A dear friend Sarah offered me a chance to shoot her new music video in a remote dessert location in Israel. I said yes before she could tell me anything more. The location turned out to be a place called Almog near the Dead Sea. The band (Mt. Si) had decided on the location based off of a photograph a friend had taken when he was 15 years old.
I made the decision early on to shoot exclusively with the Leica Q. Something about that 28mm lens made me believe that I could be more creative and find my shot faster. My hesitation was that I would be left with 1920×1080 files without the latitude I’m used to relying on, shooting with .R3D / ArriRaw files. It would be vital to nail the exposure without clipping because I wouldn’t be able to fix it later. There is a real sweet spot with this lens that captures portraits beautifully without distortion (around 3.5′) and I was eager to take the risk of not bringing anything else.
After reading about the camera’s capabilities with video, I was even more encouraged to find out what was possible. Most users made comments about the lack of control but after using the Leica Q app, I couldn’t have disagreed more. I found work arounds for issues with focus, exposure, and could use my phone as an external monitor to start/stop the camera and frame using the Ronin M stabilization rig.
I was able to go from video DP to Stills Photographer in seconds grabbing stills of different looks between performance takes.
We aimed for sunrise and sunset maximizing soft warm light. We left our spot in Tel Aviv around 5:30 AM for our 2 hour trip with our enthusiastic guide Gershon. When we arrived we had missed sunrise but were excited that we had found the exact spot the photo was taken. High-fives all around! The light wasn’t what we were hoping for but we shot anyway cause we were too stoked not to. The first shot we grabbed ended up being the first shot of the video.
Gershon made us some hot tea and cookies somehow as we got into it. It was incredible to see dunes with no end, and cavernous ancient rock where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The place put us in a sort of trance.
When things go smoothly during a shoot, you can get your shot so easily, and when gear gets in the way, it kinda kills the vibe and puts hesitation on the process. I’m sure many have had the experience of a camera battery dying or card being full and pretend to keep shooting to keep the energy up. My experience with the Leica Q spoiled me. Two batteries lasted from when we got there until we got home and I was running the wifi app the whole time shooting and watching the footage on the way home. The best part of this was that the budget left me with no assistant, gear to shlep, and no crew to distract Sarah from being in the moment.
We went back for the following two days and captured the sunrise in almost a full 360 shot. We went from front-lit to extreme silhouette back-lit with no stutter in the iris, no wonky shutter changes, just smooth transitions as if I had a 1st AC pulling the iris for me.
We watched the footage back at the pad and without words looked at each other with huge smiles. How did we pull this off in a country that we had never been to without anything but the Q?