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Filming The Mysterious 7th Continent

4 min read

Rhonda and Tony Wannamaker, members of the Canadian Society of Cinematographers, are a husband and wife film team. Rhonda is a Producer/Sound Recordist and Tony is a Cinematographer/Director. During the month of November 2013, the filmmakers were in the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica working on a documentary about tourism and following in the footsteps of the great heroic Polar explorers, Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. Below is a blog post about their experience:

Analogous to the trend in archaeology, the notion today is to leave things were you find them, in our case, visit animals in their natural habitat. We noticed a trend whereby many folks are turning away from zoos and looking to expedition type journeys to see flora and fauna in their environments. This is not to say zoos are finished, on the contrary they have a great use for research and protecting endangered species.

DOP Tony Wannamaker filming Elephant Island

Director of Photography, Tony Wannamaker, filming Elephant Island.

We went to the mysterious 7th continent by way of Quark Expeditions; they're the best in the business to see the Polar Regions. In addition, we had a rare opportunity to travel with Falcon Scott, the grandson of Capt. Scott and with Jonathan Shackleton , the 2nd cousin of Sir Ernest. Through these two individuals, we connected the romantic notions of southern polar exploration with contemporary expeditions of today. As Rhonda suggested, "It's vital that both young and old see these last remaining pristine places on earth. The Antarctic is simply beautiful! It has a mysterious quality that is completely seductive, but she can change in a heartbeat". The weather tested us a couple of times, but we had a Vegas streak and lucked out on wonderful blue skies and great vistas. Rhonda and I did a lot of research and equipment testing before we landed in Tierra del Fuego. I wanted to document elements with a commercial grade look. We wanted to stay light and flexible, but utilize the necessary equipment to facilitate our shoot. I looked at a lot of sliders, and decided on the Cinevate Atlas FLT. It had great action; it's durable and compact. It worked really well in challenging set-ups.

Seal pup playing with the camera

Seal pup intrigued with the camera

Although we couldn't walk up to the animals, we had to stay 5 meters away; they could come and visit us. We had many close encounters with my favourite, the King penguin and the pesky seals, but always made a clear path for the Elephant seal.
To garner the best results and stay flexible, we decided on using the Canon 5D Mark III with a backup body and lenses: wide angle; standard zoom; 200 mm zoom and 400 mm zoom. In addition, we used GoPros for “wow” moments and underwater capture. For sound, Rhonda used an on camera mic for a scratch track and for quality sound, the H4N Zoom recorder with Sennheiser directional microphone on a boom pole. All our equipment was packed in waterproof Pelican cases to protect the gear from its nemesis, salt water. In short, for a two person crew with a huge laundry list, the compact but fully facilitated equipment package provided the means to capture great footage and great story.

Seal pup

A cute seal pup loving the camera!

In summary, it was truly an incredible experience, a once in a lifetime. As a documentary filmmaker, I've had the good fortune to travel to 47 countries on seven continents, Antarctica presented a simple but wonderful notion: slow down, observe and savour the unique harmony in nature.

For more information on this voyage please visit: Crossing the Circle via Falklands and South Georgia

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