Dusty Payne By Brian Bielmann
Dusty Payne, By Brian Bielmann Maui and Oahu, Hawaii Brian Bielmann has been shooting surf right through the digital renaissance. A long and distinguished 35 years in the game has had him see it all. Looking at him you’d never guess the man is 56 years old. He’s brain is sharp and his eyes are clear; […]
Dusty Payne, By Brian Bielmann
Maui and Oahu, Hawaii
Brian Bielmann has been shooting surf right through the digital renaissance. A long and distinguished 35 years in the game has had him see it all. Looking at him you’d never guess the man is 56 years old. He’s brain is sharp and his eyes are clear; he’s ready to rap about all the good things and talk you through his life experiences. And he’s funny. When mentioned that he doesn’t look anything like a man in his mid-50’s he takes it in his stride.
“Dude, I’ve got a hot wife, I’ve got to keep this up. She’s 14 years younger than me. I know, it’s a cool situation to be in but I’ve got to work at it and I feel I’m just starting to lose a little of my youth now”
But age is experience and Brian has plenty of it. “The thing about shooting with film is that you have to plan what the shot is going to look like beforehand” says Brian. “That’s the whole thing in essence. This isn’t about going out to get a RAW file and then looking at it 15 different ways, tweaking the colours, adding something to see which one you prefer. This is about seeing the shot before you’ve taken it and then going out there and making the outcome work.”
For the shoot, Brian and Dusty headed over to Maui looking for waves. “I took along the last film camera that was sold before the digital onslaught” says Brian of his equipment. “It’s an EOS 1V, still pretty smart.”.
Several cases of Bulleit American Whiskey, packed in bubble wrap, went along for the ride. A gal’s gotta drop the camera and get out of the water sometime. This was a good decision given the conditions weren’t firing. “There was quite a bit of wind and the waves weren’t that good, but this project didn’t really need that, you know? We didn’t need perfect blue waves and blue skies above. I had the black and white and it did seem that although there were so many constraints without the digital cameras there was also so many different opportunities that don’t reveal themselves anymore these days. When you get going and take stock of all the variables that avail themselves by replacing the digital process with a film process, there’s so many opportunities for cool stuff.”
It’s this silver-lining attitude that drove Augustus Bulleit to set up his own still back in 1830. You want authentic? Film! Let’s zoom in on the textures, the film speeds, the colour cast.
“I took a whole assortment of stuff with me. I grabbed all sorts of rolls of the good stuff. I was cross processing, I used black and white and I had some Kodak T-Max and a few others in there. I remember planning the shoot and I was pondering how many rolls to take and then I remembered a trip to Bali years ago when I took 35 rolls of film so I figured that would be enough. Then Dusty went and did this sick turn straight away and I burned off 10 shots on it which put me in a quandary. Do I keep shooting the rest of the roll or do I change after 10 shots? What if Dusty does the one killer move next and I’m out of film already? It’s a funny old dynamic.”
Dusty says it was “such a fun trip. Brian simply loves what he does. He has that ability to brighten anybody’s day with his good, positive energy. He’s totally enjoyable to work with.”
While Dusty nailed it in the water, part of the project was to capture the feel, the emotions and the gritty reality of the trip through the medium of film.
“Brian’s such a classic when it comes to lifestyle shots” says Dusty of the experience. “He likes to do things differently, he likes to nail the perfect shot. He’d be shooting away and suddenly the camera would start clicking through and he would be ‘Oh damn, I’m out of film’ and he’d be tripping out changing the film role. It was quite an experience to witness the processes he went through. He hadn’t used a film camera for a long time so he was making a few mistakes and it
was so funny to see him dealing with the things that just don’t happen any more.”
Brain’s been shooting since 1978 and remembers the good times. “I was trying to think of what they would have done in the ’60s, shooting with film. The photographers of the day would have had their tricks and their set-ups which I was trying to think about and emulate. Those guys had so much ingenuity. I was trying to think like they would have thought and to plan everything before hand. I found that some of the shots did stuff that I really didn’t expect with some parts being in focus and others not in focus, which made some of the images so cool from an unplanned point of view.”
“It really took me back to when I first started surfing” said Dusty of the film experience. “I remember working with photographers when I was young and they would be like, ‘I don’t know man, I can’t tell if I got the shot or not’ and then four days later we would check the slides and be like, ‘Cool, there’s a couple'”
Still, despite being the expert and one of the best in the game, Brian was enamoured with the project. “It was great to be involved in this experience” said Brian. “Jon Frank and Ted Grambeau are such legends and to be considered on a par with them in the art of film shooting is a great honour. It’s nice to know that someone recognises me for something. It was also great shooting with Dusty. He’s a good friend and we know what to do. When I saw the shots and then when I saw what the editor had done with them I was stoked, man. It’s a satisfying experience to shoot with film again”.
Talk us through the great advantage of film, the one element that most thrills.
“The grain” says Brian. “It was so cool to see the grain again. Another thing that came back was when I was shooting with the fish-eye and the black circle appeared. Man, that was a cool little element that I haven’t seen in so long. When I saw that, it was like coming home.”
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