Perfect or good enough?

This year has brought some new friends – after stalking a stranger on the tram in June!

One of them is the multi-talented drummer / singer and songwriter Thomas Hofstad.

Working with Thomas finally made me make the plunge into filming video with my Canon 5D Mk II and creating video with Adobe Premiere Elements.

We are sort of really working on a project with still images and a story to accompany one of his own songs. But a few weeks ago Thomas came and told me he had recorded “O Holy Night”, and would I like to listen?

So I did. And said; lets put Project 1 on hold for a few weeks. I’ll ask around a bit on how it is done, and let’s try to make a simple video to go with this song, in time for Christmas. We can pair it up with some of my winter images.

When I started filming, I realised – of course – that being a film photographer is not the same as being a stills photographer.  And then the deadline – could we make something we were happy to publish within the time available? Or was it better to wait until next year and then hopefully have turned into a totally professional singer / performer and movie photographer?

On the first attempt I filmed from far away, coming home to realise that you can hardly see Thomas on a YouTube format. So we went back. I filmed closer.

We couldn’t decide whether he should look at the camera or not. How long sequences should we film? We decided to film the whole song each time for a new angle as that would give us more freedom when piecing it all together.

Then the fact that Thomas is taller than me so if I was filming from the same level he would constantly look down at me. So we brought a step ladder. The Oslo Opera House is a building with many levels so we also found a place where I could stand a bit higher.

Then I realised the lens I had brought didn’t allow me to be closer than one metre, so that became a limitation we had to live with. Time was running out.

As I had started the camera I looked away and started wantering around a bit not to disturb him while singing. Which actually was not a very good idea, as he was clueless about how he was doing. I was thinking – being no music expert – I’d better stay out of it. After a while I figured we had material enough to use and then I relaxed a bit. I still did not dare to look at him while he was singing – but I looked at the screen. And without knowing – at some point I had given Thomas a thumbs-up which he in turn felt was very encouraging.

As a photographer – if this was not a time to be present in the moment –  then when? I have not much experience in working with a model – as ‘capturing moments’ I find much easier.  So we decided he should look into the camera, but look away when he was concentrating, just as he would do if he was singing for or talking to just one person.

Then a late evening followed with our technical advisor Trond Nilsen, and it was a wrap.

We are so pleased with the result! So we have published it on YouTube.

Last night I went to a pre-christmas dinner with some photography friends. I asked them to tell me  – not what they liked – but what I could improve. So I got a lot of tips on using different camera angles, in which order to film from where, building up the story through the complementing images, and how. And a third project may be in the pipeline from that discussion, we’ll see.

We have also worked on further ideas with our creative director ;-)

If we had not published I wouldn’t have had anything to show them, which again leads me to daring to show ones work, be pleased with it on the level where one is. Don’t wait until everything is perfect. You are probably dead before that day comes. Learn as you go along. Learn and share!

It is the 24th today, which is the day we celebrate Christmas in Norway. So off tho the party!

I wish you all a Merry Christmas.



8 Responses to “Perfect or good enough?”

  1. Tina Blum says:

    Dear Eli and Thomas,

    I am sitting here a world away from you in Central Point, Oregon, USA, moved to tears by your beautiful work.

    As an amatuer photographer who is constantly questioning whether my work is “good enough”, your words of encouragement are heartening. The images from your home town are so well suited to Thomas’ lovely voice.

    You’re right, this video is not perfect, but even more beautiful because of that. I look forward to your next “learning and sharing” moment!

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Kerstin says:

    From Southern California, thanks for sharing the beautiful music and video and the very true words on our passion, photography.

  3. Peter Zurla says:

    Thank you for the beautiful Christmas present.


  4. Deb says:

    You know what I love about the video the most? (Aside from the gorgeous music, that is.) The way you can see his breath in the air on many of his exhales. Something about that just grabs me.

    Great job, especially since it was an early-learning-curve effort!

  5. Eli R. says:

    Dear Tina, Kerstin, Peter and Deb,
    Thank you for the kind comments :-) I just got back from the celebrations.

    Tina, I have struggled so much with the “good enough” bit and I sort of think it is all in my mind. That there will always be people who don’t find resonance (?) in my work. Some may say so and some may not and that is okay.

    So maybe I’m satisfied with less but it helps me being more free to play, experiment and learn. Which in turn I believe takes me further on the journey :-)

    Deb – I was wondering if anyone would comment on the breath, actually:-) I am not sure if it show because we are shooting against the light, even if on an overcast day, or just because it was so damp.


  6. Brian Miller says:

    Really beautiful stuff, Eli. I too like the visible breath. It really lends to the feeling that he is singing the song while you were filming. And the images are just stunning!! Good work.

  7. Eli R. says:

    Oh he was singing all right :-)

    We figured that was the only way to make it look real. Thomas had his iPhone in his pocket with the music on an earplug, and was singing to it. The opera roof wasn’t very crowded but there were people passing who stopped to listen and applaud.

    After the credits at the end there is a small sequence where you can hear Thomas singing without any music accompanying him. Except the traffic :-) I was actually surprised at the quality of that sound since we did not use an external microphone – as we weren’t planning to use that sound – but the camera records sound with the images anyway.

  8. Eli, I just purchased your ebook, which got me to your website. O Holy Night happens to be one of my favorite Christmas songs, so that song sung by your talented friend Thomas along with your beautiful images were so very moving to me.

    I live in the United States, New Jersey to be exact. Hurricane Sandy came through here last week and has caused such horrendous damage to our state. Despite a few days without power, I count our family extremely lucky. There are some just miles away who have nothing now.

    It is times like this that make a person realize that life needs to be lived to the fullest now, not tomorrow, months from now or years from now. Sharing and learning from my photographic journey, as you pointed out in your post, is what is important, not an aspiration to perfection.

    Reading this came at a perfect time for me and I so appreciate you posting this nearly a year ago.

    I have really enjoyed looking through your ebook and will do so in more depth in the days to come.

    Jen C.

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