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Downwind and Racing / Re: Great maliko video
« on: June 03, 2010, 08:52:04 PM »
Thanks to all for the great reception of my video in your forum and saw that some people had questions about how and why.  First off, I just got this camera at the end of April, my first camera,  I used to fly hang gliders throughout the 70s and it seemed every time a camera came out, someone crashed and got hurt or worse.  So I had baggage about photography and now that I've started doing it,  there's another reason to dislike it.... hours more than I already spend in front of a computer editing a book I'm writing.  But the two do cross train in the editing department when It comes to cutting.

Despite my distaste for sitting in a chair in front of a computer, I was motivated to try my hand in video by my pal and long time paddling partner Robert "Butch" Martin.   Paddling, according to him, has saved his life and taken the edge off of many fried neurons from his time as a Marine mortar Sergeant marching like a sitting duck along jungle pathways in 1966.   I walked through a few jungles myself, only I was searching for surf.   Anyway he was a surfer before he went to war and still is.  We have become close pals over the years and he is as religious about paddling as you can get.  He started raving about POV cameras, specifically the VIO POV this last winter.  I do like movies and the idea intrigued me because I hadn't seen any video footage of this windy open ocean stuff we're addicted to here on Maui.  My friends who don't paddle ask me how exciting could that be?  I just said wait and see.   I researched different water cameras and figured this Panasonic DMC TS2 (good underwater to 30')  was the best of the batch.  It's not great.  All of these water cameras are just crappy versions of pocket point and shoot cameras tourists use for trips to Disneyland.  They have crappy little sensors and their limitations abound.  There are some guys here on Maui with heavy expensive great cameras that have stabilizing gyros but they need a boat or a heli to shoot from... not very spontaneous and it's all about co-ordinating with riders who are on a mission and don't like waiting.  I didn't want to drop into that level of expense anyway so I went for the cheapo deal... $450 for the camera, $90, for the memory card (16GB class 10), $40 for an extra battery,  and $40 for the newest imovie software that features the same image stabilization as Final Cut Pro, which is expensive and what feature movie makers sometimes use.

When this idea of a POV camera came up, I wanted the best quality I could get.  Butch's idea of the VIO POV was my first check out and makes a nifty head cam and is also waterproof.  The waterproof part seemed a tad suspect on their camera and it wasn't 720p HD.  So I moved on to the Panasonic.  It was light and compact but no head cam and I knew that a head mount was the only way to go.  My girlfriend Shirley rocks.  She has a sail loft downstairs and one of the many things she does is repair wndsrf and kite sails as well as boat covers and awnings.  She does custom canvas and is also really good at figuring things out.  So with the help of Richard Greene I fashioned a small fiberglass box that would contain the one inch thick by 2.5" by 4" camera.  This entailed making a curved mold that fit onto my ever growing forehead.  Then Shirley fashioned a neoprene envelope for the box that had straps going in every direction around the head, so that it appears like the get-up I would wear to my execution by electric chair if someone were to wake me up in the middle of the night.   This head mount is very comfortable and I've worn it for a complete run many times.

Go pro has a head mount as well but the only thing was that  Go Pro shots  are ultra wide angle(170 degrees fixed), distorted and flattening at the edges and good only for shooting very close up, usually yourself.  As ego gratifying as that might be, it is ultimately boring for everyone else.    So with my new Panasonic rig I charged out there.   Right away I found out all the challenges of shooting in strong winds and ocean spray.  Drops and shake, that's the nemesis.

Shooting out in the open ocean with swells is difficult.  Very difficult.  Right away I found out all the challenges of shooting in strong winds and ocean spray.   I imagine that's why people aren't doing it and why I decided to do it.  Guess I'm like one of those crash test dummies.  Like yesterday.  I'm out with my pal Victor Lopez.  It's a beautiful day,  Haleakala is cloud free and the wind is smokin like it has been for the last two weeks straight.  I have eight minutes (in motion JPEG, the AVCHD requires software to convert and adds hours to the editing chore) to shoot before I have to reset the record button.  So I have the camera in my back pack with a lens cap on a polarizing filter that I have set into the fiberglass camera box.  This way the lens is not exposed to spray during the time I paddle out to the line where we fall off downwind.  We get out there and sure enough it looks spectacular.  I'm stoked.  So I'm huddled over my board facing downwind, pull out my camera and get it going .  One glance at the lens and I see it's still pristine and I'm getting ready to roll.  I put my hat away and slip on the head gear.  I try and not look upwind into the spray for any length of time but I check for Victor quickly and see that he's behind me laying down on his board and is sideways to the wind.  I yell at him to straighten out and return my gaze to the lens protecting safety of downwind .  I've seen this kind of wind (30 to 40) take a greyhound like Livio and flip him off his board and he was only 45 degrees to the wind.  But the wind doesn't get us.  A full-on  open ocean rogue wave breaks on Victor and washes him into me like we just got tagged in some kind of surf impact zone.   Knocks us off our boards.  Full yard sale.  We get everything back but now my lens is fully salted and even the inner camera is wet.  Victor just wants to paddle and it'll take forever to chammy everything dry so I put the camera away and lose a fantastic opportunity with a Haleakala cloudless backdrop.  So shooting video is not downwind fun.  It's stressful and everyone has to pay attention.  Oddly the best participant I've dealt with is the youngest (15), Conner Baxter.  He's always right there and knows how to be close and pay attention.  When I check the footage, I can see him delay a stroke in order to phase up with the other paddlers in order to have everyone on the same swell.  Jeremy and Livio are great also.  They all have excellent skills with their boards and are constantly trying to do things to make it more interesting.  I've shot from my board and also with a wndsrf sail (both fairly spontaneous) and have figured a few things out, which leads us to May 22.

Pretty amazing day for the stars to align and gather that many great paddlers from the Mark Raaphorst SIC stable (including Mark) on an almost cloud free day... just a small Pukalani cloud street in the background.  Keith Baxter, despite a very sore post-op shoulder surgery,  was a huge part in orchestrating logistics and providing and driving his jetski.  Erik Aader was also on the ski with me shooting stills and provided me with a constant update on the status of whether or not there were any drops on my lens. I sat in the very back with my feet proped inside the sled handles and holding on tight to the hand handles.  While this provided me with a solid base to shoot with my head mount, it was also meant I was sucking fuel fumes the whole way down the coast.   But I was able to keep my body as still as possible in this spot, which was pretty hard to do while we watched the exciting show playing out in front of us.  It was great to have so many subjects to shoot. Someone was always blasting into the frame.  My long time pal and surf movie guru Jack McCoy informed me of a few things I can improve upon in the editing department and I'm excited to get back out there and improve.  My grandfather moved to Maui in 1903 from Minnesota (Norwegian) and I'm a little tickled to have my cousins in Minnesota able to see a little of this world.  I had this unlisted on You Tube but I see that there are over 2k views since I posted it on the 29th.  That seems like a lot of people for a fringe activity like this.  Anyway I don't think it's as boring as my non paddling pals first told me it would be. 

I mistakenly thought I had to post a lower res for You Tube and now know 720p is fine.  I will send Pono  Bill a copy with added stuff from 40 mph the day before yesterday with Livio and Jeremy.  Jeremy did a pirouette twice and paddled into the wind during the full-on 40 mph stuff.  Someone in the forum asked about an east swell and 40 mph, well I got a few clips.  Mostly fly-bys since I was on a board and had no way in hell of keeping up with those two.  But then I put the camera on them and they chased each other.... which was cool except they moved their heads too much.  When you shoot you have to lock in your stare on the subject for at least 4-6 seconds and those are long seconds when the wind is like that.  They shot me but it was cruel to see.  Old and in the way.  Those two stand tall with their hips under them and are definitely in the wow factor.....  hope this helps any questions...

Aloha Bill

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