Sunday, February 05, 2006

How To Film IPSC Matches

I've recently been getting a lot of hits from Google searches about "How To Film IPSC Matches".

SWMBO and I have been doing a lot of that over the past several years, and those of you who have seen the results are probably painfully aware that our "on-the-job training" hasn't always produced pictures of the highest quality or greatest interest.

Still, we have evolved some guidelines that we hope to apply in future photography, and they may help you when you're shooting pictures while other people are shooting action-pistol stages.

The principles group themselves into five natural categories:

(1) Remember who wants to see the pictures, and why:
  • People don't want to see YOUR friends; they want to see THEIR friends, or people they know
  • Most important, they want to see themselves
  • Photograph everybody, whether they are big-names or not, but be sure to photograph people who can be expected to perform well
  • People want to see match winners, or stage winners, or the competitors who are most likely to provide a challenge to these people
  • Sometimes, photos are used as training aids. It's a good idea to look for people who demonstrate the best approach to a given shooting problem; it's also frequently useful to photograph people who make mistakes, so they (and others) can learn from their mistakes
  • Mistakes are often in the small things. Be sure to get the "small things" ... see below

(2) General rules for good action photograph:
  • Put PEOPLE in your pictures! A photograph that just shows the targets, or the stage, is without interest. Remember, you're there to photograph PEOPLE. While it's often a good idea to take photos of stages to show their design, or props, it's boring.
  • Try to film with the light source behind you.
  • NEVER try to take photographs when you're looking into the sun. It won't turn out well.
  • Be unobtrusive in your photography. Don't try to position yourself in a good place if it may interfere with the shooter or the Range Officer. Above all, don't be a nuisance, don't be a source of concern to the RO who may think you're in danger of being run over by the competitor.
  • Ideally, the competitor should be unaware that you are filming, although it is a VERY good idea to get permission of the competitor before you publish photographs.
  • Make sure you have a high-quality photograph; use a high-density digital camera, or a film with a speed appropriate to both action AND high quality. This is often a difficult balance to achieve, but while grainy pictures are often disappointing, blurry photographs are usually unusable. Film is a poor second choice, because you need to ....
  • Shoot a LOT of pictures. You never know what is going to be important until you look at the results. You can feel good about throwing away a hundred pictures if the 101st is a keeper.
  • Compose your photos so you have both the competitor and the target, or at least components of the stage, in the frame. When you have to make a choice, film the people!
  • Use other elements of the stage ... the RO, props, trees, shadows ... to frame your primary subject.
  • The best photographs illustrate a point. This is good, this is bad, this is exciting, this is colorful, this is fast ... the point isn't as important as making it visibly obvious.

Going back to the first rule, why should you include people in your photograph? Here are two pictures of an object ... a stage prop which includes a target array (two plates in the Tiger's 'eyes', and Pepper Poppers bordered by white-and-green penalty targets in the base):

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at

Which of the two pictures is more interesting? Which gives you more information about the prop ... size, and the effect on the competitor?

Clearly, the photo on the right shows how big the prop is; and the dubious expression of the person in the photograph helps to establish that this is an intimidating target array. (The Pepper Poppers do not show up in the small-size version of this picture, so ALWAYS make a full-size version available so your audience can see the important details. This is a point that you should consider when you're publishing photographs.)

(3) Special guidelines for shooting still photographs:

  • Take more pictures!
  • Try to imply action with your timing; look for photos which show the slide cycling, the gun in recoil, brass flying through the air, a steel target falling down ... anything that implies motion or action.
  • Shooters in motion are more interesting than shooters standing steel. Capture the shot that shows a shooter moving, with the body leaning at an acute angle, or one or both feet off the ground.
  • Look for shadows that provide a more dramatic effect.
  • Look for contrasts; put a shooter against a dark background, so the shooter and the gun (and brass!) show up better. Avoid action shots against a complicated, mottled background that may camouflage detail.
To illustrate that last remark, here are two consecutive photos of the same competitor on the same stage:

Free Image Hosting at Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usIn the photo on the left, you see the face of the shooter, the gun, brass flying through the air (see the full-size version of the picture), and a good portion of the stage including targets. The shooter contrasts with the berm, as does the brass, so both show up well.

The photo on the rightshows little of the shooter, or the stage, and you get no impression of ACTION. The shooter is out of focus and blends in withe the RO and the background.

(4) Special guidelines for shooting videos:;
  • ALWAYS edit your videos. Get rid of footage that doesn't enhance the performance you're trying to depict. Ideally, the film starts at the Beep of the Range Officer's clock and ends with the last shot.
  • Sometimes, the most interesting part of the video is what happens before competitor starts or after the competitor stops shooting at targets. Let the camera run extra time, just so you don't miss the best part of the stage. You can always cut it, but if you haven't filmed it you don't have the option.
  • Try to film EVERYBODY! The most interesting things (when somebody falls, when they bobble a reload, when a steel target is hit fairly but doesn't fall) never happened if you don't film it.

(5) Special technical guidelines, to make your photos and videos more readily available to your audience:
  • Film is good, digital is better. Get a digital camera, of at least 3 megapixels density. Five megapixels density is better yet. You can crop still photos, you can convert your MPG to WMV format and reduce density, but if you don't CAPTURE the detail you can't PUBLISH the detail. Note: Ten Megapixels density will probably be more than you can use. See below.
  • Get extra data chips for your camera, and be prepared to swap them out when they get full. A 1GB chip will hold MOST of a full day's shooting, if you're not filming every moment of every competitor's performance. Get two of them, and always delete files from previous sessions before you start the next one.
  • Get at least one extra battery; preferably two of them. Always recharge your batteries the night before a match. Expect to run out of battery power (or memory space) at the most important/exciting moment in the match. Keep your replacement memory and batteries on your person, NOT in your camera bag.
  • To save battery power, it's often better to keep the camera 'on' between photos if you expect to use it within five minutes or so.
  • Use your zoom feature to center on your subject. Whether you use a tight zoom to fill the frame with images of the competitor, or open it up to capture both the competitor and the stage (or targets), pick a setting before you start filming and keep it there. It's distracting to have the camera zooming in and out during a competitor's run.
  • The last rule is a guideline; sometimes it's permissible to zoom in or out, but you need to be very good at it to prevent losing the most important part of the film while you're searching to re-acquire your 'target'.
  • Whether you plan to post your film on the Internet, or send it by email, it is discouraging to your audience when they have to wait for several minutes for the film to download. You may find it preferable to convert your MPG files to WMV files of 50% or lower density, just to get the movie to their screen. If you can present a higher-density version as an alternative, that's fine; if their interest is captured by the low-density version, they MAY choose to download another version. But probably not, unless it is "their" performance they will be viewing.
Note that you can use the "Windows Movie Maker" software (available as part of your standard software package on new Personal Computers with the XP operating system) to edit and downsize your videos.

Good shooting, and good luck.

Hitler Jugend

Nassau County students could earn as much as $100 next school year every time they turn in another student for having drugs, alcohol, weapons or tobacco on campus.

Spearheaded by the Nassau Alcohol, Crime and Drug Abatement Coalition, the program has tentatively been titled "Safe Schools," and it's planned to start in every high school and middle school in Nassau County in August if approved by members of the Nassau County School Board.

"This program empowers the child to create a safe environment for themselves," said Susan Woodford, vice-president of NACDAC.

Woodford is working on the program with other members of NACDAC, including Fernandina Beach Police Officer Marty Scott and local school officials.

According to Scott, the program would allow students who report on fellow students to remain anonymous; awards would be given for information that leads to an arrest.
Welcome to Nassau County, Florida, where your friends can burn you for cash.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThis is not a new concept, and in fact this program has already been enacted in other American counties.

It was, in fact, enacted (in slightly different form, but with more far-reaching consequences) in 1930's Hitler Germany.

The target age-group was the same, and many of the aims were the same. Although the current incarnation is to "(empower) the child to create a safe environment for themselves ...", the tactics and priorities are identical:

  1. Transfer adolescent allegience from the family or peer group to The State;
  2. Undermine the definition between non-Statist groups (family vs peer group) to the benefit of State-defined programs, to the point where The State is defined as the ultimate authority and peer-group;
  3. Establish a simplistic and personally rewarding relationship between the adolescent and The State;
  4. Start with "wrong" activities being clearly defined in terms which have already been identified as "counter-productive", leaving no opportunity for opposing opinion and taking as granted that the defined activities, as the first step, and set up a relationship which can later move on to political "wrong" activities'
  5. Create an environment of mistrust between children and peers and/or families, which may later be expanded to the benefit of to-be-defined Statist goals.
Is this the 21st Century's bid to re-enact the concept of antidisciplinarianism, or is it just an attempt to teach our children to compromise their natural loyalties for Statist goals?

The basic concept -- to encourage children to police their own environment for their own benefit -- may not be unworthy. But the techniques are, in that they use financial gain as the motivation. How big a step is it from earning a hundred bucks to rat out your cigarette-smoking friend, to earning the gratitude of The State for turning in your politically incorrect parents for using wrong words in reference to socio-political groups?

Hey, Kid. Over here. Yeah, come over here into the shadows. How would you like to earn a hundred bucks? No problem, I've got it right here, in cash. All you got to do is snoop around until you find one of your buddys with that Eeeeevil cigarette-smoke stench on 'em, and boogie up to the Principal's office. Just pony up a name, a description, and the big bucks are yours.

And your friend? He'll never know it was you. If you're real careful, you can finger the whole rat-bastard bunch of those second-hand-smoke killin' monsters. What do you care if they figure out who's turning them in? They won't be around any more. We'll bust them, and ship them out to the Anti-Smoking Education Camp. Isn't that A Good Thing? If they cared about you, they wouldn't be smoking, fouling up the air that you breathe. They're trying to do it to you, why shouldn't you do it to them first? And remember, we're gonna PAY you for doing a public service. Go buy an IPod on us. We'll take care of you. All you have to do is ... say, does your Dad smoke? Does he smoke in the house?

Yessssss my precioussssssss .......

To you, it may seem petty to view this not-so-new program as the harbringer of odious and oppressive police-state tactics.

To others, this may be a clarion call to shut down the unilateral measures invoked by the State before they invade you home, your childrens' schools, before 'they' can make it seem only right for your children to turn in their best friend or their family members for activities which were previously considered only marginally self-destructive.

Is this the Eye of the Needle, or the Camel's Nose under the tent of Personal Privacy?

Friday, February 03, 2006

freedom vs blasphemy

The recent brouhaha about the political cartoons posted in a Norwegian newspaper opened up an international can of worms. Reason has a good write-up about it in a "hit and run" blog here, and gleefully add follow-up comments here and here and there.

They also mention the US Joint Chiefs of Staff's objection to a Toles cartoon here.

There are also links to the "offending images" in the cited articles, although if you haven't yet seen the Muhammed 'cartoons' you can find them reprinted in the Brussels Journal here, or here.

I have decided to neither host the cartoons, nor to display them here, out of deference to the only Muslim friend I have; a Lebenon-born immigrant named Issam with whom it has been my pleasure to work for the past ten years. I haven't discussed this issue with Issam because I'm inclined to judge him as an individual, and I don't think he's the type to threaten to kill people because they have offended him. I assume he's typical of most muslims, and I consider him my friend although he is certainly not an admirer of President Bush. (Most of the people with whom I work on a university campus are not admirers of President Bush, and I decline to discuss politics at the office; instead, I discuss politics here. It's a lot less stressful than declaring jihad on Liberals or others who don't agree with my political philosophy.)

I've looked at all of the cartoons, and frankly I don't understand the point of half of them. Most of them aren't obviously depicting the Prophet Mohammed (spelling varies, I'll use this because it's more familiar to me), but it's fair to assume that at least some of them do. Many of them obviously link muslims to violence, and considering the upsurge in violence caused by muslims, that seems fair to me, too.

However, I will provide a link to the Toles cartoon, in case you have never seen it, and a direct link to it here.

The images which muslims find offensive were originally commissioned and published by a Danish newspaper last September. I'm still unable to completely understand why the Danes did this, but I assume that they were trying to build circulation by publishing something controversial (Human Events suggests, in the above link, they did it to send the message that "we cannot be intimidated." That didn't work very well, I think.) Nobody paid much attention to them at the time, and it was not until the Norskis (who don't like that name) republished them in January ... presumably for the same reason ... that they appeared on the Event Horizon.

If I do understand at least part of this correctly, Muslims don't believe that the image of the Prophet Muhammed (Mohammad?) should ever be printed, as it is disrespectful. And when the image is presented in a deliberately disrespectful manner, it is considered blasphemous. Even when the cartoons are reproduced by a muslim editor to counsel moderation. In one case, the Jordanian goverment called for sanctions against a newspaper there which reprinted the images.)

And Norwegian Muslims want their government to establish "anti-blasphemy laws" against this sort of thing.

Anti-blasphemy laws? In a secular country? What IS the world coming to?

I don't know if they're right, but in the particular circumstances it appears that these 'cartoons' are deliberately disrespectful and incinderary. Muslims the world over are outraged, and I don't really blame them. Well, perhaps except for the anti-blasphemy thing.

One man's "blasphemy" is another man's "freedom of speech", and I've probably been too long an American citizen to believe that "blasphemy" is a justification for "hardline muslims" to occupy embassies in muslim countries; or for threats against the life of Danish or Norwegian nationals. As for burning the national flag of home countries of newspapers which published the images . . . well, people burn national flags all the time and frankly I believe it has become a legitimate expression of disdain. If you're an American, the sight of another flag-burning doesn't quite have the same shock value it once had, so go ahead and burn them. We'll make more. (Well, actually China will make more, and we'll buy them from the Chinese because they're so CHEAP! But don't get me started.)

"Blasphemy" is just one more step on the slippery slope which leads to assassination of movie-makers. I admit, I'm no fan of Michael Moore or Bareback Brokeback Mountain, but that's just because I'm not interested in the story of two lonely cowboys so lame that they can't get a date with a good-looking heifer on a Saturday night. I'm voting with my pocketbook, folks; I'm not threatening to assasinate movie producers

Let's compare the muslim reaction to images of their prophet, to the American reaction to the Toles cartoon.

Toles showed a person in a hospital bed, with no arms and no legs. The chart at the foot of the bed was labelled "U.S. ARMY", and the graph displayed was down-hill (a negative prognosis?) A figure labelled "Dr. Rumsfield". He says: "I'm listing your condition as 'battle-hardened'." The obvious implication is that the U.S. Army has suffered grevious wounds, and the Secretary of Defense refuses to acknowledge that it is no longer capable of continuing to function.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America pooled all of their power and . . . wrote a letter protesting the cartoon.

That's it.

Muslims threaten to kill people, Americans write a letter.

It's an amazing coincincence, if you believe in coincidence, that TWO cartoon-related incidents occurred within a couple of days of each other. Also, to compound the coincidence, consider that the Tole cartoont provided a perfect opportunity for the American government to demonstrate a civilized response, in direct contrast to the response of muslims the world over.

I don't really believe that Toles drew the cartoon at the behest of our government, but neither would I be surprised if he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom for performing a great and valuable service. It set up a beautiful reposte, at no cost to America except for a measured response of righteous indignation.

When the Muslim world begins to understand that threats of violence, or violence itself, is not an acceptable response to insult (even an insult to your religion), then they will be ready to join the rest of civilization in building a world which allows different viewpoints to exist. Until we, and they, reach this point we won't have a reasonable chance of survival.

A couple of days ago, I read an article about a Muslim website for children, in which Hesbollah essentially demands the return of Seville to Muslim hegemony. I was surprised to learn that Muslims ruled Seville for a thousand years, and was even more surprised that this terrorist group has now decided that they could begin pressing their claim to a land and a people which they had controlled through right of conquest.

THIS is the most disquieting event in recent weeks, to my mind. A people so blind to the right of others to practice their own religion and culture in peace, is a people who are capable of any injustice in furtherance of their own agenda.

It may not be enough for us to provide examples of 'measured reaction', but ultimately it's encouraging that someone had the good sense to take that step, anyway.

Of course, the madmen who are orchestrating this violence-fueled drive to rule the world on their terms won't even notice what's going on. I hope that there are a few muslims left who CAN see it, though.

It won't solve anything by itself, but at least it's a small step in the right direction.

Oh, yes; one more thing:
If you're a newspaper editor, and you have decided to demonstrate that you "cannot be intimidated", you might consider that the attention you generate by deliberately provoking a group of extremist may have repercussions more extreme than you expect, and that they targetted group might just land some innocent people in deep doo-doo. I'm talking about Danish companies whose products are currently being boycotted by muslims, and the burning of embassies.

Muslims the world over are joyfully indulging in the opportunity to spank western butt.

Hey, Danish Editors ... maybe you CAN be intimidated.

"You know, nasty little fellows such as yourself always get their comeuppance."