BL Blog

video

Chasing Monkeys in Colombia for Nat Geo

Behind The Shot

The Mission

The world of wildlife filmmaking is full of unknowns.  Will I see any animals?  Will I capture interesting behavior?  Will the weather cooperate? We generally go into the

field equipped with the right gear, a lot of research, and a general willingness to suffer to get the shot.  But beyond those things, we just hope that we actually see an animal when are cameras are rolling.

On a recent trip to Colombia in search of albino brown spider monkeys, the odds were definitely not in our favor.  There are only two (yes, 2) of these albinos known to exist in the wild and we had a short window to find them and tell their story.  Brown spider monkeys are critically endangered and their habitat is severely fragmented.  This has caused genetic bottlenecking and, as a result, albinism in one of the family groups.  These albinos are incredibly beautiful, but they bring a pretty sobering message about the fate of a species when populations become isolated.

Our mission was to find the monkeys, tell their story through the voice of the local researcher, and create a portrait of the stunning biodiversity of this threatened area.  We had 8 days to do it.  Without the help of the researchers and field guides who study these monkeys, we would have never accomplished our goal. Their knowledge of the area and the animals was invaluable.  A huge thanks goes out to all of them.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 1.23.00 PM

The Gear 

We knew we wanted to shoot the natural history and wildlife in 4K.  We also knew we needed a lens that could reach way into the canopy.  For this reason our primary setup was a Sony FS7, Tamron 150-600 EF and a Metabones EF/NEX Smart Adapter.  It was great to try out this new offering from Sony.  It’s quite an amazing camera for the price. We also shot on a Canon C300 and with a 100-400L as a backup and second camera.  Knowing we were going to edit and deliver in 1080 made this a good choice for b-cam.  Editing in 1080 also gave us the freedom to punch in on the 4K footage if needed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 1.32.53 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 1.23.14 PM

We had a variety of lenses with us as well, most of which seemed to get used at one point or another.  Canon 35L, 24L, 100L Macro, 24-105L, Tokina 11-16mm, and a few Rokinon Cine primes.  We shot timelapses on a 5Dmk3 and a 6D, aerials on a Phantom 2 with GoPRO 3+, and jib shots on a Kessler Pocket Jib.  We also had a new set of Cartoni sticks – the Stabilo with Focus HD head – and they worked incredibly well.  It’s a great lightweight setup and handled the weight of the Sony FS7 and long lens quite nicely.

The Experience 

This is was my third trip to Colombia and my second with the purpose of filming monkeys.  It is such an exciting place to travel right now.  Years of conflict have created many stigmas around the country but it seems that Colombians are putting that behind them in a headlong rush towards the future.  The energy and frenetic pace of the country can be a bit overwhelming, but when you leave the hustle of Bogota and get into the wilderness you truly realize how unique this place is.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 1.22.27 PM

Many of you already know that the the tropical jungle is a very difficult place to work.  The bugs alone are enough to deter even the most masochistic explorer.  But just when you think you might actually being going crazy from clouds of mosquitoes and sweltering heat and humidity, something beautiful pops into view and the suffering melts away. We were fortunate to see dozens of animals in their native habitats.  Sloths, caimans, parrots, primates, and bumble bees the size of golf balls.  Most important for us however were the two albino brothers.  As luck would have it, we were able to film these incredible ghosts of the forest for several hours.  They ate, they wrestled, they stared down at us with big, curious eyes from the top of the canopy.  It’s incredible to see these giant white figures in treetops, flying through the branches with their prehensile tails.   But, as beautiful as they are, they are reminders of the tenuous situation in Colombia.  They are markers of a genetic problem.  Populations of spider monkeys need space to grow and find suitable mates.  They need large tracts of unbroken forests so they can find enough fruit to eat.  But, more than anything, they need us to value wilderness as much as we value the GDP.

The Film 

The film can be seen here: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/150417-ghost-monkeys-colombia-vin

About the Author

Danny Schmidt is a Colorado-based DP and Director.  He is a graduate of the MFA program in science and nature filmmaking at Montana State University and works  extensively for National Geographic, PBS, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and lots of other TV and non-profit entities. 

www.dannyschmidtfilms.com

Insta: @danny_Schmidt

Twitter: @dawgschmidt

New Video Gear at BorrowLenses – April 2015 Edition

Gear Talk

The pace of gear releases in our industry seems to be constantly increasing these days. Every month, we have new photo or video gear coming into our offices so we thought we’d start putting together a roundup of everything new we have available to rent. Here’s what’s come in during the last month or so:

(more…)

Cool Stuff — March 15, 2015

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a recurring feature where we post our favorite links, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

Cool Stuff articles are culled from BLFlip, the official Flipboard Magazine of BorrowLenses.com. If you’ve got an iOS or Android device, you can download the Flipboard app for free now.

(more…)

Cool Stuff — February 21, 2015

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a recurring feature where we post our favorite links, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

Cool Stuff articles are culled from BLFlip, the official Flipboard Magazine of BorrowLenses.com. If you’ve got an iOS or Android device, you can download the Flipboard app for free now.

(more…)

Atomos Shogun First Impressions

Gear Talk

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a few tips for folks shooting with the Atomos Shogun external monitor/recorder. I’ve had some time to put my unit through a few shoots and have some first impressions to share.

(more…)

Canon 70D – Continuous Autofocus With STM Lenses

Gear Talk

Have you ever tried to autofocus in Live View with a DSLR? Pretty crummy, right? The Canon 70D changes that a bit with what they call Dual Pixel CMOS AF. This fairly new technology allows smooth, continuous autofocus (Canon calls is Movie Servo AF) while recording video. Continue on to view the test footage recorded when paired with Canon’s STM lenses.

(more…)

5 Quick Tips for Shooting with the Atomos Shogun

Gear Talk
The Sony A7s (in a custom cage) connected to the Atomos Shogun

The Sony A7s (in a custom cage) connected to the Atomos Shogun

We recently received the Atomos Shogun external monitor/recorder, a bit of gear a lot of customers have been eager to work with for some time now. We’re currently putting it through its paces and will have sample footage for you soon, but for now, we thought we’d put together a few tips and tricks that we’ve found useful when shooting with the Atomos Shogun

(more…)

The Sony FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS Lens is Ready for Your Next Video Shoot

BL News Gear Talk

We have a new cine lens for rent – the FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS. It’s ideal for both the Sony FS7 and the Sony a7S but will mount on any E mount camera. It is ideal for run-and-gun style shooting, documentary filmmaking, and any other cinematic use where portability is important. Here are some features that really stand out about this lens and why should you shoot with it. (more…)

Shooting at Night with the Panasonic GH4

Gear Talk

The Panasonic GH4 is an amazing little camera. I’ve been putting it through its paces from the moment I got my hands on one, and just like any gearhead, have been reading practically every review and comment about it on the internet.

What can I say? It’s an addiction. I confess.

One thing that stood out to me in all the signal and noise out there was that this camera isn’t a great performer at high ISO. My initial quick tests bore that out; at ISO 800, the footage is pretty noisy and by 1600, it’s unusable for a lot of work.

But what I wanted to know was something a bit more subtle. I wanted to know if I could shoot at night, in a place like San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, and still walk away with usable footage?

(more…)

Seeking Inspiration – August 17, 2014

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Seeking Inspiration, an irregular column where we talk about the things that inspire us as artists. 

This cool short comes to you courtesy of alcohol and clothes. Have a look…

(more…)

The Beginner Videographer’s Guide to Frequency Blocks

Gear Talk

Wireless mics are an essential part of documentary filmmaking. The mics are small and easily hidden from view and the wires are minimal. If you’ve seen a reality show (if so, my condolences), sometimes you get a peek at the metal mound protruding out of the backs of people’s clothes. Those are lavaliers and they are handy. They are used often by wedding videographers since shotgun mics aren’t super awesome at picking up the vows from clear across a church. You don’t see them as often in movies because people have to actually wear them (and that is distracting) but for sit-down interviews, or most TV applications, they’re great. If you’re just starting to get into any of these fields, read up on frequency blocks – you’ll impress (if mildly) your sound tech. (more…)

Cool Stuff — April 14, 2014

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a recurring feature where we post our favorite links, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

Cool Stuff articles are culled from BLFlip, the official Flipboard Magazine of BorrowLenses.com. If you’ve got an iOS or Android device, you can download the Flipboard app for free now.

  • Just in case you missed it, we were at the National Association of Broadcasters last week. There were a ton of things to see, and we posted a few of our favorite sightings on our blog.
  • If you want a more comprehensive listing of what was going on at NAB, we’ve got two sites you need to go check out.

Cool Stuff – March 16, 2014

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a recurring feature where we post our favorite links, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

Cool Stuff articles are culled from BLFlip, the official Flipboard Magazine of BorrowLenses.com. If you’ve got an iOS or Android device, you can download the Flipboard app for free now.

Behind The Shot: The Line Between (Video)

Behind The Shot

Behind The Shot is a recurring feature where we dig deeper and find the backstories that accompany amazing photos. Do you have an awesome photo or know of one that we might want to feature? Send us an email!

Photographer/Filmer/Edior: Long Nguyen

Gear: Canon 5D Mark IICanon 7DCanon 70-200 f2.8Canon 17-40 F4Tonika 10-17 FisheyeCustom SLR M-plate MiniCustom SLR M-Plate ProCustom SLR Glide OneCustom SLR C-LoopF-Stop Gear LokaF-Stop Gear Satori EXPF-Stop Gear Lightroom RollerGlide Cam 2000, Fotopro Carbon Tripod, Manfroto 701 Head, DIY Dolly, Sennheiser MKE 400

Backstory: What’s better than riding your bike? Riding your bike with your friends. Early last year, my friends Christian Wright, Marshall Mullen, and I wanted to shoot a short mountain bike video together. Christian and Marshall had never ridden together, so it was the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. After exchanging some emails and phone calls, I came up with the idea of filming at Christian’s and Marshall’s homes. They were not only known for their riding abilities, but for their dirt jumps and locations where they lived. To many riders, it’s heaven, and their popularity grew over the years due to that.

Usually with most projects, you will have a partner in crime to help you film and photograph. Over the years, I have always completed projects on my own. It’s no easy task, and The Line Between was the hardest project I have produced to date. It was hard to juggle everyone’s schedule since most of us are always traveling, and I did all the filming, photographing, editing, and distributing.

When going in to the project I knew it was going to be tough, but I knew Christian and Marshall were hard workers. It’s always nice working on a project with others who are just as dedicated and motivated as you are. Both Christian and Marshall had spent weeks preparing their yards for the shoot. They worked from sun up to sun down, and every part of the jumps had to be watered, packed, and perfectly shaped. It really is a work of art. When it was time to start the project, I only had a short 5 days to shoot at Christian’s and Marshall’s homes. When I say short, we could only shoot early in the morning and at golden hour (sunset). That is when the light is at it’s best. Our goals were to film 2 days on the backyard, 2 days on the trails and 1 day as back up.

Thankfully we were able to complete what we needed in 8 days. As hard as it was for me, it was just as hard for the riders. Not only did I need them to ride sections over and over to get the footage, but I needed them to do just as much to get the photographs. By the end of each day, we were exhausted. Overall, I thought the project came out pretty well. We all worked really hard together, and we had a blast producing it together. I felt that we all had the right chemistry, and when dots connect, magic happens. You can’t really ask for much more than that.

Check out all of the photos from this project.

Long Nguyen is an adventure/sports journalist, and goes wherever his camera takes him – for the thrill of an adventure and the action of the sport. Long enjoys photographing many things but his emphasis is in mountain biking. He’s feels lucky to have the opportunities to travel the world and meet new people on all of his journeys. Long thanks his family and friends for all of their support & continues to live for the quest for amazing photography.

Check out more of Long’s work.

If you like this video be sure to share it! Do you have an awesome photo or know of one that we might want to feature? Send us an email!

Cool Stuff – January 26, 2014

Cool Stuff

Welcome to Cool Stuff, a recurring feature where we post our favorite links, including our favorite articles and how-tos, videos, images and more.

Cool Stuff articles are culled from BLFlip, the official Flipboard Magazine of BorrowLenses.com. If you’ve got an iOS or Android device, you can download the Flipboard app for free now.

  • We start this weeks Cool Stuff with a heft dose of eerily mesmerizing video. Artist and professor Dennis Hlynsky at the Rhode Island School of Design created this timelapse-like video that traced (more…)