Josef Bollwein is no stranger to photographing people on the edge, but for him it usually means athletes negotiating the slim margins of victory and defeat or operating at the fringes of physical endurance. He is, after all, a motorsport and extreme sports specialist by trade. So, what made him embark on this distinctly more travel-themed project?
“I had the urge to explore something new,” he explains, “and so shooting in Brittany with my Alpha 7R V proved to be a very welcome change in subject matter. I wanted to challenge my skills in a different context and capture fresh perspectives. I have a deep love for nature and exploration, and Brittany has plenty of opportunities to indulge in both. The wild beaches, rocky cliffs, and the unique ambiance of this region have always had a distinct allure to me.”
But it wasn’t just the natural geography that Josef sought to document on his 10-day trip along the Atlantic rim of France – the project also gave him an introduction to the culture and people of this region. “And though much of it was new for me, there were similarities to my previous work, too,” he continues, “because so much of my trip involved the capture of motion and action, be it the region’s intrepid surfers or the relentless swell of its waters.”
Speaking of his Alpha 7R V camera, Josef notes that “its high resolution allowed me to capture the natural beauty along Brittany's coast in all its glory, and the outstanding in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) of the model proved invaluable for producing razor-sharp images, even under demanding conditions that you find at the coast.”
Relying on the camera’s ability to keep even slow-shutter shots sharp, when shooting the sea, Josef often preferred to shoot handheld, and keep his speed at settings like 1/15sec or 1/4sec, giving the waters greater texture and energy, which longer exposures from a tripod would have smoothed away. “I wanted to convey the beauty and power of nature along that coast with its crashing waves,” he elaborates, “and the IBIS really helped, ensuring clear shots even in the midst of roaring waves and buffeting winds.”
In some of his stormy shots Josef “wanted to frame Brittany’s famous lighthouses against an atmosphere of turmoil,” he says. “I knew that using longer focal lengths would frame the lonely buildings with hostile waters all around, showing their resilience against the elements as they pressed in on all sides,” he continues, “but of course the magnified view is liable to show more vibration, so again the camera’s IBIS and the lens’s optical stabilisation played a crucial role in maintaining the stability of the shots.” He goes on to explain how the “2x Teleconverter with the 70-200mm lens helped to capture those distant details that really bring the picture to life”.
Josef paired his Alpha 7R V with his Sony ZV-E1 for the trip. The timelapse features on the ZV-E1 allowed Josef to make several intriguing clips of life on the Brittany coast. This technique makes use of the camera’s Interval Timer, setting it to take a picture once every few seconds, then combining the results to beautifully illustrate the passage of clouds across the sky, the rolling waves, and people moving through the frame. Josef also added a little movement to the camera throughout the sequence, which makes it look even better.
His lenses for the trip were the FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM and FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II, which Josef says “were instrumental in the project's success. This set gave me all the focal lengths I needed to tell the story of the Brittany coast and did so with amazing quality. The weather sealing element of the camera also meant they were able to withstand the punishing environment. Whilst the lenses’ fast maximum apertures allowed me to create shallow depth of field or faster shutter speeds when I wanted them too.”
This project evoked in me a deep connection to nature,” he finishes, “and a real appreciation for the stunning coast of Brittany. It made me want to explore along other coastlines, too – not only for the natural beauty – but also for the chance to meet and talk to the people who live there. Some of my favourite moments during the project were meeting locals who shared their stories about the region and what it’s like to live there. Every part of the trip was an inspiration and I’m glad my Sony gear was with me to help tell the tale.”
"Impossible doesn't exist"