Tom and Craig shooting Ultimate Boston

“Ultimate Boston” short film is now online: You can view it by clicking here.

Craig Stevens and I met up on the banks of the Charles River to shoot an entire day in Boston, Massachusetts. I would bring all my television gear and Craig would bring his Nikon d70 still camera.

Craig joined me to work as camera assistant and behind the scenes photographer. I was happy he was there, because traveling with a dolly, dolly track, Sony EX1 camera with the Letus Ultimate, a Vinten Vision3 tripod, a Celestron 114GT motorized telescope pan/tilt head, Mac Book Pro computer, support gear, water, beef jerky, and nutra-grain bars is not easy for one person! No sound was recorded on this film.

The idea behind this short was to shoot as much as possible in one day, showcasing Boston. I wanted dolly shots, tons of panning/tilting time lapse and great off the tripod tight stuff. Everything was shot through the new Letus Ultimate 35mm lens and I love it!

The EX1 at 5am
Tom on the banks of the Charles
Sony EX1 time lapse
Tom on Charles River

Using the Letus Ultimate is much better than using the Letus Extreme when shooting the sun rise or sun set. The reason it is better is because the Ultimate uses a spinning ground glass element inside the 35mm lens adapter. This spinning technology allows me to stop down the film lens all the way, like f22! The aperture is a pinhole. This is necessary because I am pointed at the sun. The sun is very bright, don’t look at it directly…please take my word for it. If I were using the Letus Extreme and stopped down to f22 pointed at the sun, a “wax paper” like film will appear in the picture and it is very undesirable. If you check out my short, “Sundown in the Minors” you will see it. The fire ball that is our sun has a fuzzy film over and around it. The Ultimate does not have this problem.

I set the Sony PMW-EX1 to record one frame every one second and I set the EX Slow Shutter to 16 frames. This slow shutter floods the cmos chips with light and add motion blur to the water and moving portions in the time lapse. This looks much more natural when playing back the epic.

Paul Revere Park
Tom and Craig shooting Ultimate Boston

After the sun was high in the sky, Craig and I moved the car out of the illegal early morning parking spot, and into the Constitution parking lot in Charlestown. We got some breakfast and then loaded up the Magliner cart with everything. We headed over to Paul Revere Park and shot a few blossoming trees, flowers and a couple dogs playing.

Testing the fisheye

Craig only brought one lens with him for his Nikon d70. It was a 24mm-70mm zoom, so it was versatile. Craig asked if he could try some of my old Nikon Nikkor lenses on his d70. They worked great, but his camera was a crop body. So in other words, all my full frame Nikon glass was not as wide on Craig digital SLR. But they were very sharp and worded out well, Craig shot all the pictures on this blog through my old Nikon lenses. The above picture was shot with my Nikon 16mm f2.8 fisheye using Craig’s Nikon d70.

highway timelapse

I put my 200mm f4 lens on the front of the Letus Extreme and shot through a narrow gap in the overpass railing on RT 93. I set the camera to record one frame every one second with 16 slow shutter. I got a great shot of the traffic flying over the Lenard Zakum Bridge.

Tom programming the Telescope Head

Craig and I wanted to shoot some video and pictures in the Quincy Market area of Boston. We walked there and found it nearly deserted. It was still early in the morning. I was able to set up a few panning time lapse shots around the statues that stand tall near the famous market place. I also got a few panning time lapses of the traffic lights and skyscrapers in the distance. I used a fisheye 16mm f2.8 for most of this work.

Fountain in the Park

Next, we pushed all the gear to the Post Office Square Park. I had never been there and I was amazed by its beauty. Just around lunch time, people fill up the place. This would be a great place to shoot!


I thought this was a public park. It was a private park! After shooting for about twenty minutes with long lenses, A guy named Manny showed up. Manny introduced himself and was a very polite person. He simply told me that I must get permission to shoot in the park. He gave me a business card with a phone number and name, I called it. Craig stayed with the cart and my kit, while I went to the office building across the street to sort it all out. After about five minutes, I had filled out the paperwork and was back by the fountain pressing record in the park. Not all interactions with security (when it comes to shooting video in public) are bad you know…

Tom and Craig shooting in Park

I shot around the fountain in Post Office Square for about an hour. Craig snapped a few production photos and a few creative photos of his own at the same time. It was great to have Craig around to help watch my equipment and provide camera assistance. Thank you Craig!

Tom working a time lapse

I set up a few tilting time lapses. The great thing about the telescope motorized head that I modified is that it can tilt up and down in addition to panning! I placed the tripod right in the center of the walkway and people generally ignored both of us. Again, all these time lapses were set at one frame per second with the Celestron motion control set to 5.

Tom ashooting in the park

I used a Nikon 300mm f4.5 telephoto lens with my trusty Vinten Vision 3 to pick off tight shots of people from the “grassy knoll”. I really did not move the tripod around much, I just planted myself and panned the crowd. People did not seem to care, but I did notice that we had a twenty foot empty space around us. I guess I should have put on some deodorant!

The Magliner Cart

I usually work alone and the only way I can move my gear around from place to place is on a cart with wheels. I use bungee cords to hold everything down. Most sensitive gear is in padded Pelican Cases, but the tripods simply get strapped to the top of the heap. The ten foot PVC pipe is the biggest problem. These pipes are so long that making corners is a pain and if you are not careful, you could hit someone! It was nice to have a second person and I would gladly do it this way again on a future shoot.

Last shot

Craig and I finished off the day with a sweet dolly shot at a location that Craig had taken many pictures in the past. This is the South Boston Waterfront. In fact, he took a photo here and posted it to his flickr account that I liked a lot. I liked it so much, I put it on the back of my business card! You can find Craig’s pictures on Flickr here. The dolly shot was good, but could have been much better if I had all my equipment with me. We stacked unsteady Pelican cases on the dolly platform to get the right height to slide along the chain fence.

Craig HDR

This is some of Craig’s great work. This is from the same location shot at different exposures and worked together in post to form a High Dynamic Range photograph, or an HDR. Great shot, great location! Now you can see why I wanted this stuff on my personal biz cards.