Photography grants you access to an infinite number of worlds different than your own. This is one of the reasons I love my job so much, and one of the reasons that shooting Simon Fraser University’s viewbook campaign this year was such a treat. SFU is at the forefront of groundbreaking and world changing research; 12 faculties enthusiastically welcomed us into their labs and workspaces and I feel lucky to be able to share some of the highlights of their research as well as some aspects of shooting real-time with scientists in active labs.
From a robotics laboratory where engineering students are working on a robot exo-skeleton to help paraplegics walk again, to a freezer of cells where science researchers are working on a cure to HIV, to exploring virtual reality; the creative team at DDB/Twice made sure we had some amazing and diverse projects to document. This project was a valuable glimpse into the lives of undergraduate researchers, and a reminder of the incredible things that go on behind inconspicuous doors in our own city.
The goal was to create a series of black and white, documentary style images over five days, covering both the SFU Burnaby, and Surrey Campuses. We'd need to highlight all 12 faculties with narrative driven stills all while working in tandem with a video team who would be making a video viewbook. In our pre-production meeting we decided video/constant lighting over strobes was the best choice. The plan was to shoot in working labs and spaces to keep things as real as possible, which fit well with the polished documentary style we were aiming for. However, this did limit our time for each shot. Using one set of lights for both video and stills in each situation was the best way to cut down on set up time. I’ll go into a bit of my gear choices in more detail below.
I used two cameras, the Canon 5D Mark III and the Hasselblad X1D - I would liked to have used the Hasselblad for it all, but my local rental store doesn't rent the 30mm XCD lens so there were a few wider angles that I shot on the Canon. An advantage of using the Canon is that it enabled me to set "picture style" to monochrome while still shooting full RAW files (which can be converted to colour later if desired). Basically, this just changes how your photo renders in the preview on the back of the camera. As the end product was going to be black and white, and since we were moving from location to location fairly quickly I was able to document our set up on the Canon and share it with Tim our Art director, providing him with a general preview of what we were working towards without needing to tether to my computer.