Matt Wreford and I are finishing a pretty good year at our new service, MPrint. Our main clientele has been photographers, printing their portfolios on two Epson 3880 inkjet printers. It was Matt’s idea to get a second 3880 and finally, when we had a problem in July with No. 1, we bought No. 2. We have one RIP working both printers at the same time, really useful for getting work printed in half the time. We also scan film on the Imacon 848 and Matt is a retouching supremo. We printed some great portfolios this year for Chris Floyd, Toby Maudsley, Peter Beavis and many other excellent photographers.
As recommended by friends: the best money I spent this year on photo gear (and no, I’m not on the payroll of any of these manufacturers):
A wired lavalier microphone recommended by my friend and colleague Angus McDonald of Cordis Video. It could not have come at a better time because I used it every day in Liberia in March to do filmed interviews. We sometimes needed an extension cable to get far enough from the camera and it can be tripped over but we managed it. The sound is incredible and better than using wireless gear. It takes one AA battery as opposed to the four AA spares needed for the wireless setup. And no any radio frequency interference from the transmitter. I feed it into my Zoom H6 and the H6 goes into the Nikon D800 mic port as an onboard backup. The H6 pre-amps are much better than the D800’s so we used the H6 files in our final edit.
Ginirigs Q Cage
Shooting DSLR video, this cage has two handles on either side of the camera for getting the camera into positions that a shoulder rig won’t easily allow. Viewing and focusing through the camera back monitor is virtually impossible – it has to be used with a separate EVF (electronic viewfinder) that connects to the DSLR’s HDMI port and is attached to the cage. The two-handed solution was recommended to me over a shoulder rig by my discerning co-conspirator Adri Berger and I really like the camera moves in this way, using all body movement, arms and legs together.
Accessory kit for Zoom H6
The only way, it seems, to get the dead cat windshield for the H6 onboard mics is to buy the whole accessory kit. That burned me until I heard how good it is, shooting volunteers looking for birds in a cold wind before dawn in Chicago’s Loop. Everyone needs a dead cat…
Flying back to London tonight. I went from not knowing last Tuesday what I was going to shoot this past week… to frantically trying to get everything done that Annette kindly arranged for me. Very good week: I filmed interviews with CBCM volunteers, two 3:30am starts at the weekend to film crews on their early morning rounds as they revive or rescue injured birds – and collect dead birds to be delivered to the Field Museum. I also spent time with Ben Marks, the collections manager in the Birds Division who is generously helping me arrange the shooting we will be doing early next year in the prep lab where dead birds become specimens. So the first half of the story – birds in the city and the collision monitors – is shot.
I’ve worked in the Field Museum of Natural History here in Chicago over the last several years, shooting endangered and extinct specimens in the zoology collection. One day two years ago I was introduced to a volunteer from the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors by Mary Hennen, a collections assistant in the Birds Division. Mary met me at an entrance to take me up to shoot in the collection. At the same time a volunteer was unloading large boxes from the back of her car. She and Mary chatted and opened the boxes, crammed with dead birds in plastic freezer bags, labeled. These ‘scavenged birds’ become specimens in the collection and I became interested in describing the process: a migratory bird dies, regrettably, in Chicago’s Loop but then becomes scientific information, a source of data, living on in that way.
Now I’m in Chicago shooting a short documentary film on this story. The incredible curators at the museum had put me in touch with Annette Prince, head of CBCM. Annette must put 50,000 miles a year on her car – whenever I called her from London to arrange this trip she was driving to or from a bird mission. I flew in yesterday and by noon today I still had not reached Annette… so I had very little idea of what or who I would be shooting this week.
But she called from the road today at lunchtime and I enlisted as a volunteer: she needed someone to pick up an injured bird found by a professor on the Northwestern University campus. I drove to the campus and he placed a box on my front seat containing a small warbler. I then headed west, trying to remember and to find various roads from when I grew up here. Annette and I crisscrossed Chicagoland to meet each other, keeping in touch and negotiating bad traffic by phone, hoping to converge in the northwestern suburb of Palatine in a mall parking lot. That was the plan, anyway… In the end she found me parked at the Jiffy Lube in Mount Prospect and we went and had a Coke in McDonald’s (nowhere else to sit down) to plan the week ahead.