January 3, 2013
Into the Gran Caldera de Luba, a new generation of wildlife filmmakers
In a week I leave for Equatorial Guinea, where I will spend two months trying to film primates on the southern part of Bioko island, off the coast of Nigeria. I am jumping on board the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Project’s Scientific Expedition of the Gran Caldera de Luba. It feels so far away from me right now. I have been home for the holidays and am enjoying time with my friends and family, eating so much good food I don’t know how I’ll be able to hike for three straight days through the jungle – or survive the switch to a diet of rice and beans!
Justin Jay – the filmmaker behind our project – and I will meet for the first time in the Frankfurt airport. Justin and I have been independently producing natural history films on a skeleton budget for the last several years. We believe we’ll be able to make a high-quality film with the incredible advances in consumer technology.
Our main cameras are DSLRs. Justin has a Canon 7D and 60D and I have a Panasonic GH2. I can’t imagine trying to have made my mark as a budding filmmaker in the pre-digital age; with our full 1080 HD cameras, and a wide range of lenses, we’ll be able to film for hours for the price of the cameras and a few SD cards. My favorite lens is a fixed, low-light 20mm pancake that creates a shallow depth of field and really sets out subjects in front of a mottled rain forest background. I also have up to 600mm of range to get the drills and red colobus from far away.
We also have bought a few Go Pro Hero 3s. Since they are so easy to whip out we will use them as our POV and “diary” cameras, always having them ready to capture our misadventures and to record the challenges we face. The Go Pros also are great time-lapses, and I’m sure I’ll throw it into some spontaneous situations to try to get a shot, like attach it to branches and hope a drill or red colobus climbs by. We can control the Go Pros wirelessly and stream the footage they capture to our phones or laptops for accurate camera traps. They are also going to capture our glorious quad-copter shots!
With Justin’s TurboAce X830s quad-copter we are hoping to get flyover shots of rivers, waterfalls, canopies, and even cool shots of ourselves hiking. The wet weather could ruin these lofty goals, but a few shots from a remote-controlled quad-copter would really set our film apart, and it’s an addition of gear that costs less than it would to rent certain lenses on fully-funded projects – let’s just hope we don’t crash it!
We are arming up with an assortment of tree climbing gear, hammocks, knives, rope, gilley-suits to turn invisible if we come across some drills to film, tape, bungee-cords, and an arsenal of fasteners. I’ve been proudly breaking in my snake-proof and water-proof boots, and dyeing my clothes to blend in with the forest. We’ll carry a bunch of weight in batteries, flashlights, headlamps, and tripods, and have to waterproof everything for the trek.
Once we get everything ready we still aren’t guaranteed to see our subjects. We are prepared for many challenges, situations and redundancy plans, and now must focus the mental preparation for the endurance and patience we’ll need to be able to use everything we’re carrying.