Monday, July 9, 2012

A cool shoot in Iceland - Testing the Phase One 645DF

© Uri Golman 2012
Styling: Margrét Björns, Makeup artist: Marie Ann Butler, Hair stylist: Steinunn Markusdottir, Assistant: Lorenzo Roncaglione, Models: Ingibjörg and Elísabet from Elite Models Iceland.

I have always dreamt of working with medium format cameras. One of the first genres of photography that caught my attention when I started was landscape photography and the medium format camera is absolutely perfect for that. But it wasn’t until recently that I got the chance.

The right tool, for the right job
In the past years I have been shooting only with Canon DSLR’s. I use them for their speed and they are incredible cameras for wildlife and for shooting generally in nature. I use them with a range of Canon lenses from 15mm to 500mm and they have worked in any conditions that I have used them. That includes shooting at -40 degrees in Greenland and at +43 in the arid dessert of India. So I am very happy with my Canon.

So why go and shoot medium format – you might ask… Well over the past few years I have moved from the typical machine-gun approach of shooting nature and have returned to really putting some thought into any single frame I shoot. In the beginning after starting to use digital cameras I would come home after a 3-week trip with approximately 5.000 – 7.000 frames. That means days of sorting and editing using time I don’t have. But during the last couple of years I have started shooting less and less frames. In August last year I spent 2 weeks in Churchill, Canada. The place was abundant with photographic opportunities like polar bears and beluga whales, but I came home with less than 250 frames.
I had a lot more time to enjoy nature with my eyes and that is something that really affected my way of thinking and photographing. I was ready for the medium format.

Nature and Fashion
At the same time my photographic career has taken a turn. I am moving from just nature to mixing it with fashion and have started a project called WILD. (I will post more about that on the blog later on). For this part of my work I am currently doing test shoots and decided to go to Iceland to mix the genres with what I know.

First Look
I got my Phase One 645DF camera with an IQ180 digital back and a small range of Schneider Kreuznach lenses about 6 months ago. I had only really been able to test it in the safe environment of the studio but the quality of the files that it produces has literally blown my mind. The sharpness of the lenses, the colors and the 16bit tonal range all really makes a difference.
I felt ready to test it in the field.

© Lorenzo Roncaglione 2012
Sitting in the Zodiac on the way to the icebergs.

For the book I needed to do a swimsuit shoot and I wanted to mix it with some locations in nature that I already felt confident with. So what would be a more natural location than Iceland? Cool black beaches, icebergs and waterfalls – now the only problem would only be to find models willing to pose in +6 degrees and cold winds. I called Elite Models Iceland and told them about my idea and nobody was laughing at me as I had expected them to. No problem, they just said…
Off course I would expect nothing less of Icelandic girls. Icelanders are tough cool people who are not afraid of anything. A lesson I learned on the Eyjafjällajökull volcano in 2010 when people were making barbecues over the 1400 degrees hot lava.

© Uri Golman 2012
The team after aproximatly 18 hours of work.

So of to Iceland it was. I met up with our team consisting of stylist: Margrét Björns, makeup artist: Marie Ann Butler, hair stylist: Steinunn Markusdottir and the two cool models Ingibjörg and Elísabet. It was a cold summer day and the weather was cloudy. We left Reykjavik early and drove of toward Jokullsarlon, a glacial lagoon in south of Iceland. I had decided to use only natural light as this would help to communicate the Icelandic atmosphere.

The grey sky and a very fine rain made the shooting conditions very hard and we had to work fast and sometimes even to take breaks when there was too much water in the air. The models were freezing but were incredibly professional about it and could keep their poses without showing. Those girls were tough…
As the day went by, the sky turned greyer. I had to turn the ISO to 400 to get an acceptable shutter speed and the fact that I had to work so fast because of the cold conditions didn’t make it easier.
Fortunately the 645DF is incredibly easy to use and everything is very intuitive. With the digital back and a lens, the camera has a very nice balance and is easy to hold still even without a tripod. The digital back with its touch screen design lets you check settings and histogram really fast and by a “one tap feature” I can zoom in on the photo at 100% checking the image sharpness and details. This gave me a possibility to do a fast, on location check of the images before the model was to cold.

There are still a lot of features to the camera that I have not explored yet and I am planning to go back to Iceland again to do some serious landscapes soon. But as for a first quick look I must say I am more than impressed. The Phase One 645DF has changed my way of shooting and I spend a lot more time focusing on composition and light. 

© Uri Golman 2012
Styling: Margrét Björns, Makeup artist: Marie Ann Butler, Hair stylist: Steinunn Markusdottir, Assistant: Lorenzo Roncaglione, Model: Ingibjörg from Elite Models Iceland.

We spent 21 hours on the shoot and although it was wet, cold and windy, we got some good images and had a fantastic day in Iceland.

Now I just can’t wait to get back to Iceland again. The tickets are booked and I will update the blog soon.

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