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.
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
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.
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.
Many thousands of migratory shorebirds stop-over in Palau to rest and feed, one of them is the Whimbrel. In Palau it is called the Okak. The Okak has a larger much rarer cousin, the Far Eastern Curlew, so rare only around 5 birds get spotted here each year. This is the largest species of Curlew and is also know in Palauan tradition as the money bird. The story goes that it visits these shores and leaves gifts behind. It swallowed traditional money and flew to parts of Palau, where if it was left to settle and not disturbed it would eventually defecate out the money and the residents would become rich.
You can find the symbols all over traditional meeting housings and Government buildings.
Today I utilized my new canon 70-300 lens coupled to a 2x teleconverter and managed to get some nice stable footage of this Whimbrel even at full zoom. The Image stabilization of the canon lens is amazing!
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:
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.
Should you find yourself in the Bohol/Panglau region of the Philippines and you’re a diver, there is a place I can thoroughly recommend. Even if you’re not a diver, this place could possibly persuade you to be one.
Every dive shop in the area offers trips there, because it is so good, it’s unavoidable in fact I would say. As soon as the weather is good enough they said, “we’ll go”.
So, with a recommendation like that and a shop like Philippine Fun Divers providing me with good rental gear, a great boat taking me there and expert guides I couldn’t really refuse.
Good thing I didn’t, because even though the weather was still a bit….”marginal” the diving was anything but that.
Once the Banka boat had approached the low lying sand fringed island, myself and the 2 other divers got geared up, had a briefing from our DM Greg and we got in. Almost immediately I’m seeing stuff I’d not seen before or multitudes of critters I see rarely. One of my favorites is the little Tobies or Pufferfish.
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.