Having reliable equipment is vital for any photographer. For Portrait Photographer Jonathan Bielaski reliability becomes especially important when shooting in harsh and remote locations. For Jonathan this means there is only one camera he would bring; a Phase One camera system.
Last winter Toronto based photographer Jonathan Bielaski embarked in an unexpected adventure, when he traveled to Iceland to capture cold-water divers.
The whole project started last year in early November when Jonathan’s cinematographer happened to mention an upcoming shoot he was joining in Iceland. “He was telling me about it and said I should tag along to shoot stills (probably thinking I never would), but I said "Sure!" and this was the beginning of the cold water diving shoot in Iceland.”
Reliable and compact is key
A few weeks later, Jonathan and his friend joined the Iceland based Magmadive team who were the clients behind the project. “Magmadive loved the idea of having still photos to match the video they were producing on the trip. I was given unlimited access and creative direction, it was an amazing job, not least because I got to join a group of inspiring and interesting people!”
The team was mainly transported via helicopter. They flew into remote areas with quite a lot of hiking necessary to reach their destination, so packing light was key. Jonathan knew immediately after agreeing to go, that there was only one camera he wanted to bring to get the job done. He explains: “Knowing that the environment was going to be remote and harsh I knew there was only one camera system that I would bring, my Phase One system. I chose the Phase One system with my IQ180 digital back because I knew it would stand up to Iceland’s amazing light and high contrast landscapes and I could push the digital back to get all the details and tonal range I needed. I utilized my Phase One system’s small flashes (Speedlights) and an Elinchrom Quadra kit. Using it with a small portable flash system it worked flawlessly. Small kit with a huge punch!”
Shooting cold-water scuba divers in Iceland
The scenery in Iceland is as unforgiving as it is beautiful; few photographic adventures go according to plan. The team did, however encounter a challenge or two. “The days were always mixed with different types of weather.” Jonathan explains, “The first day we got there it was dark and raining but I wanted to finish the first shoot because forecasts promised loads of snow the next day. So my portrait of David (diver sitting in the rocks (image 1)) was shot during extremely heavy rain!! I set out my lighting and went with a long exposure to capture the unreal surroundings and small pools of light to accent the set. The result was amazing!!”
The weather in Iceland is often difficult to predict, but Jonathan and the team certainly encountered their fair share of the promised snow. Despite the heavy snow, they were given a few “magic windows” in between blizzards. Despite the weather, Jonathan was happy he had brought his Phase One camera system to these conditions: “Throughout the trip I was confident that my Phase One system would be up for the job. We captured everything in camera, no shortcuts, and it was a huge success.”
Do what you love - For the love of it
Inspired by his own devotion to his profession Jonathan started a personal project called “For the Love of it”. For the Love of it studies the relationship between who you are and what you do. He captures strong personalities who have succeeded professionally doing what they love. We asked if Jonathan could explain the pros and cons of being a photographer: “For me one of the biggest challenges of being a photographer is finding that perfect work life balance. I love what I do, but sometimes it consumes me. On the other hand, the best thing about being a photographer is capturing people and their defining moments. It is great to be able to really explore their environment and tell their story through images. On top of that, you always meet new and interesting people. Every day is different!!!”
When asking Jonathan for a parting remark, he shared with us the best piece of advice that had ever been given to him as a photographer, he replied: “Photography is both an art and a business, you need to be good at both to succeed. Follow your passion and do one thing really, really well!
Up next this August, Jonathan is joining a pear and peach harvest. Stay posted on Jonathan’s website here.