Sebastian Copeland is a photographer and environmental activist. Copeland grew up in France and Britain, and graduated from UCLA in 1987 with a major in film. Throughout the 1990’s, Copeland directed commercials – everything from soft drinks to sportswear – as well as music videos. He is also known for his celebrity portraiture; he’s taken pictures of Sandra Bullock, Kate Bosworth, and Orlando Bloom (who is also his cousin), among others. In recent years, Copeland has focused on environmental activism. He serves on the Board of Directors of Global Green USA and recently published Antarctica: The Global Warning
Question: How do you gauge what to shoot?
Copeland: It really varies. It really varies. It’s not uncommon for me to shoot the same environment time and again until I get it right, because you’re never sure if the moment that you have is gonna yield a better result than if you wait. So ultimately film is cheap. And now that we’re in the digital world and digital era, it’s even cheaper. So it doesn’t hurt to capture something just so that you have it, and in that process also get to understand more the subject that you’re in. But this of course has, you know, to do with the type of environment that you’re shooting. If you’re shooting wildlife, which is not my specialty but I’ve done some of it, you’re gonna catch as catch can. If the wildlife presents itself in a moment that it presents itself, you can’t exactly guide it. There are some masters of it incidentally – which I certainly do not qualify myself as one of them – who are incredible at orchestrating certain types of environments to capture wildlife. Again that isn’t at all my specialty. But my relationship with nature photography has really to do with an instinctive and spiritual approach to it. How am I connected to that landscape? And how do I respond emotionally to what it’s showing me?
Question: What camera do you use?
Copeland: Well for landscape photography one wants to tend to have the most information on film. And because you’re not . . . you generally are not beholden to a timeframe that is rigid and dictated by the . . . by the celebrity or by the job, you have more time to set up. And so I tend to prefer shooting larger formats. And so primarily I’ll shoot 4 x 5 or medium format; or large format panoramic which would be 6 x 17; or in medium format 6 x 7. And that’s what I tend to shoot landscape with. And typically exclusively with those mediums, however, having traveled to the arctic and Antarctica, I was met with the limitations of utilizing this type of format in environments that are antagonist or hostile to the use of large format. And with that I mean that environments that are particularly cold, and sometimes particularly wet, and sometimes physically straining, those conditions dictate a certain approach. And listen, you have Frank Hurley ____________ carried around an 8 x 10 camera and came back with extraordinary results – an incredible hero for his commitment to . . . I mean him and ___________ incidentally and the whole team – for understanding the value of reporting what they were capturing. But it’s not easy. I mean I was in the arctic and I was gung ho about utilizing large formats, and was wholly unprepared primarily out of inexperience. But my equipment . . . Some of my equipment froze. My hands were very cold. The conditions were particularly challenging. And as a result I just came to realize that extreme environments just do not lend themselves well to that type of format. And so when I traveled to Antarctica, I understood that the digital medium was . . . was particularly well suited to those challenging environments. So in Antarctica I shot large format and medium formats; but primarily my motive of capture was 35 mm digital, which incidentally with the new cameras is quite extraordinary and yields amazing results. So I did 90 percent of the work in Antarctica with 35mm digital – Canon specifically.
How does Copeland know when and what to shoot? What kind of cameras does he use?