Incredible nocturnal performer
Daimon Xanthopoulos is a photographer, filmmaker and LUMIX Ambassador. His photography and video documentaries are published worldwide. His work is also frequently shown in exhibitions and cultural festivals and he is a much sought-after speaker. His work is always characterised by human stories, which he portrays in a special and above all respectful way. For example, he made the award-winning reports titled ‘Detroit, stories from a city in free fall’, in the USA. He exposed hidden slavery in Asia and South America through powerful online video portraits, and portrayed secret societies in West Africa. In addition, he has made many reports for UNICEF and child relief organisations such as Terre des Hommes on difficult themes such as the impact of chronic malnutrition in Guatemala, child labour in the Burkina Faso gold mines, the war and its aftermath in Sudan, Liberia, Angola, Uganda and Afghanistan.
In September 2018 Daimon took the then newly released full-frame LUMIX S1 camera with him on an assignment to Hawaii, where he discovered how well the camera performs in low light. ‘As a photographer, you're not used to retaining so much detail and colour at such extreme high ISO values and it certainly opens up new visual possibilities. A good example of this is the photo I took of the starry sky above the island of Maui (Hawaii) from a height of 3055 metres.’ I used a 70mm L-mount lens to capture the multitude of stars in the Orion constellation, including the Betelgeuze star, a red supergiant that can become a supernova at any moment, and also the Orion Nebula (M42) with its beautiful purple tones. The detail is truly impressive. ‘New sensor technology has improved high ISO and (signal to noise) performance over the last years with camera’s becoming better and cleaner in low light conditions, but the LUMIX S1 sensor seems to go a step beyond than that, which is great news for us image-makers’.
A few months later, when Daimon was working on a new film in which a large number of the shots had to be filmed in the middle of the night, he chose the LUMIX S1 for the job. ‘I knew right away that I wanted to shoot this film on the LUMIX S1 because it had already shown me what it delivers in terms of quality at very high ISO values. Of course it’s always exciting to see if the same quality is also expressed so strongly in the video.’ Daimon's film is about a very old, traditional way of fishing in which the fishermen use the tide to drive the fish into a trap, or weir. The members of the Van Dort family are among Europe's last weir fishermen. Weir fishing is an ancient skill, but after this generation it seems weir fishermen will disappear forever from the cultural landscape of Europe. ‘They sail twice every 24 hours at low tide, so both day and night. The night shots were a challenge because of the very low light and the conditions at sea.’
Daimon mainly filmed handheld because a tripod is of little use on a wobbly little boat. The built-in image stabilisation (DUAL IS) in the LUMIX S1 is good for about 6+ stops compensation. This was essential because Daimon had to continuously compensate for the movements of the waves while filming. ‘We started filming around 3 in the morning. There was almost no light at sea except from the stars so we used extremely high ISO values of up to 30,000 ISO. Capturing the atmosphere and the colours of the night was very important and the high ISO performances are incredibly beautiful and clean. When the bright morning sun eventually came out, I noticed the wide dynamic range of the LUMIX S1 sensor, with beautiful detailing and gradations in the highlights and shadows that ensured that the transition from the soft shades of night to the hard daylight is also nicely balanced in the film’.
Daimon had high expectations of the LUMIX S1 and yet he was amazed by the stunning quality of the video files. ‘I am thrilled with the result of this film. The colour tones of the blue nocturnal scenes as well as the warm colours of the contrasting morning scenes look beautiful.’ What Daimon particularly likes about LUMIX cameras is that he can use the same camera system for his films as well as his photography. ‘The new LUMIX S system is no exception and gives the same flexibility, but with that additional full-frame look. It is somewhat larger than my LUMIX GH5 or G9, but the rugged professional construction of the camera makes it suitable for demanding environments. In addition to being a high-performance and versatile camera system, it’s a real workhorse for the demanding professional.’
Since the year 2000, Daimon Xanthopoulos has dedicated himself to documenting stories he believes need to be told. Photography is his way to communicate because it’s not bound by language, and this allows him to focus on social issues, injustice and human rights, as well as the plight of people, especially children, in the aftermath of conflict. The photos can be disturbing, bearing witness, often eliciting an emotional response, but at the same time they can be artistically beautiful. “In my work,” he explains, “I always try to combine these elements of emotion and beauty and so connect people to the themes I visualize.” The last few years Daimon has brought his attention to photographing historic places known from myths and ancient beliefs. With these imaginary images he has captured this mythical world of magic and wonder, with his camera.