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The Evolution of the Still Photographer: Examples from the Canon 5D Mark II

October 15th, 2009

Vincent LaForet had a lot of hype–and did a great job–of creating a short narrative with a prototype Canon 5D Mark II before the camera was released. Seeing it encouraged me to sell my heavy, robust, and perfectly functional Canon 1D Mark II’s–and my JVC Everio HD video camera–to buy just one Canon 5D Mark II. It’s incredible how digital cameras depreciate; they’re essentially computers and in a couple of years they’re worth less than half their purchase price. However, the low light sensitivity, full 35 mm frame, ability to shoot HD video, and the well-built but light-weight construction said it all. Yes, I miss an 8 frames per-second motor drive but…I don’t use that very often.

Close to a year later, other photographers have been using the camera, pushing its limits and blurring that line between still photography and film. It seems to fit with “multimedia” which, in my opinion, is really just a way of saying “a photographer who can and is expected to do everything from photography to radio to film…at broadcast quality but more likely for the web.”

Danfung Dennis used to shoot for the same photo agency I did, until it essentially went belly up. Below is a trailer for his upcoming film. His cuts are rather dramatic and the music is straight out of Hollywood, but it’s effective. It was shot entirely on the Canon 5D Mark II, but he used a light weight steadicam rig and some other equipment to help the camera with its audio shortcomings–the audio is still rough, but his shots are smooth, especially considering he was under fire. I asked him a couple weeks ago what his set up was. His response was similar to what he gave Rob Haggart at A Photo Editor. He said “The footage was shot on a custom built rig, using a Canon 5D Mark II, 24-70mm f2.8 L lens, Sennheiser ME-66 and G2 wireless system, Singh-Ray variable ND filter, and Beachtek 2XAs mounted on a Glidecam 2000 HD with custom made aluminum ‘wings.’” Fellow Canon 5D Mark II users, take note.

Dennis also connected with a Frontline team while in the field and contributed to a substantial part of the Afghanistan combat footage seen in the opening segment of this piece which aired on PBS on October 13. Both Frontline, with Dennis, and the New York Times’ Dexter Filkins profiled Echo Company trying out new strategy in Helmand Province. Both are worth checking out…if you’re following the war (which I hope you are…it’s a war we’re in, after all).

On a lighter note, surf photographer Yassine (Yazzy) Ouhilal shot a piece on surfing in Norway. It doesn’t look very warm, but the surfing looks great! Rob Hagart interviewed Yazzy here. This video makes me think of the sweatshirt Luciana brought back from her field season in Alaska and gave to me. It’s from the Icy Waves Surf Shop in Yakutat. I’m completely unqualified to wear it, having surfed only a few times in my life and never in such cold waters, but I’m an aspirant. Not only did I appreciate her thoughts of me, but I took great pride the other day when a man queried me about the sweatshirt. I smiled and said, “No, I’ve never surfed up there, but my girlfriend does!”

And now, the media:

Battle for Hearts and Minds Trailer from Danfung Dennis on Vimeo.

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