Locations and being prepared

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As a stills photographer, I've always appreciated the importance of being prepared with regards to scouting wild landscape locations - including whether they will be best at sunrise or sunset. This transferred over to film making.

For the past two months, we've been preparing for filming a grant total of 1 minute and 20 seconds of a woman dancing in the wilderness. We initially thought we'd narrowed down several best locations. That was, until we got the drone up to check them from the air well in advance of actual filming. We were surprised that most of the locations chosen looked great from human height but not so good from up above. So it was back to the drawing board. We've since worked on a final list of eight different locations.

This morning was another very early start, driving off in the dark, then walking to a spectacular mountainside cliff edge well before sunrise. We did a "no dress" rehearsal, moving rapidly on to the second location before the best light had gone. We'll be going back to the same location again tomorrow for sunrise to get even better angles. And that's just for two shots of 4 seconds each.

When the dancer arrives in country eight days from now, we'll have just six days to film. Weather will likely be mixed, not least because we're up in the mountains, even thought it's late summer. We're realistically planning on two or three early mornings of the six to be sunny with light/gentle winds so therefore good for flying/filming. We ideally need at least three early mornings and one pre-sunset to be suitable, preferably more. We'll only film in the first 45 minutes of "golden hour" immediately after sunrise, plus the last 30 minutes before sunset.

We're finalising heights, angles, and cinematography techniques. Notes are being written out on single sheets of A4 paper for each location, held on a clipboard, so we'll remember/know what to do and in what order.

The choreography has all been worked out, to music chosen at the beginning of the project (broken down into 4 second sections for editing purposes), two dresses purchased, bra straps replaced with invisible ones, etc etc. This was done two months ago, although dance practices have and are continuing.

I'm experienced in many ways, but this is the first time I will have filmed a dancer from the air. We've been surprised at the amount of work involved up to this point. Thankfully, we never underestimate the importance of "be prepared".

Perhaps most crucial of all is the work done by DJI to manufacture the drone. Although it had nothing to do with us, we're immensely grateful for such amazing and reliable technology. A great tool.

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Seneca
 
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Or “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur. I first heard this quote in a film about Ansel Adams and how he managed to get one of his most famous photos - “Moonrise, Hernandez.”

Best of luck in your amazing enterprise. You certainly sound prepared.
 
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Or “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur. I first heard this quote in a film about Ansel Adams and how he managed to get one of his most famous photos - “Moonrise, Hernandez.”

Best of luck in your amazing enterprise. You certainly sound prepared.
Your Ansel Adams example adds another important element: urgency. With fast-changing light situations, you need to think and move fast. This is especially important in stills photography, which is a lot less forgiving than filming. A top-quality image framed on someone's wall must still be engaging years after being first hung.

I realised the importance of Ansel Adams as a source of inspiration for US landscape photographers when I first worked in the National Parks and State Parks of California many decades ago. His Yosemite images are classic.
 
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Impressive! I hope your shoot goes well.
 
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I really know what you mean by the "Golden hour" as a photographer...that alone brings out the vivid colors in a sunset....Prep is ever thing and i sure hope that the videography gos great for you...and a true success too !
 
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As a stills photographer, I've always appreciated the importance of being prepared with regards to scouting wild landscape locations - including whether they will be best at sunrise or sunset. This transferred over to film making.

For the past two months, we've been preparing for filming a grant total of 1 minute and 20 seconds of a woman dancing in the wilderness. We initially thought we'd narrowed down several best locations. That was, until we got the drone up to check them from the air well in advance of actual filming. We were surprised that most of the locations chosen looked great from human height but not so good from up above. So it was back to the drawing board. We've since worked on a final list of eight different locations.

This morning was another very early start, driving off in the dark, then walking to a spectacular mountainside cliff edge well before sunrise. We did a "no dress" rehearsal, moving rapidly on to the second location before the best light had gone. We'll be going back to the same location again tomorrow for sunrise to get even better angles. And that's just for two shots of 4 seconds each.

When the dancer arrives in country eight days from now, we'll have just six days to film. Weather will likely be mixed, not least because we're up in the mountains, even thought it's late summer. We're realistically planning on two or three early mornings of the six to be sunny with light/gentle winds so therefore good for flying/filming. We ideally need at least three early mornings and one pre-sunset to be suitable, preferably more. We'll only film in the first 45 minutes of "golden hour" immediately after sunrise, plus the last 30 minutes before sunset.

We're finalising heights, angles, and cinematography techniques. Notes are being written out on single sheets of A4 paper for each location, held on a clipboard, so we'll remember/know what to do and in what order.

The choreography has all been worked out, to music chosen at the beginning of the project (broken down into 4 second sections for editing purposes), two dresses purchased, bra straps replaced with invisible ones, etc etc. This was done two months ago, although dance practices have and are continuing.

I'm experienced in many ways, but this is the first time I will have filmed a dancer from the air. We've been surprised at the amount of work involved up to this point. Thankfully, we never underestimate the importance of "be prepared".

Perhaps most crucial of all is the work done by DJI to manufacture the drone. Although it had nothing to do with us, we're immensely grateful for such amazing and reliable technology. A great tool.

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Seneca
Sooo....do we get to see this shot, ever?
 
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I almost always research my flight areas with GoogleEarth and other sources first for power lines, obstructions, and just to get a "feel of the land" for flight safety and the best shots. Weather (particularly the types of clouds) and the sun angle all play a role. The "Golden Hour," also called "Alpine Light" in the mountains, does make for some very good scenic shots. I shoot lots of historic and archaeological sites and those long shadows really highlight the features, when almost invisible during a high sun. To the OP, good info and good luck on your shoot and hope we get to see a sample.
 
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Chance favors the prepared. I'm sure you will succeed!
 
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As a stills photographer, I've always appreciated the importance of being prepared with regards to scouting wild landscape locations - including whether they will be best at sunrise or sunset. This transferred over to film making.

For the past two months, we've been preparing for filming a grant total of 1 minute and 20 seconds of a woman dancing in the wilderness. We initially thought we'd narrowed down several best locations. That was, until we got the drone up to check them from the air well in advance of actual filming. We were surprised that most of the locations chosen looked great from human height but not so good from up above. So it was back to the drawing board. We've since worked on a final list of eight different locations.

This morning was another very early start, driving off in the dark, then walking to a spectacular mountainside cliff edge well before sunrise. We did a "no dress" rehearsal, moving rapidly on to the second location before the best light had gone. We'll be going back to the same location again tomorrow for sunrise to get even better angles. And that's just for two shots of 4 seconds each.

When the dancer arrives in country eight days from now, we'll have just six days to film. Weather will likely be mixed, not least because we're up in the mountains, even thought it's late summer. We're realistically planning on two or three early mornings of the six to be sunny with light/gentle winds so therefore good for flying/filming. We ideally need at least three early mornings and one pre-sunset to be suitable, preferably more. We'll only film in the first 45 minutes of "golden hour" immediately after sunrise, plus the last 30 minutes before sunset.

We're finalising heights, angles, and cinematography techniques. Notes are being written out on single sheets of A4 paper for each location, held on a clipboard, so we'll remember/know what to do and in what order.

The choreography has all been worked out, to music chosen at the beginning of the project (broken down into 4 second sections for editing purposes), two dresses purchased, bra straps replaced with invisible ones, etc etc. This was done two months ago, although dance practices have and are continuing.

I'm experienced in many ways, but this is the first time I will have filmed a dancer from the air. We've been surprised at the amount of work involved up to this point. Thankfully, we never underestimate the importance of "be prepared".

Perhaps most crucial of all is the work done by DJI to manufacture the drone. Although it had nothing to do with us, we're immensely grateful for such amazing and reliable technology. A great tool.

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Seneca
Sounds like you've got everything covered.
Can't wait to see it.
 
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It's good to read other's appreciation for the wonderful light of golden hour. We don't do any colour correction or other adjustments at the editing stage, simply because you can't beat the best natural light. Also good to hear that "be prepared" is recognised as important by others. I hope that some forum members just waking up to these two factors will take them more and more on board to improve their own work.

NM_Quad: What a shame you didn't have a camera handy for whatever it was that Lonnie Zamora saw just outside of Socorro in 1964. :) I have fond memories of Bosque del Apache for the sandhill cranes and snow geese. Your part of America is spectacular.
 
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We've since done another five "no dress" rehearsals at three of the locations. Notes have been updated. We've added A4 screenshot photos of each location to show the exact starting positions and angles of view. Music edits are now recorded on three different micro SD cards which go into the portable Anker speaker, on repeat play.

The dancer is heading towards London Heathrow right now (so please don't fly your drones into that particular no-fly zone ). A second visit to the hairdressers on Friday morning - at their expense, as they didn't completely follow instructions six days beforehand - got the blonde colour just right. We'll be picking her up from Cape Town International Airport tomorrow late morning.

And, thankfully, the weather forecast is looking good for four of the six days after a blip on the first day.
 
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NM_Quad: What a shame you didn't have a camera handy for whatever it was that Lonnie Zamora saw just outside of Socorro in 1964. :).
Funny you mentioned that. There was a film crew here last summer making a movie on the Socorro UFO incident. I escorted them to the site, which is just north of our local airport. They had a P4pro and some other 6-motor drone to get aerial shots. They couldn't get either off the ground due to the NFZ. So I went home and got my P3S which I have never updated (just for the NFZ thing). Flew great and shot the video they wanted. Flying south, I did get the NFZ warning when I got about 1/4 mile from the runway, but not the areas they wanted. They had me take off from the site looking down and fly away like the UFO did. Will be interesting to see my lowly P3S on the big screen if ever released. The 1964 rocks they placed around the landing depressions are about all that remain at the site. No P3 images - they took my SIM card and bought me a new one (and dinner) - which I don't think violated the FAA non-commercial rules! Just a ground shot of the film crew.
Film_Crew03.jpg


Now back to your regular scheduled programming , , ,
 
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So.....after an 11-hour return trip to pick her up from the airport, the dancer is here. The wind was howling during the first evening, so filming/flying wasn't possible. But we nevertheless visited two locations for final dress rehearsals. And we discovered a minor VPL problem (solved later that night). For those gentlemen who might be scratching your heads, puzzled, VPL stands for visible pantie line. Now for all USA forum members, I appreciate you don't speak English, but rather American English, thus requiring an explanation here. :cool: What you call "pants" are in fact "trousers" in our Original English - whereas "pants" to us are knickers, thongs, pants, panties, or whatever - i.e. the undergarments worn around the crutch/behind area.

Pre-sunrise this morning revealed the weather forecast to be correct again, with the wind quite a bit stronger than we would like. So, as planned, we headed for the one semi-sheltered location. Then it happened..... Our wonderful dancer quickly developed a drippy nose in the cool air.....and a droplet fell onto her dress (think left breast area) creating a visible wet mark. After some initial panic, it dried. To her credit, she'd just stripped off and been dressed by my colleague without any moaning - whilst I had two fleeces on to keep warm.

Low cloud on the horizon at sunrise caused a four-minute delay, but the warm glow of early sunlight soon hit both the scene and dancer. The drone had just been launched and filming began. Then, on shot two, the next unexpected problem hit: the dancer couldn't hear the music properly, specifically the drum beat, when the drone got nearer to her. Anyway, we carried on after quickly yelling "Don't be such a diva!"

One small point we had anticipated. Tiny safety pins were needed to secure the various parts of the wrap-around dress to keep it all in place. This proved necessary, with the high-energy dancing/twirling and mountain wind.

We were also extremely careful of the two long dresses whilst getting our dancer dressed and in/out of the Land Rover. The potential for rips, grease/oil stains, etc are real - and more serious than a wet drip from the nose. Furthermore, she held the dress well above her thighs whilst walking through the knee-high bushes (some of which are spiky) and other vegetation on route to the dancing location.

So success on day one, after a couple of heart-stopping moments. This evening's weather looks poor, but we're ready for tomorrow morning's sunrise. Today's footage is backed-up on three different hard drives.
 
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And, I’ve just been reminded, that after the drippy nose incident, we discovered an unwelcome overnight addition to the natural dance floor: zebra turds. These had to be quickly picked up and removed from the scene so our dancer didn’t step on it.
 
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Sunrise on day two was a failure. The wind was light, but cloud everywhere blocked the sunlight. It was frustrating, but that's weather.

There was still lots of cloud as sunset approached, and the wind was much stronger, but we could see a window of opportunity at the horizon for the sun to shine through during the last few minutes of the day. We were successful - and also took the still image below as some of you have expressed interest. It's uploaded here as a low resolution photo (and apologies for not being able to share the video footage). This is probably our third-best location in the film for overall scenic appeal. The image hasn't been enhanced in any way.

This morning's sunrise unfolded in near-perfect conditions, so we did all four sequences originally planned for yesterday at three locations (two dresses) at top speed.

We need one more sunrise with good conditions for the finale seven sequences (two locations), plus a couple of suitable sunsets. The weather forecast, as of now, for the last three days of six, suggests this will be possible.

We only ever use two batteries. Yes, this is tight - but self-discipline is a good thing. And the battery time fits with the best light.
Eagle valley dance (low res).jpg


Eagle valley dance (low res).jpg
 

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Been enjoying reading your "journal" of your mission issues. Interesting, and of course far more involved than most the filming we do. However, the final shot is nice. I like the dark background sky on the right and the whispy clouds on the left. The shadows show the roughness and dimension of the terrain. Good shot.
 
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Thanks, NM_Quad.

Yesterday evening at sunset was scrubbed because of a howling wind. I took off, just in case there was a brief lull, but landed 90 seconds later. The wind was pulling our dancer's long dress half way up her body, somewhat inelegantly.

This morning at sunrise was perfect weather conditions. We started at 4.45am. After driving to the nearest point, we then had a reasonable walk in the dim dawn light. All went well for both locations and seven finale sequences.

I didn't have time for a still photo, but I've just taken a screenshot (low resolution) from the video footage to show the spectacular location. (Again, no manipulation of the image has been done.)

Dance 2.jpg
 
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After another sunset and two more sunrises, we're done. Yesterday morning, in particular, was memorable. The weather conditions were again perfect. We filmed at the first location three or four minutes after sunrise, then drove across two mountains on a tricky rocky track before descending over 1000 ft to the second location - getting there just as the sunlight was hitting the next natural "dance floor".

We had the luxury at dawn this morning, day six, to re-shoot four sequences in two locations aiming for minor improvements.

We made one slight mistake during the six days of filming, which was easily corrected. We would probably have made many more, and not been as successful, if we hadn't been so meticulously prepared.

Here are two final screenshots (low resolution) for those of you who are interested, one showing the other dress colour. Again, apologies that I'm unable to share some video footage which really brings everything to life.

Yet again, we are indebted to DJI for making the P4P+.

Dance 3 low res.jpg


Dance 4 low res.jpg
 

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