When we discussed with Fujifilm the photoshoot with their brand-new camera, the X-H2S, we wanted to do something out of the ordinary. We thought of combining the grace and skills of Melody Donchet, 6X world champion of freestyle soccer, not far from the French Riviera, at the foundation Maeght, first Art Foundation in France dedicated to contemporary and modern Art. In this place can be found major pieces of art designed by great artists like Miró, Soto or Giacometti.
And to perfect the graphic and artistic aspect of the video, we completed the shooting at one of the mythical spots of the French Riviera. Symbolic of the aesthetics of the 40’s in Nice, the Plongeoir, perched on a rocky outcrop a little over six meters above the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, allowed for some exceptional shots.
So first thing first we started by scouting the locations with Melody and Blue Max media, the video team that shot the action clip and the making of that shoot. We discussed with the athlete the constraints she was facing performing in an unusual location for her, the angles that would look good to us, the orientation of the light, and its evolution during the day. Discovering each other, getting an idea of the tricks and movements that would look interesting to capture, and overall establishing a master plan for the shoot.
I like shooting disciplines that I am not used to shoot because you’re 120% pushing your creativity then. If you shoot something you already shot a few times, you know what angles work and I find you’re less likely to push your limit.
I also really like to connect with the model/athlete I am shooting with, and communicate a lot with him/her, it’s not me taking photos, it’s us creating pictures together.
When the shooting days arrived, we had a good idea of the various photos we had in mind, and I wanted to give maximum justice to Melody’s art and skills with the art pieces and backgrounds surrounding us. Also, to come up with a strongly varied series of photographs, use the different lenses I had with me, from super-wide-angle to long telelens, and various angles.
For instance, in one shot I positioned the camera on the ground slightly tilted up while Melody was doing a handstand with the ball balancing on her leg. I really enjoy that vari-angle screen in the back of the camera that lets you frame and compose those shots with ease. It was a very uncomfortable ground for Melody to hold that handstand, and I appreciated (and Melody too) that it took us only two takes to get the shot, thanks to the incredible fast burst mode – up to 30 pictures per second, thanks to it there was no way I would miss that perfect split of a second moment where everything aligns.
Photography is all about light and I always pay a lot of attention to it, its orientation, direction, intensity, and color. It was a nice sunny day when we shot so I could play with Melody’s shadows on the ground, and I also used flashes at some stage to backlight that nice yellow art piece that was lit by the sun high up, and we diffused the backlight with a smoke machine we rented for the occasion. It’s good to have a sensor with a large dynamic range able to capture as much data as possible from the brightest areas to the shadowy ones, and the new sensor on the X-H2S didn’t disappoint.
The diving board was also an interesting location to shoot, it turned out to be quite stressful to stand on top of that tiny board while shooting Melody performing her tricks. I went from close to her on the diving board shooting against the sun with a wide-angle to shooting from the closest beach nearby with the stellar XF200mm F2 lens. By that stage, we were so far from each other Melody and I, that we were communicating via Walkie Talkies. I was looking at all the different angles I had around that diving board, where I could put Melody against the sky to make her stand out against a clear background. It’s always a nice rule of thumb to try to shoot your subject against the sky instead of a busy/cluttered background to improve the readability of your picture/subject. Ideally, your picture needs to be readable and your eyes jumping straight at the subject even if viewed as a small thumbnail on social media.
Melody’s technical moves also imply that if you want to shoot with your lenses wide open (always nice also to blur out the background to help your subject stand out), it’s best to have precise autofocus, as some parts of her body move fast. Over the hour and a half, we shot on the diving board, Melody dropped the ball in the water only once.
I found that the new X-H2S subject detection function really locks on the subject, this feature combined with the precise autofocus and the fast burst mode, it’s never been as easy to capture that split of a second moment where everything aligns and looks good. You can dedicate more of your attention to creating more striking pictures and compositions instead of dealing with the technical side of capturing a fast-moving subject.