Florent Piovesan Captures the Beauty of Antartica with Pocket Cinema Camera 6K
Florent Piovesan was raised in the French Alps so he was comfortable with the idea of trekking through beautiful mountains in freezing cold. And since starting his production company, Of Two Lands, with his partner Amberly Kramhoft, he has shot videos and stills in dozens of countries and on every continent except one. In March of 2020 he was able to check the last one off his list after he was hired to document a trip to Antartica.
The project took him to the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, then to Antartica and finally back to his then home Australia. Along with his good good friend and photographer Matt Horspool of Etchd Photography, he was tasked with capturing and documenting the whole journey for an expedition company that offered cruises to Antartica.”
Antartica is beautiful. And cold. And windy. And not what anyone would consider an easy place to go to with professional gear. And when you are riding on a small zodiac boat in the middle of a snowstorm on the Antartic Ocean, the gear you have has to be easy to carry, reliable and able to capture the high quality images with every shot that only Antartica can offer. Florent’s main camera for the trip was Blackmagic Design’s Pocket Cinema Camera 6K.
Definitely Not a Comfortable Studio Shoot
“My main focus was the interaction between the guests and the staff and the overall everyday life on the boat. But also a part of the deal was that I was able to shoot personal content for my own purposes, such as wildlife and landscapes in order to create a visual diary series and use for my portfolio,” Florent said.
He continued: “I have experience in shooting in remote locations as I previously shot in Greenland and Iceland. Antarctica was on a different level though. I think the difference was that this was a lifelong dream for me so every little moment or view was extra special.
Of course the weather can get a bit wild, especially the wind and we did experience some harsh conditions that made shooting challenging. Having to be constantly aware of wildlife and being timed was also another thing to think about whilst shooting. Sometimes I wish we had more time and some other times I could have done with less. Logistically it is very different to any other place I have been and we were dependent on the weather and the crew’s guidance.”
To get the shots required, Florent had to plan out a camera kit that would give him cinematic shots of the cruise experience and the ports they went to. But also a camera that could shoot in freezing temperatures and was easy to carry and set up. Relying on natural light or light from the ship while on deck, the camera had to be able to handle low light situations as well as be able to capture the brilliant contrasts in color found in the bright blue icebergs and colorful penguins. So he needed a camera that could be used in a more typical corporate travel shoot but could also be used on location in arguably the most inhospitable part of the planet.
“Since all landings as well as short cruises were done on zodiacs and our time on land was timed, my kit had to be fairly light and compact. My main camera was the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K and shooting with it was great and made my job easier,” he said.
Florent continued: “Everything happens so quickly on documentary shoots. I loved being able to go from normal to slow motion with the press of a button. I have used quite a few different cameras over the past years and this is definitely the easiest I have used. Last thing I want to do in the middle of a shoot is to get lost in menus. Being on this type of shoot, the ability to be nimble is extremely important and having the possibility to shoot this quality 4K footage, whilst still having professional connections like XLRs on a camera the size of a DSLR is just fantastic. It felt to me that shooting video was as quick as shooting stills, which is usually never the case.”
In particular, Florent relied on the Pocket Cinema Camera 6Ks high dynamic range. “Dynamic range is essential and the Pocket did really well. It was super helpful to be able to retain detail in the highlights when the sun hit the snowy peaks.”
Shooting handheld, he also traveled with three Canon lenses, including a 16-35mm F4 IS, 24-105mm F4 IS II and a 70-200 F4 IS. The Pocket Cinema Camera 6K was rigged with a cage, a top handle and a Core SWX Powerbase Edge battery, which gave him around two and a half hours of shooting per charge even with the extreme cold.
Florent took good use of the Pocket Cinema Camera’s ability to shoot in low and quickly changing light. For most day footage he shot at ISO 400 with some shots at 800 and 1250. For early morning and dusk, shots were taken at ISO 3200 with some up to 5000, which even included a snowball fight on the deck of the ship during a snowstorm.
Getting Up Close to The Residents
One of the most exciting aspects of the shoot was the ability to see Antartic wildlife. In this case, that included seals, penguins and a variety of whales.
He continued: “To be completely honest this was my first time shooting wildlife as a main focus. When it comes to wildlife, Antarctica has so much to offer and what makes it even better is that the animals don’t seem to mind us very much. The penguins just go about their days and walk around you. Of course we have to respect the correct distances from them and not cross their paths.”
In order to get the wildlife shots it was more about waiting patiently and composition. I would pick a spot, whether on land, zodiac, or on the boat, and wait for wildlife to enter the frame or pick the best frame I could get in that moment. On a few occasions I would notice an interesting bird or seal and follow them for a while. Once again having a compact camera kit meant I was able to move very quickly, especially since I was shooting handheld. I was able to keep the camera on a shoulder strap, walk fast and then put myself exactly where I wanted to be.
I actually had people coming to me saying that they didn’t even notice me when I was shooting which is a great compliment when doing doco work I guess.”