The is something about the look and feel of movies that’s captured the public attention for over a hundred years. Maybe it’s the size of the silver screen that makes its stories and emotions larger than life. Maybe it’s the unforgettable characters that become a part of our lives. Or maybe it’s the way we see the world through lenses and film.
Photography has always been a rival sibling to cinema. While blockbuster movies gets all the glory and attention, a single still frame can be hauntingly more powerful than we can ever imagine. So when somebody combines the best of cinema and still photography, the effect is that much more powerful.
iLHP is proud to feature Herbert from Variety of Light and his cinematic still photography. There is a melancholic beauty to his images. We spoke with the man and tried to understand the inspirations behind his beautiful photographs.
iLHP: Hi Herbert, thank you for speaking with us today. Could you please tell us about yourself?
Herbert: Hi Ed. I grew up in Germany in a family full of photographers and so it was inevitable that I’ve learned that stuff right as a child. My very first camera was a Voigtländer Vito B and I started with black and white film which our father developed in his darkroom.
I’ve used that camera quite some years until my interest shifted a bit when I was a young man. Later and when digital photography emerged and since the introduction of mirror-less cameras, photography gained my attention again and today it’s my hobby and passion.
iLHP: I first came across your work via your website called Variety of Light. Your works are gorgeously cinematic in terms of composition but especially tone and color. How did you develop your style?
Herbert: I was always fascinated with how classic film renders an image. On the other hand, today we have digital techniques to color grade our footage and to give them a very specific look. This really got me hooked someday since I really love that movie kind of visual language and story telling.
Also, I prefer that widescreen look for my photography which is more how I see things. I see the world in Cinemascope, so to speak. Since I moved in that direction I studied a lot of movies and tried to copy their specific visual style in some scenes. It’s a lot about color and saturation but also about the composition of a frame.
iLHP: Could you take us a bit through your creative process?
Herbert: I rarely plan anything but always have a camera with me and then I go with what’s around me. So I would call my creative process a rather open one.
In post processing this is also the case and when I edit my work I just choose that certain look that aids the scene or the mood in the photo the very best. Sometimes this starts from the scratch but meanwhile I’ve also created a whole bunch of styles as presets.
iLHP: What equipment do you like to use?
Herbert: My current camera is the Sony A7II, which is an excellent all rounder in my opinion. Whether doing candid street photography or still life in low light conditions, this machine just delivers. I especially like the built-in image stabilizer, which is plain awesome if one likes to use some legacy lenses. So I can use my beloved Leica 135mm glass and have it stabilized within the camera.
The 135mm focal length gives easily that compressed look but also Bokeh with no effort. I also have the Sony/Minolta 135mm STF but the Leica is my number one when traveling due to its size and weight. My go-to lens is the Sony Zeiss 55mm 1.8 which is a real performer, if I need to go with just one lens then it’s the 55 for sure.
iLHP: How important, do you think, is the aspect ratio in your photography? I’ve struggled with this concept myself because I love cinema-wide photographs from cameras like the Hasselblad Xpan. I’ve talked about it in depth in a previous article too. I would love to hear your input on aspect ratios.
Herbert: As I mentioned earlier, I prefer that widescreen look and man, how would I love to have a digital version Xpan! Since cinema and television went that widescreen route, it’s a little bit odd that photography sticks to 3:2 forever. Yes, there is the golden rectangle but we are living in the age of smart phones now. While not having any widescreen sensor option at the moment I do a lot of cropping or use an anamorphic lens sometimes.
iLHP: Thank you so much for your time Herbert. Any parting advice for photographers?
Herbert: Thank you. Well, I would say, follow your own style and don’t let it confuse you if it’s not the mainstream.