Archive for February, 2010

Cara Tobe Taking What She Gets

February 24, 2010

How did a nice young woman from Madison, Wisconsin wind up in Paris, where, she reports, “it’s cold and rainy?” Photography is the culprit. “I absolutely love it here,” says Cara Tobe. “It’s a great place to be a photographer. Everything is so beautiful and inspiring. Even the small things, like traveling in the Metro and the people you see there. Nowhere else in the world matches up.”

©Cara Tobe

Currently she’s attending Spéos Paris Photographic Institute, a small international school centered around career photography. “Photography has opened so many doors for me,” she says. “It brought me to Paris and changed my life. I want my career to be in photography.” Tobe has also lived in Switzerland’s Alps and Milan.

In Wisconsin, Tobe was shooting film up until eighteen months ago. She now has an all-digital workflow. Currently working on a portrait project, Tobe is scouring the city with a black mask and asks strangers to be photographed while wearing it. At school she’s creating product photography for local glassware artisans.

©Cara Tobe

Her free time is taken up with street photography and she’s very drawn to Fashion Week. “I’d like to get more involved with creative portraiture, something a little more creative than catalog shooting. I love being around everything happening with Fashion Week. There might be fifteen or twenty different venues, unlike Fashion Week in New York. They’re all around the city, and in each venue the lighting is completely different, the runways are different. One show might start at nine in the morning, and the second one is an hour later in a different arrondissement. You have to immediately figure out your position to the runway, what the light is, what your settings should be. It’s very fast and very exciting. You don’t have control over your lighting, like in a studio. A lot of times there’s a light show, or the lights may go out altogether. You have to take what you can get.”

©Cara Tobe

To make sense of these rapidly changing conditions, Tobe relies on her Sekonic L-308s. “I absolutely love it,” she says. “It’s consistent, and not too big and clunky, so I can fit it in my backpack and it takes up no space. It works perfectly. I always have it on me. My camera’s in front of me and my light meter is always in my pocket.” Tobe shoots a Canon 5D with a variety of lenses. For runway work she’ll typically bring a 70-200mm and a 24-70mm.

©Cara Tobe

“I don’t like the way a lot of people shoot these days with a huge amount of contrast. It looks too digital to me. I started out using film, and that’s the look I’m drawn to. I miss it. There’s nothing better than the feeling of holding your print from the darkroom or looking at your negative held up to the light. I hope film doesn’t die off. The look is less artificial, and that’s what I try for.” Tobe achieves this look in-camera, as opposed to post-processing in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Tobe’s plans are to stay in Paris “as long as the Parisians will have me,” she laughs. Watch for future runway shots with a film-look twist from the City of Light. Merci beaucoup, Cara.

Cara Tobe’s Web site

Cara Tobe on Flickr

Cara Tobe on Twitter

Written by Ron Egatz

Terry Stacey, Verisimilitude Master of Light

February 9, 2010

Cinematographers live or die by light. There are two big guns in their arsenal: choice of camera and choice of lighting rigs. How they manipulate and capture both natural and man-made light affects the look, and hence, mood of an entire film. Closely related to the art of still photography, cinematographers also have to deal with time and movement. These added dimensions make their choices all the more critical. Since 1997, Terry Stacey has been a director of photography on major motion pictures with stunningly effective, understated and natural-looking lighting.

Terry Stacey takes a light reading on the set of The Extra Man.

In the early 1980’s Stacey graduated from the University of Manchester in England and moved to New York City. “These were the halcyon days,” he says, laughing. He worked as a musician and photographer at The Collective for the Living Cinema. He also shot and edited Super 8 short films and got involved in the nascent music video scene. “There was a huge Super 8 scene, which is a great way to experiment. I learned so much doing that,” he explains.

Arming himself with a 16mm Bolex, Stacey headed to South America and made his own documentaries. “It was all done with available light,” he says. He later made his own films and documentaries in India, Iceland, and England. “I put together a show reel with footage of work I’d done for friends’ bands. That actually got me a job on a really low-budget documentary shooting in Brazil. It was almost a dream. The director responded to my work because of my work in natural light. That documentary got me more work.”

One job led to another, and soon he was in Los Angeles, shooting music videos until he returned to New York to enter the independent film scene. “I was there again at the perfect time in the nineties when the IFC was pumping out great films out of great scripts for just one million dollars.”

Regarding his style of cinematography, Stacey points to his origins. “My roots are in documentaries, so I tend to see things in a more naturalistic way. Things are slightly enhanced, but a naturalistic romanticism is how I see the world,” he chuckles. “To me, the best stuff looks like it wasn’t lit.” He has given his signature natural lighting-look to films as diverse as the groundbreaking American Splendor, The Nanny Diaries and In Her Shoes. In television, he’s shot Dexter, Sex in the City, and a hauntingly sparse, brilliantly-lit extended promo for The Sopranos, among others.

Much of what Stacey does is artful subterfuge. Stacey’s latest film to be released is Dear John, starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried. Shot in Charleston, South Carolina. “We had to do a lot of scenes that took place in Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, and Saudi Arabia, and we shot it all in South Carolina.” Stacey says. The production designers and crew specify and utilize props, but it’s Stacey’s job to match lighting from around the world.

Stacey is now prepping a film in Vancouver which is supposed to take place in Seattle. I’m with Cancer is a black comedy starring James McAvoy and Seth Rogen, and directed by Jonathan Levine. “To me, comedies often look too vivid, clean and over-lit. In this one we’re going to go for a softer, muted palette, and show a few more flaws in terms of framing, hand-held cameras, and let windows blow out. Just add some roughness to it so it feels a little more like life. Tattered.”

Terry Stacey on set with a Sekonic L-608 Cine light meter.

In behind the scenes photos taken on-set, Stacey is often shown holding a Sekonic L-608 Cine meter. “I use it all the time. I take it to bed with me,” he says, laughing. His meter of choice these days is a Sekonic L-758DR. “I have it hanging around my neck every day. I used to always carry two meters—a Sekonic and an old Minolta spot meter. I’d put one down, pick up the other, and I’d always lose one. It’s great to now have an incident and a spot meter all in one, and it’s incredibly accurate–that’s the amazing thing. It looks more delicate than it actually is. A lot of filmmaking is in the moment, and it’s great to have it there at all times, ready to go. All you need is a couple of seconds to double-check that reading.”

Stacey can be seen in the January 2010 issue of ICG, using a Sekonic L-608 meter. His career has been spent shaping light and making our entertainment look as real as possible. The the art of filmmaking is better for it. Terry Stacey is the master of beautiful, but not obvious lighting techniques. We’ll happily keep our eyes on what he does.

Terry Stacey Cinematography
Terry Stacey on Wikipedia
Terry Stacey on IMDb

Written by Ron Egatz