I should also point out that it’s a real honour to be recognised by Nikon and be an ambassador for their brand, as I’ve exclusively used Nikon with my photography career and have great confidence in using their gear.
Moments To Remember
Andy Ellis knows all too well that in life, having “family first” is chicken soup for the soul. Perhaps because he spends his time between South Australia and Japan, he is able to appreciate and harness the ones in his life with more power and iridescent beauty. Becoming a father only strengthened his ideology of what capturing moments represented – “I would say family is without a doubt my favourite subject now.”
“Springtime with Obaachan” was shot in 2011, documenting the quiet life of his grandmother (Obaachan), just after the Tsunami had hit Japan. While this was shot in the south of Japan in Kyushu, which was physically unscathed by the disaster, there’s no doubt that it took its toll on the whole country and made people re-evaluate their lives.
“When people face a tragedy of this scale, it is usually family and loved ones they turn to. So over a few weeks, I sporadically shot this piece documenting the subtleties and importance of family life in Japan.”
Andy believes the majority of Japanese people live with strong ties to the seasons, especially when Spring brings a cascade of cherry blossoms wherever you wander. Spending much of Spring in Japan only strengthened his visual communication and love for documenting his surroundings.
Along with the musical styling of Ryuichi Sakamoto, we experience the sights and sounds of Obaachan and Fukuoka in bloom. A story of moments, colours, warmth and laughter unfolds melodically, each shot remaining intimate yet non-invasive. Andy’s approach to shooting allows him to be present in time while still capturing those key moments. He describes the camera as an extension of himself, which allows daily life to unfold undisturbed before him. “The only real difficulty was knowing when to put the camera away and just enjoy the company around me,” he remembers.
The careful framing of each shot makes the film what it is. Mostly shot in tight spaces, Andy had to have a thorough understanding of the surroundings and angles that would not make the shots look cluttered. Perhaps this skill stems from what he calls a “healthy obsession” with Wong Kar Wai films and the cinematography of Christopher Doyle – both, he says, has helped him uncover the secrets of creating a dynamic feeling in static frames.
Andy sticks to using his Nikon D800 with the NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6g and 50mm 1.4G lenses, chosen for their versatility. Obaachan’s love for brightly lit windows meant he was always blessed with having natural lighting to illuminate most shots. Even in lower light conditions, he still managed to shoot crisp, quality images using the 50mm 1.4G lens at an aperture ranging from f1.4 – f4, while keeping the ISO at 100.
Unlike photography, the video format allows you to build a sequence to express your story – making it all the more difficult to select key shots to include. Andy describes the balance between stunning visuals and allowing the story to flow naturally as a constant battle.
“When you are faced with the decision of what’s more important, the story or the visual, you soon realize that it’s the story people connect with… but sometimes you’re lucky enough to get both.”
© Andy Ellis