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!