I’ve moved into the thick of things with a full slate of practice and media portfolio building projects for my new company, Third Place Media. The rough schedule is to start with a handful of small and medium sized photo and video based pieces around New York City and Northern New Jersey over the next few months, followed by a concentrated burst of material from a trip to China in Japan in October and November, all focused on various aspects of transit oriented development and social phenomena in public spaces.

The first out of the gate is this short film from a joyride on the Newark Light Rail. I wanted to keep things simple and just get my hands around the technical challenges of filming transit infrastructure and equipment, and shooting from moving carriages. While in Tokyo, one of the items on the agenda is to film neighborhoods abutting the Arakawa Line, in the outer wards on the northern side of the city. The Arakawa is the last surviving line of the Tokyo Toden, a network of streetcars that once counted 41 lines and 214km of track weaving through the metropolis. Riding the loop from Newark Broad Street to Grove Street in Bloomfield and back was a good opportunity to test for kinks on a similar type of vehicle, while also seeing sides of Newark that were new to me.

Some problems, like rolling shutter artifacts, I expected. These are correctable to an extent in post-processing, but it’s helpful to know in advance what kinds of shots will work well and which won’t. The lens I used has optical image stabilization, which helps somewhat with the quick starts and stops, but I wanted to see if Premiere Pro’s Warp Stabilizer effect could smooth things further. Though it does a great job of making my handheld stationary shots look almost like the camera was locked on a tripod, the constantly moving scenes through the window and objects jumping in and out of the foreground proved too much for it to manage. In Tokyo, I’ll be shooting at twilight, so will use a wide aperture prime lens that doesn’t have image stabilization. Hope the Arakawa drivers are a bit gentler! The need to use wider apertures to capture more light will also make it more difficult to focus, due to shallower depth of field. The window tinting gave me a bluish color cast, and since I couldn’t stick my arm through the wall to hold a white balance card on the other side, I had to give a ballpark correction with the manual Kelvin temperature setting. The one problem that was least correctable in post-processing was the glare from the overhead fluorescent lighting inside the carriage. I’ll look into getting a flexible rubber lens hood that I can press right up against the glass as a countermeasure.

“paramount” by Alastair Cameron is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.