Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Filmmaker's Journal: BLUE Festival and the ocean comes alive

Sunny weather is greeting the first arrivals to the BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit. The Monterey area (Monterey, Pacific Grove, Seaside, and more) is one of those great places on the California coast where, given the work opportunity, I would certain consider relocating.

First up on the day's agenda was my underwater video workshop, an opportunity for beginning and aspiring videographers to get a chance to hone their underwater skills with 2 dives in Monterey Bay and a classroom session. The water conditions were, perhaps, a bit typical for Monterey: the water can have
an emerald green hue to it with some reduced visibility from incoming particulates. But that did not detract us from what turned out to be the big attraction of the dives.

The past week there had been a large influx of West Coast Sea Nettles - a small but beautiful sea jelly with w 3- to 4-inch dome, trailing white fleshy appendages, and dark red tentacles that trailed up to 18-inches. Did I say a large influx? Well, congregating in a layer from the surface to about 25 feet, they were in the hundreds if not thousands. Getting below them and looking up through the emerald water, it reminded me of the fresh water jellies of Palau - on steroids!

I had told the workshop participants that on this first dive I would have them focus getting key shots for building a video: master wide shots, tighter medium shots, close-ups, etc. Once we submerged and saw the gelatinous panorama laid out before us, I think class was immediately postponed on account of something that divers just don't get to see every day.

See or feel. It was impossible to not come in contact with the trailing tentacles of the sea nettles and that meant we were going to get stung. Fortunately, not badly; we would exit the water with a bit of a rash on the face or some puffy lips, but it would dissipate quickly. But the images in our minds - and hopefully our cameras - of these amazing jellies would last much longer.

That evening saw several receptions opening the festival. Famed photographer, David Doubilet, had a wonderful gallery exhibit of his work and it became the focal point of the evening with filmmakers and ocean conservationists talking shop over wine and cheese. David has become one of the uncontested masters of the above and below shots - half in the water, half out - and he was telling me he was not quite sure what made him gravitate often to this type of shot but thinks it may have to do with what impressed him with the ocean as a child. Above is the world we live in, and just below is the world we dream in.
I told him what impresses me with his above and below shots is how, in one frame of film, he is bringing together these two worlds; that they are not separate, a place that people cannot relate to, but are actually two worlds that share an important connection, a bond that is crucial to our future.

Well, I did say there was wine. . .

Today, the festival and conservation summit begins in earnest with industry discussion groups and more meet-and-greets. Friday through Saturday will see more of the sames along with a barrage of wonderful ocean films. It's shaping up to be a great week. More reports to come.

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