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In the digital age, screens play a part in the almost every step of image creation and consumption. Whether your images will be become physical large format prints or live online, understanding how color is displayed is a key point. With this in mind, our friends at EIZO recently ran a series of workshops on landscape photography and color management in the stunning location of Lofoten, Norway. The workshops were just the start, with a whole series of free video tutorials created too. We caught up with Christian Ohlig for the inside line on creating a landscape workshop and color education...
The Colourclass Lofoten actually had two elements: On the one hand it consisted of two one-week-workshops in Norway and one the other hand it is a video tutorial series which explains the complete landscape photography workflow from the planning to the print. As the title already indicated a special focus lies on the topic colors and color management. The films were produced in German and have additionally been released in voice over versions in English, Italian, Dutch and Czech to share this knowledge with as many people as possible.
We wanted to shoot stunning landscapes and therefore picked an attractive destination at a very special moment. I brainstormed together with my buddy Serdar Ugurlu, who runs the photo travel company phototours4U and he became the cohost of the films. We picked the Lofoten archipelago at a very special time of the year when we could expect to discover this marvelous landscape in a very special lighting situation.
The Lofoten islands are located up to 300 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. For a few days in spring the sun stands rather low over the horizon the whole day and only disappears just below the horizon in the night. This special constellation guarantees many hours of golden light and the blue hour takes, other than the words implicate, many hours. In other words, a spectacular landscape in perfect light for many hours per day.
The workshop and the video series addresses photo enthusiasts who are already familiar with the basics of landscape photography and want to refine their skills under professional supervision. Regarding color-management, landscape photography is primarily one use case for a color managed workflow which can be transferred to many other photographic subjects easily.
As you can imagine, education is extremely important for us. On the one hand many photographers don’t know about the need of a special graphics monitor for picture editing, as they falsely assume, that all monitors show digital signals the same way. On the other hand, the monitor is only one part of a big workflow in which every single setting must be right to be able to archive the expected results when printing the pictures. This is the reason, why I do multiple workshops during the year and this tutorial series gives us the opportunity to reach even more photographers. We first released the German films some months ago and were able to reach far more 500,000 views at YouTube so far.
We had a huge amount of gear, we used for the photographic part. Due to the ideal ratio of weight, volume and quality, we decided to shoot with Fujifilm GFX and X-Series cameras and lenses. The carbon fiber tripods from Gitzo were our first choice, as they are lightweight and stable equally. And as we always try to make technically perfect as possible files already on location and want to record the best dynamic range of our camera sensors, we used Haida ND, GND and polarizer square filters.
Of course we had a lot of additional stuff to carry. We set a very high value on our carrying solution and chose several f-stop gear backpacks, which are the ideal combination of heavy duty trekking backpacks and modular inserts for our different needs. For the on flight carrying baggage, I used the very lightweight and compact Loka UL backpack and on location I used the slightly bigger backpacks like the Ajna. We shipped several ICUs and pouches in our aluminum cases and were able to organize our gear clearly and safely.
In the hotel for instance were able to hand out one Small Pro ICU to our participants with the complete Fujifilm GFX loan equipment which included the camera, two lenses, two batteries and the charger or a filter pouch with a whole set of filters, the holder and adapter rings. Our film team used their Sony equipment and was very happy to be able to customize their ICUs for their differing needs ideally, too. After two weeks of hardcore shooting, we were very happy that we brought all our equipment back home without any serious damage but many gigabytes of wonderful photo and film files.
As we didn’t want to focus on the topic of monitor calibration only, but on the whole workflow, we asked other renown brands which produce the most fitting products for this subject, if they wanted to support this project. To our great satisfaction, many brands supported us with their knowledge and their equipment, so we were able use the best equipment ourselves and additionally were able to provide a huge pool of test-equipment which our participants could use during the workshop.
Correct color have always had a crucial for professional creatives. But since the workflow shifted from analogue to digital, many creatives expected that this issue would disappear. The expectation was and often still is that digital files are always displayed right as they consist on “1” and “0”. But unfortunately the topic color is at least as complex as it was in analogue times.
Yes, we had a lot of fun, not at least due our great film team. Stephan and Jana untiringly accompanied us two weeks long through long days and nights of hardcore landscape photography. Both of us, Serdar and myself feel more familiar behind the camera, but our film crew made our steps in the focus in front of the camera as convenient as possible. And as you can imagine, this whole project was a huge logistical effort. Our own photo equipment, the film equipment and the lone equipment for the participants was a huge pile of stuff. Additionally we shipped a complete high end digital darkroom to Norway including two graphics monitors, a fast workstation, a large format fine art printer and of course tons of photo paper.
This workshop format with the digital darkroom “on location” tends to be a one-off project. Ambitious landscape photography often is a very time-consuming matter and you tend to be on location as long as possible. Our days were often 12 to 15 hours long. And you need the rest of the day/night for relaxing, eating and sleeping. We were aware, that the picture editing and printing can better be done at home, but preferred to make the whole tutorial in Norway.
Regarding future film projects which explain the whole workflow illustrated by a special photographic subject, we can imagine to produce further tutorial series in the next years very well.