territory.

However Wolfe tone terrace itself was locked in a grim battle for survival with rows and rows of sand bags and a giant water pump only just holding back the great weight of encroaching river water.

In the distance on the strand road more sand bags were a last desperate measure to prevent the dangerously high river from flowing straight into local homes and businesses.

Across the other side of the river a football pitch was underwater.

Meanwhile back in Ballinasloe on the way home I noticed a newly formed lake to the left of the motorway that passes by the town. I took a drive down to take a look.

Here's the river Suck which has now grown into a sprawling lake swallowing up the neighboring fields and Forrest land. The navigation markers for boats are just visible above the waters. The orange and green marker in the distance mark the normal width of the river banks.

Here's the gates into the nearby farmland which now leads to a giant eerie lake with trees protruding out of the murky depths .

With another yet another storm Frank rolling in there's more rain on the way. I hope the people of Ballinasloe and Athlone will get the help they need to try to protect their homes and businesses from the rising waters.




Dublin night photography

I was recently commissioned to take a night photo of Pearse Street Garda station for a book documenting it's upcoming centenary. I don't do a lot of night photography but I have to say it was really a lot of fun. The city is so quiet at that hour you can set up your camera on the footpath and have no fear that someone will trip over it. Especially useful when you are taking a 30 second long exposure on the camera!
 With the long exposure times you get some cool looking lensflare too as you can see below. 

This building is called D'Olier Chambers built in 1891 now home to a Bistro.

This building is called college house I was trying to look up the history online and I found this comment: "One of the ugliest buildings to grace the city centre of Dublin, College House is a grim concrete slab with no redeeming features."

The old house where criminal justice used to be dished out

the Autumn leaves add a bit of color to the shades of grey that dominate the quays of the Liffey.

This last image is of an old garage on the New Cabra Road. I passed by this place many times in the car or on the bus and I always thought to myself "I should take a photo of that". When I passed by it on my way into town earlier I noticed a for sale sign. So I thought to my self "I definitely should take a photo now!" well at least before it's demolished and consigned to the sands of time

Westport - A little taste of the wild Atlantic way

Last week I took a 3 day trip to Westport. We started our trip with a visit to Westport house (although I didn't make it in to visit the house)! I was too busy enjoying the many rides in the pirate adventure park such as the pirate log flume and the pirate rocking ship! The grounds are beautiful though and I did spy this lovely vista as I stepped off the swan boats.

Waterfall in the grounds of Westport House Co. Mayo

Westport town is a pretty town it's clean and colorful and flowers adorn the exterior of most of the many pubs and restaurants which cater for the large volumes of tourists who visit in the summer months. James street is where most of the action is in terms of eating and drinking and picking up an arran sweater. At the top of James street the iconic clock tower can be found.

The clock tower in Westport Town

At the bottom of James street we find the Carrowbeg river which is sandwiched between the curiously titled streets of North and South Mall. There's not much going on on the North and South mall in terms of shops or restaurants but the view is lovely.

The carrowbeg river flows through Westport
Feeding the ducks in the Carrowbeg river

Westport Quay can be found 1km to the west of the center of town and another selection of hotels and pubs can be found by the sea. We took a spin out to Roman Island around sunset and the scenery is really spectacular in the fading evening light. To the southwest looms Croagh Patrick.

2015_Westport_035.jpg

A fishing boat returned it's crew of tourists safely back to the harbour.

Fishing boat returns to Westport Harbour

A seagull flies off toward the many Islands in the bay.

A seagull flies accross Westport Bay

An old stricken wooden Boat rots away by the quayside

2015_Westport_065.jpg

We carried on driving West toward the village of Murrisk which is at the base of the slopes of Croagh Patrick. Murrisk is the starting point for the many pilgrims who traverse the mountain every July to hear mass being said at the summit. We took a detour down to Murrisk pier to check it out. You can see Croagh Patrick in the distance. It's a lot bigger looking in the flesh!

An old tractor sits on the Headland beside Murrisk pier

An old tractor sits on the Headland beside Murrisk pier

An old boat rusts away in Murrisk Pier

An old boat rusts away in Murrisk Pier

Some the many sheep that can be found in these parts.

Some the many sheep that can be found in these parts.

From Murrisk we headed West toward Louisburgh. It was getting dark so we made on last stop at Oldhead when we arrived at the pier we unexpectedly found a small crowd of people. There were a number of fisherman and a bunch of kids jumping off the pier while their parents watched on. There is a campsite close to the beach so it looked like a great place to set up camp.

the pier in Oldhead Co. Mayo at Dusk
Jumping off the pier at Oldhead County Mayo

The next day it was time to go home. I took a quick stroll in the morning and found an old railway bridge and line that had been converted into a cycle path and walkway. I met an old man walking his dog. He said that you could follow the cycle path for 40 miles all the way over to Achill Island. Now that sounded like a real adventure. Maybe next time!

Cyclepath along old rail Lines Westport Co. Mayo