Gear: Compact Primes
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
When I was a teenager my Mom gave me my first camera. It was a 35mm film negative Yashica, with only one 50mm lens. With that camera I took some photos of my parent’s house wonderful views in the Mexico City hills. Sunrises with the Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes framing the sun. My passion for photography expanded at film school, the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (Capacitation Center of Cinematography).
I learned by trial and error to take long-time exposure photos of the México City night view, which was not so bright back then as it is today. I also began experimenting taking portraits using only candlelight sources, as well as making use of cross-process positive film, and negative push- or pull-process techniques. Prior to shooting any short film for school, I was very meticulous in my camera tests. I made sure to get together all the cameras, lenses and perform painstaking tests of film stability, parallax and lens collimation, so I could bring to the set the best equipment possible.
In those years everything was shot on negative. We had to wait until the developed negative arrived from the lab to see if the image was okay. When I started shooting my first short films, knowing that I had the best equipment available gave me the assurance that the technical part was covered. Because of this, when finally watching rushes with my fellow classmates, there would be no unpleasant surprises due to technical problems.
My first professional experience was as a camera assistant, working with Xavier Perez Grobet and Rodrigo Prieto. Meanwhile, I kept shooting short films with my classmates, and learned that the most important thing was to shoot images using light and framing to support the storytelling.
After film school I started working as a cinematographer mainly in commercials and feature films. Shooting commercials gave me the opportunity to work in projects with very specific visual and technical demands. It is like going to a cinematography boot camp, from one project to another, all with different needs, and using different lighting and camera equipment, or even working with equipment that I had never used before.
In a feature film, the planning is different. You work with a director for a longer time, and the most important thing is to tell the story correctly. Every camera setup is like one piece of a big puzzle that every day is being assembled, until finally completing the picture.
In recent years, I have been living the radical change from film negative to digital. Depending on the project I work with different cameras, from small DSLRs to Alexas or high-speed Phantom cameras. The switch to digital cinema has changed my way of working on the set. Despite the changes, the lenses I use have performed flawlessly in this transition from negative to digital. With so much happening to digital cameras on a daily basis, it’s good to know I’m equipped with a good set of lenses I can trust.
Check out Serguei’s work – vimeo.com/sergueisaldivar
Director of Photography and ZEISS Ambassador Serguei Saldivar shares his experience with the ZEISS Cinema Zoom lenses when shooting the latest Cadillac commercial. This article is available in English and Spanish.