Shooting Stock Outside Your Comfort Zone


By Francois Arseneault, Contributor to the Artbeats FootageHub

I enjoy shooting stock, doesn’t really matter what it is, though some subjects are more interesting than others. Mostly I like the idea of the “road trip,” ah yes, loading up the SUV and hitting the road, all with preplanned locations, of course. I’ve taken dozens of road trips over the past 26 years, maybe even hundreds. Some just a short one day jaunt to the countryside where opportunities abound. Others, grueling 18-21 day trips over thousands of kilometers, with varying degrees of success. We’ve traveled across Canada and to Panama, South America, Cuba, Oregon, California, New York, Washington DC, Chicago and many other places. The camera has been over my shoulder nearly everywhere. A good travel insurance policy and some common sense go a long way, but so too does a friendly smile; it’s gotten me into more places than anything else.


Francois at Acropolis, Athens, Greece.

This past Fall, my wife and I decided to take a little bit more than a road trip (okay, a vacation): a two week cruise to some of civilization’s most important sites in the Mediterranean. Now, usually I’ll get approval for and permissions to shoot when necessary; however we’re talking about Egypt, Greece, Turkey and Italy. Not very likely as the rules and bureaucracy are endless. After a few inquiries I came to the conclusion that the cost and the time were not worth it. Time to go to plan B and go under the radar. Sure, it’s risky, but if you’re careful and respectful things usually work out. Or at least I thought so. I packed the Sony NEX FS700 after stripping it of the rykote equipped Sennheiser and brought along a beanbag as a tripod was not going to be suitable. It attracts way too much attention. No matte box, just the camera and a spare lens: a  Tamron 10-24mm for those sometimes surreal wide angle shots. Time to play tourist.

Rome is a wonderful city to visit with so many opportunities to get great shots in the public areas. I never shoot in museums or art galleries, just sling the camera over my shoulder and enjoy the history. However, being crowded and busy meant I employed the beanbag on whatever steady object I could use. Two thousand year-old architecture can be quite photogenic. The city is rich in stock shot opportunities.

Next stop – Egypt. Having never traveled here, meant all was new. Be safe and book the tour off the cruise ship, this way everything is guaranteed… maybe. I asked our guide about my camera, would I have any problems with it, and he assured me there would be no problems. A six hour bus ride later and we arrived at the pyramids. Amazing! But then the local souvenir salesmen arrived, flogging all sorts of cheap Chinese made trinkets. It didn’t matter what direction you went, they stood in front of you. We had a very limited amount of time on the schedule and I was getting frustrated. I was finally able to get a few shots. I didn’t give it much thought, but there were only DSLRs amongst the tourists, not a single video camera save a few older consumer HD cameras. Clearly, a few tourists were quietly shooting video with their 5Ds and D800s. Hmmmmm. It didn’t take long before a plainclothes police officer stopped me and demanded I pay a 900 Egyptian pound fee to take video. I politely stated that I wouldn’t pay, indicating I was told I could shoot video by my guide. He promptly escorted me out of the site. Seemed the rules could be interpreted differently. We were joined by two more uniformed officers, as they escorted me back to my tour bus my wife was more than a little concerned. It turns out, as my guide explained to me a little later, that the camera was too professional and since the revolution things have changed. The next day I had to pay “fees” elsewhere in Egypt just to have my camera with me. It seems they just didn’t like the look of it. Despite these issues, I still pulled off some establishing shots and decent b-roll.


One of Francois’s beautiful shots from the Artbeats FootageHub on

I ran into a similar problem in Istanbul a few days later, in fact, and had my camera seized for about five minutes before I assured the staff of the cultural site that I wouldn’t even turn on the camera. As I learned, the problem with a guided tour in some of these places is that even though you may not have any intention of shooting footage in a particular site, you have no choice but to take the camera with you lest it disappears from your vehicle. The authorities couldn’t care less that you’re on the tour and are simply passing through. As a tourist, it can become almost onerous to bring any camera on a tour. I did manage some shots though: architecture, skylines, people and anything that caught my eye. Athens, Mykonos, Ephesus and Venice were no problem at all and were wonderful places to get great footage.

Summing up, big cameras have always attracted attention, but now with certain less-than -democratic countries in turmoil, authorities are taking a dim view of pretty much any camera. Egypt, specifically, could become much riskier to do any camera work in the future as will nearly any Middle Eastern nation. The next time I travel to some of these countries, I’ll probably just take a DSLR and do the best I can with it.. It’s just not worth the hassle to use something larger. Lessons learned.

Francois Arseneault is a freelance shooter/editor, with over 25 years experience in the field and is based in British Columbia, Canada. His footage is featured in the Artbeats FootageHub.

View all of Francois Arseneault’s footage featured on Artbeats.

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One Response to Shooting Stock Outside Your Comfort Zone

  1. Lidia David says:

    The rig Blomerly is using, seems to be a chestpod, with a neck strap and either a rod or some kind of connector, from the camera to the chestpad, that has swivels on each end. His camera is very small, being held one-handed. This is very different and lighter-weight than my mount. Mine doesn’t fasten to any part of the body, but can be held out and swung freely around. Although he may use it on flying birds, I doubt if he could follow through on overhead shots very well. If your purpose is mainly for fast-moving subjects like birds, I’d look for something that can be held and moved through all positions and angles. Good luck in finding the right one. Everyone needs something different to suit them, so you really have to try out these things to know how well they’ll work. Added Note: After learning more about calculating the magnification of camera lenses, I now realize the figure I gave in the first message on this post for my VX2100 and the Raynox 2.2X telextender is not correct. Since this group of camcorders (VX2000, PD150 & PD170), which share the same lens, has a magnification factor of 10.37X, the combined lens power with the telex is 22.8X. This is based on the 35mm film equivalent. With .33-inch CCDs, you multiply the focal-length (FL) of 72mm by a factor of 7.2, to get the 35mm film equivalent FL of 518mm. That’s how much larger the 35mm film frame is than the width of the active area of these CCDs. You divide this by 50 (the 35mm film frame gets 1X of magnification for each 50mm of lens FL), to get the 10.37X figure for the basic lens. The zoom range of the lens is 12X, but the magnification factor is less, because it starts at 43.7mm of FL at the wide end, where the image is just 87.4% of 1X in size. This fairly long wide-end FL, is why these cameras need wide-angle add-on lenses for many closeup shots.

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