Sony Just Muscled Its Way to Top Spot for Full-Frame Camera Sales

Sony Just Muscled Its Way to Top Spot for Full-Frame Camera Sales

Latest figures of year-on-year sales released by Japanese website BCN show that for the first time, Sony is the market share leader in Japan when it comes to full-frame cameras, knocking Canon from the top spot.

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Seven Great If Slightly Unusual Tips for Travel Photography

Seven Great If Slightly Unusual Tips for Travel Photography

There’s no shortage of videos out there with helpful travel photography tips, but the suggestions often run a bit toward the uninspired (e.g., people should face into the frame). Professional travel photographer Mitchell Kanashkevich has obviously been at it a while, though, and has some insightful advice.

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Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2 Macro Lens Review

Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2 Macro Lens Review

I couldn’t find a great deal about this lens online, so I thought I would film a review with a of mixture of test shots and looking at how I have used the lens in my own portfolio. Here are my thoughts.

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You Don’t Feel Competitive? Maybe It’s Because You’re the Worst Photographer Ever

You Don’t Feel Competitive? Maybe It’s Because You’re the Worst Photographer Ever

Photographers who already made it beyond the beginner’s level sometimes have trouble getting out to shoot. Because they know what a good photograph needs, they’re afraid they can’t deliver that quality. If that’s you, then maybe you’re the Worst Photographer Ever.

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2019 Prime Time Softball League Playoffs

The Prime Time Softball League (PTSL) will begin the playoffs for its 32nd season on December 7, 2019. Twelve coed teams made up from Television shows cast, crew staff and their immediate family will compete in the playoffs which lasts four weeks until a champion is crowned. The 12 teams competing include Modern Family, Fresh […]

The post 2019 Prime Time Softball League Playoffs appeared first on Below the Line.

Shooting S-Log3 on the PXW-FX9 – Do I need to expose bright?

Having shot quite a bit of S-Log3 content on the new Sony PXW-FX9 I thought I would comment on my exposure preferences. When shooting with an FS5, FS7 or F5, which all use the same earlier generation 4K sensor I find that to get the best results I need to expose between 1 and 2 stops brighter than the 41% for middle grey that Sony recommend. This is because I find my footage to be noisier than I would like if I don’t expose brighter. So when using CineEI on these cameras I use 800EI instead of the base 2000EI

However the FX9 uses a newer state of the art back illuminated sensor. This more sensitive sensor produces less noise so with the FX9 I no longer feel it is necessary to expose more brightly than the base exposure – at either of the base ISO’s. So if I am shooting using CineEI and 800 base, I use 800EI. When shooting at 4000 base, I use 4000 EI. 

This makes life so much easier. It also means that if you are shooting in a mode where LUT’s are not available (such as 120fps HD) then you can use the included viewfinder gamma assist function instead. Viewfinder gamma assist adds the same 709(800) look to the viewfinder as you would get from using the cameras built in 709(800) LUT.  You can use the VF gamma assist to help judge your exposure just as you would with a LUT.  Basically, if it looks right in the viewfinder, it almost certainly is right.

Testing various FX9’s against my Sekonic light meter the cameras CineEI ISO ratings seem to be spot on. So I would have no concerns if using a light meter to expose.  The camera also has a waveform scope and zebras to help guide your exposure.

VF Gamma assist is available in all modes on the FX9, including playback. Just be careful that you don’t have both a LUT on and gamma assist at the same time.


Shooting S-Log3 on the PXW-FX9 – Do I need to expose bright? was first posted on December 1, 2019 at 7:19 pm.
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Are You Making This Histogram Mistake? Here’s How to Fix It

Are You Making This Histogram Mistake? Here’s How to Fix It

Staring at a perfectly constructed histogram is like listening to an opera singer hit and hold a perfect note. But in trying to get that histogram to look like you’re being told it should, you could be ruining potentially great images.

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Which Lenses work well with the FX9’s Autofocus?

Below is a list of lenses that have been tested with the FX9’s advanced autofocus system. Generally any Sony E-mount lens will work just fine. The Sony G series lenses are good and the G Master series tend to be even better. 
For third party lenses and adapters the situation is much less clear, so I have decided to list the lenses I have tested and invite others to contribute to this list via the comments area. The list is not exhaustive at this time but I will try to keep adding to it as I am able to try more lenses and and different adapter combinations.

Inclusion of a lens on this list is not a guarantee that it will or will not work, it is simply an indication of how it worked for me or anyone else that adds information about their own experiences. I welcome updates and any further information from any lens or adapter manufacturer.

If there is a lens you have tested on an FX9 please let me know via the comments how it worked so it can be added to the list.

KNOWN TO WORK WELL:

Sony E (super 35mm) FE (full frame) lenses, G and G-Master including Zeiss ZA series. G and G Master  tend to have the best AF performance.

Tamron 28-75 f2.8 Di III RXD E-mount.

KNOWN TO NOT PERFORM WELL:

Sigma 20mm f1.4 ART native E-mount (very slow AF, hunting, contrast only?).

Sigma 85mm f1.4 ART native E-mount (very slow AF, a lot of hunting).

Sigma 20mm f1.4 ART Canon EF mount on metabones, comlite or viltrox adapters. Very slow AF, not really useable (MC11 not tested yet).


Which Lenses work well with the FX9’s Autofocus? was first posted on December 1, 2019 at 6:14 pm.
©2018 “XDCAM-USER.COM“. Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at contact@xdcam-user.com

PXW-FX9 Feature Wish List

While my website is not officially sanctioned or endorsed by Sony, I do know that many Sony people read it. In addition I often meet members of the Sony design team. So I thought I would create a page where I can collate the features and changes that us users would like to see in future firmware updates. 

This will be a wish list. We may not see anything requested come, but then again maybe we will. Who knows. Some of these may  already be in the pipelines, but until we see a roadmap of some form I will include all wishes that have not already been confirmed as features due to come.

Add a comment if there is a feature you feel this camera should have and I’ll add it to the list. I will try to keep the list in order of popularity with the most requested at the top.

PXW-FX9 Feature Wish List:

LUT’s off for record but on for SDI/HDMI/VF when shooting HD (currently LUT’s can be off for record and on for SDI/HDMI/VF when recording UHD, but not HD).

2K Center Scan Mode, preferably able to be assigned to an assignable button.

Anamorphic De-Squeeze.

Ability to add letter box (black bars) to the recordings at 2.39 aspect ratio.

Full Frame 6K 2.39 aspect ratio shooting mode at 50/60P Similar to the Venice full frame 2.39 aspect ratio mode.

The ability to choose the bit depth of the raw output. Currently we know that Full Frame 16bit 24/25/30p is planned. It would be good if you could also choose 12bit for use with legacy raw recorders.

Addition of the higher quality XAVC Class 480 codec.

Alternate viewfinder options. Ability to purchase a higher quality viewfinder, perhaps OLED.

Smaller version of the XDCA-FX9 with just the raw option.

Internal raw recording.

Ability to use CFexpress cards (same slot and similar interface as XQD so might be possible).

Menu option to turn off all viewfinder overlays when recording. Currently 2 options for each overlay, on or off. Suggest third option, off in record so the VF is less cluttered while recording.

High/Low Key function for CineEI as on the F5/F55/Venice.

 

 

 

 


PXW-FX9 Feature Wish List was first posted on December 1, 2019 at 5:54 pm.
©2018 “XDCAM-USER.COM“. Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at contact@xdcam-user.com

Give Yourself Space to Be Creative

Give Yourself Space to Be Creative

Creativity, while seemingly endless for some, is a beast we need to feed in order to have it work for us. We cannot simply expect to be running at 100% all of the time without stopping, reflecting, and spending time to nurture the force we require to make our best work. As some of you may have noticed (I’m hoping someone other than my mother did), I have just taken a one-month break from writing here at Fstoppers. This was a personal month taken to reset and bring my focus back to what’s really important. This is something I feel we all should do from time to time. Let me explain.

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Make More Money Next Year by Learning Photography Business Tips from Monte Isom

Make More Money Next Year by Learning Photography Business Tips from Monte Isom

Hands down, the Fstoppers tutorial that can get you the biggest return on investment is Monte Isom’s tutorial “Making Real Money – The Business of Commercial Photography.” As you’ll see below, Monte’s knowledge and guidance has literally made photographers tens of thousands of dollars. For the last day of our Black Friday sale, you can get this tutorial for $50 off.

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Outdoor Swimwear Portraits Using One Light on Location

Outdoor Swimwear Portraits Using One Light on Location

When you’re on location, being able to take great images with minimal gear makes life a lot easier; knowing what you can do with just one light is where a lot of folks start, and for good reason. Check out these great setups for when you’re on the beach with a one-light setup.

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Don’t Lose Your Custom Presets or Tools When Updating Photoshop

Don't Lose Your Custom Presets or Tools When Updating Photoshop

If you’re a regular user of Photoshop, you’ve probably put in plenty of time and effort to create your own custom presets, brushes, and other tools that help streamline your workflow. But what happens when you update to CC 2020 and notice many or all of them have disappeared?

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Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 Versus Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8

Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 Versus Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8

For many photographers, a good 85mm lens camera is simply indispensable. For full frame cameras, there are plenty of options; however, for those that shoot with an APS-C camera, options are somewhat limited. Fujifilm is one of the companies that offers something brilliant in this range, and I wanted to test and compare it to a full frame “equivalent.”

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Christmas Gift Ideas for the Editor – 2019, the 10 Year Edition

Hear Ye Hear Ye – This is the tenth year the Editblog has published our Christmas Gift Ideas for the Editor column that lists great little and not-so-little things that would be great for most any television/film/video editor. It could be the editor in your life that you have to buy for or you could forward this list to your friends and family. Or if you’re buying for yourself then just use this as your own personal shopping list.

I find it hard to believe that I’ve been putting this little list together for 10 years. As other websites continue to rip it off and just list the usual suspects of the same obvious gift choices every year. I still try to find some unique, useful and fun things; many of them I have actually used. So enjoy this year’s list or take a look back: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,  and 2018. Just beware some of the oldest lists will have products that are out of date but they are fun to look back on.

Happy Holidays to editors everywhere and let’s hope that post does stop for spending time with friends and family around the holiday season. And if it doesn’t we’ve got product for you at the bottom!

Loupedeck CT

Loupedeck has recently introduced its brand new editing panel the Loupedeck CT. This is a hardware control surface more purposefully designed with video editors in mind compared to their older product the Loupedeck +. While I wasn’t a big fan of the + for video editing I can tell you that with my limited time using the CT I like it much, much better. It’s well designed, nicely built and full of features that make it a please to use for video editing. At $549 it isn’t cheap so it’s the perfect gift to get meaning you don’t have to buy it yourself if it’s a get! Send this one over to your parents who never know what to get you and don’t really understand what you do for a living anyway. I’ll have a full, in-depth review after the first of the year as I have to really dig into the CT to write a proper review (not the useless summary reviews that have popped up for the CT) but so far so good, especially if you get it as a gift!

Autonomous ErgoStool

If you use a standing desk then you might be interested in a really great stool with the Autonomous ErgoStool. I have a client that has one of these and after using it I ordered one for myself. It’s simple, easy to use and comfortable. It has an adjustable height from 25 to 35 inches and gives your body a break from the stand without sitting in an actual chair. At $99 it’s quite affordable. Autonomous also makes a good assortment of standing desks if you want to revamp your entire edit suite. IKEA also makes a similar “standing support” stool for a bit less at $60 but I think the quality of the ErgoStool is better.

A cheap, ultra-portable flat screen monitor

Not everyone has an iPad to use as a second monitor, nor do they want to take their iPad into certain travel editing situations so a cheap, ultra-portable flat-screen monitor is a nice little addition to the portable edit suite and prices are all over the map. These monitors are small, light and easy to use as a fast (micro?) HDMI connection means you’ve got a second display that is easy to transport and set-up. These displays aren’t a color-accurate grading monitor but what they do is, IMHO, invaluable to the craft editor as they instantly give you a second screen for edit bins, Adobe palettes, text documents and anything else you need to see alongside your viewers and timelines. Some, like this VIDOTEK LinQ which I’ve used on a few occasions, is a touch screen if your OS supports it.

 

A heated mouse pad

What do you get the video editor who has everything and has to work in an ultra-cold edit suite? A heated mouse pad of course. This pink one from Urban Outfitters made the rounds recently but it is only available in pink so men must be comfortable in their masculinity to put it on their desks. A simple black one might draw less attention to your cold extremities.

Or you can go questionable from a quality and design standpoint with a USB hand warmer mouse pad that is designed like a cat and has a heating element “made from carbon fiber” yet somehow manages to keep the price at $23. Buy that one at your own risk.

Editors Keys Editors Tees

No Christmas Gift Ideas for Editors list would be complete without some t-shirt for editors. If you haven’t seen the collection from Editors Keys then take a look as they have a great range of editing-focused t-shirts and hoodies that feature some great designs. Editors Keys sells a lot of high-quality editing keyboards and recording equipment so you might now know they have t-shirts. I didn’t until I was talking to them about their new backlit Resolve keyboard!

Tush Cush for your sub-par office chair

If you don’t have an Aeron chair at your disposal or you freelance at a bad-chair-business consider something like the Tush Cush to take along and help out your back. I’ve had similar on-deck for the Christmas Gift Ideas for Editors list before but since I’ve never used one I haven’t included it in the past that I remember. But a recent Twitter recommendation (and then seeing one in the wild) sealed the deal.

Film Editor Drive sign

Leave it to Etsy to never fail a holiday without some specific Film Editor gifts. This year we’ll go for a Film Editor Drive street sign. It’s $18 and would add some nice decor to the edit suite. It comes in different colors and can be ordered with a lot of other names besides “film editor.” How about Cinematographer Drive?

“Director’s Board” Christmas Ornament

Do you have a tree in your edit suite? How about this “director’s board” ornament to hang on it? It’s only $15 from Old World Christmas. We’ll forgive them for calling it a “director’s board” and not a slate as such an item is most useful to the editor and not the director.

Toilet Paper Blaster

Sure many offices around the world use any of the tons of different Nerf-like projectile guns for their office wars so why not be different and add a toilet paper blaster to your arsenal? They’re cheap and you don’t have to worry about losing the darts. Refill by heading to your bathroom (though you may get in trouble for this from human resources). You’re on your own cleaning up after the battle is over.

Portable cot

In the run up to December 25 if it does look like you might have to work on Christmas Day, why not spend a couple of overnights in the edit suite to get ahead of the game with a portable camping cot? These can be more comfortable and easier to setup than an air mattress. The one above is $80 from REI. Or hit a comparison guide for a lot of other options in style and price. Seriously though… if you do feel the need to work such long hours that you need a cot for your edit suite talk to your producer as that is insane. Insane but sadly it happens.

Christmas meals delivered to your edit suite

It would be a terrible thought to think that there is someplace in the world where post don’t stop on Christmas day but I know there are edit suites that will, sadly, be humming along on December 25. Why not make it a more festive day for you and your producer (surely you won’t be editing alone) by bringing in a full holiday meal, provided you’ve got some way to properly cook it or warm it up. Since the Christmas Tinner appears to thankfully be a hoax you can just order up a full meal in a box. Harry and David has your Christmas Brunch Hat Box for $70. Omaha Steaks will let you build your own holiday dinner though it might require more extensive cooking. If you have a Cracker Barrel in your neighboorhood you can pick up a holiday meal between 12/21 and 12/24 and just heat it up. Costco will sell you a Turducken for $80 but you have to be a member. Or just make it really easy and do a SendAMeal Christmas Dinner. You can even get a holiday meal for your dog. Done.

The post Christmas Gift Ideas for the Editor – 2019, the 10 Year Edition appeared first on ProVideo Coalition.

The 25 Best Thriller Movies of The 2010s

To say that this has been a great decade for cinema would be an understatement, as films this decade have pushed all sorts of boundaries and broken many barriers. The thriller genre has been one of the most popular, and for good reason- it can mean so many different things, and thus the films considered to be “thrillers” are an eclectic and diverse group. Sometimes a thriller is something with real visceral scares that borderlines on horror, while other thrillers can take elements of science fiction, biographical stories, action, and comedy to create unique subgenres.

Ultimately, a good thriller should enthrall its audience in the story it’s telling and keep them glued to their seats as they watch the mystery unfold. Due to the sheer quantity of great thrillers produced this decade, it would be impossible to mention everybody’s personal favorites, but these films are meant to reflect the great variety of options that cinemagoers have had over the past ten years. Here are the top ten thrillers of the 2010s.

 

25. Nocturnal Animals

While the “story within a story” framing device is commonly used for expositional purposes, Nocturnal Animals explores the soiled relationship between an art gallery operator (Amy Adams) and her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) through a novel he writes that alludes to various circumstances within their marriage. Both the events in the real world and the novel use many of the same actors and visual cues, and as the story goes on the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur.

It’s unclear of what the intentions of the Gyllenhaal character are, as he frames himself as the hero within the story he writes and shocks his ex-wife with a brutal story of rape and revenge. Brilliant side performances by Michael Shannon as a grizzled sheriff who’ll go to any means to find justice and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a wicked sociopath bring this metaphorical crime saga to life.

 

24. All the Money in the World

all-the-money-in-the-world-movie-stills-Michelle-Williams

While Ridley Scott is often a brilliant filmmaker and has made some of the greatest films of all-time, his filmography throughout the 21st Century has been hit and miss. However, Scott proved that he still can tell suspenseful, clever stories with this breathless kidnapping thriller that doubles as a searing indictment of the rich elite who value nothing but their own fortune.

Michelle Williams is phenomenal as a desperate mother who exercises all her resources to rescue her kidnapped son, but the film’s show stealing performance comes from Christopher Plummer, who famously replaced Kevin Spacey in a week of reshoots after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct. Plummer is a much better fit for the role of John Paul Getty, and is able to explore the grim indifference of the wealthy with a sinister lack of humanity.

With a thrilling final act in which everything seems to go wrong related to the botched rescue, All the Money in the World is proof that Scott remains one of the industry’s most distinguished veterans.

 

23. Zero Dark Thirty

zero dark thirty

While Zero Dark Thirty was initially shot to reflect a seemingly endless and unfulfilled manhunt, its production ended up coinciding with real developments regarding the death of Osama bin Laden. Kathryn Bigelow has long been known as one of the greatest action filmmakers of all-time, but with Zero Dark Thirty she cuts down on the set pieces and shows the slow process of maneuvering through international relations and legal red tape that is required to spark the greatest manhunt in history.

While Bigelow does not always condone the actions of her characters, she offers a compelling lead character in Jessica Chastain’s Maya, an obsessive analyst who is gripped by her obsession with finding justice. Maya’s perspective adds a valued emotional weight to this mystery, but when the film deviates from her perspective to show the final compound raid, it’s equally as gripping and shows Bigelow’s unparalleled ability to capture close range combat.

 

22. Annihilation

One of the most unique science fiction films of the decade, Annihilation is a layered text of depravity, death, and illness that features some terrifying creature designs and thought provoking arthouse imagery. With allusions to the ways in which both mental and physical demons infect a person’s essence, the story follows a team of scientists who venture into a mysterious area called “The Shimmer,” in which the traditional laws of physics and biology don’t apply, and as the team falls deeper into this maze, their own personal hardships are unveiled.

It’s a viscerally scary film that doesn’t rely on jump scares, but does feature terrifying moments, particularly a mutant bear that terrorizes the group. It’s a testament to writer/director Alex Garland that the film’s final act, in which Natalie Portman’s character Lena faces her own doppelganger in the heart of “The Shimmer,” is able to rivet an audience who may not always understand what is happening. Annihilation asks big sci-fi questions reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, yet never lets go of its gripping nature.

 

21. The Stanford Prison Experiment

Ezra Miller - The Stanford Prison Experiment

This is a film that questions what human beings are capable of, and explores the boundaries that young men can push when they’re designated as remorseless, unsupervised authority figures. Based on a true experiment, The Stanford Prison Experiment shows a psychological study conducted by a researcher (Billy Crudup) in which he designates a group of young college students as guards and prisoners in a simulated prison environment.

At first these students approach this study with an indifference to their roles, but as they get more into character, the study begins to go too far as the guards inflict severe physical and psychological trauma upon their subjects. Crudup plays a character so curious about the ramifications of his study that he’ll watch this experiment play out until the bitter end, regardless of the violent ramifications.

 

20. Green Room

Green Room is a film that puts its audience directly within its environment, crafting a claustrophobic standoff between punk rockers and neo-Nazis after a murder takes place in a skinhead bar. This is a film that is terrifying due to the way in which it isolates it characters- the bar itself is in the middle of nowhere, the band has no social media presence and have no way to contact help, and as the band become trapped in the green room they must test the limits of how long they can survive.

The late great Anton Yelchin delivers the best performance of his career as the band’s sole survivor who makes it to the bitter end, and Patrick Stewart sheds all parts of his traditionally warm persona to craft a cold and calculated skinhead villain. With unrelenting gore and nauseating suspense, Jeremy Saulnier crafted a claustrophobic and unnerving modern classic.

 

19. Black Swan

Black Swan movie

Darren Aronofky’s psychological thriller explores how the literal manifestations of chasing artistic perfection can torment a person, and used the ballet of Swan Lake to contrast grace and darkness. Much of the film’s scares come from the duality of the main character, Nina (Natalie Portman), who wrestles with a darker side of her personality as she seeks to embody the villainous, seductive Black Swan.

Portman gives one of the best performances of her career, and contrasts Nina’s dainty sincerity with her suppressed dark side, and seeing Nina wrestle with defining herself is perfectly suited for her loss of grip on reality. It’s a film so metaphorically rich that the nightmare sequences perfectly visualize Nina’s thoughts, and the mix of the beautiful dancing with shocking horror elements makes for one of the most unique thrillers of the decade.

 

18. Wind River

Wind River

Between Hell or High Water and both Sicario films, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has reinvented the neo-Western, and his directorial debut Wind River is another gripping mystery with relevance to current issues. Exploring the frequent murder of young women on indigenous reservations, Wind River follows a veteran tracker (Jeremy Renner) and a novice FBI Agent (Elizabeth Olsen) as they search for the suspected murderer.

A major theme is the absence of justice, as the lack of a presence by law enforcement on the reservations has resulted in an uptick in deaths. This ties into the backstory of Renner’s character, who is also dealing with a family tragedy. Renner has never been better than he is here, and is able to show a considerable amount of pain and trauma through a rough exterior. The bitter visuals and realistic depiction of a murder investigation make Wind River a timely mix of intrigue and activism.

The 25 Most Beautiful Movies of The 2010s

Now that the sun is setting on the 2010s it’s apparent that it was an astounding and simply stunning decade for cinema. There seemed to be no end to the awe-inspiring visuals lighting up living rooms, bijous, drive-ins, and multiplexes the world over.

Taste of Cinema’s tireless and exciting search for the most visually exquisite films of the past decade has been no easy charge, though several films stood out straight away. The assembled list presented here offers up films of dazzling depth, stirring symmetry, impeccable production design, gorgeous framing, and assured grace.

Please add any titles we overlooked in the comments section below (be nice!), but above all else, seek out those listed that you’ve missed out on and don’t skip a chance to see films where they should be seen; on the big screen!

 

25. Stray Dogs (2013)

Stray Dogs

Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs is an operation of conscious, cold-blooded constraint. The Malaysian-born Chinese master of slow cinema demands you idle at this film’s peculiar pace, to quiet yourself to its rhyme, and wonderment awaits you if you can.

Opening on a protracted medium shot, the camera static, elegantly framed we see two children (actual siblings Lee Yi-chieh and Lee Yi-cheng) sleep while a woman (Yang Kuei-mei) brushes her silky hair, then she stops, then she stares. And stares. Eventually we discover that the father (Lee Kang-sheng) of these children is homeless. That his family is also homeless, and that their mother is missing or maybe a ghost (we are left to draw our own conclusions on this). He works for little pay holding a sign at a busy intersection while his kids dally unattended on their own till his shift is over.

Cinematographers Liao Pen-jung and Sung Wen Zhong create trying tableaus with very little camera movement at all, save for gentle pans. We watch characters eat entire meals, smoke entire cigarettes, piss, play, and become bored. Ennui is a part of the story, as Lee carries his signpost like a cross, we feel its burden, and how it must torture him.

Stray Dogs once seen, is confounding and difficult to lose sight of and not to be forgotten.

 

24. Monos (2019)

Monos

This atmospheric and dream-like antiwar mini-epic from the visionary Brazilian-born director Alejandro Landes (who co-wrote the film along with Alexis Dos Santos) unfolds like a beautiful dreamscape from another time and place. If you were to imagine what Werner Herzog’s take on Lord of the Flies might be like than you’ll enjoy splashing in the warm waters Landes generates in this unforgettable exploration of humanity set on the remote and expansive Monos, a Colombian mountaintop where eight child commandos armed with guns watch over a war prisoner of war (Julianne Nicholson).

Cinematographer Jasper Wolf presents breaktaking and wildly surreal visuals from the Colombian jungle and mist-shrouded mountaintops, while Landes’ cast on non-actors dominate the screen with their unclouded and candid faces in documentary-like portraiture of war orphans, these savage youth in revolt are given the perfect, ethereal and haunting background musical score from Mica Levi (Under the Skin, Jackie) making for one of the decade’s most moving and mercurial cinema experiences. Not to be missed.

 

23. La La Land (2016)

The gliding camera of cinematographer Linus Sandgren eddies and whorls with a stately simplicity in Damien Chazelle’s old-fashioned yet present-tense musical La La Land. Not since Jacque Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) has so visually distinct decor, primary-colored scrims, and aerated mise-en-scène looked so miraculous. Sure the engaging ensemble choreography and dreamy close-ups of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone add to the novelty, nostalgia and cinematic sorcery on bright and brilliant pedantry, how could they not?

La La Land is a knockout that makes the “City of Stars” shine in a Cinemascope rhapsody, and full of feeling in a musical that’s in the noble and imposing tradition of Busby Berkeley. It may not quite reach those impassable heights but it dares to, and that’s more than enough.

 

22. Spring Breakers (2012)

spring-breakers

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers took us and a lot of people by complete surprise in 2012, with its neon-lit delusion taking on empty contemporary American ennui and fashioning a run-down but delicious rainbow with it.

Vanessa Hudgens is Candy, a college student who, along with her shallow pals, Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine), and Faith (Selena Gomez), find themselves penniless leading up to spring break, and so they ill-advisedly rob a dinner to afford a trip down to Florida. Befriending a drug dealing, wannabe rap artist named Alien (James Franco), the gang alludes the law and embrace a bizarre life of crime, until… well, perhaps the less said the better. No spoilers here.

A word of advice for those who try watching this film and are easily put off by the film’s bratty slow build, work past the first 30 minutes and wonderful and very worthwhile awards will await you (not to mention the eye-popping visual delicacies!). Spring Breakers spins a seductive web, hewn with immense and colorful artistry in what Huffington Post critic Emma Seligman describes as “Scarface meets Britney Spears.”

 

21. The Love Witch (2016)

the-love-witch

Anna Biller’s delightfully macabre exercise in sassy seduction and strange, vintage sensations feels like it was made in another era but adorned with bracingly modernistic designs. The Love Witch is stunning to see and thrilling to think about as it throws back to the Technicolor melodramas of the swinging 60s and the sexploitation cinema that supervened. Starring a smashing Samantha Robinson, who looks like she stepped out of the Golden Age of Hollywood era, she is note and picture perfect as Elaine, the eponymous witch.

Beautiful but bloodthirsty, Elaine is determined to find the man of her dreams and will cast spells and brew strange potions to manipulate the men around her until she finds her ideal muse, even if her mental health is in constant question.

Biller’s inspired and kaleidoscopic set design, sumptuous costumes, and deliberately superannuated aesthetic is a crafty coup de cinema, combined with an excellently effective soundtrack that makes The Love Witch a ravishing and ineffable entertainment, and one of the decade’s very best.

 

20. Upstream Color (2013)

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Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color is an otherworldly experience that will make the right kind of audience absolutely ecstatic and frequently fighting tears of joy and wonder when not wholly hypnotized by its visual versification and bold narrative.

Amy Seimetz shines as Alex, our put-upon protagonist who finds herself brainwashed into emptying her bank account by a thief (Thiago Martins) who uses a combination of drugs, parasites, and bizarre hypnagogic neuro-linguistic-type programming to dupe her.

Alex eventually regains herself and learns she’s not the only one who has been manipulated in this way to similar dubious ends. Drawn to Jeff (played by Carruth), the two are similarly uncertain of what they lost through their mind-meddling ordeal but, as their lives spiral and entwine, the film, like an amorous Möbius strip, outshines itself, and its heart reaches a hard fought and rather miraculous crescendo.

The artistry on hand is wondrous, with sequences of such aching, ingenious elegance. Upstream Color ranks high as one of the most transformative and spellbinding cinematic experiences of the decade.

 

19. The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

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The third film from writer-director Peter Strickland (In Fabric [2019]) is a pastiche of erotic exploitation cinema from the 1970s––Jess Franco and Jean Rollin float to mind with soap bubble inertia––with no deficit of idiosyncrasy, imagination, or veiled decorum, either. Existing in a pocket universe inhabited wholly by women, The Duke of Burgundy offers up seemingly endless tactile pleasures at every velvety turn. Euro-smut has never looked so lovely, salacious, or finely detailed.

Nic Knowland’s generously overripe lensing, Pater Sparrow’s effete yet plush production design, and Mátyás Fekete nostalgic and almost gimmicky editing––featuring, for instance, freeze-frames that relax into fleshy pink ambiguity––make for an artificial world that moans with titillation and mystery at every inviting wheeze. This is a film of mystery, lucid dreaming, closed door transgressions, and artful fetish from an exciting cinematic pariah.

 

18. Black Swan (2010)

Arguably Darren Aronofsky’s finest film, Black Swan is a dark, dirge-like thriller pitting two ballerinas, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) and Lily (Mila Kunis), as rivals during a tumultuous production of Tchaikovsky’s highly-esteemed ballet, Swan Lake.

It’s a sweeping, creepy, and disconcerting film, chronicling amongst other themes; descent into madness, stifled femininity, patrist desires, mental and physical fatigue, and much more. There is considerable melodrama, too, and perhaps some calculable and regrettable clichés, of the type often found in formulaic competition films, but the dizzying cinematography and peerless performances make it easy to forgive any shortcomings of story. Aronofsky articulates and captures a thematically dense and illusory film of darkness, identity, duality, and divine will. On a visual and intuitive level, Black Swan bends the throttle.

Our recommendations: essential gear for your winter photo adventures

Winter travel gear for photographers

Whether you’re photographing wildlife at Yellowstone or your kids sledding at the neighborhood park, winter presents a lot of great photo opportunities. However, winter also has its own challenges due to the short days, cold weather and – in places like Seattle – a fair bit of rain. On the next few slides, we’ll take a look at some important gear to consider as you head out for your winter photography adventures.

Gloves

This one should be pretty obvious. If you’re shooting in very cold weather – especially when handing metal lenses or other gear – you’ll want to keep your hands warm. Otherwise, your camera will be about as useful as a brick in your numb, unresponsive fingers. Typical gloves are usually a poor match for photography as they limit dexterity, but there are some good options for photographers.

Look for gloves or mittens that fold back to expose your fingertips. These facilitate short periods of exposure to the cold without having to remove your gloves completely, and you can uncover just one or two fingers while keeping the rest of your hands insulated. Great options include gloves from Vallerret (pictured), Freehands and The Heat Company.

Sometimes, a pair of lightweight or liner gloves are all you’ll need, but not all liners are created equal. Look for gloves designed to work with a capacitive touchscreen, which will allow you to use your camera’s touch controls as well as other electronic devices like a smartphone. We like RucPac’s professional tech gloves, but there are probably lots of options at your local outdoor store as well.

Hand warmers

Hand warmers are obviously designed to do a good job of warming your hands, but they’re good for other things as well. For example, I find them effective at keeping the non-photographer who’s stuck outside with me a bit more patient while I get that one last shot before heading inside (yeah, right…). Of course, hot chocolate liberally spiked with Bailey’s Irish cream seems to help as well, but your mileage may vary.

One of my favorite tricks is to gaff tape a hand warmer to the barrel of a lens. This can be useful when shooting in an environment where you’re at risk of dew or frost forming on the front lens element as the temperature drops. I’ve used this technique when photographing time-lapse sequences of the night sky or the aurora borealis. Sometimes, just a bit of warmth is all you need to avoid a ruined sequence.

Chemical hand warmers like those from HotHands (pictured) can be found everywhere from your favorite online outlet to the local hardware store. If you cringe at using disposable hand warmers, check out HotSnapZ reusable hand warmers, the EnergyFlux Enduro rechargeable warmer from Human Creations or the Zippo Hand Warmer which heats catalytically to produce flame-free heat.

Camera cover

Many cameras today include weather sealing to keep out the elements. However, the fact that you’ve got weather sealed equipment that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to get your camera soaking wet, despite all those manufacturer videos showing cameras getting sprayed by a garden hose.

Camera rain covers have been around for a long time, and while they may not be quite as necessary as they used to be, it’s still nice to have one when shooting in a complete downpour. You can find a variety of commercial models from companies like Think Tank Photo and Ruggard (pictured). There are lot of great DIY hacks as well – a hotel shower cap or plastic shopping bag with a few rubber bands can work miracles. It’s good to have one of these stashed somewhere if you’re shooting in a rainy place. You know, like Seattle.

Tripod leg wraps

Other than a camera and lens, one of the largest, coldest objects many of us carry around in the winter is a tripod. If you’ve ever used a tripod with bare hands in really cold weather, particularly and aluminum model, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Of course, one solution is to use gloves. But there’s another solution as well: leg wraps. (For your tripod’s legs – not yours. That said, I make no judgements about fashion.)

Some tripods come factory equipped with leg wraps. However, if your tripod arrived, ummm… naked, a set of LegCoats (pictured) from LensCoat.com will run you about $50. Your hands will appreciate them.

Extra batteries

Cameras operate pretty well in cold weather, but even the best can be susceptible to power loss from cold batteries. In fact, with more photographers moving to mirrorless cameras our dependence on batteries is arguably greater than it was with DSLRs.

To keep shooting in the coldest conditions, consider some cold weather best practices for your batteries. Keep reserve batteries in your pocket so they stay warm rather than going into a deep freeze in your bag. When removing a battery that’s been in the camera for a while, consider putting it back in your pocket (a different one) for a few minutes to warm it up a bit. You may discover it has a fair amount of power left once it’s back to a normal temperature.

Finally, if you’ve recently switched from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera, consider picking up a couple extra batteries before a big winter trip. Some newer models get impressive battery life, but they still require more power than most DSLRs.

Night sky apps

Winter brings with it short days and long nights. Why not take advantage of it by doing some night sky photography? When planning night shots, it helps to know things such as in what direction the Milky Way will rise, what time it will be visible, or even just the phase of the moon. There are a lot of apps to help you with this; I recommend Sky Guide for iOS (pictured) or Star Walk 2 for Android.

If you live far enough north to see the aurora borealis (the northern lights), consider downloading an app like Aurora Forecast Pro (iOS, Android) which can alert you when conditions are such that you might be able to see the aurora from your location. All it takes is a burst of solar activity for the aurora to be visible at lower than usual latitudes, including northern areas of the continental US.

Zip-lock bags

Zip-lock bags are a great all-around utility. If it’s wet outside, they keep gear dry. If your gear gets wet you can put it inside a bag with a desiccant to dry it out. A large zip-lock can even be adapted to serve as a rain cover for your camera.

However, one of the best winter uses for zip-lock bags is transferring equipment between cold and warm environments. If you’ve been out shooting in frosty temperatures and walk into a warm building with any humidity, you may find water vapor condensing on your equipment. Instead, seal your gear inside a zip-lock bag before going inside and let it equilibrate to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This makes it less likely that you’ll need the next item on our list.

Oh, right. Don’t use the same bag that you used for pasta sauce. I always forget that part.

Silica desiccant beads

When camera gear gets wet on the outside we usually dry it off and keep going. However, if you make the mistake of getting moisture inside your gear, as may happen when you walk from a cold to a warm environment, you’ll need something other than a towel or microfiber cloth to get rid of the moisture.

When that happens – assuming you didn’t actually drop your whole camera into an ice-covered pond – silica gel beads, which acts as a desiccant, come to the rescue. Put the gear, along with a bunch of beads, into a zip-lock bag and seal it up. It may take some time, but eventually your gear will dry out. Silica beads can be purchased in bulk or in packets. In a pinch and don’t have silica beads? Use instant white rice instead.

Silica gel beads can often be found at hardware stores, but if you have trouble finding them locally there are lots of options on Amazon.

Headlamp

While not – strictly speaking – photography equipment, a headlamp can be one of the most useful accessories when the short winter days get dark. Since most cameras don’t have illuminated buttons a headlamp is a great way to see them, along with your other gear, without giving up one hand to hold a flashlight. Consider a model that includes a red light to better preserve your night vision while working.

A headlamp should probably be part of your winter kit anyway, just in case you get stuck somewhere after dark; I keep one in my pack at all times. If you’re not sure where to start check out options from companies like Petzl, Black Diamond, Princeton Tec or NiteCore (a company that, oddly enough, recently announced plans to manufacture full frame cinema lenses).

Personal locator beacon

This one applies to people whose winter photography takes them into the backcountry, away from roads, or anywhere else that might be inaccessible or cut off from mobile phone service. If you’re that kind of person and you don’t want to become the next Aron Ralston, it’s a good idea to carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) like the SPOT Satellite Messenger or Garmin InReach. With many PLBs it’s now possible to communicate with someone remotely, and in a real emergency they can be used to set off a search and rescue by local authorities. It’s like insurance – you hope you don’t need it, but if you do you’re glad to have it.

Umbrella

Finally, it’s not frozen everywhere in winter. In some places – Seattle comes to mind – it basically means a lot of rain, which is why our sample galleries often look grey enough to be mistaken for Log video footage this time of year. One simple technique to keeping rain off your camera and lens is to go old school and use an umbrella. “But, wait!” I hear you say, “I need both hands to use my camera.” I like to secure an umbrella to my pack so it just hovers above me. I’m sure it works better with some packs than others, so your mileage may vary on this one.

Hopefully, I don’t need to tell you where to buy an umbrella, but before you do that let me suggest acquiring a used umbrella instead. Go to the Lost and Found desk at just about any large venue or destination and tell them you lost a black umbrella. Chances are good they’ll bring out a box with a couple dozen to choose from. As you drive away in your 8-passenger SUV you’ll have the joy of knowing that in some small way you’re helping to save the planet.

Alternatively, you could just get the Nubrella (pictured).