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International Motion Art Awards: Tyler Stableford

By David Schonauer   Friday January 24, 2014


Tyler Stableford has earned a reputation as one of the world’s top action-sports photographers and recently has emerged as one of the world’s top action-sports cinematographers and film directors. His innovative and daring motion work is distinguished not only by its beauty and drama—man’s need to test himself against nature is a theme that runs throughout Stableford’s videos—but also by its emotional authenticity. A case in point is his International Motion Art Awards-winning video short Shattered, which Stableford describes as “a visual poem” about the sport of ice climbing. Shot on location at Bridal Veil Falls near Telluride, CO, last March, the film was made with the tenants of alpine climbing in mind. “In alpine climbing, you can only bring a minimal amount of gear or you don't summit, you don't reach your goal. On this film, we worked light and fast,” he says. “We shot everything with natural light and the conditions that Mother Nature gave us.”

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International Motion Art Awards
Shattered
By Tyler Stableford

Many directors and cinematographers working on location dread the sudden onslaught of filthy weather. Tyler Stablefordwelcomed it with open arms when he shot his video short Shatteredlast March at Bridal Veil Falls near Telluride, CO.

“We were lucky to shoot during the last big snowstorm of the season, as it helped set the mood of the film,” Stableford says. That mood—ominous, mysterious—seeps all through the video, which Stableford calls “a visual poem about ice climbing.”

Stableford, a Canon Explorer of Light, shot the video as a commercial project for the camera company. “But they supported the piece as a passion project more than anything else,” he says. “They really gave us creative freedom over the entire piece.” Stableford used the new Canon EOS 1D-X—which, he notes, can shoot at high ISOs with minimal noise—to capture pre-dawn scenes illuminated only by a climber’s headlamp.

The video was also the result of a collaboration between Stableford and Steve House, a renowned alpinist. “Steve is a phenomenal climber and, more importantly, a fantastic writer,” says Stableford. “He wrote the script and we edited it together over the course of four months. Throughout the editing process, we were tweaking the dialogue to tell the exact story and film that we wanted out there. The biggest driving force was that we didn't want to make a documentary or a travelog. We wanted to explore Steve's inner dialogues without the distractions of climbing a certain route or summiting a specific peak.”

During the actual shooting, Stableford and House adhered to the tenants of alpine climbing—a philosophical choice as well as a filmmaking choice. “In alpine climbing, you can only bring a minimal amount of gear or you don't summit, you don't reach your goal. On this film, we worked light and fast,” says Stableford. “When I was on the ice shooting, I typically only had one camera bag with me. We shot everything with natural light and the conditions that Mother Nature gave us. Fortunately, the winter storm we shot in lasted throughout our shooting days and we were able to get a consistent and moody look from the footage.”

Stableford came to filmmaking through his work as a still photographer: In 2008, he shot an ad campaign for Canon’s 5D Mark II, the groundbreaking camera that ushered in the era of DSLR filmmaking. “I was using a preproduction model for the campaign, and I was wowed by the camera’s video capabilities. Literally from the first week the camera came out, I began telling stories though motion as well as stills,” he says. “I have realized that filmmaking allowed me to tell the richest stories of my life. I appreciate the power of a still image, yet for projects like Shattered, I needed to use motion. Today the majority of my work is motion-based commercial work. It's an exciting time!”

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