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Cinetics Lynx motion control system review

DP Review News - Tue, 07/03/2017 - 14:00

As an astronomer and visual artist, I use the arts to communicate science. My main way of doing this is through a series of Science & Symphony films that get presented with orchestras in concerts around the world. Since 2008 I have been shooting time-lapse sequences of the night sky and incorporating them into many of these films. My stills and sequences of observatories in Chile, the U.S., and the South Pole have also been featured in many science documentaries.

One way of giving time-lapse sequences a more cinematic look is by using a motion control system. These programmable systems move your camera with high precision as you shoot your scene. I have used several of them since 2008, so I was quite happy to preview this brand new system introduced by Cinetics. 

The Cinetics Lynx is a light, portable and compact (yet sturdy) system that lets you program precise three-axis moves for video, stop motion, and time-lapse sequences. Its main components (slider, motors and motion controller) have their own soft cases for easy portability. You can even carry the slider preassembled in its own case to save time when working in the field. The standard length of the slider is 24 inches (61 cm), but an optional set of carbon fiber rails, stored in their own carrying case compartment, can be added to the kit for a total extended length of 48 inches (122 cm). The total weight of the system is under 13 lb (5.9 kg).

The Lynx motion control system at its standard 24-in (61 cm) length. (Photo courtesy of Cinetics)

It's apparent that a lot of thought was put into designing a system that takes only minutes —and a single hex key— to assemble. Extending the slider with the second set of rails and replacing the belt with a longer one takes approximately 5 minutes. The slider comes with a set of built-in legs to rest it on the ground or against a wall (when inclining it). The legs spread out at a series of pre-determined positions, which avoids having an uneven slider.

The motor units are very compact and each one requires a single screw to install. The motion controller can be attached to the pan motor via an ingenious snap-on attachment and the system battery is conveniently housed inside the motion controller. These two features avoid the need for installing additional support accessories and contribute to the simplicity and compactness of Lynx. 

Motion controller snapped onto the pan motor. (Photos courtesy of Cinetics) Pan and tilt motors with motion controller.  Slider and adjustable legs. Slider motor.

When assembled to the 24 inch length, the system can easily be installed on a single tripod without the unit tipping over, even when the camera is at either end of the slider. My first test in the  studio was to see how the system behaved using a single but sturdy tripod/head configuration. I used a Gitzo systematic tripod and ball head with hydraulic lock.

Despite the sturdiness of the system, images taken at either extreme of the slider – when mounted on a single tripod – may need to be rotated slightly in order to align them. For a load of 5.7 lb (2.6 kg) the images needed to be rotated ±0.6 degrees with respect to an image taken at the center of the slider. This can be corrected in post-processing by key framing image rotation and letting software interpolate the rotation angles.

I extended the Lynx slider to its 48in. length and took it to the Chicago Lakefront to shoot for a new film I'm producing. With two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods easily attached, I leveled the slider, and proceeded to program the system. Lynx includes an Arca-Swiss style camera plate to quickly set your camera and, on the Cinetics website, you can choose from a comprehensive list of cables to control the shutter.

The Lynx system extended to 48 inches (122 cm) in length and supported by two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods. The leveling tripod on the left has an adjustable center column while the other one has a ball head. These make leveling or inclining the slider fairly easy. Location: Sundial Plaza, Adler Planetarium, Chicago

Once set up, it's easy to program the motion controller. You simply slide the camera to the first position, adjust the pan and tilt as desired, and save the position as your first keyframe. Then, you slide it to the second position, adjust the pan and tilt, if necessary, and set your next keyframe. Once the beginning and ending keyframes are established, you can program the parameters for your time-lapse sequence, including duration between keyframes (time), shutter speed, and the interval between shots.

The Lynx motion control system at its standard 24-in length (61 cm). From L to R on the slider: slider motor, tilt motor, pan motor with controller snapped on and a Nikon D5 with an Arca-Swiss style camera plate.

The controller's display shows you the total number of resulting shots. One thing that impressed me about the Lynx motion controller is that it not only lets you set up at least 5 keyframes, but it lets you program a different set of sequence parameters between each pair of keyframes! For example, you could program sets of keyframes in order to progressively change the exposure and interval times throughout a time-lapse – useful if you know that the lighting conditions are going to change during the sequence.

There are two motion modes available: shoot-move-shoot (S-M-S) mode and continuous mode. In S-M-S mode the camera is moved only between shots. In continuous mode, however, photographs can be taken as the system moves. This is useful for taking video or time-lapse sequences that incorporate motion blur. You also have the option of ramping up and down the motion speed when shooting video and time-lapse in continuous mode. (The S-M-S time-lapse mode has a built-in ramp, but unfortunately, it is not adjustable at this point.) Each segment of the programmed motion can have its own kind of motion. For example, you can have an S-M-S segment followed by one with continuous motion. 

Once you have programmed a motion you have the ability to save it as a preset for later recall. When you're ready to start the sequence simply choose Run, step back, and voilà!

Finally, you also have the ability of continuing a sequence by reversing the motion (called bounce) as many times as you want. This is a great feature, but I wish it were possible to bounce the motion after a sequence has started, since this is something you might decide to do once shooting is in progress. Other systems let you do this, and also give you the ability to tell the camera to continue shooting even after it has reached the last keyframe.

Another thing I would like to see in a future software update is the ability to quickly preview the entire run in continuous mode. Even when the intent is to take a time-lapse sequence one could quickly preview the motion by shooting video and tweaking the motion, if necessary.

501 one-second exposures (F4, ISO 100 at 18mm) with an interval of 2 seconds during a total shooting time period of 16.7 minutes. Since these scenes were shot during the changing illumination conditions of the blue hour, the white balance and exposure values were keyframed and interpolated using Lightroom and LRTimelapse. All sequence images were taken with a Nikon D5 and Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 and rendered as 24-fps videos. (ISO 100, F4, at 18mm)

I decided to use the Lynx to take a time-lapse sequence by centering the field of view on Henry Moore’s sundial in Chicago, moving my camera from the left all the way to the right end (over a period of 17 minutes), while panning my camera to the left so I could keep the sundial at the center of the frame. The combination of slide and pan resulted in the illusion of the camera moving along an arc around the sundial when the displacement motion was actually along a line.

I then set up a time-lapse of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (the reflective sculpture nicknamed The Bean) in Millennium Park. Have in mind that the farther your main subject is from the camera, the harder it will be to notice parallax (the displacement in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight).

The Lynx system extended to 48 inches (122 cm) in length and supported by two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods. Location: Millennium Park, Chicago

Nevertheless, for the particular composition I had in mind, I avoided getting too close to the sculpture. I slid and panned the camera to the right while tilting it up (in order to end up with less ground and more blue-hour sky) over a period of 20 minutes. Taking advantage of the dark blue that remained in the sky, I also placed the system right in front of Cloud Gate and simply tilted the camera up over a period of 8.4 minutes.

For the first sequence of Cloud Gate at Millennium in Chicago, I combined 604 one-second exposures with an interval of 2 seconds over a period of 20 minutes. I programmed Lynx to slide, pan, and tilt.  (D5 and Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8; ISO 125, F4, at 16mm).
For the second Cloud Gate sequence, I took 254 one-second exposures with an interval of 2 seconds over a period of 8.5 minutes, and simply tilted the camera upward (D5 and Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8; ISO 400, F4.5, at 16mm).

Note that the Lynx system can be used vertically or inclined, though when inclined you can only point the camera along the direction of the slider if you want to avoid an unleveled horizon. If, for example, you wanted to shoot perpendicular to the direction of an inclined sliding motion then you would need a leveling wedge (not included) to compose your shot.

One has the option of programming the Lynx motion controller via Bluetooth with a smartphone app. Having two options for programming the unit is very welcome but, surprisingly, I thought that programming the controller using the app was less straightforward and somewhat confusing, but the app's GUI was re-designed after I tested it. There’s definitely room for improvement in future versions of the Lynx app. Having said that, I like that on the app one can control the exposure values to a fraction of a second and use the smartphone's IMU (a combination of accelerometers and gyroscopes) to slide the cart.

In conclusion, the Lynx is a light, portable, and sturdy three-axis motion control system that can be set up very quickly. Its relatively light weight and compact design lets you carry it around in the field very easily, and its smooth and precise motion can be programmed with multiple keyframes. I can definitely recommend this motion control system and I look forward to future firmware and app updates.

Cinetics is offering Lynx through a Kickstarter campaign, with pledges ranging from $499 to $1499 depending on which features you want.

Pros:
  • Light and compact
  • Quick and easy set up
  • Lets you program at least 5 keyframes, each with independent set of parameter values and motion modes
  • Ability to save presets
Cons:
  • Leveling wedge is not included
Updates I'd like to see:
  • Ability to preview motion in continuous mode
  • Ability to edit parameters in saved presets
  • Ability to adjust ramping on S-M-S time-lapse mode
  • During a sequence in progress, ability to decide what to do once the camera has reached the last keyframe

José Francisco Salgado, PhD is an Emmy-nominated astronomer, science photographer, visual artist, and public speaker who creates multimedia works that communicate science in engaging ways. His Science & Symphony films have been presented in 175 concerts and lectures in 15 countries.

José Francisco is a seasoned night sky and aurora photographer and filmmaker. If you would like to view, photograph, and learn about the Northern Lights then you can inquire about his Borealis Science & Photo Tours in Yellowknife, Canada.

You can follow him on: Flickr, Instagram, 500pxFacebook,  and Twitter

Categories: News

Cinetics announces new Lynx camera slider and motion control system

DP Review News - Tue, 07/03/2017 - 14:00

Cinetics has announced Lynx, its next generation camera slider and motion control system for photographers and filmmakers. It claims that Lynx is designed to set up and use quickly and easily, incorporates advanced motor control for very precise camera slides, pans, and tilts, and also allows users to program and operate the system through a mobile app.

The company is turning to Kickstarter for preorders, following successful Kickstarter campaigns for other products.

Lynx will be available in three kits: a Base Slider kit, which allows for manual moves, a Motorized Slider kit, which adds a slider motor and controller, and a Three Axis Slider kit, which adds motorized pan and tilt head.

A $499 Kickstarter pledge will secure you the Basic Slider Kit, a $999 pledge will get you the Motorized slider kit, and a $1499 pledge put you in line for the full Three Axis Slider kit. Final non-Kickstarter pricing was not announced.

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Press Release

Cinetics Announces Lynx: Camera Slider and Multi Axis Motor Control System That Masters Timelapse and Video Moves

Fourth Kickstarter Campaign Offers World Class Motion Control System Made Possible by Feedback and Support from Engaged Customer Base

Austin, TX. – March 07, 2017 – Cinetics, designers and manufacturers of lightweight and portable cinematic systems for videographers and filmmakers, is adding a next generation product to its arsenal of motion control, dolly, and tripod systems for photographers, filmmakers and videographers. Lynx™ is an ultra-smooth camera slider and multi axis motor control system that masters the art of timelapse and is capable of making precision video moves. Following the overwhelming success and community support of three previous Kickstarter campaigns, Cinetics will once again turn to Kickstarter for preorders of Lynx and offer its loyal community of photographers, filmmakers, and videographers a discount on the new system.

“Lynx is our 4th motion control project, and it’s our very best. It’s a compact camera slider built with input from an amazingly engaged customer base,” explains Justin Jensen, founder of Cinetics. “It’s a ready-to-run, three axis motion control kit that sets up quick and easily, is strong, fast and quiet, and can be driven by a mobile app. We are confident that Lynx will consistently perform as well as other, more expensive, compact motion control systems on the market.

Lynx is manufactured using the finest materials and incorporates the latest in motor control technology to enable precise, quick and quiet slides, pans and tilts. A beautifully-designed mobile app allows easy and intuitive remote system control while its joystick design and accelerometer controls take live camera movement to an entirely new level. Lynx is designed for fast and easy set up, can run preset programs or be configured creatively to perform complex moves for incredible cinematic results.

Lynx is available in three primary kits: Base Slider, Motorized Slider and Three Axis Slider.

The Lynx Base Slider allows users to create manual video moves. The motor control can be added to the slider at any time.

The Lynx Motorized Slider kit includes the manual slider plus the slider motor and controller for a complete linear motion control system.

The Lynx Three Axis Slider includes the complete Lynx motorized slider and motorized pan and tilt head.

Categories: News

Best photos of the day: Cara Delevingne and a Sydney ferry

The Guardian’s picture editors bring you a selection of photo highlights from around the world, including backstage at a Chanel show and a windswept boat

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Categories: News

Accra a century ago: life in Ghana before independence – in pictures

Founded in 1922, Deo Gratias is the oldest photography studio still in operation in Accra. As the city celebrates 60 years of independence this week, an ANO Institute of Contemporary Arts festival is displaying the studio’s photos of life in the 1920s and 1930s

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Categories: News

Buzzing at the Sill by Peter van Agtmael review – dire states of America

Van Agtmael’s startling images of America – and his reflections on his work – reveal a country that is riven beyond repair

In 2014, Peter van Agtmael published Disco Night Sept 11, a thoughtful photobook about war and its fallout. Van Agtmael, a Magnum photographer based in New York, had covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his images often bearing witness to the kind of horrors that do not tend to make it into the mainstream press. In its merging of photographs from the conflict zones with shots of the more sombre, confused America that emerged in the aftermath of 9/11, Disco Nights Sept 11 marked a shift in tone towards a kind of retrospective reflection.

Buzzing at the Sill sustains and deepens that mood, but here, Van Agtmael concentrates solely on America. It is a book filled with darkly poetic images that suggest the peculiar tensions of race, politics, power and discontent that, of late, have made his homeland seem like a place riven beyond repair. Van Agtmael punctuates the book with personal reflections. He writes about how he spent time in the Centre for the Intrepid in San Antonio, Texas, a rehabilitation ward for badly burnt soldiers (“The room was a sanctuary from the surreptitious stares of outsiders not acquainted with the scars of the new wars”). He describes how he hung out and partied with teenagers on the Lakota reservation at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and how his bonhomie turned to shame as an older sister castigated him for encouraging the alcoholism that is rife among Native Americans there.

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Categories: News

Food photography with Ashley Rodriguez and the Canon EOS M5

DP Review News - Tue, 07/03/2017 - 11:00

Baking and taking photos share some fundamental similarities – with all of the right ingredients and some technical know-how, you can make magic happen. We recently joined food photographer Ashley Rodriguez and pie expert Kate McDermott for a bit of both with the Canon EOS M5, the company's flagship mirrorless camera.

The EOS M5's 24MP APS-C sensor, Dual Pixel AF and tilting touch screen gave Ashley plenty of flexibility working in Kate's kitchen. And did we mention there's pie? Take a look at the EOS M5 in action.

Read our full Canon EOS M5 review

See more videos at our YouTube Channel

This is sponsored content, created in partnership with Canon. What does this mean?

Categories: News

Fujifilm X-T20 sample gallery

DP Review News - Tue, 07/03/2017 - 09:00

Fujifilm's X-T20 is the little brother to the company's excellent X-T2 mirrorless camera, retaining the same sensor and image processor. See how the the image quality looks in our real-world sample gallery.

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Categories: News

Remake remodel: the art of appropriation – in pictures

By reusing images made by others, photographers can create unsettling new moods – and give back power to women

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Categories: News

'Popular Photography' magazine and PopPhoto.com to close after nearly 80 years

DP Review News - Tue, 07/03/2017 - 01:31
The first issue of Popular Photography from May 1937. Yes, that is a woman getting out of the shower on the cover.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the United States of American when the first issue of Popular Photography Magazine hit newsstands in May of 1937. Now, nearly 80 years later, one of the world's most widely circulated photography print publications is closing.

The upcoming March/April issue will be the last, and as of Friday, March 10th, no new content will be published on PopPhoto.com. This news comes after the publication switched to a bi-monthly print schedule about six months ago. 

Pop Photo's sister publication, American Photo Magazine, had been Web-only for the past couple of years; it will also stop updating its website as of this coming Friday. 

Eric Zinczenko, the CEO of Bonnier, parent company of both titles, made the announcement earlier today via a company-wide email. 

This news hits especially close to home, as I had the distinct privilege of starting my career as an intern, and later an assistant and associate editor at Popular Photography and American Photo magazines. And I know first hand how dedicated and passionate the staff of these titles is. After all, they're what made me first fall in love with this industry. So go get yourself a nice hoppy beer (PP tech editor Phil Ryan's favorite) and take a long deep gulp, because the photography world just got dimmer by a stop.

Categories: News

2016 CIPA data shows compact digital camera sales lower than ever

DP Review News - Mon, 06/03/2017 - 21:51

Last month, the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) released its 2016 report detailing yearly trends in camera shipments. Using that data, photographer Sven Skafisk has created a graph that makes it easy to visualize the data, namely the major growth in smartphone sales over the past few years and the apparent impact it has had on dedicated camera sales.

The chart shows smartphone sales achieving a big spike around 2010, the same time range in which dedicated camera sales reached its peak. Each following year has represented substantial growth in smartphone sales and significant decreases in dedicated camera sales, particularly in the compact digital cameras category. 

Per the CIPA report, total digital camera shipments last year fell by 31.7% over the previous year. The report cites multiple factors affecting digital camera sales overall, with smartphones proving the biggest factor affecting the sales of digital cameras with built-in lenses. The Association's 2017 outlook includes a forecast that compact digital cameras will see another 16.7-percent year-on-year sales decrease this year.

Skafisk's graph below shows the massive divide between smartphone sales and camera sales - be prepared to do some scrolling.

Via: PetaPixel, CIPA

Categories: News

Lightroom Mobile update brings Raw HDR capture mode

DP Review News - Mon, 06/03/2017 - 18:53

Adobe today released an update for its Lightroom Mobile app for both iOS and Android that comes with an HDR feature that makes use of the Raw capture capability of the latest mobile devices. The new HDR mode first scans the scene to determine the correct exposure range and then captures three DNG files. After capture the files are automatically aligned, merged, de-ghosted, and tone-mapped. The end result is a 16-bit DNG that combines the benefits of the Raw file format and HDR, and can be processed in the same way as the HDR technology in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom.

Compared to existing smartphone HDR modes, this method offers better dynamic range, according to Adobe. Members of Adobe's Creative Cloud service get the additional benefit of automatically syncing files and edits with their desktop.

The algorithms of new HDR mode do require powerful hardware and are therefore limited to a relatively small number of devices, though. On iOS it works with all devices that are capable of capturing DNG files, such as iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, iPhone SE, or the iPad Pro 9.7. On Android at this point only the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge and the Google Pixel models are supported. However, Adobe says it is working on getting the software to run on a wider range of devices.

If you have a compatible device and would like to try Adobe's new Raw HDR mode, there is a tutorial available on the Adobe Lightroom Youtube channel.

Categories: News

Women Photograph: war, weddings and nightclub queues

The Guardian on Photography Technology - Mon, 06/03/2017 - 18:06

Photojournalist Daniella Zalcman’s new website aims to showcase the versatility of female photographers and dismantle decades of industry bias. Main photograph by Anush Babajanyan

Somewhere in the small Slovakian village of Chl’aba, an old couple sit perched, at the end of their bed, she dressed in plum and he in navy. This is a room that is saturated by the past. The toll of time seeps from the sepia wedding photo, the faded wallpaper and the matching 70s mustard pillows. It lines the faces of Gizka and Gyulabacsi as they sit and look, not at each other, but away, staring out sadly at nothing at all.

This moving snapshot of loss was captured by photographer Gabriela Bulisova. It is part of a series documenting her return to her mother’s native village in Slovakia, capturing the lives of its diminishing inhabitants and, in turn, the fractured past and future of Europe. It also just one of the hundreds of photographs now being showcased on Women Photograph, a website set up last month by Daniella Zalcman, herself a photojournalist.

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Categories: News

Women Photograph: war, weddings and nightclub queues

Photojournalist Daniella Zalcman’s new website aims to showcase the versatility of female photographers and dismantle decades of industry bias. Main photograph by Anush Babajanyan

Somewhere in the small Slovakian village of Chl’aba, an old couple sit perched, at the end of their bed, she dressed in plum and he in navy. This is a room that is saturated by the past. The toll of time seeps from the sepia wedding photo, the faded wallpaper and the matching 70s mustard pillows. It lines the faces of Gizka and Gyulabacsi as they sit and look, not at each other, but away, staring out sadly at nothing at all.

This moving snapshot of loss was captured by photographer Gabriela Bulisova. It is part of a series documenting her return to her mother’s native village in Slovakia, capturing the lives of its diminishing inhabitants and, in turn, the fractured past and future of Europe. It also just one of the hundreds of photographs now being showcased on Women Photograph, a website set up last month by Daniella Zalcman, herself a photojournalist.

Continue reading...
Categories: News

Behind the scenes with Seattle PI photographers Genna Martin and Grant Hindsley

DP Review News - Mon, 06/03/2017 - 13:00

Grant Hindsley and Genna Martin, the two staff photographers for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (PI). The PI published its last print edition in 2009 and has been online-only ever since.

Photojournalism isn't what it was. Gone are the days when newspapers and photo agencies employed armies of staffers and stringers, around the world, and gone too (sadly) are the days when newspapers and current affairs magazines could rely on newsstand sales and advertising to invest in their reporting. There are fewer magazines around now than there were, and fewer newspapers. Those publications that do still exist tend to operate on tighter budgets, with fewer full-time staff members. Many have stopped printing altogether, and exist now only online. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is one of them. 

'Genna Martin and Grant Hindsley bring compassion and joy to their jobs and it shows in their work.' (Sarah Rupp - Executive Producer, Seattle PI)

In this article, we go behind the scenes with Grant Hindsley and Genna Martin, staff photographers for the Seattle PI, following them on two assignments - the Seattle Women's March, on January 21st, and the annual King County homelessness survey, a few days later. 

January 21st

Grant Hindsley has the flu.

'I slept between every one of my assignments yesterday, I was so out of it'. One of those assignments was a protest at the University of Washington where a man was shot and badly wounded, in circumstances that remain unclear. Grant captured images leading up to the confrontation, and graphic images of the aftermath, most of which will remain unpublished.

'I feel a bit better today, but as soon as I stand still or sit down I start coughing again'. As I am about to find out, Grant doesn't stand still or sit down much. As one half of a two-person photography team at the Seattle PI, there's not much opportunity for time off. 

A line line of people, numbering more than 100,000, march through Seattle downtown during the 2017 Women's March. 

Photograph: Grant Hindsley for the Seattle PI. Used with permission.

Today, I'm tagging along with Grant as he covers the Women’s March, which is due to start in half an hour or so, from a park in Seattle's Central District. In an early sign that the city's attendance estimate of 50,000 people might be a little conservative, there are no cabs available, bus lines stretch for entire city blocks, and demand for ride-sharing services has sent Uber and Lyft prices sky-rocketing to more than $120 for the 2-mile trip.

Running late, we cram our gear into Grant's girlfriend's tiny car ('it's easier to park') with the idea of jumping out as close as we can to the rally point, then walking the rest of the way. Hopefully, issuing parking tickets won't prove to be a major law-enforcement priority for Seattle's finest this Saturday.

'Grant likes the slow photo, the in-between or off moments. He shoots the fringes of events, the stuff that people usually miss or overlook' (Genna Martin)

As the first marchers join the route, photojournalists and camera-toting enthusiasts have formed a loose line at the vanguard of the group. They look a bit like a participants in a police search line, except that instead of having their eyes glued to the ground, the photographers have their lenses aimed at the marchers. And instead of walking forwards, they're walking backwards.

An experienced photojournalist from another publication is attempting to corral the photographers to a traffic island a little further down the road, at a point where they can all get an unobstructed shot of the head of the march.

Police clear the route ahead of the women's march, as it  begins.

Photograph: Grant Hindsley for the Seattle PI. Used with permission.

I ask Grant about working alongside other photographers at big events - is there some kind of honor code, when it comes to getting in the way of someone else's shot, or lining up with them to take the same picture? 'Not really, we tend to just work around each other, but it depends. If there are a lot of press at a relatively small event, then you're all going to get the same picture anyway, that's just the way it goes. Nobody has ever really gotten in my way when I'm working.'

'Actually' he says, after darting into the crowd and snapping a couple of shots, 'that's not true. Broadcast guys tend to shove you around a bit. If I ever have to throw an elbow out at anyone it's usually at a broadcast guy'. 

What's in Grant's bag?
  • Canon EOS-1D X
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 35mm F2 IS ('go-to' lens)
  • Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 IS L II
  • Canon EF 85mm F1.8
  • Bag: Think Tank Shape Shifter (v1)

You must have shot a lot of protests at this point, I ask Grant – what kind of images do you try to capture?

'My first internship was at the AP and one of the things I learned there was not to take pictures of signs. I mean, you can, and sometimes it just can't be avoided, but signs are mostly just words, and if words were all we needed we'd just send writers to these things, not photographers'.

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There's no arguing with that logic, but signs are unavoidable at a march of this size. Almost everyone, from toddlers to wheelchair-bound pensioners is carrying some kind of a sign or banner. 'What I try to do is avoid redundancy', Grant tells me. But he's not worrying about his employment prospects: 'Images from protests can end up just all looking the same. I try to find pictures that will still make sense after the march is over, which put it in context. I shoot a lot more events than I used to so I look for something weird that tells the story.'

'A lot of photographers lean back on the super wide at F16, and spray, but I never really shoot wider than 35mm.' (Grant Hindsley)

'The most meaningful encounters I've had come from intimate story telling. Sometimes that amounts to years of photographing the same subjects, sometimes it's something quick that strikes deep'.

A father and son watch the progress of the march through Seattle's downtown.

Photograph: Grant Hindsley for the Seattle PI. Used with permission.

Initially though, Grant admits, he's just grabbing as many pictures as he can, as the march starts winding through Seattle's Central District, en route to the Seattle Center three and a half miles away. 'My approach is to take a lot of pictures early on, to cover myself, and start sending them in before things get too busy. Once I know I've got a few images in the bag, that's when I slow down and start looking for more interesting scenes'. 

'Anyone can take a pretty picture. It can be with a phone or with $100,000 of equipment, but everyone can do it with some practice. Photojournalists on the other hand, are trained in serendipity' (Grant Hindsley)

Filing images on the go isn't entirely straightforward. Grant plugs his battered iPhone directly into his Canon EOS 5D Mark III using a jerry-rigged USB cable and Lightning Port adapter, ingests images into his phone's camera roll, then emails them back to the office. It's slow, and the fragile wired connection breaks frequently. And literally. 

A participant in the march pauses to become the subject of a quick portrait. 

Photograph: Grant Hindsley for the Seattle PI. Used with permission.

With one camera plugged into his phone, and a CF card clamped between his teeth, Grant continues shooting with his second camera, a Canon EOS-1D X, with a 35mm F2 attached. Both cameras and lenses are owned by the PI, but remain in his possession as his everyday kit, and get used for everything from taking pictures of an unseasonal snowstorm to Seahawks games. Cameras and lenses alike are shiny and scuffed from use. 

Governer Jay Inslee speaks to one of the participants in the Women's March, in Seattle.

Photograph: Genna Martin for the Seattle PI. Used with permission. 

Towards the end of the afternoon, Grant drops by the Seattle PI office to file some images. While he's doing that, I meet up with Genna Martin - the other half of the PI photo team, who's been covering the march too.

Genna was named 2015's Best New Journalist by the regional chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, and today, she's filing images from inside the nearby Komo News Plaza, alongside Bettina Hansen from the PI's main rival, The Seattle Times. They're discussing an image shot earlier by another Seattle Times staffer, veteran photojournalist Alan Berner. Grant and I bumped into him on the march, posted up on a busy corner, standing on a step stool to get shots of the participants snaking along 4th Avenue.

Photograph by Alan Berner, Seattle Times.

Used with permission (see the full Seattle Times gallery here)

In Bettina's opinion 'it's the shot of the day'. Taken from a slightly elevated position (probably the step-stool), the picture shows the march receding to infinity. A relatively shallow depth of field highlights four figures standing side by side, wearing the pink 'pussy hats' that have become emblematic of the event. Walking into the sun, all four figures are also wearing sunglasses. There's plenty of signage in the photograph, but the signs aren't the main focal point of the image, and they're mostly outside of the zone of focus.

So why is this such a good image? 'It has everything', Genna explains. 'The symmetry, and the central positioning of the four main subjects. It has everything you'd want from a picture of a march. And it's not a sign picture'.

'I hate sign shots. I hate protest photos that are just about the sign, and not about the person holding it.' (Genna Martin)

Another Seattle Times photographer, Erika Schultz, is also here covering the march. Between them, Erika and Bettina have almost 25 years of professional experience, and have been recognized with several major awards. Alan Berner adds another 30+ years of experience, and even more awards, including the title of NPPA Regional Press Photographer of the Year seven times. The two publications might be rivals, but the only rivalries in this group are friendly. Every year, the PI's 'Photographs of the Year' slideshow is hosted in a bar run by Bettina's fiancé. 

The march ends around sunset, when the final participants arrive at Seattle's iconic Space Needle. Genna and I join up with Grant, and together we shoot a few pictures of the crowds before heading off to find some dinner. The last of the day's images are filed by 7pm, over slices of pizza in Grant's apartment.  

See Grant and Genna's images from the march

January 27th

A few days after the Women's March, on January 27th, I join Genna for a very different assignment - shooting the annual King County Point in Time (PIT) Count. This is a survey of homelessness, which takes place all over King County on a single night (in fact a very early morning) in January.

Volunteers gather in the early hours of the morning, before embarking on Seattle's annual 'Point in Time' homelessness count. 

Photograph: Genna Martin for the Seattle PI. Used with permission.

Tonight, between 2-6am, volunteers will comb through Seattle, counting sleeping bags, tents, occupied vehicles and encampments. Once collated, the results of the count will become one of the metrics used to determine public policy around homelessness. Grant shot last year's count, and when it came up in conversation a few days ago he offered me the kind of cheery 'well, I hope you have fun!' that strongly suggests that he thinks I won't.

'Genna is a marvelous, classic photojournalist but with a fresh twist. So often she sees things I just glance over. Her eye is always on the story and the people and she really feels for the people she photographs.' (Grant Hindsley)

Volunteers gather at a center on Alaska Way at 2am. When we arrive, the center is packed with volunteers, guides, and puffy-eyed journalists. Across the crowded main room, several boom microphones are visible, arcing over the assembly like construction cranes. Local broadcast news crews are doing the rounds, alongside several photographers - including Erika Schultz of the Seattle Times.

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There's another crew here, too. A big one, made up of strikingly similar-looking men carrying new and very expensive equipment. They're doing their best, pushing through the crowded room with stabilized Sonys held aloft, attempting overhead tracking shots with pivoted carbon-fiber stabilizing rigs that resemble hip-bones from some prototype killer robot. They're wearing secret service-style earpieces, and won't say who they're shooting for.

What's in Genna's Bag?
  • Canon EOS-1D X
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8 II
  • Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 II
  • Canon EF 35mm F1.4 II
  • Canon EF 50mm F1.8
  • Safety glasses and mask (for protest coverage)
  • Duct tape.

There's a rumor that the mayor is going to address the media before the groups of volunteers leave for their search areas, but he's running late. He might not turn up at all, but should we wait, I ask Genna, to see if he shows up? It's already close to 3am and she'd rather get going. 'I've seen the mayor plenty of times, and I've not seen him even more times than that'.

A group of volunteers consults a map. 

Photograph: Genna Martin for the Seattle PI. Used with permission.

Our group is assigned to a relatively affluent area of Seattle, near the University of Washington. Mostly made up of members of a UW 'Service Sorority', our group is impressively perky for 3am, and apparently they're planning on attending class in a few hours. As we start walking, I'm at the opposite end of the stamina scale, and I get the sense that Genna is somewhere in the middle.

One of several tents under a bridge in our search area. This is a non-invasive survey, so all photographs must be taken using only natural light. 

Photograph: Genna Martin for the Seattle PI. Used with permission.

Most of our search area is residential, and even though it's a clear, relatively mild night, very few people are sleeping outdoors. Despite the lack of activity, Genna and I are quite enjoying ourselves, combing through the bushes with by the light of our iPhone screens, and peering into alleyways.

It is, we decide, a bit like a scavenger hunt. Albeit one which, we shamefully concede, 'you shouldn't really want to win'.

'Realising that you don't have to shoot everything is the first step. And from there, being able to calm down and focus in on particular moments, and good photos, rather than just photos that show what's happening' (Genna Martin)

Inevitably, the few times when we do come across a huddled figure, or a tent, are occasions for muted celebration. The volunteers get to put a checkmark in a box on their list, and Genna gets to take pictures of something actually happening. The survey is meant to be non-invasive. The aim is to observe and report, not engage or disturb. I hope we didn't wake anyone up.

Compared to the women's march, Genna takes relatively few images. As we were trudging through the darkened streets, she shared some good advice, from Dan Bates, one of her former colleagues at the Everett Herald: 'Look for hundred dollar bills rather than a bunch of quarters' I.e. it's better to get one good picture than lots of mediocre ones.

Volunteers record the location of a tent found during the survey.

Photograph: Genna Martin for the Seattle PI. Used with permission.

Genna got her start at the Everett Herald in 2011. I asked her why she decided to take up photojournalism: 'When I was in 8th grade, my class went on a trip to Washington D.C. We went to the Newseum and there was an exhibit there on Pulitzer Prize winning photos and the stories behind how they were made. I was enthralled and from that moment on I was set on having a career as a photojournalist'.

Her work has made a difference, too. In 2014, when Oso resident Tim Ward lost his wife and his home in a landslide, Genna's work on a profile on Ward lead to hundreds of donations from members of the public, to help him get back on his feet. Ward recently re-married and moved to Florida.

'I think most of the photos we take will make a difference to someone at some point. Whether its the person in the photo who gets to feel special because they're in the news for a day, or a historian 50 years from now' (Genna Martin)

Of all the assignments that Genna has done since joining the PI, tonight's is probably among the least eventful. As well as the Oso landslide, she photographed the horrific collision of an amphibious 'Duck' tour vehicle on Seattle's Aurora Bridge in 2015, and she's been in harm's way a number of times, covering natural disasters, protests and violent incidents. Her forearm still bears a vivid scar caused by a police stun grenade deployed during Seattle's May Day protests in 2016, and a couple of nights after the homelessness count, she'll be 'lightly pepper-sprayed' (her words) while covering a sit-in at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. 

Protesters occupy an area of Sea-Tac airport, following the overnight imposition of a travel ban by the Trump Administration.

Photograph: Genna Martin for the Seattle PI. Used with permission.

For his part, over the course of a 7-year career, Grant has survived his fair share of protests too, outrun some 'wicked storm fronts' and been chased with a machete. 

Tonight is quiet by comparison. At 5am we decide we've done enough and head home, leaving our group to complete the survey. On the way back to Genna's car, we spot another group of volunteers at the end of a road, the outline of a robot-like stabilizing camera rig clearly visible in the early morning mist, silhouetted under a street light. Good luck to them.

I'm fast asleep by the time Genna has her images processed and uploaded to the PI's servers.

The Seattle PI has a proud tradition of high-quality photojournalism and despite tight budgets and a small staff, both photographers turn in high-quality work, day after day and week after week.  

Genna offered her thoughts on why their job matters:  

'Photojournalists are the witnesses of history. They go to things so you (the public) don't have to. They provide a living record. A photo of a person or event is always going to provide a better connection to the reader than words will'. 

In Grant's words: 'a photograph is one, single powerful moment in time. Writing is an analysis after the fact. Video is wonderful, but it is not timeless and it is harder to take in than a photograph.'

Oh the glamor. Grant rests his back while Genna organizes images from the Seattle Center lawn, at the end of the women's march. 

As Genna told me, 'seeing is believing' might be a cliche, but there's a reason for that. Just recently, her photographs of the protest at Sea-Tac airport were used to prove that Port of Seattle police pepper-sprayed protesters - something they initially denied.

Following Grant and Genna was an amazing experience. Although I was shooting literally alongside them, both photographers captured images which I simply didn't see. Grant describes it as 'a learned ability to be in the right place at the right time', to which I would add 'and point your camera at the right place, at the right time, too'. 

Our thanks to Genna Martin, Grant Hindsley and Sarah Rupp of the Seattle PI, for their permission to use the images featured in this article. Also Alan Berner, Bettina Hansen and Erika Schultz of the Seattle Times for their help. All additional photographs by Barnaby Britton.

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