Magazine article American Cinematographer

ASC Close-Up: Dean Semler, ASC, ACS

Magazine article American Cinematographer

ASC Close-Up: Dean Semler, ASC, ACS

Article excerpt

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?

David Lean's Great Expectations (1 946). Forty-odd years later, he asked me to shoot his final epic, Nostromo!

Which cinematographers, past or present do you most admire?

Robert Krasker, BSC, for The Third Man. Today, working with image capture up towards 2,000 ISO, 1 bow down to him for his powerful night cinematography on slow black-and-white film. Conrad Hall, ASC, a master of light, for his brilliant photography from Butch Cass/dy and the Sundance Kid right through to Road to Perdition Guy Green, BSC, for his superb photography on Greaf fxpectaffbns. And Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC, an extraordinary cinematographer with an exceptional style.

What sparked your interest in photography?

I was given a small Coronet still camera when I was 14, and I started îaking a few shots, especially landscapes - I lived in a small town on the fringes of the Outback. The film was processed by the local chemist and was quite expensive, so I didn't get to shoot a lot, but it was a thrill to see the tiny images.

Where did you train and/or study?

I had no formal education in photography, as there were no film schools in southern Australia, but I got a lucky break when I was given a position as a props boy on Rupert Murdoch's new television channel, NWS9, in Adelaide. Why I got the job, I'll never know; I was 16 and had no experience in anything at all. After two years of props and studio camera, I joined the news department and operated as a oneman band with my trusty Eyemo and 100' rolls of black-and-white reversal.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?

Two news cameramen became my mentors and taught me how to load a .camera, use a Weston light meter and cover a story. Pat McEwan had a very safe and steady style: use a tripod, use filters for enhancing skies, avoid flares in the lens, don't pan too fast, etc. Trevor Rose, by contrast, was a wild man: handheld, no matte box or filters, 'Don't worry about bloody flares, just get in there and get the pictures! ' I arn forever indebted to them both.

What are some of your key artistic influences?

My inspiration came and still comes from anywhere: cinematographers, photographers, painters, landscapes, skies, the moods of the ocean, the magical changing light in a giant city or tiny country town, light on a face in a million ways. …

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