Article from PHOTO Pro magazine February 2009: We follow Clive Booth as he takes one of the very first pre production Canon EOS 5D Mark II cameras behind the scenes at a fashion show to put its video shooting capabilities to the ultimate test. The excitement amongst professional photographers since the full specifications of Canon’s latest EOS 5D Mark II were first announced has been palpable. Along with such things as a major increase in sensor resolution and incorporation of a new Digic 4 Image Processor we were being told that there would be a 1080p HD video facility incorporated, and this in turn promised to bring with it a host of new opportunities for commercial exploitation for photographers working in areas as diverse as news gathering through to weddings. With a camera as new as this one very few professionals have had the chance to try out the video capture for themselves and the closest most of us have got to a glimpse of its potential has been the now-famous short movie put together by American photographer Vincent Laforet using a very early sample. With a handful of cameras arriving in the UK, however, a decision was made to release a pre production 5D Maek II to fashion photographer Clive Booth to give him the opportunity to put together a short film revolving around a fashion show being put together by top fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic.
“My idea was always to do something quite different to Vincent’s shoot, which was a very stylish, big production job,” says Clive. “Instead I wanted to do something which was different in style.” My aim was to be discreet and for people to look at me and to think that I was just shooting stills, and this would give me the opportunity to come away with something which had a very fresh and uncontrolled feel to it.” Clive was the perfect choice for an assignment of this kind, having had a long track record in both still and moving imagery and a keen appreciation of both genres. he’s worked as a film cameraman on some demanding projects, including coverage of an ascent of the Eiger from four sides for Blue Peter in 1991 and a tricky climb of the Old Man of hoy sea stack high on the west coast of Scotland (also for the BBC), while he also braved the elements while filming in the arctic during a two-month stint spent working with the royal geographic Society and the Scott Polar research Institute. “I trained as both a graphic designer and a photographer,” says Clive, “and when I left college I became a designer/art director for 20 years, which involved working regularly with photographers, and I thought of myself as a designer with a camera. My whole world changed overnight around a couple of years ago, however, when fashion photographer Nick Knight came across work I had done for Moet & Chandon and recognised something he wanted to use and asked me if I would cover London Fashion Week as a photographer for his web-based magazine SHOWstudio. I put in an unbelievable amount of hours and totally immersed myself in the project and I’ve been working as a photographer ever since. I still do a lot of work for nick and I’ve now got clients such as Mac Cosmetics, l’Oreal, Wella, Veuve Clicquot and have had work published in harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and la Republica, while I also regularly photograph the shows of stellar fashion designers such as Jonathan Saunders and roksanda Ilincic.” It was the association with Roksanda which had brought us to the Victoria & albert Museum this chilly winter’s day, since the gorgeous Raphael gallery there – the largest and most prestigious space in this impressive Victorian building, and a place stuffed to the gills with invaluable renaissance art was to be the venue for a show of the London-based designer’s work, part of the museum’s ‘Fashion in Motion’ series. Since he knew Roksanda so well and there was trust between the two of them, Clive had been able to get permission to use the EOS 5D to film the ins and outs of the entire day.
“the first time I saw Clive’s photos I absolutely fell in love with them,” says Roksanda Ilincic. “and we have been working together ever since. he is a master in capturing little hidden moments – moments that actually capture the whole soul of the show. his play with light, focus and unusual angles brings so much life into the photos… but what I love most is their poetry and the story they tell. It’s something that only a few photographers can achieve.”
By the time I arrived at around 10am Clive had already been working for over two hours and was well into his stride. I met up with him in the preparation area, which was packed full of willowy young girls who were being feverishly worked on by a team of make up artists and stylists. It was unbelievable hustle and bustle and there in the thick of things was Clive with his 5D Mark II on a tripod, setting up shots of individuals being honed to perfection and generally trying to capture the atmosphere of the controlled chaos which was going on around us. “I got here early so that I could capture the girls arriving at the museum,” says Clive, showing me some impressive looking early footage on his laptop. his style as a photographer, and one which he’s continuing into his film work, is to shoot wide open with very fast prime lenses, to invade people’s personal space and to work with tiny depth of field to isolate subjects from their surroundings. Because the 5D is essentially a DSlr which happens to be able to output broadcast quality video footage the images still have many of the characteristics of a photograph, albeit a moving one and, of course, the world is being seen through a conventional still camera lens, which can be changed at will. “the look I’m achieving is very similar to that of a 35mm camera and I think it’s really interesting,” says Clive, while demonstrating how pretty much his entire kit for the day has been fitted into a single bag. “I’m going to work with a selection of lenses, but the ones I’m likely to use the most will be a 14mm f/2.8, which is the most expensive lens here, a 50mm f/1.2 and an 85mm f/1.2. I’ve also got a 24mm f/1.4 and a 180mm f/3.5 macro, which is one of my favourite optics, with me and the only zoom I’m likely to use during today will be a 70-200mm f/2.8 IS: I’ve also got a 17-40mm f/4 with me but that’s likely to stay in the bag.
” Clive is using a fluid head on his tripod, which is a relic from his earlier days as a film cameraman. “Because it’s got a damper on it it’s really smooth,” he says, “and it allows me to pan with my subjects and to get a professional looking result.” later on he switches to a monopod as an experiment and stays with it pretty much for the duration, attracted by its ultimate portability. One of Clive’s secrets is out of the bag as he reveals that he’s using his 85mm with ND filters to drop the exposure down by a couple of stops. “the light in here is so good that it’s stopping me shooting wide open,” he explains. “the ND filters will drop the light down and they will let me work at maximum aperture and achieve the ultra narrow depth of field that I’m after.” The shots are being set up on the 5D’s 3in high resolution lCD screen, which just about does the job although there are times when Clive is struggling, particularly since many of the shots he’s producing are being manually focused so that he can judge precisely where the line of focus will fall. “It’s the first time I’ve used the camera for filming,” he says, “and it is a little bit of an issue for the work I want to do because I’m working on a screen where it is difficult to be entirely sure you’re getting the focus spot on. It would make sense to have an additional and larger screen which could be maybe attached to the camera’s hot shoe to enable you to be more precise and perhaps also to hold the camera at high and low angles.”
Working alongside Clive today with a view to achieving some shots of him working with the camera is film cameraman Barney Greenwood. Barney is using a conventional movie camera, a Sony PMW-EX1, but he’s already been hugely impressed with the rushes he’s seeing coming out of the 5D. “I’ve seen a lot of changes in this business over the fifty years I’ve been a film maker,” he says. “I started working with 35mm cine cameras and carried out my editing with a pair of scissors! I used to have to work with a team of people but now my cameras are compact enough for me to work on my own, but still I’ve got a lot to carry compared with what Clive is working with. “there are other advantages too, particularly the fact that you can use still camera lenses to achieve much narrower depth of field than I could manage with the zoom lens on my camera. although Clive is planning to put music to his film later on and so doesn’t need sound, it is possible to fit an external mike to the Canon and so you could achieve broadcast quality sound and pictures and you are small and unobtrusive with the kit. I can guarantee that there are sensitive places such as railway stations where I would be moved on the minute I tried to shoot any footage, whereas I would think you would be able to shoot away with the Canon without drawing anything like as much attention to yourself.” In fact Clive was finding to his delight that his subjects were generally blissfully unaware that they were being filmed while he went about his work. “Until people become used to the fact that you can shoot moving footage with a still camera you’ll be able to get footage that those using a conventional movie camera couldn’t hope to achieve,” he says. “I’ve been lining up shots and the girls have looked at me the way they would had I been shooting stills, completely oblivious to the fact that the camera is still recording.”
It’s time for the dress rehearsal and the scene is delicious as a dozen or so models make their stately journey from their make up area, past bemused museum visitors and over to the raphael gallery. Clive uses the opportunity to work out where his best angles will be and to shoot some footage of the more informal stages of the show, while the choreographer gets herself into a tizz about a perceived degree of stiffness from the performers, who have clearly yet to warm up. “For goodness sake be joyful,” she implores. “have some f***king fun!” The 15 minute show will be staged four times today, with the audience made up of fashion students and others who have picked up tickets on the day, and it’s a great opportunity for Clive to become familiar with the moves and to plan his coverage. First though there’s a chance to get backstage as the models prepare for the initial show and we’re given amazing access as roksanda’s team gets to work. the space everyone has to work in, tucked away behind the catwalk, is something of a surreal setting: after all, how many fashion shows take place under the watchful eye of a series of priceless Raphael cartoons? Culture can wait for the moment, however, and the space is a buzz of activity, with every individual knowing exactly what they are doing and getting on with their tasks. It’s an haut couture version of an ant’s nest, and working around the outside Clive is getting some fantastic footage. “I planned to shoot both stills and moving footage today,” he says, “but I’m finding it impossible. It’s really difficult to concentrate on both disciplines: I would almost need to use two cameras to make it seem more logical. Maybe it’s something that will come in time as the shooting of video becomes more common, but at the moment it would be quite challenging to work across both areas.” Clive is working with two batteries, which is the minimum requirement and having one battery back in the preparation area on charge, a good three to four minutes walk away, is less than ideal. “the camera has been pretty good in terms of power consumption,” he says, “although a dedicated battery pack would have been useful.” the first show is over and there is a break of an hour until the next one. Scouting around, Clive spots a balcony overlooking the Raphael Room and negotiates its use for later on: wrapping his leg around his monopod to keep it stable, he fits his 14mm and achieves some remarkable overhead footage as the second show crashes into life, with long, graphic shadows dragging out behind the models.
By the end of a long day Clive has explored just about every angle there is to explore and, using 8gb memory cards, has come away with approaching 50gB worth of footage, encompassing 360 separate scenes. he’s delighted with what he can see but acutely aware that the job is just half done: now for the editing and the chance to see what Canon’s latest baby really has delivered. as he gathered up his gear, Clive mused on what the day had been all about. “I have no doubts at all that after I’ve sent the finished film around to my clients that I will start to get commissions to work with moving footage,” he says. “In that sense the 5D is probably going to fundamentally change my business and shake up my life. there aren’t many launches that have that kind of effect and it will be really interesting to see how this camera changes the complexion of the market in the coming months.”