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Spotlight: Best of May

By David Schonauer   Wednesday June 13, 2018


Rocker Dave Matthews wants to save elephants from poachers.

So does photographer Ami Vitale.

The two recently teamed to make a short film at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya, the first community-owned and run elephant sanctuary in Africa. Vitale’s three-and-a-half-minute film follows Matthews as he journeys to the sanctuary and comes to know the Samburu people, who over the past 20 years have seen their land lose much of its wildlife due to the poaching of elephants for their ivory. But, as Matthews notes, the Samburu rangers have “now become the elephants’ protectors.” As we noted last month, the release of the film came with an offer —  a chance to win a 7-day safari in Kenya to visit Reteti and other locations in KEnya, and a trip to see a Matthews concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

Today we include Vitale’s film in a highlights from May, along with a film about fashion photographer Miles Aldridge, who explains his own personal theory of color, and a number of new-style travelogs making use of satellite and Google street photography. Speaking of traveling: We’ve got a time lapses of London and a remarkable view of a tornado forming over Kansas.

 There’s also a film about a Texas grandmother who’s both a quilter and activist, as well as a powerful film using poetry to reflect on racism.
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1. Photographer Ami Vitale Teams With Dave Matthews to Save Elephants

Filled with astonishing landscapes and images of orphaned young elephants being readied for release into the wild, photographer Ami Vitale’s film project with rocker Dave Matthews is an uplifting look at an important and vexing issue. “For me, this story is hopeful,” says Matthews in his voice-over narration, speaking of the work of Kenya’s Samburu people, who, we noted, are now protecting elephants from poachers at the the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya, the first community-owned and run elephant sanctuary in Africa.


2. All Roads Lead to Creativity in Via

Last month we featured  a number of new-style travelog videos, including Maria Constanza Ferreira’s road film Via. To be clear, we noted, the journey only starts on the road, as the viewer emerges from a dark and silent tunnel into one landscape and then another. After that, the sky’s the limit, literally: You are launched into the heavens in a wondrous visual display. The film features imagery obtained through Google Street View and digitally manipulated satellite photographs found through Google Earth and the United States Geological Survey Database.


3. Earth From Above in Arena

Photographer Páraic McGloughlin  says his film Arena lets viewers observer the planet “based on the shapes we make, the game of life, our playing ground.” The mesmerizing minute-and-a-half motion piece, which we also featured in our travelog roundup, was made with Google Earth imagery. “It was quite a monotonous process of searching for specific images,” McGloughlin told PetaPixel. “The animation itself was relatively easy, but the searching took time!”


4. A 7.3-Gigapixel Time Lapse of London

“Gigapixel” and “time lapse” aren’t terms one often hears together — each, individually, requires massive amounts of storage to do well, and when combined, things start to get a bit ridiculous, noted DIY Photography, which spotlighted a 7.3-gigapixel time lapse covering a 24-hour period in the city of London. The time lapse was made by UK contact lens retailer Lens Store and required 6,240 photographs to create.


5. This Film Was Shot at 2520mm

To create his three-minute film Sun Moon London,  Luke Miller messed around with focal length.  The film beautifully captures the city illuminated by sun and moon through a 2520mm-equivalent lens. PetaPixel  explained how Miller used a Canon 5D Mark III DSLR and Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter to achieve the effect.


6. Mike Oblinski Shoots a Tornado in 8K

Storm-chasing master Mike Oblinski notes that he wasn’t having much luck finding worthy weather during the 2018 storm season — until May 1, when he witnessed a tornado forming near Tescott, Kansas. He used two Canon 5DS R cameras with Canon 11-24mm and Canon 50mm f/1.2 lenses to capture the tornado, and After Effects, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro software to create his latest astonishing time lapse.


7. Miles Aldridge's Theory of Color

“I’m not trying to make it real — to make a photograph that makes the world seem real seems kind of pointless,” says Miles Aldridge in a recent entry to Nowness’s “Photographers in Focus” series. The film provides a behind-the-scenes look at the London-based fashion photographer and artist as he works on set and explains how his bold use of color results in images that are both “beautiful and unsettling.”


8. Meet the Happiest Guy in the World

Vacation never ends for Mario Salcedo, subject of a short documentary featured by The New York Times’s OpDocs series. Salcedo has been living aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships for the past two decades; as filmmaker Lane Oppenheim notes, he’s part of cruising subculture who live permanently at sea. Short of the Week  called the film “the perfect cross section of an interesting protagonist and impressive craft.”


9. Grandmother, Quilter, and (Since 2016) Activist

Karen Collins was born and raised in Texas — indeed, her Texas roots go back many generations. She’s a grandmother and award-winning quilter. She never cared much about politics — until the 2016 election of Donald Trump and a rise of intolerance in America. “Now her retirement has a new sense of purpose,” note Austin-based filmmakers Katie Graham and Andrew Matthews in the film Liberty Hill.


10.  THE AYES HAVE IT Motion Poems


Last month we spotlighted  two short films that use poetry and emotion to reflect on racism, including THE AYES HAVE IT Motion Poems, from Los Angeles- and London-based director and photographer Savanah Leaf, who is also a former professional volleyball player. (She competed for the Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympic Games.) The film brings together a poem by Tiana Clark with a story by Leaf and evocative black-and-white and color visuals shot by director of photographer Joel Honeywell.

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