The Back of My Head

Photography and Geekery from danregal

Learning Curves and Better Gear

I was thinking the other day about how both my knowledge of taking photos and the gear I use have improved over the years. What better way to show the progression than with photos? But I needed a single subject to use for consistency. Who would complain about my choice of subject for this series? It’s the Captain himself, Nathan Fillion. (I’m not a stalker, I swear!)

February 19, 2005

I think this was the third time I saw Nathan at a convention. The first time was at the LA Shrine show for the DVD release in 2003, and the second was at the Comic-Con 2004 Serenity panel. I took this still using my video camera, a JVC GR-D93. We had to stand pretty far away from the autograph line, so I’m sure I was using digital zoom. I was much more into recording the panels on video at the time and sharing them with other Browncoats. The few stills I took were just to have something from the autograph area.

DVC01041 - Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin

December 10, 2005

I took this photo at Flanvention, a convention featuring almost the entire cast of Firefly. It was taken using a borrowed Kodak point and shoot, maybe 4 megapixels and a 3x zoom. I was sitting in the front row, so this is pretty much what the view was from my seat. This moment I captured was Nathan assisting a young man (not pictured) propose to his girlfriend. I was concentrating on recording this panel with my video camera, so the photos I took were an afterthought when I had time.

DSCN1869a - Nathan Fillion setting up the proposal.

March 4, 2007

These two photos were taken at WonderCon. I was again using a borrowed camera, this time an Olympus Stylus 300. It’s a 3.2 megapixel camera with 3x zoom. The first is during the Drive panel. You’ll notice Nathan is a fuzzy figure on the left side. We had decent seats, but with only a 3x zoom and low light, there just wasn’t much chance to get a good picture. The 2nd photo is from the limited signing Fox held after the panel. I took this when I was next in line and used the flash. Unfortunately, they were moving the line quickly and not allowing photos when you were up at the table. At this point, I was just trying to get the camera to capture something, not really worrying about much else.

P3041082 P3041094 - Kristin and Nathan

April 11, 2007

Taken at the Drive event at Universal Citywalk. I was using the same camera as WonderCon, the Olympus. But I don’t know if I actually took this photo. I recall that most of the day, if not all of it, my girlfriend at the time (who owned the camera) was the one taking photos. Either way, this was more of a chance to show another photo of Nathan than to show progression of skill or equipment.

P4111314 - Nathan Fillion at Drive Appearance

October 28, 2007

Taken at the first Firefly/Serenity Creation convention using the borrowed Olympus. Since I was working the table for the SoCal Browncoats, I wasn’t spending a lot of time getting a good seat for a photo. There is also the fact that all the good seats are pre-sold at higher prices. Normally they only have one guest on at a time, but Nathan decided to be the moderator for the rest of the day. He stayed on stage through Summer Glau and Sean Maher’s panels. Alan Tudyk showed up even though he wasn’t scheduled that day just to bug Nathan during his panel.

The first photo is from the seat I found near the back of the room. It was easy to come and go without bothering anyone if I needed to get back to the table. The second photo is from the center aisle near the front. A friend had good seats right on the aisle and let me sort if sit there for a few minutes to get photos. Even that close, with only a 3x zoom I wasn’t able to get very close shots of the guests. Again, I was just trying to capture something and was starting to get frustrated with the limitations of the camera. I think I started thinking about getting a better camera with a larger zoom around this time.

PA280587 PA280604

November 4, 2007

The one and only Starfury LA, since they never did another convention in LA. Held at a club in Hollywood, this wasn’t exactly a great venue for a convention. I had the Olympus still and this was the convention that finally convinced me to get my own camera. For this shot, I was sitting as close to the stage as possible, and used the flash. Pretty much every shot I took that didn’t use flash came out blurry. Add in that I didn’t sit close to the stage on the other days and the lack of good zoom or low light performance really convinced me to get a new camera. As for Nathan, he wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. He showed up and surprised Jewel, Morena and Christina. We all add a blast watching them having fun interacting with each other, as you can see.

PB040486 - Nathan Joins Jewel, Morena and Christina

December 7, 2007

The Writers Strike. Mutant Enemy Day. Fans4Writers. Lots of people converged outside Fox Studios on this cloudy December day. All of us walking the picket line in support of the writers striking against the studios. This was organized by and for fans of Joss Whedon’s projects, and not only fans, but actors and writers showed up. Nathan was there walking the line just like every other person. This was taken with my brand new Panasonic DMC-TZ3, a point and shoot 10x zoom camera with decent low light performance. I had bought it in time for the Browncoat Cruise, which we had just gotten back from the day before. With this new camera I bought a few 8gb memory cards and I was off to the races. I figured with digital I could take shots as long as the battery lasted and there was room on the card. And that’s what I did. I like to call this my “drunken monkey” phase. I eventually got over having to take way too many photos at one event, but I only scaled back to “a lot”. Which basically means at this point I wasn’t thinking much about taking photos, I was just pushing the button. Sure, I was messing with the settings whenever possible to make the photos as nice as possible, but this camera was mostly automatic and I couldn’t change much.

P1100230 - Nathan Fillion and Juliet Landau

March 20, 2008

Halo The Show at the UCB Theater in Hollywood. Nathan, Alan Tudyk and a few of their friends who all game together showed up to talk about Halo. They did a Q&A, showed some clips they recorded of their Halo games, and there was even a few songs from an 8-bit digital musician. UCB is a small theater, holding no more than 100 people. We got pretty good seats and I was able to take full advantage of the 10x zoom on my Panasonic to get some good shots. The lighting was just good enough to allow most of the shots to come out clear, with minimal blur. At one point in the night the moderator turned around and asked if I was a robot, since I was holding up the camera so much. I won a bottle of Gefilte Fish from that. Nathan is known for making a lot of faces during appearances, and this night was no different. The photo below is one of his standards.

P1310894  - Nathan Fillion

July 25 & 26, 2008

San Diego Comic-Con. This was the year the California Browncoats were raising money for Nathan’s charity, Kids Need to Read. It was also the year of Dr. Horrible. I still had my Panasonic and despite its limitations, I was enjoying using it. I did start looking for a DSLR around this time, since I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with a point and shoot for much longer. The first photo is during the Dr. Horrible screening. The entire cast and all the Whedons showed up to do an intro, and this is Nathan entering from the side door. There was really low light, which you can see in the shadows on his face and motion blur of his arms. The second photo is right after Nathan did a signing at the CABC booth. He took photos with all the KNTR and CABC volunteers. He is famous for being able to take a good photo of himself and a fan while holding the camera. My only problem with this shot is I look so small!

P1430448 - Nathan Fillion P1430924 - Finally!

April 14th, 2009

The Dr. Horrible PaleyFest panel. I have a DSLR now! In August of 2008 I bought a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi. I took it on vacation to Arches and Bryce national park first, but after that I got to use it at a lot of panels. For this shot of Nathan, I used the 55-250mm lens. It’s not a very fast lens, f4-f5.6, but it was cheap and I’ve been able to take some good photos with it. In panel situations the guests usually have a decent amount of light on them. Not enough that I don’t have to put the ISO up to 800 or 1600 though. I also had to learn how to edit photos. In this photo and up until now I am using Canon’s Digital Photo Professional. I expect I’ll be switching to Photoshop in the future. I learned right away to shoot in RAW so I could have much more control over the final product. I still was taking too many photos at this point, well over 1000 during this hourlong(ish) panel.


April 18, 2009

Just a few days after the PaleyFest panel and it was time for a book signing. Nathan and Alan Tudyk showed up to support their friend PJ Haarsma, the author of the Softwire series of books. PJ is also the co-founder of Kids Need to Read. Since I didn’t need to get anything signed, I spent the entire signing taking photos. I used the 18-55mm kit lens and was able to use available light. All three ¬†guys are fun and entertaining and I got plenty of good shots. This particular photo was pretty grainy due to the high ISO and tight cropping needed. In those cases I will sometimes use the grain to my advantage by making it black & white.

Nathan Fillion

July 26th, 2009

Quite possibly my favorite Nathan photo ever. I took this at San Diego Comic-Con on the last day of the con. Nathan had surprised us by showing up and doing a Q&A during the CABC meeting room. He then raced down to the booth and did a signing. At the end of the signing, which turned into him crowd diving to get to everyone left in line, he went over to the QMx booth and took a look at their Serenity “Big Damn Replica” prototype. And then he kissed it. I am so lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.

Nathan kisses Serenity

March 16, 2010

Another Paley event, this time at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. This was for Castle and the entire cast showed up. The theater we were in was very small, only about 150 attendees. I arrived super early along with some friends and we were still not the first ones there. I did manage to be in the 3rd row though. In that room it meant I could get some really good profile and close-up shots with my 55-250. The lighting was also pretty good so I wouldn’t need too high of an ISO, I think I used 400 most of the night. The only drawback was my penchant for taking too many photos. Apparently the Paley staff thought I was a paparazzi or something. It didn’t help that my camera was also incredibly loud in the small room. I think I need some WD-40.

Nathan Fillion

July 23, 2010

Once again taken at San Diego Comic-Con. Nathan decided to have a little fun and crashed the Q&A line for Joss Whedon’s panel. This is his disguise. His appearance was enough of a surprise that I didn’t have time to change my camera settings. I had everything on manual and set for taking photos of Joss on stage. The crowd was obviously not as well lit. I had to play with a lot of the settings in order to get something worth posting. Making it black & white was really the only way to have it look decent.

Who is that man with the mustache?

While going through my photos to prepare this blog, I came to realize just how much of a Nathan stalker I am. Or we just show up in the same place all the time. As for my photo gear, I plan to get a new camera as soon as I can afford it. I’m also going to get some new lenses. Low light performance and the quality of the glass are the two main factors in what I need in new gear. I’m looking at the Canon 5D MkII. It’s a full frame camera and has amazing low light performance and the ability to shoot full HD video. The first lens I want is the 70-200mm f2.8 IS USM II. I think I’ll be renting the lens for Comic-Con this year to see if it’s what I need.

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