Ethan Oelman – Dancing with Water Video

I first met Ethan at the Strobist CERN workshop a couple years ago. Since then we’ve both grown our photographic styles and meet up for a coffee in Zurich to bounce ideas off one another from time to time. I’ve been getting into video and short film production, and Ethan was interested in doing a video project on his work. So it was a natural thing to make a video together about his photography. The goal was to do a behind-the-scenes video during a shoot, and then bring that together with the story behind the images. After the Dancing with Water shoot, I dropped by his apartment and filmed him talking about his work and the images from the shoot. During the shoot I also shot some footage of one of the dancers, Alexa, coming in and out of the water and put together a shot film called Birth-Kraft. Basically I just took everything I learned from watching Vincent Laforet on his CreativeLive film workshop, and produced this short video of Ethan Oelman and his photographic vision.

I had a wonderful time producing and shooting this video. I was getting intimidated a bit watching the CreativeLive workshop, but once you break things down to the essentials and put together the essentials of what you need for your project, all you need is to focus on your vision and forget about the rest. To see more of Ethan’s work, check out his website, Ethan Oelman Photography.

Tech Details

For those who are interested, the footage was shot with my Sony NEX-VG10, using a couple of different lenses including a Mamiya 645 80mm f/2.8 both on a tripod and using the Jag35 Field Runner rig. I used a Manfrotto 501 fluid head when on a tripod. The audio was recorded using an old Zoom H4 and was synced to the original footage using the Dual Eyes software. Everything was cut together in Final Cut. I’m looking forward to picking up a lapel microphone and also a shotgun mic to improve my audio gathering capabilities on future projects. The music is from Moby Gratis.

A Professional Photographer Portrait

I was chilling at my computer the other day when a little project came across the computer screen. Matthew Anderson, the American wedding photographer living in Winterthur, Switzerland was looking for a respectable portrait for his website. Matt and I are neighbors and we do little shoots together from time to time. Previous little projects included portraits of me (the Urban Poet), and doing a little testing of the Panasonic LX3, Elinchrom RX strobes and some Coffee Madness flying through the air. So, naturally I said yes, as he was coming over with some beers.

Plus, what caught my attention is that he wanted, well, a more conservative portrait. The type of portrait that would instill confidence in the mind of perspective wedding clients. The type of portrait, which would instill trust and, possible even encourage people book Matt for weddings or portraits, or other jobs. This was a challenge. This was intriguing for me since it’s totally opposite to what I normally do with photography. I enjoy taking a normal looking person and infusing in a bit of strangeness, just subtle enough and brewing below the facade of a normal life. I want that strangeness to come out in my portrait, and Matt would need a normal, confidence instilling image, it couldn’t be more opposite. So, I said yes as a sort of challenge to myself to see if I could pull off a professional portrait of a fellow photographer, devoid of strangeness.

Portrait Setup

Matt already had an idea in mind of what he wanted for his portrait. Some nice shadows here and there, and including a camera of course. It would need to show his face with nice definition, but also have that Doors feel to it, of a person coming out of the darkness. I started off with a very sharp transition to the shadows, and on request brought out the features of his face in a more even lighting sort of way. The main light was an Elinchrom BxRi 250ws in a small Photoflex octabox. From the back left there was another BxRi in a gridded CreativeLight softbox to add some definition to Matt. The gridded softbox is great for lighting things like cameras since it gives a nice highlight to objects without much need to precisiely flag the light against spilling too much. I added some barn doors to the octabox by putting out the velcro panels from my Think Tank Airport Acceleration bag and putting then on the front of the octa. In the end, we pulled it off nicely, and it took far less time that I had planned for.

Return to Strangeness

In the end Matt was happy with the result of my efforts, and I was amazed that I can take a normal looking portrait. It’s not something I plan to exploit in the future, but it’s nice to know you can pull off things like this if needed. Some people have been living in German-Switzerland for years and can’t speak enough Deutsch to order a beer in a bar. I’ve been into portrait photography for like 3 years now and I hadn’t attempted a normal professional portrait like this before – it just never occurred to me. However, I’m glad Matt contacted me for this little project, it was a fantastic learning experience. Naturally, before Matt even showed up I had done some lighting tests, pulling out my favorite hat and 3D glasses. I love strangeness in mild doses, it makes you look twice and, well, I have to admit that I like looking at myself. And so can you in the gallery below.