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.

What are Marine Lakes?

Marine lakes form in limestone islands  where certain areas of the limestone erode away quicker than their surroundings. This erosion can create a depression or bowl and if that bowl is close enough to the ocean it may fill with sea water percolating through the porous limestone.

What makes Palau’s Marine Lakes special is that sometimes in a few places certain organisms such as Jellyfish have flowed in and remained there.

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……

After months of recon flights over one particular lake, I decided to find a way to film what was inside it. A little local know how told me a route and one day I set off to film there. See this film here for my findings……

The Marine Lake environment is extremely fragile but incredibly interesting. For further reading consider this article.

Welcome to Behind the Scenes

Film Palau

Welcome to Behind the Scenes. Here we have a collection of posts that look behind the cameras of Lightning Strike Productions. We film Palau and take pride in our 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 these sporadic writings. There is no schedule… Please feel free to leave a comment or ask  questions regarding any elements of our productions. Keep coming back for the regular updates .

See our company website for more information.

We are available for Underwater filming, underwater photography, underwater camera rental, aerial filming, drone pilot hire, Location scouting, fixer work, Film production in Palau, permits, accommodation in Palau, dive boat charters, aircraft charters, stock footage or just advice on where to dive.

Cheers

Richard

 

Winged Ambassadors of Palau

Protecting Migratory Shorebirds 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.

The Delerok or Far Eastern Curlew or Money Bird in Palau
The money bird as depicted on the Capital Building, Melekeok.
Camera gear for filming birds

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!

migratory shorebirds palau
The Whimbrel also known as the Okak
Wildlife conservation in Palau

The NGO spearheading this initiative to raise awareness about the plight of these birds is the Palau Conservation Society but this is far from the only work they do. See their website for more information and how to help them achieve their goals.

Palau Conservation Society commissioned me to make a film highlighting the status of Palau’s migratory shorebirds and for about 9 months we collaborated with local bird and conservation experts to create this film which is being shown across Palau:

360 VR comes to Palau

360 VR Palau

Just out today is a new 360 VR film we helped produce here in Palau in collaboration with production company Parable VR.

Load it onto your phone or tablet or better yet watch it with VR goggles…

The film was shot over a period of 1 week using a 6 GoPro Hero 4 cluster. We used the Abyss 360 underwater housing available from 360Rize.

This website is an incredible resource for filming 360 VR content

How to 360 VR

If you’d like to see more insights into VR production in Palau and get tips on Aerial 360 VR production see this post.

How to become a successful underwater cameraman

 How do I become an underwater cameraman?
how to become a successful underwater cameraman. Underwater Cameraman Palau
Underwater filmmaking needs you! Photo courtesy Eric Goh

I get a lot of e-mails asking me how to become a successful underwater cameraman, or how I’ve got to where I am as a media producer. So I thought I’d put together a short blog to help all those aspiring shooters.

There is no one course or definite route. The more successful underwater camera operators you meet the more varied the stories  you’ll get. For the sake of this, here are some recurring similarities.

Most of it may seem like common sense but hopefully my contribution offers you some insight.

If any readers have ideas that they can offer, things that I haven’t encountered or mentioned it would be great to hear from you. Please leave a comment at the bottom to help every aspiring shooter out there.

how to become a successful underwater cameraman. Underwater Cameraman Palau
Waiting for the sun to set before filming a Grouper spawning aggregation, Little Cayman, circa 2005

Continue reading “How to become a successful underwater cameraman”

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

Media Production 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:

So many cameras
  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.
aerial media production
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
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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Aerial drone filming in Palau. 5 Big uses

Aerial Drone filming 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 are continuous. Manufacturers are bringing out new models that take huge leaps forward every 6 months. That is why we moved so fast to start aerial drone filming in Palau.

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. Lightning Strike Media 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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Fixer services for international productions in Palau.

As international media productions go, the first Survivor Palau was big. It needed location scouts, fixer services, permits, talent, crew, camera assets, camera rentals, customs clearence, vehicles, accomodations…. All things the production team needed to know about BEFORE they got off the plane for the production shoot.

Even small scale productions need these things so it’s important to not underestimate the value of a local fixer.

Ocean Warriors Palau production required considerable preproduction and fixer services
Lightning Strike Productions provided in country support throughout the Animal Planet shoot for Ocean Warriors

This is where having an experienced and well connected local crew can save you time and money, ensuring you get what you need to deliver your project on budget and on time.

Remove the stress of production

A location shoot doesn’t have to be stressful, it shouldn’t be stressful if you have done your research and found the right guys on the ground to get things done for you. If things for whatever reason don’t pan out, and sometimes no amount of research will stop it, it’s good to have people there that are focused and can still deliver if the Gods of fate are not smiling.

Assistant cameraman and safety diver prepare for an underwater shoot in Palau
Safety diver and assistant cameraman discussing lighting and camera positions.

Pooling your resources is important. Having what you need a phone call away is something that only a well connected and experienced fixer can provide. After all, it’s not what you know it’s who you know. No amount of years filming for this or that company will enable you to get an interview with the President or find you the village elder that can deliver the story clinching quotes.

Get the best fixer services with the Lightning Strike Team in Palau

Lightning Strike Media Productions has at it’s disposal an accumilation of decades of media production, journalism and living in Palau experience. If you are a Producer, DP, camaraman or one man production unit, you should let us help you realise your production goals. We work closely with the Government and NGOs on a variety of projects so have great contacts and experience where it matters. No other company can provide the same level of fixer services in Palau. See this post for more information.

Our clients have included Discovery Channel, ABC Australia, CNN, Arte, ZDF, Al Jazeera Economist magazine and the BBC along with numerous ad agencies and independant producers.

Contact us to discuss your project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why you should dive Balicasag Island

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.

The little Tobies and Pufferfish often have highly reflective markings that when hit by your lights really shine.

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Palau’s Extreme Reefs

Expedition Palau

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. Their isolation is what makes them so special.

Helen Reef

Helen reef  is a long thin spit of land, sparsely vegetated. It 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.

Continue reading “Palau’s Extreme Reefs”