A new chapter & a little bit about me

Hello world! 🙂

This is a start to a new chapter because this blog was used to be all about my Film and TV study. I graduated almost a month ago and now working as a freelance photographer. But let me tell you a little bit about me…

As some of you already know my name is Maria. I was born and grew up in a small town right next to St.Petersburg, Russia. At the age of 14 my mum and I moved to Auckland, New Zealand, so I could study in an english speaking country. And now I am here with a degree in Screen Arts, my Scottish partner and our beautiful daughter 🙂 

This morning I’ve been looking through my old notebooks where I used to write poems, thoughts, ideas and pretty much anything that would come to mind and I thought: “I’ve got something to share with the world.” 

So here we are! Welcome to a new chapter of this blog and maybe even to a new chapter of my life! Get comfortable and enjoy your journey into my creative world 🙂 


With love,




Achievements and fails

So I created my experimental film. I am very happy with the choice of music because I think it made everything work together as one and this is what I was going for. I think that classical music works the best with my project because I think it has a great power even when people don’t realize it (and maybe even get bored…)
For me water crystals definitely worked and I am very happy with that!! Although, I showed this video only to one person so far…so i will definitely ask people who know nothing about the water crystals, how they work and people who are not interested in them either. I think the opinion of such people will be the most objective one as they will have no idea what the water crystals do and what they are. So far the person, I showed the video to, told me that they worked really well and made her feel something.
Then naturally I asked what sort of feeling she got and she couldn’t describe it. I said what my project was about (how pregnancy made me feel) and she said that she didn’t see it in my experimental film. It is true that i didn’t want the topic to be obvious, I wanted to create a feeling of life, happiness and honour but I think I ended up creating a feeling of inspiration and spirituality because of the photos of water crystals and the music.

I definitely learnt a lot while making this project! I don’t think that I created a well established sense of touch. It didn’t come through to me as well as I wanted. It seems to me that I wanted to make it in a certain way using the camera but because it was my hands being filmed I couldn’t be behind the camera to get exactly what I desired.

The shots of nature definitely added movement and life to the whole project and I guess this is an achievement. However, I should have taken more variety of nature shots and show them to different people to experiment more. I mentioned it in my “while filming” post. I think the project would be more effective if I did that.

In overall I really enjoyed making this experimental film. It tought me that I can put together a few different things that I am very much interested in to create something unique. I will still be looking at creating a film based only on feeling.
I also realized that evoking positive feelings in people is much harder than evoking negative feelings. It happens mainly because a feeling of happiness is very simple and unique to everyone but a feeling of something like sadness is very deep, dark and very similar for everyone. I liked making something positive. To be honest every time I watch my experimental film I get a nice spiritual feeling. It is an achievement from my part but will it be the same when other people watch it?

Choice of music for experimental

A few years ago I started reading a Russian non fiction book written by A.T. Usfin called “Music is a power of life”. I haven’t finished it but the ideas revealed in this book still interest me very much and they are tightly connected to Masaru Emoto’s water crystals research as well.
The author of this book tells about the influence of music on people and how classical music can help people develop their intellect, feel better, improve their memory and get out of negative feelings. That is the reason why the choice of music was very important for my experimental film: it was helping me convey the feelings and make the images of nature and water crystals more powerful by influencing the audience on a more sensitive scale.

I chose Vivaldi because it felt like it was the most appropriate music out of three composers and a few compositions I tried to choose from. I am not sure I felt that way though, probably because it influenced me on a more sensitive scale.

7331-1/My cinematography practice

The main reason why I love Thierry Arbogast’s style and chose him for my case study is because cinematography of his movies fall into place with all the characters and the whole story. His cinematography supports the world created by the writers, director, art department and everyone else and I would love to bring that feeling into my own work as a DP. When I watch the films he worked on I can’t imagine anything about its cinematography being different and for me it is a mark of a well done job. His style looks very natural to me and this is the main reason why I would like to bring a part of it in my cinematography practice. Even when he uses a dramatic lighting, it still seems like it was supposed to be that way.

I learnt a lot about cinematography by looking at Thierry Arbogast’s films. I learnt the way light and shadow shapes the action in the frame and how I can use art department and architecture to highlight a subject through composing the shot in a certain way. I really liked how Thierry Arbogast isn’t afraid of having “hot spots” on character’s faces and how he uses the colour. I must say I learnt the significance of colour through his work and I would like to bring it into my own practice as well.

But the most important thing that I learnt is how he uses all the different departments and highlights their work through cinematography and when it happens the whole camera work has a very natural feel to the world of the film. I really appreciate it and after studying this cinematographer’s work it seems to me that no matter what you do, you, as a cinematographer, create the visual world of the story and you have a great power to bring it to life and make it feel and look natural.

7331-1/Trying to replicate Thierry Arbogast’s style

https://vimeo.com/43520670 – this is a link to my Practical Component and the password is leontheprofessional

The first choice I had to make is the scene itself. I didn’t want to have any dialogue in it so I thought about “Leon: The Professional” and character introduction in this film.

I’ve decided to have only one light coming from camera left so it will leave the actor’s left side in a complete shadow and yet in won’t be high contrast. I think Arbogast would make this choice for lighting. The thing that was important is to keep the eye light and make the shadow not that strong the way Arbogast does in most of his films.

The choice of lenses was obvious: wide angle. I made this choice because this is one of the photographic choices Thierry Arbogast always makes (apart from times when he wants very shallow depth of field).

I tried to include his sense of symbolism through having my actor writing on a reflective surface. But to be honest I don’t think it worked as well as I hoped it would.

I placed the camera close to the action the way Thierry Arbogast does. And when in the first shot the camera is behind the actor I did it hand held because that is what my chosen director of photography does in almost every film: when the camera is behind the actor or over the shoulder he uses some movement which makes the audience feel closer to the action and to the character himself almost feeling him breathing. It also cuts really well with all the static shots in the same scene which I really like.

I also tried to do a pull focus on a globe trying to make it a significant part of the ‘story’. However, I think I should have placed it closer to the actor. Pull focus is something Thierry does for significant moments that is why I wanted to include it in my practical component.

And finally the last shot was about light and shadow. I was pleased how the eye light was always present, but I think I should have made the whole thing a little bit brighter and neater.

7331-1/Photographic Methods that Thierry Arbogast uses in his films

Use of colour. 

Thierry Arbogast is very mindful about the colour in the films he works on. In every single movie where he was a Director of Photography you can see that there is one or two colours that are dominant throughout the whole film. It seems to me that his colour choice is based on the main character’s outlook on life and the environment he/she lives in. For example “Angel-A” was shot in black and white and the main character in this film always looks at life only from the good side or from the bad side.

“The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” has primarily orange and red colours showing Joan’s urge to help people and her anger that sparkled her to do some action, also it highlights the period time.

“Leon: The Professional” has a lot of green and yellow colours (that aren’t that nice) which reflect Leon’s life. He does the same thing over and over again, he doesn’t have much in his life or in his apartment. The only bright green element in his life is his plant.

Subject placement goes along with the use of wide angle lens. 

Thierry always chooses the subject placement in relation to the environment around them, that way he creates strong compositions that the audience reads and participates in rather than just passively watches.  He ALWAYS places the subject into the environment and usually the background “points” and frames the subject, which makes his still frames very rich, strong and almost developing.

He also supports the subject placement with the camera angle and camera proximity. He isn’t afraid to use low and high camera angles which create very interesting and strong effects. Sometimes he places the camera with wide lens very close to the action which makes the faces look a bit distorted but the choice of low angle in such shots make it look as the camera placement has a strong purpose: it adds irony, sarcasm and a bit of humour into the film. He does it only when h works with Luc Besson though because Besson is a strong believer that any story has to have humour in it.

Symbolism (symbolic compositions). As I mentioned before I find Thierry Arbogast compositions very strong and rich in information. But sometimes he makes very symbolic shots that foreshadow what is going to happen next. He does it very simply and obviously so the audience won’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about what it means.

Usually he does it with wide lens and distance from the action. But sometimes but uses telephoto lens with little depth of field and plays with a pull focus. Everytime Thierry makes a pull focus shot it always means something. I like that he does is meaningfully and creatively and not just because I “looks good”.

this sequence shows how Thierry Arbogast can have a hand held shot in the same scene as static shots and how beautifully they work together. At the end of this sequence is an example of a pull focus that revels something important and the motion of the focus almost reflects the audience and the character’s realisation of what is going on.

“Angel-A” sequence

This sequence from “Angel-A” is a great example of Thierry Arbogast’s photographic methods and stylistic approaches put together.

Wide lens, low angle shot in the beginning of the sequence, mid close ups when two characters are talking in the beginning (this is typical Thierry’s style of coverage, when the audience needs to concentrate on what the characters are saying, then there’s not much coverage at all, most of the time it’s just two mid close ups and a mid shot at the end of their conversation).

Thierry doesn’t use much camera movement but when he does it usually means getting closer into the character’s set of mind. This is happening in the sequence again when the characters are looking in the mirror. Also, there’s a vivid example of placement of a subject into the environment. The doors and the two lamps clearly frame the two characters and concentrate the audience’s attention on them.

The light is stronger on one side than it is on the other, but it doesn’t have a strong contrast.

And a very strong composition to end the sequence with.

7331-1/Overall stylistic approaches

Thierry Arbogast has a very defined style that I am very much fond of. For me his approach to light/shadow, camera angles and lenses that he uses creates a very natural look for the environment his films are set in. He almost constructs the reality of the film with the use of colour and camera angles.

Colour is the key to his style. He chooses a different dominant colour for every movie he makes and keeps it consistent throughout the whole film. The colour that he chooses reflects the environment the main characters live in and if a film concentrates primarily only on one character than a lot of the time the colour shows this character’s inner world. He does it in “Leon: The Professional” and “Angel-A”. “Angel-A” is a particularly interesting one because it was shot in black and white. And I can’t imagine it having any other colour apart from those two because the main character thinks only in black and white colours.

The movies that mostly stand out for me for Thierry Arbogast’s stylistic approaches are “Leon: The Professional” and “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”.

Leon: The Professional (1994, Directed by Luc Besson)

In “Leon: the Professional” Thierry Arbogast creates a credit sequence that draws you into the story. The camera passes by the places that the main character is going to pass by. The camera movement is rather fast, going in, as going into the story and it stops on Leon’s hands. The next sequence shows Thierry’s stylistic approach to introducing the characters in this film. He goes into tight close ups with quite little depth of field. He highlights the significant parts that define the particular character as giving the audience bits and pieces of information so that they have a chance to make up their own mind about them. Generally when he does that the lighting is brighter and more contrasty than in the rest of the film and the lens choice is much tighter than in the rest of the film as well. He creates the same sequence when introducing the other main character as well and you never see main character’s face first. It’s either the back of their head, their hands or their hand holding a cigarette.
Thierry is not afraid of “hot spots” in this film. There are quite a few shots where you can see a hot spot on character’s face or head and the character is inside. You can clearly see where the light is coming from but he still leaves it in and doesn’t cut it. The same thing happens when the characters are outside on the sunny day. The only difference is that when the characters have a little over exposure when they are outside it makes perfect sense because the audience can see the sun.
Arbogast created a lot of unexplained shadows in this film but when I watched this movie for the first time I never noticed it, it seemed very natural. It seems as he liked playing with light and shadow in the places where the audience won’t notice that it’s not the way it is in real life.
Another stylistic approach that he uses in this film is wide angle lenses with a background action and the architecture that shapes the main action. He creates shots where you can see what’s going on at the background and this makes such shots richer in information. The framing in such shots feels a little awkward but it gives an audience a chance to choose where to look.
One of the things that define Thierry’s style is the choice of colour. Colours in “Leon the Professional” are primarily greens and yellows.
He uses tracking shots in a few different parts of the film. He usually does it when something is about to happen or when he wants to get closer to the character’s thoughts.

this is the end of the credit sequence and the first scene of the film where Leon is introduced. Tight close ups, long lenses, small depth of field, use of high contrast and yellow colour.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999, Directed by Luc Besson)

“Joan of Arc” is very different from “Leon the Professional” in its stylistic approach but nevertheless you can still say that this is Thierry Arbogast’s style.

There are a lot of tight close ups with little depth of field in this film with not much background. It has a feeling of being placed in the character’s mind yet you can see a little bit of a background which makes you feel that the environment has an impact on the character’s thoughts. It helps the audience to have a small clue of what the character might be thinking about.
Joan of Arc placed in the centre of the frame for most of the shots. Thierry still uses wide lens to get a lot of background which shapes the main subjects that are in frame. He also places the camera quite close to the action so some of the characters’ faces look a bit distorted and comical; he does it below eye line as well which makes it look sarcastic (he never does it with Joan).
A lot of camera movements such as track ins, but Thierry doesn’t make any developing shots.
Primarily red and orange colours, a lot of shadows and great use of candle light to highlight the period. Arbogast uses high contrast lighting in this film with a lot of high angle shots when he shows Joan of Arc. It’s almost as he tries to show the audience the connection between her and God. Red and orange colours contrast with green and blue colours of nature.
Very frenetic camera movements when it comes to fighting scenes. Thierry is not afraid to mix hand held camera with still shots as he did it in a number of movies.

in this scene you can notice the way Thierry Arbogast uses the subject placement, the use of colours, having key lighting from one side creating some shadows on the other side of the face. The camera placement is close to the action and below the eye line.

Previous Older Entries