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Help needed for Galapagos Adventure/documentary
  • Not even sure I'm in the right catagory but I'm going to Ecuador in November with my 70 year old mom (she's still tough). We're visiting the Amazonas rainforest for a week then spending a week visiting the Galapagos.

    We're both very interested in nature and wildlife, so both places will be great for that.

    I would like to make some sort of documentary out of the trip, that's a little more then just an animated postcard. I have little experience in this as I have mainly done extreme stuff like skydiving, skiing and kitesurfing.

    I'm bringing my GH2 with 14-140, 14f2.5, 25f1.4 and 45f1.8, a small portable light, a Røde Video mic pro and a tripod with a video head. I'm planning on using the Moon T8 or Spizz T7 and currently not really sure, whether to shoot in 30 or 24 fps or if I should use 30 played at 24 to slow things down a little for nature shots.

    I also bring my GoPro 3+ black with various mounts.

    I am reasonably capable in editing and colorcorrection, so what I'm looking for is help/advice/tricks on storytelling and getting the shots I need for that.

    I know this is a very wide and open question but I see so much talent on this site, so I was hoping on some shared knowledge.

    Thanks in advance :-)

  • 11 Replies sorted by
  • Some quick notes:

    --- get fitter, energy output can be very high, everyone else is walking, you're lugging kit getting shots and catching up etc. --- and the heat can really take it out of you.

    --- get spare batteries, the best stuff happens when your batteries are flat

    --- have a lot of disk and card capacity.

    --- have a good cleaning kit (I know the hard way :( )

    --- It can be hard to be bothered to put the tripod up in hot conditions - but its worth it.

    --- have an internal story in your head, but shoot much more than you need.

    --- do loads of practice stuff before you go, so that you can listen to guides and operate your camera without thinking.

    --- let people know why you're doing it, get email addresses etc.

    --- sound is really important to the end product, windshield and extension cable useful.

    --- know or heed warnings about stuff that stings or bites.

    --- let everyone else look at something before you get the shots --- that way they'll point out the cool stuff as they find it. (especially when diving!)

    Here's my simple example:

  • Thanks, those are good things to keep in mind :-)

    Koncerning getting fit and setting up. I have experimented with walking with the tripod in hand with camera already attached, I think that works well and keeps me from repeatedly packing and unpacking my kit. I think chances are that I'll settle on my zoom lens only to my walkaround kit (maybe add a fast prime).

  • It took me forever to finish but here it is.

    GH2 Moon T7 and GoPro Hero 3+ Black for underwater footage.

  • @Brumbazz Beautiful. Well done. Congrats

  • What a nice film. I was there in 1989 and had similar experiences. I only missed the red and blue footed boobies (birds :-)) who dived into the water for fishing by the hundrets and the fregat birds with their red throat sacks, who impressen me a lot too.

    But great film. Brought back nice memories. Thanks for sharing.

  • Papyrus font brings back memories of Firefly.

  • @matt_gh2 and @AKED thanks, I think it turned out well


    Maybe if you can re-edit and make it under 5 mins you can put it up here for the contest. You got until Feb 1st to enter. Look at the guidelines.

  • Very nice movie, thank you for sharing with us. Also, very timely for me because I plan to visit the Galapagos this May. I plan to take my GH4 and a few lenses. Please advise any advice you must have after taking such a wonderful trip. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  • @HillTop1, thanks for the tip. I got all exited only find it is just for Americans :-(

    @Dkane: thank you very much. Let me see if I can brew some advice up in addition to the excellent advice that andyharris gave earlier in this thread. As I don't know your level of expertice, I will give advice according to my own level (amateur), so some off the advice might be basic.

    I think the groups visiting Galapagos all operate more or less the same. You travel to a given location, which you have to visit in a given timeslot. This works very well as your group will rarely meet other groups on land and you can enjoy the location with your own group. As your group is given a timeslot, the group will be moving (not rushing) most of the time, so while spending time to set up it possible, spending a lot of time is not, so figure out how to carrry and set up your equipment quickly.

    • Tripod, this is a must, I kept my camera on the tripod and carried it around in my hand, which was quite heavy but worth it. To keep up with the group this is practical. The tripod will also allow you to use the cropmode on the GH4 for extra reach.

    • Video head, I opted for a compromise of price, weight, which I wished I hadn't. I was unable to make smooth pans or tilts, which would have been nice.

    • Good sound, I wished I had payed more attention to sound, I brought a Röde Videomic, but did not use it all the time, which I should have. Also a lot of sound was ruined by people talking, which is fair enough and just something you have to deal with. I got in a habit of falling back to get some undisturbed sound. Inform the group and guide about this.

    • Lenses, I only used my 14-140 with and ND filter but I brought more, which I left on the boat. There is enough light, so fast primes/lenses is not really needed but could surelly be an improvement over my 14-140. The ND filter is a must, I just had a 4 stop filter.

    • Slider shots, if you are planning on bringing a slider that would be great but also heavy. I had some success with holding my tripod upside down and hold it in one leg with the other two sticking out for stability/inertia. Had I had a GH4 (I do now), I would have done this at 60fps and slowed it down. Same approach can work with some luck as a follow cam.

    • Framing, my brother gave me very good and very basic advice, which really helped me. Get an open/wide and closed/narrow shot of each scene. The order is not important but having both makes it much easier to edit afterwards, so I think this is a good habit to get into. The 14-140 is great for this. Also framing the subject matter using the 1/3 rule is good to remember, something I wish I was better at :-) Since the animals are quite undisturbed, you will be able to get pretty close. I think shooting from a low position will give better result as it will show more background rather than just ground.

    • Editing, go through all your footage, name the clips and take notes and write down ideas. This will help a lot on the actual editing. It is so easy to get and overwhelming amount of footage since the light is great and the animals are not shy, so condensing it to a reasonable length takes time. Another great advice my brother gave me is: "Kill your darlings". Omit the clips, you think are speciel if they do not live up to the visual/technical quality.

    • Storyline, I actually gave up on this, as I was to busy trying to get good footage. I have no real experience on how to create a documentary, so I cannot help you on this.

    It was quite easy to unload footage and charge batteries during lunch and at night on the boat. So this was not really a special concern.

    I hope this was helpful.

  • @Brumbazz, oh men that sucks!! Cuz your stuff is really good. I thought i pass it on to someone that has some good material too. I was in Africa last month. When I saw that contest I was hurring to finish the edit and enter but I realized my story is not complete. I don't wanna rush it. I need some key shuts to complete my story. Im planning to finish it this year when I go back for a different shoot. I'm hoping that they have the contest again next year. But Galapagos too is a place that I really wanna go visit at least once. I always watch it on national geographic and just dream.