Nicola Dove is a film stills photographer since 2004. She has been shooting big movies including ‘No Time to Die’. For more details visit her website: nicoladove.com Currently she is focused on her project called Film Stills Academy. Nicola shares her knowledge and experience with those who would like to work as still photographers. Find more on: filmstillsacademy.com
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): Thank you very much that you agreed for an interview. I’ve seen a number of photos that you’ve taken on the set of ‘No Time to Die. They are really great!
You’ve been working in the film industry as still photographer for years. You have over 40 movies in your portfolio. How did you get a job in this particular film? James Bond franchise is special for many people. I guess also for you.
Nicola Dove: Yes, for sure. It was wonderful experience to be considered for the film. In the film industry it is very much based on who you know and the contacts that you’ve built up over many, many years. I lived in UK for 16-17 years and I worked for the film industry for that time. The industry relies on recommendations. I was just recommended to the marketing department. I think they were keen to try something different with images this time. I had an interview and meeting with the marketing department. I’m sure that it went through many others like producers to get approved.
There were also other photographers on the set, i.e. Jasin Boland, Greg Williams.
Jasin Boland was the stunt unit photographer, so he was mostly doing the stunts with the second unit. Greg Williams came on just a few days over the course of the film. He shot Daniel Craig’s poster after the film was finished. I was the main unit stills photographer and I shot all the posters of all the other characters.
You spent 7 month on 007 film set. Did you have some breaks during that time or were you shooting every day?
I was on set everyday with the rest of the crew. We were shooting five days a week for seven months. These were long days so it was a bit like a marathon, but we could recover during the weekend like in any other job. That is important because during a long job like this you need to look after yourself. It is physical. You are carrying equipment, standing and moving a lot. You have to eat well, and you need to make sure that you don’t get sick. The last thing you want on a Bond film is to get sick and miss any days.
You mentioned the equipment. I know that on the set you were using two Sony A9 bodies with 24-70mm and a 70-200mm lenses. You had also Nikon kit as a backup. I was wondering why two different systems? It is always a bit difficult to switch from one to another because of different positions of switches, different setting etc.
I don’t switch cameras very often. Nikon is my old DSLR equipment with the sound blimp. It is handy to have camera that is not mirrorless with the blimp as a backup just in case you need to have your camera housed in some way of protection. Actually I only used it once, so it was not like I was flipping forth and back all the time. Anyway I understand what you mean. I love my Sony A9s. I had my camera issue in Jamaica, but it was only with one camera, so had another Sony that I could continue using. Then I brought up a Nikon DSLR as a backup second camera.
A while ago, before the mirrorless cameras came out, I was a Nikon user. When the digital changes were happening Canon was the first one to go full frame, so I had Canon 5d for a while as well. On one shoulder I had a Canon 5d and my Nikon, I think it was d700. All the buttons were going different ways and everything was opposite. I got used to it though. I was using Canon, Nikon and Sony. They are all excellent.
What was your workflow on the set? Were you editing photos during the day?
It depends on the shooting day, because every day is a little different, depending on the kind of scene. If it is a really great scene that has to be photographed well I am on the set all day. If that is quiet scene in the afternoon I may get an hour or so to download photos. If not, then usually I was coming the following day into the studio very early to download photos from the day before and to prepare for the day ahead. At the end of every week we were uploading the images via private server.
How many photos have you taken during those seven months?
I haven’t actually added it up. I really don’t know. Now when you asked me I’m interested in that.
I guess that you took thousands of photos. With digital cameras there are no limits as it was some years ago.
Yes, it is very different. I remember when I first started working as a film still photographer on films sets in pre-digital time. I was aiming to shoot six rolls of films of 36 frames a day. If I shot ten rolls of film it was really big day. 360 images is nothing nowayadas when you are shooting digital. It’s changed a lot, but I’m glad I was learning on film. It taught me to be very precise when to push the button and not to be wasteful.
While working as still photographer have you been to all ‘No Time to Die’ filming locations?
I wasn’t able to go to Norway. There was another photographer, Christopher Raphael, with the unit in Norway. Second unit is more about stunts and it doesn’t involve the main cast. Anything with the cast is mostly first unit that I worked with. I was in Jamaica. I was able to spend a couple of days on a chase boat, chasing around the yacht. It was fun.
Was Jamaica second filming location after Norway?
Is it true that Bond’s home in Jamaica was built for the film only?
Yes. That was beautiful spot by the beach.
What about the bar in Jamaica where James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) where talking? Was it also built for the film only?
No, that wasn’t a built set. That was a location that they’d found and adapted.
Where were you working after filming in Jamaica?
After Jamaica we were at Pinewood Studios for a long time. Then we worked for a week up in Scotland. We returned to Pinewood for a bit and then we went to Matera in Italy for a month. We came back to UK to continue working at Pinewood.
In ‘No Time to Die’ only a few scenes were shot on location in London. One of them was filmed at Whitehall Ct at the Ministry of Defence. You shot there great portrait of Daniel Craig in front of Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Was it the first photo from the set that was sent out to global media?
Yes, that became the first look image. That was the main image that was released.
Was it taken during the shot, rehearsal or maybe Daniel Craig posed for the photo?
It was taken during the scene. We didn’t do anything extra. On paper it doesn’t look that much. He just gets out of the car and walks across the street. Sometimes smaller moments make the best images. He was walking across the street and I was able to walk backwards with him and get a few extra steps that he did for the camera. He is very professional so he knew that it was gonna make a great image. He knows the character best and he knows how to make a Bond moment. I was fortunate enough to capture that.
Were Cuba set and Safin’s headquarters built at Pinewood?
Yes, the whole Cuba set was built on the backlot at Pinewood Studio’s. It was amazing. There were huge set builds. We were many going to another stage at Pinewood for a couple of weeks and by the time we went back to the previous stage it was all different, with something else. They were very clever with what they were able to create.
There was a scene inside the aircraft with Daniel Craig and Lashana Lynch. Was it real aircraft or was it also filmed at Pinewood?
That was shot on a real aircraft.
What is your favourite memory from the set?
It is hard to say because there were so many of them. Shooting out in London was wonderful, especially the day we got the shot that was used for Omega advertising. That was the favourite day I suppose. As a photographer your favourite days are usually in relation to the kind of images you were able to make. It is wonderful to be at Pinewood and everyday to arrive and see 007 Stage, but it is always fun to be out on location. Shooting in the Jamaica house was great way to start a film. Perhaps it was an unusual to start a Bond film like that because you are seeing him in a relaxed mode that we haven’t really seen before. Matera was extraordinary. You can’t drive in Matera so you have to walk everyday with your gear up and down on the steps. I was living there for a month with my family. They were able to explore the history, the caves. It is really incredible location. The weather was beautiful, food was amazing and people were very kind to us. I will never forget that. Being in Matera was an experience of a lifetime.
That was your second film with Daniel Craig. You were also still photographer on the set of ‘Enduring Love’ in 2004. What can you say about Daniel Craig?
He is total pro and he takes it very seriously. He is very loyal to his crew that is around him. Knowing that it was Daniel Craig’s last film as James Bond was obviously a real privilege to photograph him. He just let me do my job. That made my job much easier.
You had the opportunity to photograph the last scene on the set. I’ve seen Daniel Craig’s emotional speech after that. How do you remember that last moments on the set?
In the last scene he ran down the alleyway. There was not much room so there was just one camera and myself. That was the end of the very long scene. I think that was nice that he had that moment for himself while walking back for maybe 15 seconds. He walked with big smile on his face into the room where everyone was waiting. It was only a matter of seconds between these moments took place. All the crew had come down to congratulate him and be there to celebrate the final shot. It was a real privilege to be there.
October 7th 2021