I love the challenges and opportunities that come when working with natural light. There’s a certain beauty to existing light on locations, and I think it’s our job as cinematographers to take what’s best with the light and make it work for the scene.
Our film, “America is Still the Place”, was shot entirely on-location on the coastline of Northern California during January of 2014, which meant that any weather condition could be expected on any day – from cold rain and wind to sunny skies. We were very lucky for most of the shoot days on the beach. It was warm and sunny many of the days, which is very rare for this coastline in January. It was almost too beautiful for the storyline!
20‘x20’ bleached muslins and shiny boards were my primary lighting tools on the exterior beach days, as the production was operating without any significant generators. When you’re working outside during the winter months, the days are short and you feel like you are constantly checking your watch and chasing the light… organizing your coverage per the arc of the sun. And … because the sun won’t sit still, you have to be able to control it with large silks, bounce fills and blacks for negative fill to keep a consistent look throughout a scene. The sand of a beach location will provide a lot of natural fill light, but we were shooting in a parking lot near the beach as well, so my crew was really working it all day to keep the look.
Regardless of the scale of the shoot, I use these same lighting principles on any job. When I’m working on smaller shoots outdoors, I often use the Chimera Panel Frames with either the silent diffusion or the black/white fabrics. They’re one of my favorite tools for location work!