Nikon Behind The Scenes – One On One With Filmmaker/Photographer Corey Rich
By Neil Matsumoto (Photos courtesy Nikon USA)
As extreme sports took off in the US, filmmaker/photographer Corey Rich was one of the first people to visually tell the stories of action athletes such as climbing legend Chris Sharma, kayaking pioneer Eric Jackson and world champion surfer Lisa Anderson. His work frequently appeared in National Geographic Adventure, The New York Times Magazine and Sports Illustrated. His career eventually evolved into motion with Rich being one of the early adopters of DSLR video. He bought the Nikon D90 back in 2008, which kickstarted a relationship with Nikon USA.
And with that strong bond, Nikon USA recently launched Nikon Behind the Scenes, which profiles professional photographers and their artistic process. The video series follows a diverse group of photographers in the field, including Nikon Ambassador Joe McNally, Nikon Professional Photographer Tamara Lackey, and Corey Rich himself. The photographers drop knowledge on subjects such as lighting, lensing, posing models, shooting landscapes, working with different subjects and gearing up for a shoot. “At the core, I really love getting to know people – fascinating people, talented people, committed people,” explains Rich. “And that’s exactly what this series is about. From a director’s perspective, it’s about getting to know some of the photographers that I admire. Spending quality time with them and then allowing them to tell a story, as well as share information to enthusiasts who want to become better photographers.”
For Rich, the concept and look of the videos evolved during production. During the planning stage, Rich thought the videos were going to be a glimpse inside the professional photographer’s world but as they began making them, he realized he wanted the videos to be a teaching tool rather than profiles. “We really wanted to pass along lessons in each of the videos,” explains Rich. “Little lessons aimed at the enthusiasts but something the novice or professional could take away as well. All of the photographers profiled, including myself, spend a lot of time teaching and are committed to sharing. And of course from Nikon’s perspective, we wanted to show you the equipment we’re using so that you’re empowered with the right tools in your hands.”
Rich is constantly influenced by content he sees around him but didn’t look at particular videos or photography in developing a look. Instead he examined the tools he was going to use and how the camera was going to move. He didn’t want static cameras but instead wanted to follow photographers on the job with a documentary or “reality TV” feel. The entire project was shot with Nikon D800 and D4 cameras. (He would have liked to have shot with the new D4S cameras but at the time they were not available.) Rich also employed SmallHD monitors, Manfrotto tripods, Sachtler heads, and SanDisk memory cards.
One of the most impressive visual aspects of the videos is camera movement. Because of the lightweight and compact cameras, Rich created stunning moving shots with Jib Arms and a Freefly Systems’ Heavy Lifter helicopter. For on-the-ground moves, Rich put the cameras on Kessler sliders and made great use of Freefly Systems’ MoVI rig. “I think my favorite shot comes from working with Joe McNally, who took us through a cool abandoned warehouse to shoot two martial artists,” reveals Rich. “We followed them through this hallway into this cool abandoned room with a glass ceiling and there’s this incredibly long beautiful shot that lasts 60 seconds. We followed Joe down the hallway and the camera exposure changes where Joe comes from a perfectly exposed silhouette and we circle around him with the MoVI. Sadly we only got to use five seconds of that shot but that was one of those extraordinary shots that would not have been possible without cutting edge technology like the MoVi, which would have required a Steadicam operator. With the MoVI, the sky is the limit and it’s also true with the cameras that are currently available today. The price points, relatively speaking, are significantly lower than time’s past and now it’s all about the creativity.”
In terms of optics, Rich shot the entire project using NIKKOR still lenses. When shooting movies with DSLRs and still lenses, one of the biggest challenges for most filmmakers is achieving proper focus due to the small lens barrels and autofocus mechanics. For Rich, this was not an issue. “It is worth mentioning because I come from a still photography background and it’s a muscle memory that I’m accustomed to,” he explains. “I learned how to shoot sports pictures manually. It’s also worth pointing out because we’re trying to move so light, we were never using follow focus rigs. We also used a lot of the SmallHD 7” monitors so you can see more. We would often put a hood on the monitor so there was no problem keeping focus.”
Rich shot five segments per photographer in two days. For Rich, the biggest challenge was time, especially when using camera movement gear. “It’s knowing when to spend the time to set up these camera movement devices and when to move quickly and shoot off the sticks,” he says. “When we were able to use this camera movement devices, often times that’s when you see the highest production value – the coolest shots. The truth is the photographers and filmmakers we’re profiling have a lot more to say and more to share than we’re capturing in these short episodes. It’s the classic struggle of time, which equates to money. I wish we had a little more of both.”
To view the series, please visit www.youtube.com/nikonusa. You can also visit www.nikonusa.com for more info about Nikon cameras. For more information about Corey Rich and his projects, please visit www.coreyrich.com.