Still photographer Joey Lawrence recently directed the live-action short film, People of the Delta, based on his five years of photography work in Southern Ethiopia. Shot on location in the region, the project relied heavily on the Zylight F8 LED Fresnel when conditions proved problematic for HMI lighting.
People of the Delta is a narrative, not a documentary, with a script inspired from stories Lawrence heard while working in the area. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, the film was shot with an ARRI Alexa camera over about four weeks in Ethiopia last fall and is currently being edited.
It was the first time he used it for a shoot, but Zylight’s daylight-balanced F8 LED Fresnel quickly became Lawrence’s lighting instrument of choice. “It saved us in so many situations,” he said.
The script called for a lot of scenes inside huts, which are built from sticks and have sunlight streaming through the doorways. Lawrence explained that director of photography Sean Stiegemeier prefers to shoot with natural light and supplement with lighting instruments and the F8 allowed the crew to get more exposure and depth.
Lawrence also used an IS3c, Zylight’s LED wash light with adjustable color temperature and custom soft box, as a fill light and for color effects. For example, its built-in color control, which produces millions of colors without gels or filters, was used to replicate firelight in one scene.
The crew also packed HMI lights for the shoot, but some bulbs broke during transport on the bumpy roads of the region. Power was also a significant issue. With a small crew in one of the most remote places in the world, it was a challenge to transport a generator, as well as acquire and transport gasoline. Plus, as Lawrence said, power fluctuations and an unsteady current can damage an HMI bulb, so a stabilizer in the generator was required to protect the HMIs on location.
In contrast, the battery-powered F8 did not suffer damage from the rough roads, and was invaluable on location when power was questionable.
“The F8 is way more robust. The shoot would have taken forever with a more traditional setup,” Lawrence said. “I was surprised how bright the F8 was and how long it could last on one battery. I never thought it could do so much.”
After People of the Delta wrapped, Lawrence stayed in the area to complete a still photo shoot with his Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Instead of his usual strobe flash, however, he used the F8 to light his subjects. “I don’t shoot in broad daylight,” he explained. “I shoot at sunrise and sunset. In those kinds of situations, a constant light is so much nicer than using a strobe. You get an instant preview, and you need way less setup time and test shots.”