Everyone with a camera (photographer or not) has tried to capture fireworks with an iPhone, a compact or even an SLR setup. Usually spontaneous, unplanned and of-the-moment, they generally turn out as dismal as their preparation.
You quickly frame, snap and review. 9 times out of 10, you are disappointed with the results (and for the other 1/10th of the shots, you have lowered your standards enough that the image to left is passable).
How could a display so large be so difficult to capture? Why is the capture mostly black when the sky is so bright and colorful? How could something so sharp in the sky come across so blurred on-screen?
1. TRIPOD: And a sturdy one at that. As with all long exposure night photography, if you’re not using an aluminum or graphite tripod, shooting a high quality fireworks display is impossible. Photographing fireworks requires longer than usual shutter speeds which not only capture the movement of the fireworks, but any movement of the camera itself. For a budget tripod, I recommend the Ravelli 65” Ball Head which I use during travel. They could charge twice their current price and I’d still buy it.
2. REMOTE SHUTTER: The second step to ensure a stationary camera during exposures is use of a remote shutter or “button” which plugins in, or wirelessly transmits, a signal to your camera to actuate. For traditional long exposure photography, you can often get away with setting a 10-second self timer in the camera, allowing all movement to stop before the actuation. Unfortunately, given the spontaneity of fireworks’ length and frequency, an arbitrary and uncontrollable countdown takes away too much control.
3. RAW: Please don’t shoot jpegs. Please don’t shoot jpegs. You can’t afford to throw out and compress any light information.
4. ISO 100: The higher the ISO, the more noise and grain you’ll see in your images. There are many more complex reasons, but to keep it simple, a low ISO will result in a cleaner shot out of camera.
5. APERTURE: Set to Manual, f8. Given the tricky nature of lights to darks, fireworks photography will trick even the most advanced aperture and shutter priority modes. Narrowing the aperture more will make the fireworks appear thinner, while shooting wide open will make them white and overexposed to levels not even RAW processing in Lightroom could save. Go right down the middle; f8.
6. SHUTTER SPEED: Shoot in ‘bulb’ mode. As opposed to setting a finite exposure length, bulb mode will keep the shutter open as long as the actuator is depressed. Using this technique, press the shutter (on remote!) as the firework hits its highest point in the sky and hold it down for 2-4 seconds after explosion, depending on remnant brightness. Don’t keep your shutter open too long! There is a temptation to think because of the darkness, a ‘too long’ rule doesn’t exist; problem is, fireworks are bright and it doesn’t take too much to overexpose.Don’t get greedy and try to capture too many exposures in one frame.
7. PREFOCUS: Focus your lens ahead of time. Presuming you are shooting into the distance, start with the lens set to infinity (on lens window, not end of barrel) and turn off AF to prevent the lens from seeking. This will require several test shots for fine-tuning. It doesn’t really fit here, but it should go without saying that Flash should be OFF.
8. SHOOT EARLY: Shoot most of your shots at the start of the show to avoid the smoke/haze that begins to dominate 7-10 minutes in. Once the sky is filled with smoke, even the best staged and captured shots will be disappointing. As explosion light bursts begin to reflect in this haze, it will throw the exposure out of whack. The first series of fireworks of the show are usually the sharpest and cleanest to capture. A little wind is good. If there isn’t, smoke will begin hanging even earlier (5-7 minutes in).
9. BACKGROUND: Simple, but make it count. A fireworks display will always look better framed against something other than a black sky.
10. PLAY: Forget these rules and capture what’s around you at least 20% of the time — after the sky goes hazy.
The Dark & Stormy – a highball cocktail – is trademarked by Gosling’s Export. In layman’s terms: ginger beer and rum.
The drink, now beginning to resurge in the States, sees its highest popularity with the sailing community up and down the East Coast, having originally been brought home by sailors who frequented Bermuda. Most upscale bars in port towns from Portland, ME to Newport, RI to Annapolis, MD and beyond have the Dark ‘n’ Stormy on their menu.
I first fell in love with this drink almost two years ago at one of Boston finest restaurant, lounges and watering holes, Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks, right in Kenmore Square. The spot’s mix of locals, out-of-towners, and classy college students gives the place a sophisticated, yet welcoming and warm feel. If you haven’t been, it’s certainly worth a night or two of your time when you’re next in the city. For this first year I was utterly content, thrilled, with ESKD’s concoction. It was just what I was looking for, every time. In April 2012, everything changed.
Smuggler’s Cove, a Caribbean speakeasy on Gough Street in San Francisco. A Prohibition-era Havana. With over 400 rums in-house and a few of the sharpest mixologists in the city, this place had it down. A quiet night, I began with their traditional, most basic DnS. What happened next blew my mind and was anything but “traditional” – he began with a fresh batch of cooling ginger beer, made only an hour earlier. Many upscale bars are known for making their own syrups, flavorings and essences, but this was a first. Super fizzy, super ginger-y, and super dry. For those of you who’ve never tried it alone, ginger beer is essentially ginger ale but with a sharper, more upfront ginger taste, and far less sweet. It isn’t alcoholic, but because of its more strong flavor, it holds up in cocktails as the soda never could. Perfect balance. In my head, the drink is changed. And after a bit of research, it’s easy enough to do – quicker than heading to three or four stores to find one who actually carried ginger beer by can.
The below recipe comes courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson, an Ethiopian chef raised in Sweden and trained in Austria. While Samuelsson isn’t a mixologist, I’ve found his recipe to by among my favorites.
The HOMEMADE Ginger Beer
- Juice of 4 limes
- 1 cup orange juice
- 4 cups water
- Two 3-inch pieces ginger, peeled and coarsely grated
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 cloves
- 4 cardamom pods
1. Combine the lime juice, orange juice, water, ginger, sugar, cloves, and cardamom in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour into a bowl, and let cool.
2. Cover and refrigerate the ginger beer for at least 2 hours. Strain before serving.
Dark and Stormy
- 2 oz dark rum
- 3 oz Ginger Beer
- Lime wedge
Fill a collins glass with ice. Add rum and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge and serve.
Le Grand Chapiteau has begun to dip and sag under fallout from the global recession. Will Founder and CEO Guy Laliberté be able to save his company? Not if he keeps up his quantity over quality initiative that has plagued the French Canadian troupe over the past five years. At present moment, the company has 19 shows running, seven of which are sit-down productions within Las Vegas hotel casinos, far more than ever before.
Full disclosure: I’ve been a huge fan of Le Cirque for a long time. For years I couldn’t say a bad word about the company, but now my thoughts have changed. Discovering the troupe in late 2002 (with La Nouba), there was a period where I routinely traveled across the country, seeing 6-8 productions a year at $100-150 bucks a ticket. I helped represent the company and did outreach to new, young audiences. In six years I had traveled thousands of miles and had seen almost 30 productions. Then in 2008, the pieces began falling apart, drifting, and so did I. Despite having a higher income and greater geo-flexibility for traveling shows, I’ve only seen 2 since 2009. I didn’t particular enjoy either; the magic was gone. For generalist understanding, I won’t dive into specifics with names of productions, staffing changes, and artists. Instead, I’ve tried to use show trailers for accessibility to chart progression. If you want to talk in-depth, email me — I love chatting with other fans.
The massive company announced late last week it would be laying off over 400 employees (about 8% of the its workforce), shelving scheduled productions, and closing several poor received currently-running shows in an effort to rein in spiraling costs on the financially debt-laden projects. Most of the job cuts will take place at the Montreal HQ, home to 2,000 of the company’s 5,000-strong global work force. Straight out of the gate, Cirque’s press was immediate in saying these slashes were not due to artistic, internal problems, but instead could be attributed to external forces beyond their control, namely surging production costs and the strong Canadian dollar.
“The Cirque is going through a difficult period but not a difficult financial period,” spokeswoman Renée-Claude Ménard said Wednesday at the company’s Montreal headquarters. She noted that the company achieved record revenue of “nearly $1 billion” over the past year and sold 14.2 million tickets to more than 20 shows around the world. “Basically we’re lucky that with a very difficult economic and financial situation we’re still pulling a rabbit out of the hat,” she said. In addition to runaway expenses associated with its rapid expansion, the company is facing a shortage of outside investors in its production and ongoing difficulties caused by the strength of the Canadian dollar. The company incurs 95 percent of its expenses in Canada and 95 percent of its revenue elsewhere, Ms. Ménard said. “Each one-cent increase in the dollar has a $3-million impact on our profits,” she said. The company, founded almost 30 years ago by stilt-walker Guy Laliberté and fellow street buskers, also announced Wednesday it is closing four shows to trim expenses. “We would have been much happier to tell you those shows weren’t closing,” Ms. Ménard said. “But it’s not a revenue issue, it’s an expense issue.” – Bertrand Marotte
Yes, these external factors are at play, but it would be remiss to operate under the assumption the Cirque themselves are not at fault. The pivotal issue, I believe, is due to the furious expansion of the company since mid-2007. With a string of Dragone-directed hits in the mid 90s and Dominic Champagne’s vision guiding the company through the early 2000s, the CdS was moving steadily forward, debuting a show every 12-16 months. At this time, storytelling and spectacle walked hand in hand — the company’s marketshare and name-recognition growing around the world. The company’s founder and CEO Guy Laliberté rose from a poor street performer to one of the richest men in North America.
All fairy tales however, especially in business, must come to an end. The company’s mission statement was traded in for a stronger balance sheet and higher net worth. Twenty years after the innovative company’s formation, tides shifted and spectacle took the forefront. Artistry and storytelling were abandoned. Production budgets initially spent on new act R&D, talent travel, and innovation was spent on massive, unimaginable theatre renovations and special effects far reaching from the company’s start in the mid 1980s. All one must do is take a look at Nouvelle Experience to Saltimbanco to KA; the transformation is astonishing. KA’s 2004 production costs surpassed previous records of $165M, dwarfing that of even Broadway’s Spiderman: Turn of the Dark ($65m) almost ten years later.
Saltimbanco, 1991. Humble beginnings.
Alegria, 1994. Astonishment through performance. Entering the Golden Era.
O, 1998. Design and technology’s emerge, but they walk beautifully hand in hand.
Varekai, 2003. The final show in the 10 year Golden Era.
KA, 2004. Amazement through technology and design. The decline begins.
Viva Elvis, 2010. What happened to my beloved company?
Prior to this slip up, Cirque’s development had a near perfect record. Shows rarely ceased touring operations and were often sent out for second and third North America, European, Asian, and Australian tours; not a single permanent show in residence had closed. The company faltered. Adaptation replaced innovation. The root of the “wow” shifted from the performers they once celebrated at their core, to stage automation and moving technology. Partnerships with unlikely sources (The Beatles, Criss Angel, Broadway, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley) changed the company’s artistic landscape. Having several shows playing on every continent (and over-saturation in Las Vegas) was more important than what was playing on each stage every night.
Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984 by Laliberté – now, of course, the world’s first billionaire stilt walker – and in the first 25 years of its life it opened an average of one new show a year, sending out a new touring show or further colonizing the Las Vegas strip. In 2001, Daniel Lamarre, who had previously run the private television network TVA, came on board as CEO. Lamarre told Bloomberg around that time that he wanted to expand the half-a-billion dollar company at a rate of 25 percent a year. Some observers might locate the beginning of Cirque’s fall at that moment, but for me it came around 2008, when the company decided to triple its output to three new shows a year. It aimed to create permanent shows in new markets: New York and Los Angeles, and, further abroad, in Tokyo and Macau. And it tried to create new kinds of shows – magic, variety, musical. “If we succeed in creating new categories of show, content diversification, then there is no limit,” Lamarre told me at the time.” – J. Kelly Nestruck
In my opinion, the company needs to slow down, stop, and rediscover its roots. High level management and artistic staffing changes and turnover have led the company astray. Original act and artistry designers have since left and begun their own practices (Creations du Dragone, etc) or returned to their respective corners of the globe. The first to go must be Lamarre; he does not understand the logistical challenges of running a live entertainment operation. Production at HQ must cease and projects currently under development must go through a full Lion’s Den ceremony with 1998-2002 standards of quality. Resident show must be reexamined as these have suffered the brunt of failure as of late. In 2010, its Banana Shpeel vaudeville-type venture flopped in Chicago, New York and Toronto before it was finally cancelled. Zed shut down in Tokyo just over a year ago, earlier than expected, while Zaia closed in Macau. Viva Elvis folded in Las Vegas this summer, while Iris, a cinema-themed show playing in Hollywood, is closing this month after poor ticket sales.The by-products of these stints have bled into the company as a whole. Cultural reporter Marc Cassivi wrote in La Presse this week that Cirque’s prestige has eroded in recent years, partly because it is so closely associated with the “kitsch” of Las Vegas. The company has become so structured that it does not allow individual performers to reach their full potential.
Flipping through my Flipboard (is there a better way to say that?) Friday morning on my train ride into work, I saw a trend I couldn’t believe. Article after article speculating on the rumors that Apple was in late-stage negotiations to acquire Waze, the social-navigation startup out of Tel Aviv (now Palo Alto).
The Cupertino-giant, still reeling from its Forstall-driven Mapgate this summer has been grasping at company after company to help solve their problem. It’s very unlike Apple to do this with startups, a reason why their continued pursuit of Foursquare for major partnership is so intriguing. With Google Maps resurgence on iOS in late December, Apple’s stock app has been hemorrhaging users at an alarming rate. The fear among Apple executives is that once these users return to the handsomely updated iOS 5-style comfort, they’ll never return to Apple Maps, regardless of what improvements are to come. This advanced acceleration is problematic — substantial marketshare leaves the stock app daily. Rather than continuing to build in-house, the mentality is now to acquire other’s IP, tech and talent to push out a game-changing update NOW.
Waze is the world’s fastest-growing community-based traffic and navigation app. It relies on the idea of crowdsourcing information — drivers help each other find the most accurate and up-to-date information for anything related to the road. With over 30 million users, Waze’s strategic model believes that by working together, drivers can get to work faster and more safely everyday. WHAT?
“Waze is designed, even if not intentionally, to distract. For mere mortals, I reckon it’s next to impossible to not be wholly distracted while using Waze. For goodness sake, they use the slogan, Waze: Drive Social.” Each little icon on the map invites a tap. What’s this? What’s that? Who’s over there? Wow, there’s somebody in the car next to me using Waze! Damn, she’s cute! When you see a fellow Waze user on the map, you can tap their icon and message them, see their “points” and ”rank.” The more you interact with Waze, the more points you score and the higher you rank.” – Rocco Pendola, The Street
So it’s gamified driving? There’s no good reason for Apple to buy Waze, now or down the road. With the fragile state the company is in, why take such a risky venture with a dangerous app. Encouraging not just 30M users, but ALL users in the Apple ecosystem to be socially-conscious while they drive. It’s a lawsuit, a potential killer, waiting to happen.
Waze asks users to report police activity, accidents, road hazards and traffic jams, in real time; “It’s like a personal heads-up from a few million of your friends on the road,” the company says. They even recommend you attach photos to these “social reports.” They want you to connect with friends on Facebook to see where each is on the road at any given time on the road? Foursquare for your car, if you will.
Thankfully, the deal is off. There’s been wild speculation as to the reason, most tied to money. Apple capping out it’s offer at $500m with Waze refusing to accept less than $750m. I’m all for social advancement, especially in new sectors, but for the road? And requiring so much user action? I can’t even imagine it.
With only a few days until 2013, what new, innovative mobile surprises have we seen this year?
Over the past few years there’s been expansive growth in mobile every quarter. Innovation, disruption, adaptive technologies and clean UIs have pushed social networking, management, payment and news apps further faster than many imagined. This year, mobile dev went from boom to bust. It was a year of clunky dot updates and app-for-app substitutions, many of which were downgrades from their previous iterations (just think Apple Maps as the prime example). On top of that, this year was focused one of the most lackluster and disappointing sectors:
Dear 2012, You were the year of list making and email organization apps. Dear 2013, Please don’t be as fucking boring as 2012.
— schneidermike (@schneidermike) December 29, 2012
Many consider access to email to the most important tool (and original purpose) in having a smartphone. Now, we hate it. Some will say this is because we’ve found better, more platform-oriented messaging apps, or that we have strived to develop more casual means of communication. Maybe the reason we’ve chosen to flee email is because after years of using it on mobile, no one has done it right. The monetization simply isn’t available as it is elsewhere. The only way to bring it money is as a pay app, and a majority of people refuse to fork over a few bucks to a developer….for no real reason.
This year we saw launch after launch of email apps, each more fundamentally flawed than the last. Whether paid or free, App Store ratings showed user discontent. Each release made an advancement in one direction at the expense of all others. Even with talent, partnerships, and investment starts aligning, a true “leader of pack” in email management failed to materialize. Take Gmail’s acquisition of the Sparrow team, for example. While Sparrow’s iOS app never had the power or simplicity its OSX client was praised for, it brought true Gmail support to the iPhone in a way Apple’s Mail.app never did. Sparrow on iOS lacked great syncing capabilities and never really helped me get through my messages. After humiliating themselves on the 1.0 release, Google acquired the small company in a talent acquisition and the promising Sparrow app fell into disrepair (despite a small .0.x release). Gmail’s recent 2.0 release for the iPhone was expected to be the perfect marriage, but lacked major functionality behind a pretty design. Disappointed, many of us hung our heads and returned to the iOS stock app.
While I always strive for Inbox Zero on the fly, being overwhelmed by email is a problem everyone faces. Some require action, research, response, or (if you’re lucky) just archive. However most people use their inbox as a “Save For Later,” with all messages grouped together, no distinction between them. Unfortunately, no apps (at least that I’ve discovered) really help users deal with those decisions. Instead, it’s a sort by timestamp and call it a day.
“A lot of people loved Sparrow, but I could never get too excited about it. It provided a pretty rich set of tools for moving emails around and making sure they got archived and were searchable — basically improving on things that the iPhone’s native mail app did poorly. But for me, Sparrow was always a little too feature-rich. It didn’t make getting through my email any easier, it just gave me more stuff to do with it.” – Ryan Lawler, TechCrunch
After a year of dozens email management apps, many of which never made it past one iPhone sync, I’m excited about ONE in 2013. Mailbox, by Orchestra, announced just over a week ago. Mailbox, from the same company who brought us the amazing task management to-do list app in 2011, takes a stripped-down approach. UX for 2013 is really driving artful simplicity home, and Mailbox will be the first app to do that. As soon as an email comes in, the road forks: keep in your inbox, save for later, or get rid of it. How do you sort? A short swipe: to the left, to the right, or all the way across to toss it out.
If the concept of “save for later” frightens you, don’t worry, Mailbox has already ensured all your mail won’t find it’s way into a toxic wasteland. You have to decide: later today, tomorrow, this weekend, next week, and so on. Mailbox will then prompt you when it’s time to take action. ”Email was designed 30 years ago for computers chained to desks,” Orchestra CEO Gentry Underwood says. “Everything about it is slow and clunky. If you want to make it fast and mobile-friendly, the entire experience needs to be modernized.” [I'm bouncing up and down in my seat writing this -- this man gets it!] From what I’ve seen and read from various industry beta reviewers, Mailbox excels in a few key areas. First, it’s stupid fast, surpassing the speed of Apple’s Mail.app. by first processing messages through the cloud, before pushing them (Yes. Push.) to your phone.
“Composing and sending a message feels (and looks) more like sending a tweet than an email. Mailbox also excels at displaying message threads as if they were texting conversations. When you tap into a message or conversation, you notice that instead of conventional emails, you see small chat bubbles displayed tactfully. Mailbox does its best to hide signatures and only show the meat of each message, but tapping any individual message lets you see any message in its expanded state.” – Ellis Hamburger, The Verge
Mailbox is expected to release early next year. If it can keep a price point between $5-8, I think we’ll see mass adoption and a real shakeup in the category. I’ve already heard rumblings of OSX release as well — I think Orchestra knows they have a hit with this one. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.