Stringr Interviews: Stringr Pro François Bota

by Kaitlyn Mitchell

This week, Stringr sat down with Stringr Pro François Bota, who has over thirty years of professional photography and videography experience. Bota started out using film in the 1970’s, before the digital revolution hit. He worked as a long-term freelancer with the prestigious French photo agency Gamma, covering international civil unrest, war, and revolutions in Nicaragua, Portugal, Panama, Morocco, and Israel. Bota used New York City as his base while doing international work, and meanwhile did freelance still photography for magazines including Time, Fortune, New York Magazine, Newsweek and Saturday ReviewBota later moved to Connecticut, then Dallas, Texas, where he first started using Stringr. He now covers his new hometown of Miami for Stringr.

François Bota

François Bota

Stringr: What differences have you encountered between being a Stringr in Texas versus Florida?

Bota: There are more activist events and demonstrations happening in Dallas, like Black Lives Matter. In general, there’s a lot more political involvement in Dallas than in Florida, where it’s more weather events. That could change with the Cuba situation. More people will be going on holiday there, making for interesting situations to shoot. I may go on weekend flights to Havana to shoot video.

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A photo from Bota’s travels in Angola.

Stringr: When did you switch over from still photography to videography?

Bota: I switched to video about five years ago. I started videography when the Canon 5D Mark II came out, when the camera was no longer a photo camera, it was also video. In the last three years, I’ve been applying more and more video to my work, trying to get more stuff going with freelancing weddings and whatever else was going on. Then I began to notice a switch to iPhone footage. So I started to use the iPhone, and lenses adaptable to that.

Stringr: Do you have any advice for new Stringrs who haven’t done much videography?

Bota: Go out and shoot whatever you have. Don’t rely on the tools that the other people have to shoot something. Go out and film. That will give you experience, first of all. The attachments aren’t expensive. The lens is like $90, and it’s really exceptional quality – that amount of money is a lot less than the iPhone costs. The app and the lens together is a good tool, for only $100.

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Stringr: How did you decide which attachments were best for your iPhone?

Bota: By going to photo shows, and reading online reviews of new products. The physical attachments and software give you better control over the video input, so that is is like film – with it, I can control the ISL, the aperture, the speed; a lot of things the phone alone could not do.

  • Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.40.11 PM3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer: When you’re using a tripod, it’s cumbersome to move around with and follow the subject. To avoid the shakes of your walking motion, a smartphone stabilizer is the best tool.
FLY-X3-Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer

FLY-X3-Plus 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer

  • Rode IXYL Condenser Mic: I use it mostly for interviews because it takes away from the echo in the rooms, and is more focused on the subject speaking. It’s a great way to get better sound to the footage. The iPhone mic’s sound is it’s not as good.
  • Rode IXYL Condenser Microphone

    Rode IXYL Condenser Microphone

    Moment Lens: I read that the quality was exceptional. It actually gives you about a 30% wider lens than the iPhone has. And the quality of the lens is fantastic – it’s very sharp, it keeps the tones correct and doesn’t destroy them; and the telephoto lens gives me that wide angle so I can get closer to the subject. At the same time, it helps with the mic. I’m very happy with it.

    Moment Wide Lens

    Moment Wide Lens

  • FiLMic Pro App for iPhone: It controls depth of field, so that you’re not limited to what the iPhone is giving you. With this app, you can control the iPhone’s aperture, speeds, contrast, and tone. For example, on the iPhone, if you film something from light to dark, it automatically adjusts to the light. On the app, you can manually fix the aperture. So you can pan the iPhone around without changing the light.

    FiLMiC Pro App User Interface

    FiLMiC Pro App User Interface

This interview has been condensed and edited. 

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