Gonzaga Manso

Antarctica

I've been kind of disconnected for a while because I've spent two months working in a wonderful project which kept me, quite literally, far from civilization: I have been shooting in Antarctica.

Phew, I get goosebumps just by thinking of it... It has been an amazing experience, an incredible journey which took me to one of the most special places on Earth. I will never forget the first iceberg we spotted from the ship, a mile-long, majestic behemoth floating in the middle of the sea... as soon as I saw it I knew that what would come next would be better than I expected. And it was, no matter how many photographs or documentaries I had seen before going: Antarctica was a place that would leave a mark on me.

 
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It's amazing how tiny you feel there, barely a little red spot in the middle of a white sea, surrounded by glaciers and ice mountains. Distances are gigantic and somehow measureless, with no clear points of reference to help you: no trees, no houses. Just ice and sea. It's an imposing landscape, where the only movement comes from the occasional penguin or seal, and where everything seems to be infused with a supernatural elegance. The virgin whites, the deep blues, the cutting cold. A true wonder, and I feel so privileged for having enjoyed it: I slept out in the open on ice and I have bathed in freezing water, I saw orcas, leopard seals and baby penguins, I lived in a glacier and shot in the midnight sunlight... What else can I ask for? I love working in a studio, but it's really nice to get out from time to time.

Being in these kind of places some times helps me to play down my worries and "problems", is that delivery date I have when I go back really that important?, am I really going to be upset about that guy who hit my car? Suddenly there's no stress and I get rid of many accessory needs. It's great to disconnect and enjoy the nature in front of me. It's great to get rid of nonsense.

 
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Well, you might be thinking: it's all very pretty but, what were you doing there? I was shooting. The IANC (International Alliance for Nature Conservation) called me and asked me to write and direct a piece that would work as a trailer/pilot for what, if everything works out, will one day be a feature-length documentary. So a small crew and I went to work in Antarctica and the glaciers in the Argentinian Patagonia for a month. I cannot tell you much more for the time being, but it's a beautiful project that has me thrilled. I would like to infinitely thank the shooting crew: Carlos Caraglia, César Domínguez. David Ferré and Marcos Van Dulken, a bunch of geniuses with which I loved sharing this experience, and the IANC as the organizer and promoter of the whole project. THANK YOU.

To be honest, I didn't take any personal pictures during the trip, there was no time for it. However, we did shoot a lot of great footage. That footage cannot be shown yet, but I will post some frames and behind the scenes photographs as an advance.

 
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Another thing that caught my attention was the light. It was summer time when I was there, so the sun never really set, it stayed on the sky all day (and all the not-night) and at a low height most of the time. That, together with the ice and snow, created a very special light, enveloping and ethereal, specially on the cloudy days. I believe that one of the best lighting schools in the world is observation. We are surrounded by light since the day we are born, and if we pay attention we can learn a lot from it. That is why I always pay attention and analyze the lights that surround me and I like, and in Antarctica I saw lights with a lot of personality: soft lights which created volumes, subtle and enveloping, in an environment which has barely no dark tones... very interesting.

 
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If I had to recreate a similar light in a studio I would start with a wide main light, with a 150 octogonal softbox or a 177 para far from the subject and, aside from the modifier's own filter, I would filter it through a silk frame (at least). The goal would be a very wide and soft light, but with a marked direction. I would try and control the sides and upper part with flags, to stop it from being too wide and losing light direction. From there on, I would add some more soft lights in different angles to act as a fill... I would basically create a sort of 360 set with low intensities and diffused lights according to the character, set and distances. Yes, I know that the sun is the only light source in exteriors... but the sky actually acts as a giant bounce, and light bounces off the ice, the water... in these kind of situations you end up having very soft light from many directions, and that can be mimicked in studio with different sources (or bounces, but I prefer to use actual sources as it gives me more control) if you handle them carefully and subtly. What I'm talking about is, of course, just an approximation of the set I would create, we would need to consider the character, the color palette, the set dressing etc... but I do find it interesting to observe a beautiful, natural light and try and recreate it in a studio.

Well, I will stop right here, I have enjoyed a beautiful project and I hope I can show you more about it soon, but I know these kind of projects usually go slow. Anyhow, I wanted to share the experience with you!

Cheers!

Gonzaga

 
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