Back before everybody and their brother had small, waterproof GoPro cameras strapped to their head, film makers had to get creative and build their own camera rigging if they wanted to get that unique shot while on the water.
Here is a photo of filmmaker and instruction video pioneer, Bill Mason using a home-made rigging to get overhead footage for his 1977 film and companion book, Path of the Paddle.
I tried to find evidence that Bill used the rigging for overhead footage for his whitewater instructional segments but it doesn’t look like he did. Imagine how awesome it would be to see that monster going down the river back in the day.
Instead of overhead shots for the whitewater elements in his films, Bill borrowed this head mounted camera which was originally designed for skydiving. Apparently the camera was really heavy due to the lead counter weight and could only shoot a maximum of 90 seconds before the film ran out. There is a story in Ken Bucks book, Bill Mason: Wilderness Artist: From Heart to Hand that talked about the time Bill nearly drowned the first time he jumped in the water with the camera. From then on they had to put two or three life jackets on him to provide enough flotation for the camera to stay above water.
Today, filming on the water is considerably easier with any of the small waterproof cameras that have flooded the market like GoPro, Contour or Drift over the past couple of years.
But even with the right camera, getting that unique shot angle can still take some thinking but thank goodness there are more commercial options now then before. One affordable option involves getting an adjustable pole from kayalu.com. Prices range from $89-$249 and can fit most cameras on the market. Kayalu has a good reputation for their well-built equipment that holds up in both fresh and salt water.
If you are working with a higher budget and looking to get more dynamic footage, then a camera mounted cable built by Sea to Sky Cable Cam is the only way to go.
For approximately $36,000 you can get the equipment needed to shoot footage similar to below:
Looking at the demo reel you might recognize some of the footage. That’s because this equipment was designed by sea kayaker,BryanSmith of Eastern Horizons fame and Matt Maddaloni who has been a sponsored rock climber for the past 15 years.
Bill Mason Photo Credits: BIll Mason Productions
The official trailer for the new instructional DVD, Sea Kayak Rescues was just posted on Kokatat’s Vimeo page today. It features Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme from Body Boat and Blade International as hosts and Bryan Smith from Reel Water Productions capturing all the excitement on film.
Here is the description on the Vimeo page:
[blockquote]World class sea kayak instructors Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme team up with award winning filmmaker Bryan Smith to produce Sea Kayak Rescues, a comprehensive, modern guide for easy, safe and effective kayak rescues. Using stunning slow motion to illustrate critical skills and exciting real time footage of rescues in tidal races, rough water and the open coast, this film sets a new standard in sea kayak instruction.[/blockquote]
I was sold in the first 30 seconds of the trailer. Look for it at your local paddling shop sometime in August.
Thanks for @bryanhansel for the tip.
If you have ever thought of getting into the world of adventure film production, paddler and film guy extraordinaire, Bryan Smith is highlighted on the latest National Geographic webTV episode of Fringe Elements.
The latest episode called Adventure Vision gives some background of how Bryan got into film production as well as a sliver of insight into how some of those amazing adventure films are put together. If you don't have time to watch the video below the short version is that it's a really huge pile of work to get the shots looking right.
The gear nerd in me was all excited to see that Bryan is now shooting with RED cameras. Not the ultra high-end ($58,000) handheld RED EPIC cameras that Peter Jackson is using to shoot the Hobbit but it’s still pretty cool none-the-less.
Canoe & Kayak Magazine recently published two quick instructional videos featuring Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme, who are both amazing instructors and owners of the paddling school, Body Boat Blade International.
The two clips are produced by Bryan Smith and you can tell is unique and professional style immediately. Both videos are exactly as instructional videos should be, short and straight to the point with no wasted words.
Arcata, Calif.,– Kokatat, the 39 year-old independent paddle wear and accessories company is proud to announce their official sponsorship with The Kamchatka Project. Bryan Smith, a long time sponsored Kokatat Team Member, will lead an expedition of six Whitewater Kayakers as they explore the Siberian mountain landscapes of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, one of the last truly wild places on earth, in an effort to raise public awareness of the complex relationships between the place, its people and its fisheries.
Pacific Horizons is the latest film released to the growing trend of big water sea kayaking. Filmed and produced by Bryan Smith, it is entirely shot in the Pacific Northwest.
Even before its release, Pacific Horizons was generating a significant amount of buzz. Bryan had to rush a pre-release version of it so it would be ready in time for its headline debut at the 2007 West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium. The biggest news came when it was chosen as a finalist for the famed 2007 Banff Mountain Film Festival.
Clocking at 60 minutes, it takes the viewer through many different aspects of sea kayaking including placid flatwater paddling, tripping, surfing and Greenland rolling.