Iceland – Canon EOS 6D
The Canon Ambassadors Richard Walch and Thorsten Milse travelled to Iceland, to photograph and film with EOS 6D DSLRs for Canon Europe’s new EOS 6D brochure and advertising campaign. CPN Editor David Corfield spoke to both of them to find out more about a truly adventurous trip and their thoughts on the full-frame EOS 6D.
“It was pretty full on,” Walch remembers. “We had no time to get to know the camera beforehand, so were straight in at the deep end from the word go! Fortunately, we both had very similar ideas about how to approach the brief.”
Thorsten Milse recounts: “Iceland presents lots of challenges, particularly the weather because it changes so quickly. Richard and I had discussed a plan a few days before the trip so we knew what we could do together, even though our knowledge of the [EOS] 6D was zero before we started using it.”
Any initial unfamiliarity with the EOS 6D was soon overcome, however, as this latest full-frame camera has much in common with other full-frame EOS digital SLRs. It shares the same On/Off switch on the left hand side of the top plate, behind the mode dial, just like the EOS 5D Mark III, and offers a similar menu overview from the LCD. Moving from stills to video is made easy at the flick of a switch to the right of the viewfinder – again, just like on the EOS 5D Mark III – and when taking pictures the behavioural characteristics are closer still, albeit with a few novel touches.
“The camera is Canon’s lightest and smallest-ever [full-frame] EOS DSLR,” Milse comments, “and in the cold of Iceland I instantly saw that!”
As a photographers’ tool, however, the traditional EOS hallmarks of quality construction, fast performance and complete reliability more than hit the benchmark, and Richard Walch was quick to praise the EOS 6D, not only for its film-making capabilities, but also for its new features such as built-in GPS and WiFi. “It’s a total game-changer,” he reflects.
“It’s really great. It is perfect for travel with its GPS, which logs your location even in standby mode, and that’s really cool because you can download the data and use it for travel blogs and mapping.”
“As a filming tool it also scores big points,” Walch continues. “Because it is a little smaller and lighter this gives an advantage because when you work with it on a rig or a Glidecam stabilising system, in these situations the less weight the better. That’s a real positive as it means the shots are that much smoother because you have better control. Working with a full-frame sensor as well, it gives you the highest quality and the best shallow depth-of-field options. These are the really important advantages of filming with full-frame sensors. These are the jewels. And now this is the most affordable camera to bring you into this world. I was instantly impressed with it.”
On the first day the shoot took in some of Iceland’s most spectacular attractions, from the breathtaking waterfalls of Gullfoss (used by Ridley Scott in the film ‘Prometheus’), to the hot geyser at Strokkur that erupts in spectacular fashion every eight minutes. Along the way the pair filmed local characters, like the wild horses at Ingolfsfjall before light levels dropped. But any deficit in daylight didn’t mean that the shoot finished, far from it. The brief dictated that the photographers take stills and movies in all conditions, in all light levels. With the full-frame 20.2 Megapixel sensor inside, the EOS 6D was well capable of delivering stunning images at any time of the day.
Richard Walch was primarily concerned with filming, and his experience in this field, particularly with Canon DSLRs, was key. “My first priority was to get the motion,” he recalls. “Part of my brief said: bring back a cinematic movie that makes you want to shoot films with the camera. So when Thorsten went out to get landscapes, I immediately went to get movies. Only when I was happy with what I’d shot for the film did I start to take stills. It was my second mission. The priority for me was the motion. But working with Thorsten was a really good collaboration, because we had two separate missions, yet one combined goal.”
Milse explains: “We had great teamwork on the trip and in a way we were all learning together because none of us had used the [EOS] 6D before. This for me was really nice, as it was like being back at school! The camera was really easy to get to know, though, once we started taking pictures with it. And, in Richard’s case, making movies as well as stills!”
“Of course, the problem you have as a photographer when you have to shoot film and motion together is that it can sometimes get too much for you, because you have to concentrate so much. This is where the EOS DSLRs score. The beauty of shooting with a DSLR is that when you see a perfect still photograph, you only have to flick one switch on the back of the body to turn the EOS 6D back to a stills camera and you can get it [the picture] just like that. Perfect.”
Day Two took the team to the lunar-esque landscape of Landmannaleid, an area of outstanding natural beauty in Iceland’s southern region. The area is covered in ash by nearby volcanoes and gave Thorsten Milse and Richard Walch the perfect opportunity for some amazing landscapes using the EOS 6D with the new Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. The super-sharp zoom was an instant favourite and offered a great range of picture-taking possibilities, from early morning wide sweeps showing the frozen ash to close-up portraits of the two models, who were being filmed on the shoot by Richard Walch.
“The sharpness of that lens was just incredible,” Milse remembers. “Even at maximum aperture it was super sharp and in the morning light as the sun broke over the mountains in the background it caught every detail. Really impressive.”
Walch adds his own endorsement: “The best part about this lens for a filmmaker is that it’s so ultra-sharp, it makes a fantastic difference. It is significantly sharper than any other lens I’ve used in the past. This lens is a yet another game-changer.”
From the ground-based shooting, a trip to the skies was planned, and a Cessna was chartered to carry the pair up to 10,000 feet to get some great aerial views, putting not only themselves to the test, but challenging the new 11-point autofocus capability of the camera.
“I was looking forward to finding out how good the focusing was,” remarks Walch, “I must say, though, that the Canon engineers have done a great job because I had no problems at all, even when hanging out of the side of a plane!”
Thorsten Milse explains: “The aircraft was moving at 120kmph and with the EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens it was a real test, but it was not hard work at all. Both the camera and lens worked perfectly together. The aerial shots were the highlight of the trip for me.”
“And for me!” pipes up Walch, “But probably for different reasons…” He continues: “We were flying with an open door and in that situation it really takes all your energy to get great shots. It’s fun but also really demanding as a photographer. We spent nearly three hours in the air and on the way back I decided to shoot the tail of the plane in the sunset. Because of the wind pressure, though, I couldn’t get enough stability. All of a sudden, without even asking, Thorsten put his foot out and gave me just enough of a platform from which to capture a steady moving shot. I really liked that, as it showed how photographers instinctively know just what to do to get a picture.”
There is a funnier side to this tale of collaboration, though, and it involves feathers. Lots of feathers… “As we were flying back, my jacket got caught on a part of the aircraft door-frame and tore, which made all the feathers come out!” Walch laughs. “We thought it was a bird strike at first until Thorsten pointed at my arm. Thankfully some Gaffer tape stopped any more feathers coming out and covering us! The plane, though, looked like the inside of a woman’s handbag after we’d finished!”
Workflow for the shoot was made infinitely easier thanks to high-capacity SD cards, and the EOS 6D’s built-in WiFi allowed the DSLR to be connected to an Asus tablet for quick review and also for shooting remotely. “We could fire the camera remotely and it worked a dream,” Walch remembers. “You tap on the image and it focuses for you, and then you release your fingers and – hey presto – it shoots in perfect focus. For [full resolution] image and movie transfer we took the cards out and imported them via direct transfer to a MacBook’s SD card slot for post-production.”
“We shot with SanDisk Extreme 32Gb and 64Gb SD cards and were rolling 1 Terabyte of data over four days – that’s a lot of material!”
“Matthias was our digital assistant on the trip, and we worked from my special production suitcase made from a waterproof Peli case, which allowed us to carry on shooting as the SD cards got full up. Inside were two hard drives, a card reader, a 12V power supply so we could run it from a car, plus a MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It’s my portable digital studio and it worked perfectly for me and Thorsten. All we would do was to hand our cards over to Matthias and he would handle post-production while we were driving to the next location. Perfect teamwork.”
“For anyone interested in landscape and wildlife, you are in heaven in Iceland,” Thorsten Milse smiles. “And with a camera like the EOS 6D, with its small size and full-frame sensor, you can capture all that magic in perfect detail really quickly and easily.”
“There is a quality to the light and to the landscape that I haven’t seen anywhere else”
“It was an incredible trip, with incredible pictures from – and I really mean this – a truly incredible camera. We were really gambling hard to do this job in just four days with a camera we had never worked with before, so it was a big risk from a professional photographer’s point of view. We wanted to do something different. It would have been safer to shoot pretty pictures in nice warm locations, but that’s not what this camera is about. The EOS 6D is all about travel and adventure – and we certainly had plenty of that.”