Cal State student Benoit Lalande already has his own company, clients, and a trip to Southeast Asia with the Tamron SP 15-30mm VC Wide-Angle lens under his belt.
By Jenn Gidman
Images and video by Benoit Lalande
Benoit Lalande is only a second-year business major at California State-Long Beach, but the burgeoning photographer and filmmaker from Quebec City already boasts an impressive portfolio and his own business, Nordik Creative, which he runs with partner Riley Donahue. "I first came to the US when I was on vacation in Los Angeles about three years ago and loved the area," he says. "When it came time to apply to colleges, I realized the opportunity I had in front of me and made the leap. I've now been in the US for two years and traveled the world a few times already."
Although Benoit had long been interested in photography (he originally applied to the Cal State film program), an interest in advertising and commercial work ultimately drew him to become a business major. "I realized if I wanted to do film, I didn't really need to study film, per se," he says. "I figured marketing would help me more in what I wanted to do, as I could find business internships and take advertising classes."
Benoit and Riley started Nordik Creative to put potential clients' eyes on their work. "Our site is mainly divided into two categories: video and photography, in a variety of genres, including commercial work, portraiture, surfing images, and weddings," Benoit says. "I take care of the video side, though I do have still images featured as well, while Riley mainly handles the photography end. It's a terrific way to collaborate, make contacts, and get our work seen."
One of Benoit's clients, a Canadian travel agency, tasked him last summer to travel around Indonesia and show the essence of the world's largest island country. "They wanted me to capture the feel of traveling to the region, which I did via a video and still photos," he says. He had just received the Tamron SP 15-30mm VC PZD lens, which offered him the ideal focal-length range, sharpness, and aperture for the images and video he wanted to capture.
"That lens was amazing for portraits, crazy-wide landscapes, and other types of images where I wanted to capture compelling foregrounds in addition to dramatic skies," he says. "In terms of sharpness, it was crystal-clear from corner to corner, and the maximum F/2.8 aperture allowed me to use the lens in pretty much any lighting situation. Finally, the 15-30's Vibration Compensation (VC) feature was an excellent fill-in for the video stabilizer I didn't bring with me on this adventure, allowing me to capture a variety of handheld images without camera shake."
His goal on the trip was to show Indonesia through the metaphorical lens of his own style, as well as through the literal 15-30. "I used to have a more contrasty, saturated look to my images," he explains. "But lately I've been gravitating toward a more subdued feel, with a little more mystery—a foggy mountainside, for instance, or a misty morning on the beach. In just one year I've seen a big evolution with my photography."
For one of the first expeditions on the trip, a hike up one of Indonesia's smaller mountains, a combination of fog and sun provided Benoit with that aura of mystery he's drawn to. "At one point, there were a ton of clouds around us," he says. "This one guy was so happy and just smiling—I had to sneak a picture of him."
25mm, F/4, 1/500th sec.
The Ubud Monkey Forest, a nature reserve in Bali, was one of the group's favorite stops, with hundreds of monkeys leaping in front of Benoit's camera. "It was hard to get a decent shot, because they were constantly in motion," he says. "But I put my camera in burst mode and was excited to finally get this photo, with the arm of another monkey on its shoulder and that colorful bokeh in the background. My subject was looking right at me."
30mm, F/2.8, 1/500th sec.
The tour guide was even able to nab a sit-down with some of the resident primates, who were exceedingly social. "The guide was playing with them and laughing," Benoit says. "At one point they were trying to open his pockets and steal some of his stuff."
25mm, F/2.8, 1/300th sec.
A snorkeling trip near the Gili Islands was another fun diversion, at least for those who didn't fall ill while on the water. "We took a boat out, but most of the people on the tour got sick, except for the tour guide and myself," Benoit says. "This was a candid shot of the guide in wonderful light that added to the relaxed mood that at least he and I were enjoying."
30mm, F/4.5, 1/400th sec.
Their largest hike of the trip, up the Gunung Rinjani volcano on the island of Lombok, started out hot and sunny, but by the end of the day it had become overcast—exactly the type of mood Benoit tries to impart in his photos. "It was foggy and mysterious, and the tour guide was right in the middle of it," he says. "I wanted to get a few images of him. He wasn't showing any explicit emotion, but I wondered what he was thinking about as we got ready to finish up the hike. It's one of my favorite photos of the trip."
22mm, F/3.5, 1/200th sec.
The group hiked about halfway up Rinjani on the first day of the hike and rose at 4 a.m. the next day to complete the climb. "We arrived at the top at around 6 a.m., just in time for perfect lighting from the sunrise," Benoit says. "Everyone was really tired, but were filled with such amazing emotion. One of the hikers held up a sign showing how many meters up we'd climbed (close to 4,000)—it was one of the biggest hikes I'd ever been on."
17mm, F/4.0, 1/400th sec.
Benoit had a certain type of image in mind for when he finally arrived at the summit. "At that time, I was inspired by pics of people on bridges or in helicopters where they dangled their feet and took a photo," he explains. "I wanted a shot like that, too. I went around the side of the volcano, put my feet over the edge, and took the photo. I loved that I was able to get so much of the landscape in the background, just stretching back as far as the eye could see. The flare on the upper left side, where the sun hit the lens, was a nice touch."
27mm, F/2.8, 1/500th sec.
For other student photographers preparing to enter the field, Benoit offers two suggestions. First, build up collateral to show clients. "Create a website featuring your portfolio as soon as you can," he advises. "Even if that means you start working for free or experimenting with your camera on your own. You need to be able to show companies what you can do."
And if you're in a location where photography or videography opportunities are scarce: Move to where they aren't. "You need to get to a place where you have those opportunities, as well as where you can find other like-minded creatives to collaborate with," Benoit says. "I have some friends back in Canada who had the financial ability to move, but they wanted to stick around the scene they knew and keep doing what they've been doing. But I really wanted to do video, so moving to the US, and specifically LA, was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Taking the risk was worth it!"
To see more of Benoit Lalande's work, go to www.nordikcreative.com.