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Interview with cinematographer Nicolas Jouhet

French photographer, I discovered Asia in 2002 while I was making a documentary about Laos. I really had a crush on this country with his passionating culture. Since then, I have travelled on a regular basis, mostly in Asia. Therefore, photos became for me a way to share the beauty of nature and peoples I have met. Finally, I came to live in Chiang Mai Thailand in 2017, famous for the number and diversity of its temples honoured by the great fervour of the natives.

Spirituality is a very important matter in my work, I’m fascinated by the profoundness of the ancient traditions, still present in the life of many peoples today. I take pictures of scenes which gives me positive emotion, it can be landscape as well as peoples. I never stage my pictures, I like to consider photography as a meditation where you are in the moment, ready to trigger when all elements combined in order to create a subtle order.

Currently, I’m more into Time Lapse video, I really like the way it enhances beauty and impermanence of landscape.

Here are two quotes inspiring for my work:
“The real key is to realize that the universe is beautiful. The first job is contemplation. It’s just the quality to perceive.” Patrick Burensteinas – Alchemist
“Artists have the responsibility to serve humanity… give people hope.” Dalai Lama

  • What personality or character traits are necessary to excel in being a time lapse photographer?

The first quality for time lapse photography is patience has you have to wait at least 30 min for a 10 seconds footage, but it can be 5 hours when you are shooting the milky way for instance.

  • What is your reference movie in Time Lapse?

I still remember perfectly the day I saw Baraka, twenty years ago. It’s a 1992 non-narrative documentary film directed by Ron Fricke with a lot of time lapse inside. I was really impact by the power or these pictures even if I start to do time lapse 4 years ago.

  • What makes good time lapse movie?

The first thing is the technique, both for the shooting and post production. It’s a long process to learn how to produce good quality footage and you never finish to learn. The technique is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a good time lapse. In my opinion if you can give positive emotion your movie is successful.

  • What makes a good camera? And what has been your favorite camera to use?

If you want to do astro time lapse you will need to have a camera with good results in high Iso. But at least as important as the camera is to use good quality lens, Samyang have very good quality lens for a reasonable price, as they don’t have auto focus but you don’t need it for time lapse.

I use the Nikon D750 and I’m very satisfied by the results but there are a lot of very good camera for time lapse, Sony et Canon to name but a few.

  • How many people are involved in creating an animation like yours?

For this project I did everything by myself. Most of the footages as been shot during 2016 when I traveled alone in Asia during one year. I’ve been in Thailand (where I live now), China, Burma, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Laos and Cambodia.

  • Now that people watch films on TV, computers and even their phones, do you think about that end experience when you are shooting?

No, I always try to provide the best quality possible. In time lapse we can provide very good quality as we shoot in RAW files and in 8K for some cameras, always more than 4K.

  • Which one is more important: light or shadow?

I like to shoot by night, I came to time lapse because I wanted to shoot the milky way. In this condition we try to escape from “light pollution” coming from cities in order to capture the more light possible coming from the stars.

  • Which artists have influenced your art?

Ron Fricke as mentioned before with Baraka and after with Samsara. I was also very impressed by Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, a 1982 American experimental film directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke.

  • What is your most valuable advice for doing time lapse?

Keep learning and practicing, you will do a lot of mistakes but it’s the best way to learn. It’s a long process but it’s very rewarding when you have a beautiful footage. I always remember of my first milky way sequence, it wasn’t perfect but It was a great joy.