Cinematographer Finds 'Soul' Making Landscape Documentary

It is somewhat cathartic to know that creating something beautiful can leave a profound impact on the creator. It seems possible for the emotional impact we feel when viewing art to be measured in the volume of revelation the artist unloaded to create it. This is reassurance that something that resonates is real.

This certainly seems to be the case when viewing cinematographer Ryan Freeman’s short film project: “Soul." The movie follows landscape photographer Jakob de Boer as he and his wife traveled the Pacific Northwest to capture images that honored the original mythology and lands of the Haida and First Nations people.

“‘Soul' was filmed in December of 2015, which ended up being a really awful time of year, weather wise, in this specific location but we made due,” said Freeman. “I wanted the cinematography and the use of imagery to be just as powerful and story-driven as what Jakob had to say in the film.”

As a music producer, Freeman knew that he wanted sound to play a big role in how the story was presented. No doubt, the combination of music and natural sounds come across as harmonious, making the grey fog and splattering rain of the imagery whisper with life.

“I understood going into this production that capturing the soundscape of each location was going to play a large role in bringing this film to life,” he said. “Even if it was just the sound of Jakob setting up his camera in the middle of the forest, or the sound of the ocean beating against the rocks, the sound completes the story and adds depth to the purpose of this piece. It's subtle, but it's there.”

What is more revealing than Freeman’s own process, though, is what he took away from the working practices of de Boer. He learned to appreciate the stillness of waiting — to love the introspective journey that comes from fighting the anticipation to turn around your footage immediately. He learned to be still.

“I learned from Jakob to take some time to let your mind and art breathe before previewing or continuing to work on it,” Freeman said. “He taught me that there's a growing process that needs to occur within yourself and that you need to process the experience... So I did so and found that I was able to reflect on my footage in a more profound way than I had before.”

So rest assured that when you crank up your headphones and go on a five-minute journey in “Soul,” you are wandering past crashing waves and into ancient lands with Freeman and de Boer. It’s not a cheap trick, or too meta, so enjoy it.

Video made with a Canon 5D MARK III (Magic Lantern Software Enhancement), Zeiss ZE Planar T* 50mm F/1.4 lens, Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm F/2 ZE lens, >DJI Ronin M, DJI Phantom 2, GoPro Hero 4, Zoom H4n, and Sennheiser ME 66.

Check out Freeman’s work here, and see de Boer’s photographs here.

All images used with permission.

Adam Sparkes's picture

Adam is the Assistant Director of Photography at Central Michigan University. He has been pushing a button for a living since 2009 and for that entire time constantly finds himself correcting people who pronounce it "fur-tographer".

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Using a 4x5 for photography gets my respect.