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.

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

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

 

Documenting the marine lakes of Palau using a drone

Palau has a huge number of Marine Lakes locked within it’s limestone islands and I’ve wanted to explore them since I’ve been here but they are very hard to get to, usually surrounded by thick jungle growing out of razor sharp rocks.

Because of this few people have managed to explore them so I thought I would use a drone to take a look and see them from a new perspective. Aircraft such as planes and helicopters have of course flown over them but I don’t think anyone has actually descended into one before.

So I used Google Earth to locate a few that were 1 mile or less from a suitable take off point and set to flying over and into them.

Some are impressive like the one in the video above, others no more than a depression with some shallow water in that dries quickly without rain.

Some have nothing living in them but maybe frogs, others can have millions of Jellyfish. I’m looking forward to the day I spot one of Palau’s Saltwater Crocodiles……

10 things I’ve learnt from 10 years of Media Production in Palau

I’ve been a Media Producer in various guises in Palau for 10 years now, initially as an underwater cameraman with a little bit of topside work thrown in, then diversifying into Time-lapse, run n’ gun, aerials (drone and aircraft), interviews etc.

Palau has changed a lot in those 10 years and this has made me change with it.

Here are 10 things (actually 11) I’ve learned about Media Production in that time:

  1. Now more than ever people have cameras, as a dedicated cameraman I’m being squeezed by the ready availability of cameras. Everyone over the age of 5 seems to have one (gross over generalization, I know). So now more than ever I have to be inventive with my imaging, flexibility and the old cliche of thinking outside the box are more important than ever before. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques, think about a sequence or image you want to acquire, no matter how crazy or impossible it first appears to be, then work out how to do it. Dare to be different.
Go Pro sticky pads are very sticky….I’m in the cabin with a WiFi feed to my iPad directing the pilot for good framing…..
Underwater Time-lapse of Coral Bleaching using a firmware hack to provide my Canon with an intervalometer, repeat visits over a 4 month period.

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5 Big uses for drones in Palau

5 big uses for drones in Palau

Drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are one of the biggest growth industries of the early 21st Century. Their rise has been stratospheric. Development of flight, navigation, imaging, and automation systems mean that manufacturers are bringing out new models that take huge leaps forward in development every 6 months.

I started flying drones about two years ago with a 450 class model and was commissioned almost immediately for work. Since then I’ve upgraded to an Inspire 1 for it’s longer flight times, image quality and stability in wind. My company now provides a range of aerial imaging services and flies almost daily.

The technology is so innovative it has opened up a range of opportunities in Palau:

This aerial shot of a burning illegal fishing boat, is not possible by any other method than by Drone.

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Palau’s Extreme Reefs

Palau’s northernmost island Ngurangel and it’s southernmost Helen Reef are separated by little over 400 miles of island peppered ocean but are remarkably similar. Both are low lying sandy features surrounded by huge atoll reefs which makes them a haven for both marine and bird life.

Helen Reef filmed during an illegal fishing observer mission

Helen reef  is a long thin spit of land, sparsely vegetated and has a resident population of 4 rangers, 3 dogs and about 5000 sea birds. The rangers have their own accommodations and  keep an eye out for illegal fishing activities. It lies closer to Indonesia than it does Palau’s capital Koror.

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