A Chill, Video Portrait

written by:
Virginia Zander


A Chill, Video Portrait

I met Cass, or “Marcus Alfonso,” an aspiring model/actor, through my coworker, our mutual friend Gary. Cass reached out to me awhile back for help developing a portfolio. We talked about doing a future shoot at the railroad tracks and have done a simple photo shoot on campus since. We finally got this one at the railroad scheduled and decided to do a short “video portrait”, for a finished project that would benefit both of our demo reels. Once I heard we would have some snow that day, I started thinking about the mood. Anticipating grey skies and cold air, I imagined the storyline and music choice; a low-key, slow tempo hip-hop jam, one you would play walking through thought and solitude.

If you’re shooting on train tracks you have to have epic close ups of footsteps and walking shots that take advantage of the background and depth of field. I packed up my Veloce VII backpack, or “doomsday bag”, with my Canon 600D, battery grip, 18-55mm kit lens, 70-300mm just in case, handheld stabilizer, extra weights, MacBook Pro, and the GoPro for good measure. This is what I call “Mobile Office” mode and I love it! With the confidence one gets from a full arsenal, the three of us left the warmth of the studio, trudged through the snowy woods to the tracks, and lit a cigar.





I’m not one to promote smoking, however Cass enjoys a cigar on occasion and favors them as a prop. Let’s face it, smoke looks cool. So I set up base camp a hundred yards down the track and started assembling my rig. I got this battery grip for Christmas and wanted to break it in, so I added the extra weights to the bottom of my stabilizer. 26°F, the ground was ice and slush, a slope of loose gravel and leafy ditches; my combat boots prevail. With my rig secured, we set up some establishing shots then inverted the stabilizer into something like a low-mode, staying tight on his boots, the snow and the tracks.




For a little over an hour, I jogged backwards, back and forth across the slick wooden ties. We alternated between the low ground shots, circling boom and pans, following smoke and cigar in an attempt to express and capture the scene. I tried to keep my shutter speed up to capture some clean freeze frames, but lighting became more of a struggle as that early winter sunset approached.


I wanted to review the footage before leaving the set. With frozen fingers I pulled out my MacBook, perched on the icy rail and plugged in the SD. “Mobile Office” “working from the wild,” I live for it, and despite the cold and damp this was no exception. I have endless love to the people who let me fit it all into one bag. Satisfied and near hypothermic, I retreated to a cozy office and a hot cup of coffee. Post-production begins.

Check back on my video page for the finished product ~ virginiazander.weebly.com

If you’re interested in Cass’s modeling journey, follow him on Instagram @zoe_theloner

“Behind the Scenes” photos courtesy of Gary Griffin, Jr. ~ garygriffinjr.weebly.com



Virginia Zander

Virginia “Ginny” Zander is a videography student at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) finishing an Associate’s Degree in Digital Media Production. She works as a videographer for CSM Community Relations as well as shooting freelance. Ginny specializes in backpack journalism, utilizing her editing expertise and a creative eye. With a mastery of her ENG workhorse camera, a Sony NXCAM, she looked to DSLR video for it’s cinematic artistry. Rebel T3i in hand, she continues to explore the world, frame by frame.

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