As a producer and director of independent films, I know full-well that finding an audience for your work is just as important as making a film in the first place. Whilst working on the feature length documentary film Cuttlefish Country, I began to compile a list of independent cinemas around regional South Australia for the purposes of touring the film to relevant local audiences. I was pleasantly surprised to find the full gamut of cinemas peppered around my state, ranging from grand old art-deco cinemas built in the 1930’s (like the Victa Cinemas) to the outback drive-in at Coober Pedy and pop-up cinemas like Cinemallunga (with special event screenings only) and the Moonta Cinema (which operates during school-holidays). This is not yet an exhaustive list of cinemas in regional SA, though we hope to make it so with your help. If you can provide us with additional venue information, please leave a comment below, or send me an email. These cinemas all play mainstream movie releases and can host special events and screenings by arrangement.
Back in August of 2011, Emma Sterling and I commenced work on our first documentary feature film project, entitled Cuttlefish Country. Funded initially by our inner circle of family and friends via generous gift donations at our wedding, we carefully considered extra measures to support us through what has became an unexpectedly long production period. Danimations is rarely known to do things conventionally, and we ultimately decided to combine our fundraising objectives with the development of a range of fun products. The rationale was simple: raise money, awareness and smiles all with some clever merchandising ideas, and a few web 2.0 tools.
After producing some project-specific designs and products, a spin-off line of products was created, inspired by our reignited passion for LEGO bricks and building. One of the production techniques we decided upon for our film as the story unfolded was to build and animate replicas of real-world places, vehicles and scenarios from Cuttlefish Country out of LEGO. This in turn inspired a range of t-shirts, apparel, badges, hats and other items derived from and inspired by vintage Lego worlds and figures.
Choosing the fundraising platform
Early in the project’s life, we had decided to crowd-source additional funds for the film, via a listing on the website Kickstarter. To register with Kickstarter, you must offer donors to your project a teared set of incentives, thankyou gifts in effect, to encourage cash pledges towards your project. This decision was ultimately postponed due to a lack of time and staff in our tiny crew, so instead we took a different tack. Having had prior experience with making custom products on Zazzle and RedBubble, we decided to create some LEGO themed products which could act as fun gifts as well as raise some money for our ongoing production. We even threw a LEGO party, and encouraged friends to bring bricks along to help us build our animated sets or buy some of our products to wear for the occasion.
Design, Customise & Deliver
Our LEGO designs began with the dolphin logo which originally appeared on vintage Lego divers back in the 1990’s. Next came designs from townsfolk’s minifig shirts and eventually some classics were released from vintage space and knights lines. You will find them all available for purchase below. If you haven’t shopped at Zazzle or Redbubble before, you’ll be impressed by the way you, the customer, are able to further customise these products. You can easily change the garment style and colour, or in the case of Zazzle, even add your own creative flair by adding extra text or images to the design and modifying the layout. From the maker’s perspective, these web 2.0 tools are excellent, as the service provider handles production and delivery, and simply returns a royalty back to you as the creator of the artwork. Establishing stores on these sites is free of charge, and royalties on purchases are set manually by you, the store owner.
I hope you enjoy our little selection of Lego ispired costumes, shirts and products here. If you do purchase one of our items, we’d love to see a picture of you putting it to use when it arrives. We will be hosting a gallery of our friends and fans over at our Cuttlefish Country website in the future.
My journey into the world of macro-photography began after meeting fellow photographer Emma Sterling in 2003, and gazing in wonder at her fantastic floral abstract works. Back then, the 35mm film SLR was still the weapon of choice for the early-career photographer, and I quickly aquainted myself with the tools of the macro trade: extension tubes, bellows, close-up filters, ring flashes etc. I was also introduced to the variety of technical challenges that arise when seeking to capture and share the world beyond that visible to the naked human eye. In short, macro was an expensive, complex, slow and cumbersome business.
During that awkward period where DSLRs were obscenely expensive, and point ‘n’ shoots were too crude, the cost of shooting film made maintaining my habit cost-prohibitive. I turned my attention to filmmaking and then HD video production and then, suddenly in the last two years, the game changed. I now have the convergence of video and still camera technology to thank for re-engaging me with macro-photography, and providing me with the affordable tools I yearned for many years prior. Remarkably, I’m not talking about DSLRs, and to date I still do not own one.
Macro photography’s tough, but it’s never been easier
While I purchased a Casio Exilim EX-FH25 camera initally for its high-speed (slow-motion) video capabilities (which I will demonstrate and describe in a future post) the camera also offered some less publicised strengths. A point ‘n’ shoot camera styled to look like a compact DSLR, the camera can auto-focus down to 1cm from the lens’ front element. It was this Super-Macro mode that I used almost exclusively to produce the images you see here, and in my debut Butterflies of South Australia calendar, which is now available for purchase.
When working with a living and unpredictable subject such as the butterfly, a super-macro mode isn’t enough to guarantee the best possible pictures. I have listed below several key considerations to make when choosing a camera to shoot living macro subjects with.
Set focussing to Super-Macro
The best macro detail you’ll get from a point ‘n’ shoot camera will be in its dedicated Super-Macro mode. This setting will allow the camera to focus as close to the lens as possible- in the case of the Casio EX-FH25 at a distance of 1cm. Other macro modes may be seriously limited in how close they can focus, and actually work more like a tele-photo macro setting. This can be handy for larger butterflies (shot from a few metres back) but for the tiny ones, with wingspans under around 2cm, you’ll want to go super-macro. This mode also disables the zoom, so you have to work harder to get the right composition, and become a master of stealth and patience.
Set your camera to Burst Mode
Burst Mode (also know as rapid-fire or sequential shooting) is a camera setting which allows the camera to shoot a speedy series of frames at full or very high resolution. The Casio EX-FH25 can do this at slightly lower than full resolution: 9 mega-pixels for 30 consecutive frames, at a rate of up to 40 frames per second. The benefit of shooting in Burst Mode is that you will find the critical sharpness and subject pose will vary in any given series, and instead walking away with a couple of frames, you will have many more to choose from. If you’re really lucky, you might even capture a rare image of a butterfly taking off at the end of a burst.
Use Fast Shutter Speeds on Shutter Priority Mode
If you want to catch a butterfly in flight, you’ll need as fast a shutter speed as possible. Higher end consumer cameras and professional cameras have a Shutter Priority mode, whereby the user sets the desired shutter speed, and the camera automatically adjusts aperture and ISO according to the available light. Anything that saves time when working with live subjects is a blessing, believe me. You’ll also have immense difficulty focusing (even with auto-focus) on a flying subject. Feeding or resting butterflies allow for slower shutterspeeds to be used, but bear in mind that shooting macro at shutter-speeds slower than 1/100th of a second will likely soften with a degree of camera shake. The closer you are to your subject, the greater this problem becomes. Don’t bother trying to shoot from a tripod, as you won’t be able to reposition yourself fast enough (super-macro mode typically does not allow zooming) and the tripod will cast shadows and bump foliage, disturbing the subjects.
Know your subject
Butterfly behaviour varies from species to species, but from my experience, the best photo opportunities typically arise when butterflies are either feeding on tight clusters of flowers, or basking in the sun with their wings spread. Butterfly photo-opportunities are fleeting to say the least, so learn from the shots you don’t get, as well as the ones you do. As mentioned before, avoid casting shadows over the butterflies with your body or lens, and avoid making any sudden movements, sounds or disturbing the foliage. Remember, stealth and patience are essential to capturing macro magic with living subjects.
Discover more at NatureScope Photography
If you found this article interesting and enjoy nature photography, you should pay a visit to my new project website, NatureScope Photography. At NatureScope you will find regular posts of nature video, photos, production tips and news on environmental issues and actions… as well as a broad catalog of photographic images by Emma Sterling and myself to purchase and enjoy.