Godzilla: The Cinematography of Seamus McGarvey

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“I think people just see cinematography as being about photography and innovative shots and beautiful lighting. We all want our movies to look great visually, to be beguiling and enticing, but I think that what really defines a great cinematographer is one who loves story.” – Seamus McGarvey, IFTN

Seamus McGarvey was contacted by an executive producer he had recently worked with on The Avengers; she told him about a project she had been involved with, being directed by a guy named Gareth Edwards. Seamus took the time to watch the only other film Gareth had done at that point: an small-budget indie film called Monsters. He was not just impressed by how well the director executed the making of the film while also being in charge of the visual effects and cinematography; he was impressed by the storytelling of the film, as well. For Seamus, it was refreshing to see a monster movie that approached monsters in such a suspenseful manner, like the classics it was so heavily inspired by. The cinematographer signed up and got on board to work with Gareth Edwards on his second project: Godzilla.

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This Ten-Year Timelapse of the 9/11 Memorial Gives Us a Powerful Reminder

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I was born and raised a Muslim in America, and nine years old when New York lost its Twin Towers. The next week, I started finding out that the men responsible for hijacking the four airplanes that marked that terrible day did it in the name of my religion. What happened that day changed the course of the entire country; for me, that change came in the form of prejudice, fear, and hate. For a while, many people close to me dealt with threats, harassment, and misunderstandings because people were scared. It was extraordinary how different things had become in such a short time.

But the way things have changed up to now is even more remarkable. Today, even in Texas, that fear is dying. The people that live here build together, work together, and learn about each other in ways that are unprecedented. Granted, I can’t speak for other areas out there, but I’ve never seen Muslims so accepted into a community as I do today, and every now and then I find myself thankful for that. It’s a reminder of the endurance we’re all capable of; it’s a reminder of the fact that even when the loss we might face is overwhelming, our will to rebuild is what remains resilient. The 9/11 Memorial Museum and One World Trade Center that stand in New York today are living examples of that strength.

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BTS: Hallowed Be Thy Name Tribute Shot In The Weirdest Place

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Photographers Tomer Jacobson ‎ and Maxim Golovanov have been slowly building up a song themed series (previously). This time they are paying a tribute to one of my adolescence all time favorites: Hallowed Be Thy Name by Iron Maiden form their excellent The Number of The Beast. If you were not here in the 80’s, jump to the end for a quick refresher.

The song is about a prisoner who is about to be executed (and in fact is executed during the song). While it is not clear what the man has done, it had to be pretty awful as he is about to be hanged.  As the song progresses, he shares his understanding that, in fact, he does not want to die. (this is of course, how I read into it, songmeanings.com has a huge debate about the meaning)  The photo gives another take on the famous two lines:

‘Cause at five o’clock they take me to the Gallows pole
The sands of time for me are running low…

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We Built Our Own World: Wally Pfister and the Cinematography of Inception

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In 2010, Christopher Nolan released a film he’d been working on for over half a decade, and the premise of it was something not too long ago thought un-filmable. Titled Inception, the story was held off as a complete secret, and when teaser trailers did release, nobody really understood what they just saw. Wally Pfister, the cinematographer behind the movie, arranged an immediate meeting with Chris after reading the script he was sent, to try and figure out “what the f*ck was going on.”

Wally Pfister has been a collaborator with Christopher Nolan for a long time now, working as a cinematographer for every film of his since 2000’s Memento. Both him and Chris share two significant things in common: their love for naturalism, and their love for shooting in film. And if there’s anyone keeping the medium of film alive in the digitally dominated industry of Hollywood today, it’s these two guys. Their last venture together with The Dark Knight Rises grossed over $1 Billion, and that was accomplished without the film ever being released in 3D; when I say they love naturalism, I mean they love naturalism.

By now, most of us are familiar with the film; it became one of the biggest original stories to top box offices worldwide within the past few years, and it was something new. And with how practical both Chris and Wally are with the way they want things shot, Inception was cinematography at its finest.

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Why Composition is So D–n Important

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It’s easy to pick just about any photography-related topic– exposure, lighting, etc.– and make the claim that it is the most important element of photography. By extension, that bold statement would mean that the element in question would also be the most important step to taking better photos. The truth is, though, that all of the components come into play each and every time we bring the camera to our eye. We continue, however, to give more weight to some than to others. Sometimes it’s because we’re learning something new, while other situations may be dictated by the subject or surroundings. For me, though, that quintessential element is composition. If the composition fails, the entire image fails. Now, I can already hear feathers being ruffled. Some of you are already scrolling down to the comments section to remind me that without proper exposure, composition becomes irrelevant. The reason I totally disagree is that I am confident in your ability to assess a scene and dial in the right aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. But telling your story– creating a photo that truly speaks for itself within the four corners of the frame– that’s a process that separates a photo that works from one that doesn’t.

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Realism: The Role Photography Plays in CGI on the Big Screen

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A reader brought up an interesting question last Saturday on my weekly cinematography post, this one over Eduardo Serra and his work in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; he asked how much credit a cinematographer can really claim for a shot done in CGI. Another reader answered him correctly in saying that the shots done in CGI are still directed in planning by the cinematographer himself. Basically, the work the animators do depends on the input of the director of photography.

That exchange made me want to write this post today; I’ve been obsessed with science-fiction and fantasy films since I was a kid, and CGI is something that’s impacted the films I grew up with as much as it has for many of us since twenty years ago. But there’s the films that do it well, and then there’s the films that we look back at and cringe in retrospect; remember those atrocious-looking monkeys in Jumanji?

So what sets apart the good CGI from the bad? How do they get it done right? If you’re going to make something look like it could have been right in front of the camera during filming, like it was real, then it would have to follow the same basic rules of photography that everything else in real life would. And what’s possibly the most important part of good photography in the first place? Good lighting.

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10 Habits of Highly Creative People

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While creativity will mean different things to different people, I believe there are certain traits that are shared by highly creative people and personalities. Regardless of whether we’re talking about photographers, writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, designers, or poets, the creative process affects us all in similar ways. We may each see the world around us through vastly different lenses, but how we approach those visions can’t help but share certain similarities. Obviously, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this stuff. While I’m only speaking for myself here, I’m betting that at least a few of these apply to you.

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Photographer Splices Movie Stills Into Real Life Using His iPhone

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This is a cool idea I wish I could have come up with myself. Photographer Francois Dourlen has a signature move where he shoots with his iPhone – well, not with his iPhone, but with his iPhone incorporated into the picture itself. Recently he picked up an interesting hobby where he saves stills from movies he likes onto his iPhone; what he does with them is unique, fun, and incredibly simple. As he goes on about his day, he takes those stills on his phone and shoots photos of them being implemented into real life scenery that – you might say – completes the picture.

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Beautiful 4K LA Timelapse Ties Stars, City Lights and Horizon

Cinematographer Colin Rich is obsessed with lights. He just completed a 3 timelapse series dealing with the lights of LA and the results are stunning.

Colin masters just about any aspect of a good time lapse, both technically (day/night transitions, spectacular camera moves), but more importantly he manages to tie all those small sequences into a story. The story of LA.  Go full screen, see the movie, then hit the jump for more info and the previous installment of the series. [Read more…]