I have some excellent news this morning. I posted my third YouTube Video, and it’s ready for you to watch. I admit that in these troubling times, my films are little more than eye-candy, but I’m hoping they give you something nice to watch on TV for a change of pace.
The video is the third in my desert mountain series, and this episode features the Weaver Mountain Range. Those are the mountains that I see every day from my front porch, so in these times of stay-at-home orders, they were a convenient subject.
The reason that I’m producing these films is two-fold. When I look on the net for background on my weekly blog posts, I usually only find a two-paragraph entry in Wikipedia, and if I’m lucky, it may have a photograph or two (usually of historic value). I’m trying to capture these mountains in the ‘now’—a specific season and year—so viewers can see their aesthetic beauty as I do. I’m trying to fill the void of context that these lower ranges are missing. My other reason for these projects is purely selfish. Queen Anne said I could have a drone if it got me out of the house and left her alone. Done and done!
You can view this seven-minute film in several ways. The easiest is to click on the embedded link here in the post above. Or you can see it on your computer by typing this link in your address bar: (https://youtu.be/09knCZ9HY4c). And finally—and I think the best—is to watch it on your smart 4K TV by going to YouTube and search for Jim Witkowski (there are several, but I’m the old guy in the baseball cap). Then, navigate to my Arizona Desert Mountains channel. I hope you enjoy seeing it. Please consider sharing it with your friends and family and clicking on the thumbs-up icon (like-button).
Have you ever wanted a new tool (toy) so bad that it hurt, and your mother (wife) was a jerk about it? “Please, please, please. I’ll pick up my clothes. I promise to take the garbage out. I’ll eat all of my peas.” Pleading didn’t help. All you got in response was, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” That’s what I endured last year.
I wanted a drone—one of those helicopter things with a camera mounted on it. I’m sure that a lot of people feel they’re a noisy Radio Controlled model airplane only useful for spying on your neighbors. I saw it differently. It’s a camera that can fly, and it would let me shoot places and viewpoints that, because of my age, I can’t get to any longer.
So, I studied them. I learned which ones would support my abilities. I knew their costs, and I harassed Anne for one for Christmas, birthday, anniversary—I had a reason for each occasion. Anne started saying no—even before I uttered a sound.
I lurked on eBay looking for a second hand one, and eventually one came up, so I put a stupid bid on it. You know—an effort that surely wouldn’t win. Days passed with no other bidders, so with shoulders slumped and head bowed, I told Anne what I had done. My stupid offer had won, and now I own a low mileage DJI Inspire 1 v2 with a 4k camera.
I was excited about taking it out and learning how to fly it. Not so fast. The Feds are cracking down on drones. All drones over .55 grams have to be registered, and if I wanted to sell videos, I needed an Operator’s License. I got a registration number for my drone from the FAA, and then my drone sat in the garage for three months while I studied to pass a certification test. I passed the exam in October, and I was free to let my wings soar. Not so fast, now I had to learn how to fly one of these things.
To keep this story short, I’m learning to control my Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Because I’m enamored with mountains, I’ve been practicing in the mountains south of town. Filming is a different mindset from shooting a photograph. As a photographer, I can go out and capture an image that I see. With film, you waste your time flying hither and yon. You have to plan your shots. Because mine is an older model, I only get 15 minutes of air time on a battery, so I’m happy to get a minute of footage from each flight. The rest of the time, I spend setting the exposure, flying to and back from my target.
After a couple of months in the field, and over a dozen propellers later, I’m getting the hang of it. I have a long way to go, but that takes time. Now, I’ve collected enough footage to piece together a four and a half minute film that I posted to YouTube. It premièred at midnight last night. How’s that for starting the new year fresh. It is an aerial portrait of the Vulture Mountains, and I call it Vulture Mountains because I’m so clever with titles.
You should be able to watch the clip embedded in this post, but here is the direct link to YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6ABgBUjldQ). If you bought a new 4k TV for Christmas, that’s the best way to see it. I hope you enjoy watching it.
As you all know by now, Queen Anne and I spent August last year so that I could photograph along Utah’s State Route 12 (wrote a book about it—wan’ a see it—here goes). What you didn’t know is that one morning we drive to Torrey for lunch, and we filmed a time-lapse video with a GoPro stuck to Archie’s roof. It took a while, but I finally assembled all the clips into a 14-minute video that I posted on YouTube this morning.
The video shows all of SR12’s 122 miles, and I spliced in spots along the route that are waiting for you to see and photograph. Queen Anne stars in her YouTube debut that will most likely break the Internet. Finally let me say that although it looks like a mad man was driving, I can assure you that the cruise control was set to the speed limit—of course, that may not absolve me from being a crazy person.
You can see Utah’s State Route 12 on YouTube by clicking here. I hope you enjoy watching it and please share your comments or at least give it a thumb up or thumb down.
Regular readers of this blog already know that I’ve been trying my hand at making videos. I’ve published ten of them on YouTube so far. All but one of them has been autocross recordings using a GoPro as an in-car camera. The other one was a time-lapse session of the gang raising our carport so that we could park The Ritz under it. That video is the only one so far that’s gotten more than a hundred views because it appeals to a broader audience. (If you’re curious, you can view them here.)
I’ve finally come up with a storyline that I can use to make my first video in earnest. It happens to involve music and woodworking, which are two of my other interests. My video will be ‘how-to’ on making some record racks (yes, Virginia, they still make records).
To give you some background, I a fair-sized record collection. I bought my first album when I was in high school, and I’ve been adding to it ever since. I started storing them in a neat system designed by Per Madsen that he sold as part of his RACKIT system. His bright designs efficiently solved media storage while fitting together to make an attractive media center that put our stacked cinder-block shelves to shame. As I collected more records, I’d just order another rack and add it to the pile.
Out of the blue one day, I got an email from him saying that he was going to retire. He said that he wasn’t going to make any new units and that all of the existing stock was on closeout. I bought up all that I could use, and then they were gone; that was over a decade ago. In our old home, I bought some IKEA shelves that worked, but those didn’t fit in our new home.
We’ve been in this house for over a year now, and Queen Anne has harped about the two unpacked boxes of records still in the dining room. After staring at my media center one evening, I decided that if I couldn’t add more storage horizontally, I needed to stack them higher and decided to make my version of the Madsen racks. I have enough woodworking equipment to replicate everything but his joints. I believe he used hidden glued dowels, but I can get around that with another type of fitting that’s at least as secure. Another significant advantage of making my own is that I don’t have to use red oak. I can use any hardwood that I want.
There are abundant videos on YouTube featuring artisans far more capable than I. It amazes me how some of these guys (and women) produce intricate wood pieces, sometimes without seemingly measuring. I guess that comes with experience. So, my video will be how a journeyman goes about making multiple pieces of furniture that have to fit together precisely.
The first step in this project will be measuring and dissecting Per Madsen’s design and make some working drawings. Then I’ll need to come up with an outline of the steps. Finally, I will lay out a storyboard of the shots before I do any filming. I’m guessing that it will take a month to shoot, but then there’s post-processing, so give me till summer before I post it on YouTube. My goal is to have a video that gets more than a thousand views. I’ll update the blog with progress.
If you’ve been waiting on YouTube to see this video, it never happened. I’ve decided that although I’m competent behind the camera, I’m a bumbling idiot on stage. But, I have completed some of these record racks, and I’ve had traffic because of this post. Here’s how I made my version.
I made some minor changes in my design. First of all, I use mortice and tenons for the mainframes. I believe that Mr. Madsen used dowels to connect his, and I don’t have a precise tool to do that. The large surface area of the tenons provides a strong glue-joint, but I pinned each corner with a walnut plug to be sure.
Second, I added a back rail and spaced them equal to the bottom rails. I was afraid that at my age, I would mix them up, so this way, they are interchangeable. I also changed the way they attach to the mainframe. Instead of two wood screws at each joint, I used cross dowels. That means the rails will rotate if forced, but once the records are in, they work fine.
Finally, I drilled holes in the stiles so I can connect units. The significant advantage of using cabinet connectors is that the stacks don’t get unsightly gaps. Without those, the whole grouping has a professional look.
I used birch instead of oak because I prefer the wood to stay white instead of the nasty yellow that you get with aged oak. Besides, with Danish design, Baltic Birch is a natural choice. If that’s not your style, the racks could be made from walnut, cherry, oak, or something more exotic if you have the money. I have the dimensions on pdf if you’re interested. Just contact me via the contact page.
Today, I’m building a set of CD drawers that fit into this system. I have three of the originals, but I never liked how they looked. I changed my design, so the CDs sit like books on a shelf, but with two rows. That makes it easier to flip through my collection. It works better for me. If anybody’s interested, contact me, and I’ll post photos.
Yesterday, I posted a new video on YouTube. In August 2015, I bought Adobe’s Premiere Pro, a video editing software, and since then, I’ve been trying to learn how to use it. A lot of photographers complain about how complex Adobe’s Photoshop is, but Premiere Pro is way more challenging.
This is my tenth post on YouTube and the first since April. All but one of them is about the amateur car racing that I do. It’s a natural subject for movies. Besides, I can rationalize making the films as a tool to improve my driving skills.
One of the cameras that I own, the Sony A7r, shoots video in ultra high-definition, that’s the format on newer TVs now. So, last season, Jeff (who was co-driving my car at the time) and I bolted it to the passenger side headrest. I made a clunky bracket out of wood that held the camera securely; although there’s still some vibration. We filmed several events with mixed results and gave up on the Sony because we couldn’t get the metering or microphone to work correctly. Instead, I picked up a used GoPro off eBay. It’s a small video camera made for shooting action videos. The focus is set, there are very little other adjustments, and at one tenth the weight of the Sony, the camera mount is now overkill.
Shooting in-car video is very common on YouTube. Mostly, they’re a record of the driver’s best run. They have a beginning title, and the film clip . . . that’s it. They’re of little interest to anyone except the small community of autocrossers.
Because I was learning film making techniques, I wanted to go beyond documenting a single run. I tried to make simple stories out of my videos. With each new video, I added new refinements. I learned how to do fade, cross fades, titles, end slides, and as hokey as it sounds, I worked on creating my brand . . . a simplified interpretation of the MGM lion, as it were.
For this video, I made off-screen commentaries to help make the story-line clearer. To do that, I wrote little scripts and then recorded them using an audio program. After editing the snippets, I inserted them into the video at the proper places. As a result, I see improvement although there is a lot more work to do. If you care to see my new video, here’s the link: https://youtu.be/YdeNB7kr98s
I welcome any comment you have . . . it is a learning experience after all.