Altitude Attitude

July 26, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

One challenge in professional imaging is making your shots look like they're supposed to look. You can say "well, duh," (and indeed you should), but sometimes there's more to this than meets the eye -- and camera. What sometimes gets lost is that it's not where you shoot, but how it looks that counts.

 

A studio makes this simple, but you can only do so much there, so for much of my work involving diving, we go on location to popular scuba destinations. But, what if the shot needs a setting that we can't get to due to time, budget and/or logistics? Hollywood solves this dilemma routinely (they didn't shoot The Martian on Mars), but Hollywood budgets are a smidgen larger than those I get to work with.

 

Last spring, we had to shoot altitude diving, which by definition takes place 300 metres/1000 feet or higher above sea level, typically in mountain settings. We faced two dilemmas: One, the last time we did this, we went to altitude dive sites, but most of the images looked no different from sea level. Two, California was coming out a cold winter with lots of snow (finally!), meaning all the altitude sites reachable within our schedule and budget were frozen over. It appeared we were up the proverbial creek, until we borrowed a page from The Martian. Could we find a place that looked like altitude diving that would work?

 

Disregarding elevation, we searched for a lake surrounded by the snow-capped mountains and pristine shorelines one associates with altitude diving -- and ding! Whiskeytown Lake.  I doubt I'd have stumbled onto it 15 years ago, before iOS Maps, Google and You Tube, but that was then and this is now. We had what we needed. Our producer contacted the National Park Service for shooting permits (they were awesome, BTW), and we hit the road for Redding, California (close to the lake). We scouted sites for half a day, shot for two, and got some wonderful images, including this one (also made the cover of The Undersea Journal).

 

So, by adjusting our attitude about altitude, we came home happy campers with not just what we needed, but what we wanted, on schedule and on budget.

 

 

 

 

PS: For any purists who want to argue that altitude diving imagery should only be created at altitude, at about 365 metres/1200 feet above sea level,  Whiskeytown Lake is technically an altitude dive. Oh, and BTW, Wadi Rum, Jordon, where they shot The Martian, is not technically part of Mars.

 

 


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