Resident on location media production in Palau, Stock Footage and photography.

In this World of increasing airfares, and increased demand for on location media for environmental subjects, having a reliable and professional camera operator somewhere like Palau certainly makes sense.

When we catalog media for reference here at Lightning Strikes, it’s often with keywords like: Environment, Sanctuary, UNESCO, illegal fishing, underwater, coral reef, shark, Manta Ray, tourism, indigenous, endemic, aerial, subsistence, coral bleaching, global warming, large school of fish, tuna…..

Underwater wildlife of Palau
Underwater icons found on almost every dive in Palau

With a huge variety of healthy almost pristine ecosystems, Palau provides a huge wealth of opportunities for stories. Visually it’s stunning too with it’s tropical islands, rich and diverse coral reefs and plentiful iconic species.

There are numerous conservation stories available, everything from Marine Protected Areas set aside in Mangroves and satellite reefs to the National Marine Sanctuary 80% the size of Texas.

We have WW2 wrecks and their de-mining and recovery of remains, extensive underwater caverns and of course the many marine lakes with their millions of Jellyfish.

A huge range of underwater environments……

The other side of the coin is also available with stories on illegal fishing and the black market trade in protected species, the need to balance tourism and development with conservation. Tuna economics, Climate Change, Ocean acidification, renewable energy, coral bleaching….

There are stories waiting to be told and new technologies waiting to tell them with.

Drone filming services expand shot range with a reasonable budget

Lightning Strike Productions has worked with numerous broadcast entities in Palau over the years including the BBC, CNN, Arte, Thalassa 3, ABC, Channel 9 Australia, Animal Planet and Discovery Channel. It’s also a regular contributor to online news media through it’s stringer services.

Our cameras, both underwater and drone mounted output Raw footage ensuring the very highest in 16 bit quality.

Postcard perfect Palau

And starting this year at Lightning Strike we are starting to do all of this with 360 VR and 3D too……

360 VR by Drone
Aerial VR in Palau

For a run down of subjects and readily available portfolios and galleries please see here.

If there is any subject you can’t find or you would like to talk to us about licensing options or something specific please contact us.

Cheers

 

Richard

Filming Fish Spawning Aggregations in Palau

Back in March I accompanied the very experienced Dari Divers on a filming dive down to Peleliu to document the spawning aggregation of Sailfin Snapper. The schools at this time of year number in the tens of thousands. We did three divers and were able to witness some incredible numbers. When you get the timing right expect to see lots of sharks and one of the most incredible natural displays in the animal kingdom.

During the day the huge school hangs out in a secluded part of the reef about 1km away from the corner where they spawn. During the night before they swim there and wait until dawn and the turn of the tide and on an unseen signal, commence their extraordinary ritual.

Check out this film I produced on it:

or the Youtube flavor:

https://youtu.be/22l1p66jlu8

 

If you’d like more information on joining Dari Divers for next years aggregation or even the month aggregations of other species see their website here: www.daridiverspalau.com

Cheers

 

Richard

 

 

Aerial Drone Stock Footage

When it comes to companies that represent me and my work, I can be very picky about who I send material to. After all, I am sending them my artistic content and there needs to be both a level of trust and commitment to the future representation from them in their site design and business plan.

So it’s not often I can say that I have decided to sign up with a new agency  and have them represent my Stock Content.

 

Aerial Entertainment Studios though is one and my initial submissions have impressed them enough to add me to their Exclusive team of artists.

My profile page is here:

I’ll be adding to it over time so if you are interested in aerial content check back for new material.

 

Cheers

 

Richard

Underwater photography workshops and training 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 cameraman Palau
Sunbursts were the order 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.

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

 

Welcome to Behind the Scenes

Hello and welcome,

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

Underwater Cameraman Palau
Underwater filmmaking needs you!

 

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

 

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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