same view, new vision

If you're wondering where I've been for the past several weeks, here's the quick recap: I've been to new parts of Grand Cayman, I've taken a quick trip to Little Cayman, and I've been learning all about DSLR video all along the way!

Ever since buying the Canon 5D Mark III a couple years ago, I've known that my camera body is capable of shooting pretty phenomenal video. But my attempts at using said phenomenal features were less than pretty. In the space of two years, I can probably count on two hands how many videos I've taken. And I can count on one hand the number of videos I've shared publicly.

Something had to change. All this wasted camera potentially really bugged me. And we have a pretty decent summer trip lined up that might just need video coverage.

There was only one thing to do. I signed up for The DEFINE School's DSLR Video 101 class to get over the fear (yes, fear!) of switching the dial from photo to video. Over the course of four weeks, instructors Jeff Manion and Morgan Lawrence guided the interactive online classroom through basics like lighting, stabilization, and audio, all the way through the post-production process and putting everything together in a nice package. I wouldn't say I'm going pro or anything, but I no longer have mass anxiety about shooting in video mode. I also own a monopod for the first time ever, and I even have some kind of "optical viewfinder" thingamabob that will help me to shoot in bright daylight (i.e. most of the time.)

In other news, my camera bag is now stuffed to the gills.

So, the best way to demonstrate my progress (albeit slight) is to share with you the footage from four weeks of classes. Guys, this feels like I'm baring my soul to you, showing you the stuff that honestly should be on the cutting room floor.  But if seeing my humble process encourages any of you to get out there and try something new creatively, then I will have considered this a very worthwhile post indeed.

Week 1

We were just working on the basics here, like figuring out the components of exposure via different apertures and shutter speed combos. The assignment was to take two videos in the same conditions but with different settings to take note of the varying look and feel of the results.

This monster iguana makes a regular appearance in the afternoon sun along the canal behind our condo. To be fair, he's probably lived here longer than we have and is wondering why we're always showing up on his turf.

Here's another one of the big guy:

Sorry if you got a little seasick on those. This is when I suddenly realized the value of a monopod, especially when trying to simultaneously walk and zoom with a 70-200 telephoto lens. Not a pretty sight or result.

This is also where I realized, when looking at the export quality of these videos out of iMovie, that I was not at all pleased with the loss of quality from camera recording to social media publication. I swear it didn't look this bad in the camera! (Classic line, I know...)

Week 2

This week, I experimented with manual focusing (a totally new skill as compared with the 5D's razor-sharp autofocus I've come to depend on in photography), trying to "reveal" different parts of the shot by using the focal ring as a tool.

In this short video, we're out for a casual dinner with friends at my favorite Indian restaurant on island. The restaurant interior is kinda weird and creepy, so I added some flamenco music by Nathan Herrerra to liven up the mood.


In making this video, I learned that it's not such a great idea to change shutter speeds mid-frame. Rather, if you have to move from a well-lit area to a dim area, put the camera on shutter priority so the camera can work it out more seamlessly than forcing the change with hard stops.

Also, I think I told my friends I wouldn't share this video. But then I changed my mind.

Week 3

This was the week where I finally had an "event" to practice with, rather than just shooting sedentary wildlife or innocent restaurant patrons. Earth Day was on April 26th, and while I participated at a beach clean-up with fellow coworkers, I whipped out the camera a few times to get some shots of the day.

This week, I learned that I really need to let the shot "settle", rather than rushing out of the frame immediately. This was also the week when, after I showed him the final video, NS admitted to me that yes, I did indeed need a monopod.

Long-time readers will recognize the background music for this video. Remember the tunes that resulted from the Sister Invasion of 2011? If not, go relive those glory days here.

Week 4

This was the week when I actually upgraded my software from the free iMovie package that came with my Mac to Final Cut Pro X. (Actually, that was also free for 30 days.) Because FCP X is built on a platform that's similar to iMovie, it didn't take too long to learn how to navigate around the basic program. Plus, I'm convinced all of life's urgent questions can be answered within three Google searches. It was fun to dabble with the software while putting together a video that highlighted my big 30th birthday bash in Cayman Kai.


Every week was a huge learning experience, and I'm certainly not yet where I want to be technically or artistically, but as with anything, you do have to start somewhere! So I've started. And it's ridiculous fun.

Next project: Little Cayman Weekender video!

Thanks again to The DEFINE School for pushing me to get out there, taking creative risks. The next round of DEFINE classes starts again in the fall - get involved!

This post was not in any way sponsored by The DEFINE School. I just enjoy their classes and wanted to share about my experiences in this one.


  1. How cool! Especially since video is the future of blogging:)


    1. If it's the future, then I need to catch up fast!

  2. I especially enjoyed the :25 mark of the 3rd video at the Indian restaurant, when Nate drops the food in his lap and almost knocks his forehead off the table trying to catch it. So smooth, that one. :-)

    1. I think that's why I originally promised not to publish the footage... Oops. :)

  3. Jenn, these are incredible! What talent! You are a natural! :D