Tuesday, December 04, 2007

on an island in the clouds

the power's out in the house. that the internet also goes down with it isn't too much of a frustration, but i am surprised at how dark it is here. so much that it feels like i'm in a photography darkroom.
there are no street lights here, meaning that the streets outside are completely dark when the sun goes down. not just a safety hazard, it means i can't go running at nights like i was hoping to--it's surprising how difficult it is to find your way when it's so dark outside. i don't remember things being this dark at home when the power goes out. it seems like there's always a sort of ambient light when the lights go out. but maybe not. as i've been writing here, my assistant came in to ask what we should do about our batteries; should we used the power inverter and charge from the car, or is there anything else we can do? good question.

today was our second day in hawaii, again on the beach. it's a good location, with enough looks that we can get a lot of scenes out of it. shooting on the beach of a tiny island surrounded by the largest body of water on the planet, the weather changes quite often. today we had rain, overcastness, bright sun, wind, mist, and every possible combination rotating throughtout the day. yet we were very fortunate that to always finish out a scene with consistant weather. we got the first scene all either overcast or rainy enough to make it work, and our next scene on the rocks looked very nice in the diffused light of the cloud cover. best of all, the second long scene in the rocky area stayed sunny long enough to shoot it all. that was the hardest part of the day, and took longer than it should have. we just couldn't seem to block it out right, or at least in a way that was practical. looking from the beach over to the rocks was fine, but any other angle had us precariously into the ever changing water and looking back into the beach of tourists, many of whom found us far more fascinating than the hawaiian landscape.

as brian and i were trudging through the scene, i couldn't help but again realize how little i know and wonder how some of the great cinematographers would shoot it. if they had the same resources as i did, what would they do? where would they put the camera, what light would the use, and how would they work with the director?

our last shot of the day gave us a very calm ocean, which lured us into trying our luck. we needed our actor out in the edge of the water, on his knees in prayer. and the best angle for that had us also in the waves, with the camera very low. you'd think we would have learned from yesterday: we were nearing the end of our first day, shooting at the tree line, far from where even the highest waves were washing up at that time. then one of the actors said 'wave!' and we turned to see water rushing in at us. paul grabbed the camera just as the tripod was almost completely engulfed, saving the camera. earlier that day we were debating if 'pelican' cases were waterproof. i said i thought they were safe to even toss into a lake but didn't want to try it. the mighty pacific, however, had other ideas. i was chasing it as the ocean carried it just out of arm's reach, the black case bobbing in the water. eventually i grabbed it, but as i was coming back, i saw a sad sight: mary's camera case. not a watertight case, but a simple consumer case for a digital still camera. someone grabbed it, but the water had already done its damage. as we were regrouping, i looked out and saw ryan coming out of the water and carrying what was once a 4'x4' black flag. it looked like it had been through a hurricane and lost. the fabric was completely ripped from the frame on three sides. how it was destroyed so quickly was impressive, but, as ryan put it, 'the ocean claimed it for its own.'
today's tides had been, on the whole, much more consistant. we had a few people on wave patrol, watching out while we got the shot. with the layered light of the clouds, the palm trees, and the 'skyfire' filter making everything look like a bold sunset, it looked good.
as we were loading the vans [our grip truck was confiscated this morning as some workers deemed it too heavy to pass one of the many one-lane bridges on the way to set, despite our having crossed it twice yesterday], ryan noted that we've maintained consistancy of light quality from scene to scene. that got me to thinking further that despite my frustrations that not all of my shots are beautiful and crafted to perfection, i couldn't think of anything that was particularly bad today.

being the director of photography brings with it all the connotations of the title. agonizing over the design of each shot, collaborating with the director on where the camera should go and why is followed by working with the grip and gaffer to practically use the equipment that i told the director/producer we need to pay for encompasses the most immediate aspects of it. after the hour meeting with the director and production designer about tomorrow's schedule, i have spent another hour talking with the first a.d. and costume designer about set etiquete, protocol, the inter-connectedness of it all, and the ins and outs of politics between departments. that opened up a previously little-considered realm of my job that almost made me forget i had to make the shot look great, too. i hope i get the chance to be a d.p. again, so that i can continue to practice and improve. but right now i just need to push on through tomorrow. my assistant is fantastic, i think we'll break in some more equipment tomorrow, it's 11:30 now, and the 'hope mix' is on its last song anyway.

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