Agence France-Presse photographer Leon Neal shoots the Glastonbury music festival on the D3s

UK based AFP staff photojournalist Leon Neal has been one of the company’s first in the UK to use DSLR for video

Nikon D3s kitted out with Audio Technica Pro24-CM mic

Nikon D3s kitted out with Audio Technica Pro24-CM mic

The Glastonbury festival 2010 was a new experience for me as this year would be my first attempt at trying to cover an event in both still and video.  After requesting some new toys from the head office in Paris, they managed to get a Zacuto Z-Finder Jr and an Audio-Technica PRO24-CM couriered to me on the day before the festival. The downside to the tight delivery time was that the Z-Finder clip needs to be stuck in place and allowed to cure for 24 hours before use, so I had to bury it under all the camping equipment and photographic rubble in the boot of my car overnight with a stepladder pressing it into place. Thankfully, I hadn’t destroyed my D3s by the time I arrived on-site but anyone buying one should note that you can’t just use the eyepiece straight out of the box.

Leon Neal shows of the Zacuto Z-finder Jr.  (Photo by Ian Gavan)

Leon Neal shows off the Zacuto Z-finder Jr. (Photo by Ian Gavan)

As I have touched on before on my own blog, I volunteered for multimedia training at AFP some time ago, with the opinion that not only is there no point in trying to hold back the technological advance but also if my employer is wanting to train me up and allow me to learn on company time, I’d be foolish not to accept the offer. Unlike some other agencies, AFP only expects “webclips” from their photographers as they have a full dedicated multimedia team already. A webclip is simply a ‘flavour’ of what actually occurred, without interviews, captions or extended footage. In a continuation of the role of the photographer as a “silent witness”, the video allows the viewer to experience the sounds and vibe of an event with (hopefully) very little bias or comment through composition etc. Aiming to send files of around 60 seconds to the edit suite, the MM team will then chop, crop and edit the footage in whichever way that they need so that it can be embedded into the AFP online news service. With this in mind, I was asked to provide whatever footage I could while shooting the weekend’s events.

After an initial five or six clips that had to be deleted due to me forgetting to turn the mic on (I told you this was all new to me..) I started to try to think in both still and moving images over the weekend. While my first attempts at video on Wednesday were pretty awful, by the end of the weekend, I had become a bit more used to switching between the two different ‘disciplines’ without too much fuss. While it proved a hindrance if I was trying to cover something that was happening quickly, such as goal reactions as fans watched the televised England World Cup matches, this was cancelled out by the chance to record aspects of the festival that have never really lent themselves to the still image, such as the silent disco. With the inclusion of audio, you can now understand how the disco works and that there really is no music audible to those passing by other than the sing-along chorus of the crowd.

The biggest problem that I’ve faced so far is overcoming what seems to be the most important single “danger” in video; camera shake. While dedicated TV and multimedia crews can carry around tripods for rock-solid stability, video is secondary to me so it must remain a light part of my kit. As I travel on public transport during the working day, I’m already overloaded with the tools I need to capture still images, never mind lugging a tripod around too. While the obvious answer may seem to be image stabilisation in lenses, the manufacturers have been slow in developing the much needed multi-use lens. For news, I want and need fast glass so really don’t like to buy anything below f2.8. However, the wide and midrange glass currently offered by both Nikon and Canon in this aperture range doesn’t include image stabilisation. If I want VR (vibration reduction) or IS (image stabilisation), I have to go to an f4 or above lens. Again, I’ll stress that if I had the use of a tripod, these issues wouldn’t be a problem, but trying to capture news on the fly in a fast moving situation already provides enough challenges before I factor in the use of legs on my camera.

AFP supplied the Zacuto Z-finder Jr for the D3s

AFP supplied the Zacuto Z-finder Jr for the D3s

While the Zacuto Z-finder jr helps by allowing me to ‘anchor’ the camera to my eye for an added point of stability, it still doesn’t deal with the problem fully. I’m aware that there are a variety of brackets and shoulder stocks available for this reason but again, it’s another thing for me to carry. As far as I can tell, the only answer is either move to f4 lenses with VR built in or hope that Nikon and Canon are aware of the customer base that are patiently waiting for something that addresses the issue. Rumours were buzzing around the camera forums last year that there would be a new series of 24-70mm f2.8 lenses with VR but, as yet, these have come to nothing.

As I finished writing the three Glastonbury blogs for and looked at the video again, I considered not publishing the video as I can see so clearly where I need to improve but I’m a believer in marking my development and as this is a starting point, it should give me something to look back on and laugh at hysterically (before sobbing as I realise that I shared it online). So here, in all it’s frequently wobbly glory, is my first proper attempt at video with the D3s. Knowing that there are countless photographers out there who are miles further down the line than me when it comes to video, all comments, tips, advice, criticism and cash donations (for no real reason) are appreciated.

Affordable Shoulder Rig

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Posted on July 8th, 2010 by Leon Neal | Category: DSLR video news, Nikon D3s |

6 responses to "Agence France-Presse photographer Leon Neal shoots the Glastonbury music festival on the D3s"

  1. DHaley Says:
    July 8th, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Leon, I read all your comments before watching the video so I really wasn’t expecting much, but I must say, I think you did a terrific job. Especially without sticks! It may not be the type of stories we do in my job with multiple interviews, etc, but as a photojournalist, you took me there, gave me a sense of place, and a feeling of actually attending (actually felt a little hung over at one point)…I think it may even be better without interviews, to be honest. Seriously, don’t be so hard on yourself, its difficult doing both photography and motion at one event with limited equipment, but you can tell this was shot by a professional photographer, and that’s a compliment. If this is your “starting point” I look forward to your future stories. Good luck on your journey.

  2. Leon Neal Says:
    July 8th, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. I was nervous posting it on my site (and particularly nervous reposting it here) due to the high calibre of some of the people that have posted on this page before. You can blame your feedback when I get addicted to video now! 😉

    Do you have any advice on what I should be doing to improve? As I mentioned in the piece, stability is a key area that I need to think about. Any advice from any readers here regarding lightweight/non-bulky solutions to this would be greatly appreciated.

  3. drew Says:
    July 13th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Looks like a fun festival. I enjoyed watching the video. …just purchased a canon t1i, and am learning up about camera shake, etc.. so I appreciated you going into detail about the issue.

  4. Leon Neal Says:
    July 13th, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Glastonbury should be on everyone’s “bucket list”. Well worth a visit if you get chance. I’m glad that the information was helpful. I’m working on a couple of new things at the moment, one of which will involve more detail about camera stabilisation tests.

  5. Robyn Beck Says:
    August 7th, 2010 at 2:36 am

    Hi Leon!

    Love your video! Just want to ask, how did you like that mic? I looked around on the internet and the reviews weren’t very positive. Was it much better than the internal mic?

  6. pixeljournal Says:
    March 29th, 2011 at 8:52 am

    I must say I really enjoyed watching your video. It was technically sound, beautifully shot and very colorful. In many ways, it “put me there” as another reader pointed out.

    However, I’d like to offer a couple of observations. I don’t see many sequences, mostly your video is made up of different “scenes” that are loosely connected. I don’t see any visual transitions of any kind. It’s almost like a moving picture slideshow with audio. Does that make sense?

    The images are beautiful. The composition, the angles, etc. have that “photographer’s look”, and it’s wonderful. However, I think I video needs to have rhythm and pace. Something that here is somewhat missing.

    I a little more sequencing would have given the video that rhythm I mentioned before.

    And I think for a video that long, a couple of soundbites would have helped. You showed me the place, the music, the people, now I’d like to hear what they have to say. I think hearing what people have to say and what they sound like is important to move the story forward. After all the point of a video is to tell a story.

    Overall, great work. Congratulations.

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