Welcome to the second half of our interview with Director of Photography for the National Geographic special, Oceanus, David Linstrom!
Q: You not only used the Fujinon HA13X4.5 lens during the filming of Oceanus, but you've said that, in using the HA13X4.5 it over the past 6 or so years, it's become your favorite lens. Why do you think it works so well for your style of documentary shooting?
A. The Fujinon HA13X4.5 is a beautiful lens. It allows me to get up close and personal. When shooting handheld, it allows me to move with the camera more fluidly. It makes my work look better by taking out a lot of the shake. And it's pin sharp.
Q. You said in a recent article (http://www.btlnews.com/crafts/camera/spintec-keeps-lens-clean-for-david-linstrom's-columbia-river-voyage/) that you were able to protect the Fujinon HA13X4.5 lens while in difficult waters during the shooting of Oceanus with the Spintec rain deflector from Innovision Optics. How much footage did this save from the cutting room floor, and are there any particular scenes we should watch out for that might have otherwise not been included?
A. The Spintec was used with a Tyler helicopter nose mount. It keeps rain and bugs off of the lens. Helicopter shots are expensive and since it was raining on and off the entire week we were there, it was the perfect tool for this shoot.
Q. Aside from adverse weather, is there another major challenge you often face during shooting, and if so, how do you combat it?
A. When shooting for National Geographic (and all non-fiction for that matter) I usually find myself in adverse conditions. Long flights, long car rides, hot and buggy or freezing locations, marginal food. That said, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I've been to some of the most fascinating places on earth. The trick is to stay healthy and travel safe. I learned early on how important it is to re-charge at the end of the day. And to keep in mind that I'll probably never be back to this location, so get the most out of it in the short time I'm there.
Q. What was most unique about the production of this documentary?
A. The Columbia Bar Pilots have a very dangerous and unique job. It is their responsibility to navigate large tankers and container ships over one of the most treacherous waters, where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. If the Bar closes, the river traffic backs up and million of dollars are at stake. It's their job to keep the commerce moving. And they risk their lives every day just to get to work. They either have to climb up a rope ladder that extends down form a moving super tanker or be lowered via cable onto a moving ship. Then they have to steer a gigantic vessel over a sand bar in waves up to 40 ft that clears the bottom by as little as 5 ft. These men and women are some of the most easy going yet confident people I've ever met. Simply amazing.
Oceanus will air on the National Geographic Channel next year.
When David Linstrom agreed to be Director of Photography for the National Geographic
, with oceanographer Bob Ballard of The Titanic discovery fame, he knew he would be shooting in a tricky environment. As he packed up his camera supplies, he made sure not to forget his favorite lens—the Fujinon
HA13X4.5. We were recently lucky enough to ask Mr. Linstrom a few questions. Read on to learn more about his early days, how he combats challenging shooting conditions, the future of cinematography and more.
You shot the upcoming Oceanus
special for National Geographic
with Bob Ballard, otherwise known as the oceanographer that discovered the Titanic, among other famous ships. What were you most looking forward to about the experience?
Working with someone as renowned as Bob Ballard was a great experience. His wealth of knowledge about our oceans is amazing, his list of accomplishments is legendary and he's a very nice guy. He's interested in other people and what they do day to day and he's not afraid to go out on a limb. I shot him putting on a harness and stepping out of a helicopter to be lowered 100 feet onto a moving cargo ship.
Is there one instance you can pinpoint that turned you on to cinematography?
I started as a still photographer. I was always fascinated with photos of people and places from around the world. I grew up fascinated with Life
magazine and National Geographic
. Then I took a cinematography class in college and quickly forgot about shooting stills. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the still image. It's just that the moving image appealed to me so much more. I have a deep love for non-fiction and the wealth of stories from around the globe. There's something about moving images, sound, editing and narration that when combined, make for an amazing experience.
What do you view as emerging trends in cinematography today?
The most obvious trend is digital. Film cameras, which didn't change much for over one hundred years, are quickly becoming obsolete. Arri is no longer making them, neither is Panavision. Professionals are using consumer digital cameras to make fascinating images. It just keeps getting better. The cameras get smaller, sometimes to a fault. As an operator, I like a heavier camera. I like the mass, the ergonomics of it. Up to a point. I certainly don't long for the days of a 40-pound camera on my shoulder or of all the cases I use to schlep around the world.
What are the most significant changes in filming from when you started until now?
I started shooting on 16mm film. That went away a few years ago and I don't see it coming back.
Stay tuned in to our blog for part two!
Andy Brandy Casagrande IV, known to most as Andy Casagrande, is one of the world's top wildlife cinematographers. Despite his busy schedule, which includes a new series on National Geographic WILD, several shows for the Discovery Channel’s annual, highly anticipated Shark Week
and countless other projects, he took some time to talk to us about his life, his work and his love of Fujinon lenses.
Fujinon: You have shot in places people usually only hear or read about, and many of those locales have some pretty challenging environments. From an operating perspective, what is probably the biggest obstacle you've faced during a shoot and how do/did you combat it?
Andy: The biggest obstacles I have had to overcome while operating cameras and high-tech gear in the field have always been related to weather. If it's too hot, the cameras overheat. I’ve even had some melt! If it's too cold, the cameras can freeze and the electronics fail to function. Shooting polar bears and lions have always been my most challenging project. Oh, and Great White sharks are not easy either! Salt water & electronics do not mix…and neither do sharp teeth and soft flesh!
Fujinon: You mentioned that you used the Fujinon 25x lens to capture footage of polar bears—polar bears that, it should be mentioned, you waited SIX MONTHS for in the freezing Arctic (pictured right). After all that time and dedication, there's no doubt it was a shot that meant a lot to you. Why that lens?
Andy: I use Fujinon lenses because they are some of the best in the world. I chose the 25x Fujinon lens to film the polar bears because it is an extremely light and compact lens but it packs a very powerful punch. Amazing range, super sharp images and so small—I love it and it's perfect for wildlife filmmaking!
Fujinon: Is there one instance you can pinpoint that turned you on to cinematography?
Andy: I was born with an extreme fascination of Great White sharks. These predators are what inspired me to become a wildlife filmmaker.
Fujinon: Wildlife clearly has you intrigued, both personally and professionally. What is it that draws you to this type of work versus another category?
Andy: I'm not a people person and I try to stay way from people as much as possible. Animals don't complain and take too long to put on their make-up, they don't make bad jokes, etc. I was just born this way; I love wildlife.
Fujinon: What was your first "big break" in this industry?
Andy: I was working as a research cameraman in Cape Town, filming and photographing Great White sharks for science. Then, National Geographic came down to Cape Town to deploy its “Crittercams” and make a documentary with the scientists I was working with. After the shoot, they offered me a full-time staff job in Washington, D.C. as a filmmaker in their Natural History Unit.
Fujinon: Your new show for National Geographic WILD, "Killer Shots," premiered just this month. For those who haven't seen it, what can they look forward to and is there anything you'd like fellow cinematographers to take note of?
Yeah, “Killer Shots
” is a cool series. I focused on Great White sharks, lions, cheetahs and polar bears. It's a cool concept because it's a behind-the-scenes show about what it takes to be a wildlife cameraman and bring home some “Killer Shots.” I used all types of the latest advancements in technology, including rebreathers, slow motion cameras, infrared cameras, thermal cameras, remote controlled cameras, bite-cameras, tow-cameras, breach-cameras, etc., etc.—it was AWESOME!
Fujinon: There are a lot of “Shark Week” fans out there and you've done quite a bit of work on that series. In fact, you shot three shows for this year's “Shark Week.” What are some of the precautions you take when shooting in shark-infested waters, both for yourself and your equipment?
Andy: I don't take any special precautions aside from keeping my eyes open and my hands/legs/arms/feet away from the sharks’ mouths.
Fujinon: You have custom created some pretty nifty camera-rigged contraptions. What's the most inventive thing you've ever done with camera equipment to get your shot?
Tough question, but my bite-cameras
have yielded some amazing images—images that I could not possible have gotten any other way…unless I got bit myself, which is not an option!
Fujinon: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Andy: Be nice to strangers and live the life you dream.
The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” starts July 31st at 9:00 p.m. e/p and airs through August 5th. Check your local listings for specific shows or view the full schedule here: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/shark-week/tv-shows.html
. To learn more about Andy’s work, visit his website: http://www.abc4explore.com/ OR
watch this ABC Nightly News piece: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/wild-nat-geos-killer-shots-14024961
To learn more about what Andy does as a National Geographic cameraman, go to: http://events.nationalgeographic.com/events/speakers-bureau/speaker/andy-b-casagrande/
To check out the video gallery from ‘Killer Shots” on National Geographic WILD, go to:http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/nat-geo-wild/shows-1/killer-shots/