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Challenging Assignment


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#1 shawnh

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 01:18 PM

So this was probably the most challenging shoot I have done. I was hired by Warren Miller Films (the ski film guys) to shoot white water rafting in the raft, out of the raft, under the raft, over the side, etc. In addition to underwater video, I am an exprienced white water kayaker so perhaps I had the right skill set. They wanted unique footage showing the intensity of action, the raging water, the water pounding into the raft, folks falling out, etc. In addition, they wanted stable footage (not vibration or little shake, only big motion), no droplets, no fog, good contrast etc. All of this in class IV and IV+ river running at 10,000cfs in their smallest raft (10 footer).

Well my fX1 set up was too much of beast to handle in the raft so we rented an A1 set up from gates with a wide lens from Fathoms. The set up was decent but all manual (i have been using electronic for years now). That being said, it held up. One of the best decisions was getting the ext monitor...saved my face from serious abuse and allowed me to frame shots while stablizing the housing with my body.

The challenges were so many it is hard to name but here are a few:
-snow run off bitter cold water (42 deg f)
-warm, moist humid air
-sun changing to overcast to rain
-cam tape switching out doors
-water and spray everywhere
-crowded little boat
-raging rapids
-everything moving (water, boat, people)
-no control over any environment or position
-going from 40 deg water to 80 deg air back and forth for hours and days

My biggest challenge was drops on the lens follow but fogging. The fogging issue was always unavoidable at the beginning of the day. Day 1, the warm housing hit the cold water and everything fogged for 2 mins. Once the housing hit a mid temp, all was good. Day two I tried pre-cooling the housing in the river. Well, it was humid and the housing just misted up on the outside b/c it was too cold! So, I determined that dunking over and over got it to the right time.

The droplets issue was incredibly hard. I tried Rainex...no good. I brought a shammy...no good. I brought lens cleaner no good. Finally i settled on good old fashion saliva....and lots of it! I had to spit on the lens every 1 min, lather it and dunk once to form a clear layer of liquid on the surface. This would last less than a minute. This ultimately enabled me to get some good clear shots.

The shooting was wild. Leaning over the side in shooting at water level, tucked in the back shooting down the line, huddled in the front shooting the folks paddling and leaning off the front of the raft as 2-3 meter waves crashed over me. The biggest thrill was when the raft hit a huge wave as it crested, went verticle and then threw us out, with me catapulted from the top at the front. All this while the camera was rolling. First massive wave lurking, then crashing over, then water, then sky, then updside horizon, then froth and bubbles, then surface, culminating with the cam climbing back in the raft...now that is unique stuff.

Safety was big concern. Aside from almost losing my front teeth several times from a metal housing crashing into me, drowning was concern. To address this i taped life vest foam to the housing. The leash was a bigger concern. No leash, lost housing, leash and maybe underwater entrapment and death I finally used my dive lanyard with a quick release plast buckle that was very accessible and would break under force...seemed like a good compromise.

All said and done, mission was accomplished and some of the footage was suprisingly usable! So, if anyone needs tips for shooting in raging waters with a housing, drop me a note...i have plenty of training now:)
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#2 MikeVeitch

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 02:06 PM

Great story shawn! sounds like quite the trip!

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#3 Mary Lynn

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 03:44 PM

Great account! I found myself holding my breath as I was reading!

Couple of questions. How did you handle "splits" (part of the frame above water and part below) when it came to exposure/iris setting? Did you ever have to deal with getting thrown into the water not-by-choice? If so, what happened?

I've heard that defog can work to help droplets sheet off for splits, any luck with that? Baby shampoo? Sounds like saliva will turn out to be the best bet, though.

Thank you for sharing, it's a thrilling story!

#4 NickJ

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 05:41 PM

Great adventure again Shawn, you are difficult to keep up with buddy.

Question on fog - outside or inside? I always load up with silica gel packets inside housing (re-usable packs, home-made from the tips of gardening gloves and filled with pellets - re-dry in the microwave before each trip). This has reduced my fogging to zero.

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#5 wagsy

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 05:50 PM

Well done Shawn what a great GIG. I'm sure Gates appreciated their housing being bashed around as well. ;)

Spit seems to be the best as you always have it but you have to keep doing it. The more the better. It also helps in stopping air bubbles sticking to the lens.
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#6 shawnh

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 06:58 PM

Mary - I did take some splits...though in the river it was hardly split (more like over/under/over). Since I was using the A1 (not my FX1) i only had exposure (no iris), i wouuld put the cam in the water, let it auto adjust up (open wider), then step it down to notches to accomodate for the brighter surface conditions. this seemed to work well. And yes, i did not plan on being thrown from the boat a couple of times. When it happend, kept my cool, hugged my cam and swam some rapids while vectoring on the raft as quickly as possible.

All - After trying all kinds of stuff to keep the lens clear, Wags is right. Spit is always there and it works. YOu can even control its consistency if you are good:) I would spit on the lens couple times, gently coat it and do one plung to rinse it.

Thanks for the support gang and to be honest, i was definitely intimidated at times.

Shawn

Nick - The fog was actually in the lens (between the elements at the front of the dome. No silica would have helped...we are talking extreme temperature fluctuations.
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#7 Mary Lynn

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 07:47 AM

Very cool, Shawn. Thanks again for sharing!

#8 Steve Douglas

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 08:02 AM

Damn exciting. I wonder tho, as much as I love Gates housings, if perhaps an Ewa bag wouldn't have been a better choice. This is very light weight and could be hooked up to a helmet mount with a bombers eye alignment ring. In the old days when I was a jumpmaster for a skydiving team in the 70's, our filmer(video wasn't even a word then) had his cam mounted to his helmet and a ring came down in front of his eyes.
The whole story sounds like you had a blast.
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#9 anthp

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 06:57 PM

Fantastic story Shawn - thanks for sharing. Are we likely to see the footage somewhere?
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#10 shawnh

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 09:25 PM

The show should be released early next year. I am not at liberty to discuss which network and titles yet...but should be seen in quite a few spots. I'll post when I know more.
-shawn
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#11 anthp

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 04:16 AM

Looking forward to it Shawn.

I'm in Australia, so networks and titles prob aren't really relevant.

Can't wait to hear the details anyway. Would love to seek it out.
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