I've been wanting to pursue underwater cinematography for a while now, so as soon as I moved to Tennessee, I took my courses & got my advanced scuba certifications.
In October I was hired by Evolve IMG to be the "Underwater Unit Cinematographer" for their shoot with National Geographic. They were creating spots for the new season of Wicked Tuna. Not only have I wanted to work with Evolve IMG for a couple years now, but I've been wanting to shoot for National Geographic as long as I can remember. On top of that, it was my first actual job shooting underwater. No whammy, no whammy, ahhh triple whammy! I really love the shoots where it feel like it's the first time I stepped onto a set in my career. I was that anxious. I've never seen a more fitting time to say I was totally jumping straight into the deep end.
Before I go any further, just wanted to say big thanks to Joel & Jesse for giving me the opportunity, considering diving was new to me. Meant a ton to me. Also, thanks to the cast and crew for being killer to work with.
It was incredible watching the guys do their thing. They had a jib boat, phantom, custom go-pro "bullet-time" rig, UW unit,...and several other amazing pieces of gear. Was an honor to work with them. Check out the finished spots and behind the scenes video below.
Shooting in the water comes with a whole new set of variables and difficulties. Temperature, sun position, visibility, weight, surface conditions....I mean it's a whole new ball game for me. I made some newbie mistakes. Lessons. Don't EVER assume when someone hands you a memory card that it is formatted. Don't EVER assume when someone hands you a new brick that it is 100%. On land, when a battery or memory card needs to be changed, it's 1-2 min tops. While shooting and on set even 1-2 minutes can seem like an eternity. When you are in the water it requires you to hand someone the camera, climb out of the boat (with all that weight on), take off gear, dry UW housing, disassemble UW housing, replacing the battery, format, perform air seal test, gear back up, dive gear check, get back in water. At the quickest, it's 15-20 minutes. It's as if you can feel the weight of everyone watching you, just waiting for you to finish so production can continue. Yes, I did it with a memory card first, got out, reformatted, got back in the water, and the battery died as soon as I started the camera in the water. It was such a humbling moment for me. Luckily the Evolve & National Geographic crew had the patience of saints.
I will never forget the first day when the boat captain asked "So are you afraid of great whites?" I replied, "Great whites? Here? Naw, I am not scared." And with a straight face he said, "Actually we've had problems with great whites all summer." Sure I laughed it off and quickly pulled out my phone. Well, he wasn't joking. There had been report after report of great whites at our location. It definitely sat in the back of my mind as we headed out to location, but the second I jumped in the water, it was never a thought or worry. I could've made it harder on myself, considering the visibility was between 3-6ft for the first couple days. There could've been sharks at my feet and I wouldn't have been able to see them. Did have fun swimming with thousands of baby jellyfish, despite the occasional one getting in my regulator.
Overall it's definitely one of the most memorable shoots I've ever done. You always learn something on each shoot, but I feel this was a huge step for me and I learned a crazy amount. Thank you again Evolve IMG, the spots are incredible.
BTS Photos contributed by Sarah Rivers
Scuba Photos contributed by Hans Van Den Bold