Arctic Surf Movie shot with a Canon 5DMrkII

A dew days ago, I was contacted by Yassine Ouhilal, a renowned surf photographer  who created a movie about people who were crazy enough to surf in the Arctic!

First, take a moment to watch the clip.

This is a preview of a yet to be shot full featured film on the subject.

Shooting in such harsh conditions is a real challenge and I asked Yazzy a few questions about it.

Can you give me more info about the whole project?

Arctic Surf was shot over 44 days in the Arctic Circle this past spring during a photo assignment for Outside Magazine in partnership with Eddie Bauer and it’s new line of mountaineering gear called “First Ascent”. We went from Northern Norway to Russia in search of some of the world’s more isolated and uncrowded surf spots and we did a lot of driving, flying, hiking and trekking to get to some pretty hard to reach places. The 5DMKII was a perfect fit for the project as it allowed me to shoot both stills and video with an efficient and portable camera. The “Arctic Surf” short is basically a trailer for an upcoming project called “Arctica” that will be shot over the next 2 years all over the Arctic.

How did the 5d handled the cold?

The 5DMKII handled the cold quite well. I did make sure to bring lots of spare batteries as they tend to deplete faster in the cold, especially when filming video.


How much footage did you get and what was your workflow?

I shot around 40 hours of footage over 44 days. During the editing process, I narrowed down the footage from 40hours to about 4hours. Then I separated all the clips into different categories, much like I do with my approach to editing my photos: scenic, action, lifestyles and interviews. I then narrowed down the footage in each category to end up with about 1 hour of footage that in my opinion consisted of the most beautiful imagery that was also the most pertinent to the story I was trying to push through.

The backbone of the story was constructed using audio voice overs and interviews. This was a long process as well as I had to listen to hours of audio and basically pull the most important and pertinent points that told the story.

For post production, I used basic tools that came standard with my MacBook: iMovie, Quicktime and Garage Band.

The timelapses were animated from still images shot in JPG mode using Quicktime (by importing image sequences and exporting as uncompressed quicktime movies).

The video was edited using iMovie and the audio was edited and mixed using Garage Band.

Tell us about the gear you used

I used two 5DMKIIs, a custom made waterhousing from ESSEX waterhousings, a range of Canon Glass (15mm Fisheye, 24-105mm IS-L, 50mm f1.8, 50mm f2.5 Macro, 100-400mm IS-L), a Miller DS-20 Tripod, a couple of MacBooks, I-Movie, Garage Band, Quicktime and Aperture.

How did you manage exposure with all that snow?
For a lot of shots where I did not want a lot of depth of field (ie with Macro Lens or the 50mm at f1.8, I basically used the AE Lock in order to shoot wide open and hence have the narrowest depth of field possible). A polarizing filter definitely helped with the glare from all the snow/ice.
[Alain: this was shot prior to the firmware upgrade]

What underwater housing did you use?

The water housing I used is made by Mike Wagonner at ESSEX Housings. Mike is a pioneer of water housings in the surf photography world and his designs are lightweight, functional and well priced.

Any issues with the camera?

Focusing in the water was definitely tricky but I found that shooting water shots with a fisheye allowed for a bit more room to play with than with a tighter lens. I also would recommend making absolutely sure that the sensor on the camera is always clean! Turning the camera off and on again several times to activate the sensor self cleaning mechanism will definitely help with that. As we were in the field for more than 44 days with 20 hour shooting days, I found out looking at some of the HD footage that there was some sensor dust in some of the clips- and that was a lot more painful to remove in post as it is in camera.

[alain] Back to the blog…

I really like this story because it shows how the Canon 5DMrkII totally shifted the world of many photographers. By giving the ability to shoot video with the same gear we use to shoot pictures, it enables photographers to create more and better content. When you look at Yassine editing suite, you have to realize how minimal it is. No Final Cut Pro, no ProRes, no 24p, nothing a pro would use, yet he has created some awesome content.

This is a real example to prove that it is often a better investment to put your money in getting a great subject and location than getting the newest lens…

UPDATE Oct 17: you can read another interview here.

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do ... I'm not professional photographer and I don't need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better ...

Check Also

Zeiss quality on the cheap: Baby Primes!

Just receive this press release from about their new product. My career of digital ...