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Welcome to Behind the Scenes

Hi and welcome,

here we have a collection of posts that look behind the cameras of Lightning Strike Productions.

Find our thoughts on a variety of categories like:

Underwater filming and photography

Drone filming and photography

Time-lapse shooting

Conservation

Expeditions and Travel

360 VR

 

Enjoy and keep coming back for regular updates.

Cheers

Richard

Underwater photography workshops in Palau

Underwater photography is a common art form these days with cameras readily available for reasonable prices. A large proportion of divers now have housed cameras ranging from a cell phone to the latest flagship behemoth “HMS Nikon”.

Underwater photography is art with a physical challenge too. The best photographer on land could be terrible underwater if they’re not a competent diver.

Underwater photography
Sunbursts were the flavor of the day

When everyone has a camera and is “happy” with what they’re doing it’s nice to be asked by someone to help them improve their shooting.

Underwater Photography courses in Palau
A large school of fish offers the creative underwater photographer a multitude of imaging options.

On this occasion my student wanted help across a range of subjects. Here’s a run down of things we covered:

Many issues that lead to dissatisfaction in underwater photographers are down to the inherent intelligence of cameras. Especially with point and shoots and the more automatic varieties. What I mean is that cameras are often thinking too much and because they are mostly not designed with underwater photography in mind, they can make it more of a challenge to get the best shots out of them. Auto focus is a big one for this.

Once you find a cooperative subject shoot it in as many ways as possible

Dissecting what the camera is trying to do for you is the first step. Turning off “intelligent” facets of it’s character often requires reading the manual and a little experimentation. Get to know your camera.

Next comes the basic shutter speed/ aperture/ISO balancing knowledge that all photographers worth their salt should have a rudimentary understanding of. It’s not always available but being able to control them in the camera is so much more rewarding….. and challenging…. but that’s what I’m here for.

Subjects that don’t move too much and will allow you multiple attempts are good to start with

What will absolutely ruin a good underwater photography dive is when the housing doesn’t perform so I always advocate spending as much time as you can on preparation. All it takes is one o-ring or one connecting rod out of place and you have a camera that won’t work on the dive or worse is flooded. Be prepared.

After that we have the lighting and strobe positioning that is so important underwater. Correct or incorrect strobe use will make or break a shot, so developing the mindset of creating a studio  and moving your lights within it and around your subject will reap great rewards.

Often the student photographer has a certain shot in mind or wants to improve on certain elements of underwater images in general. This time we were going for sun beams through the water as a background to our perfectly placed subject so we focused on that when possible.

Spending the safety stop shooting sun bursts and beams

Overall, it comes down to patience and practice, but with an hour of preparation and coaching before the dives we had the set up and basic operations down, after a few trial shots underwater on stationary objects we have a better feel for strobe power and ball park exposure settings. Then after that it’s about looking for subjects and having fun. A few over the shoulder views by me allows a real time feedback for the student and quick adjustments when necessary. Between dives a more in depth discussion as we review results.

Certainly a faster learning curve than the old slide film days………

Contact Lightning Strikes for availability of courses or workshops, individuals or groups are welcome.

 

Cheers

 

Richard

 

Behind the scenes of Marine Sanctuary Enforcement in Palau

As the worlds oceans become overfished to the point of species extinction and ecosystem collapse, it becomes increasingly important to prioritize sanctuaries and no take zones. Of course those that want to fish will do so illegally regardless of the laws in place. That is why Palau has continued to increase it’s capacity for Policing it’s EEZ and National Marine Sanctuary.

In my capacity as a media producer I can help document this effort to raise awareness.

Now with the latest surveillance operation concluded I thought I would share some photos of the aerial component.

Flying with Pacific Mission Aviation in a Beech Queen Air Excalibur, daily sorties go out and conduct searches over vast tracts of ocean within Palau’s EEZ. The patrol boats are in the area but cannot cover such a huge area in the same time.

The hatch in the tail of the aircraft allows an observer to take high resolution photos of suspected illegal fishing boats

Each flight lasts about 8-9 hours and does an expanding square pattern out from a central point determined by visibility and altitude.

All eyes are pealed as we search

Aerial observation from 2000ft

My job apart from being an observer is to provide documentary evidence so we employed GoPros attached to key parts of the aircraft.

Part of this is also for promotion and as part of the remit was to include the aircraft in the shot with 3 patrol boats I proposed that we have a GoPro attached to the wing looking back at the aircraft and then have the plane fly just in front of the boats in formation.

We trialled it first with just the housings attached and found the sticky mounts were not strong enough when the aircraft descended in a dive……about 150Knots, the result…we out both the housings. So we took to attaching them a bit more securely with bolts and this time around they survived and did so with very little vibration and rolling shutter issues.

The above video shows how precisely the pilot maneuvered the plane. We set up a WiFi link to an iPad inside the plane so the pilot could see in real time the view from the camera. At one point the plane was close to 70 ft above the water doing over 100mph banking at 45 degrees…..quite a rush.

The end result was two apprehended illegal fishing boats loaded with illegally caught fish.

6K RED Epic Dragon in Palau

Filming Manta aggregations in the north of Palau for a cinematic documentary with the RED Dragon. (image: Pete Zuccarini)

We went up north to film the Manta aggregation that occurs at this time of year. I’ve been using a RED Epic Dragon with the Arri 8mm prime lens on front for the widest, closest images possible and we were not disappointed. The footage is for a cinematic documentary on Palau probably for release in the next year.

 

Ocean Warriors awarded

Got some great news this morning, Ocean Warriors, the Animal Planet series we worked on in Palau back in October 2015 has been given the Genesis award for Outstanding Television Series.

The series follows dedicated individuals and organizations that have made it their calling to stand up and do something in the global effort to  protect the worlds oceans.

The crew of the PSS Remeliik and film crew from Animal Planet Ocean Warriors series upon return from patrol. Palau, October 2015

For our part at Lightning Strike, we provided fixing services for the 3 man film crew here in Palau as well as drone, time-lapse, underwater media production and filming on the patrol boat PSS Remeliik. We joined the crew as they chased down illegal fishing boats near the South West Islands close to the Indonesian border.

The experience was a real eye-opener to see how a small documentary film crew works on location as well as the work being done to protect Palau’s EEZ from illegal fishing.

 

A big thanks to Pete Zucchini for the opportunity.

5D3 and 4K with Magic Lantern…

Hi,

I don’t know how many out there are still using this combination, I feel….. I know, on my island, I’m the only one, and that makes me nervous but excited at the same time.

I love the bleeding edge. I don’t have the money to gamble a test on my own $2.5K camera body with new firmware on a regular basis, but will bite the bullet once some guinea pigs have gone first….

What gets me though is the latitude inherent in the 5D3. It seems that Canon put a C700 system in a DSLR body and restricted it, but at the same time left the door open…

That was what I was gambling on.

Super 35mm 4K comes to Canon 5D Mark III in new Magic Lantern module – IT’S REAL

Full credit to the guys who work the code. Hats off to you A1ex and co.

 

Regards and thanks

 

Richard

 

 

New film project started today in Kayangel

Hi,

Just got back from filming up in the north of Palau and wanted to share this with you:

Great conditions prevailed after a stormy night but we went up to Kayangel to do some pre-production scouting and subject tests for a new project based on the northern reefs and islands in Palau.

I could not have asked for a better start.

Watch this space to see how this project develops

Cheers

Richard

Slow shutter speed using ND filters for Time-lapse

Hi,

I’ve been struggling with panning time-lapses and Circular Polarizers since…well since I started using the combination. The sky is never consistent and the darkening effect uneven.. So I invested in a professional level ND filter system from Lee, a UK based filter company.

It’s not cheap to start but the quality is incredible. There is no colour cast on the image, all the filters do is limit the light. This means I can either open up the iris for really shallow depth of field or keep the shutter open for much longer and still have a properly exposed shot.

This shutter dragging is what I’ve been looking for with Time-lapse sequences and the Lee system allows me to stack multiple filters together to really dial in the effect. The system also allows me to start with say 3 filters then as the sun goes down I can remove them one at a time whilst adjusting the camera’s exposure to transition from day to night.

Yesterday was the first field test so I packed my gear and headed for one of Palau’s secluded waterfalls.

Using a 0.75 filter I could drag the shutter to 1.3 seconds blurring the water nicely.

 

Watch this space for more insights into these freshwater environments or check out this section of my portfolio for creatures I’ve already filmed at other waterfall and freshwater locations in Palau.

 

Cheers

 

Richard

Sailfin Snapper spawning aggregations

It’s the time of year again to be diving Peleliu. Both the Sailfin Snapper (Symphorichthys spilurus) and Red Snapper (Lutjanus bohar) are starting to aggregate along the east reefs of Yellow Wall and Peleliu Express to the corner.

For those intrepid divers, early morning dives just before the full moon will find them spawning in their thousands. Also making an appearance are the predators such as Bull Sharks and Oceanic Black Tips.

Here’s a quick clip of a Sailfin Snapper aggregation I shot this week, it’s still early in the season, maybe 3000 fish here but more than 10,000 likely later.

 

Watch this space for updates as we return to document this impressive natural event.

 

Cheers

 

Richard

 

New promo film for Dive shop and cinemascope 2.35:1 editing

Hi,

over the last few months I’ve been diving with Dari Divers here in Palau. They want to develop their website using my photos and films to show the range of their diving, as well as the new sites they are discovering, together with all the cool fish, sharks and Mantas at these new locations. They asked me to put together a short film of the regular features such as the spawning dives, aggregations, Blue Corner, Blue Holes, German Channel etc to begin with, which you can see here:

All the underwater stuff is shot on the Canon 5D3 running Magic Lantern  capable of outputting 4K Raw footage.

Aerials were shot using the DJI Inspire 1, hand launched and caught from the bow of the boat during the surface intervals.

For the editing I looked at a different aspect ratio this time. 2.35:1 instead of the usual 16:9 to see how it holds up over time and initially I like the look. To me it makes the screen bigger even though it’s actually smaller…..

Let me know in the comments section below what you think to the film and whether or not the 2.35:1 ratio works for this sort of thing.

Watch out for more media coming from this new collaboration as well as views from new as yet undisclosed sites around Palau.

 

Cheers

Richard