July 30, 2000
Greg "Gator" Brunshidle - Assistant Photographer
As a lead-in from Jonathan's journal entry from yesterday (July 29th) the question comes to mind ..... is filmmaking fun or is this hard work? This is my fifth project with ORG, what keep bringing me back? Good questions that I'll try to answer! I got up this morning around 8:00 am. That doesn't sound too early, even to me but anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm not an early riser ... at best! After all the post dive work was done yesterday, we had a late dinner at the Outrigger Snack/Bar, sort of a "Cheers" type of place where "everybody know your name". For a remote Pacific island, this place has some of the best food I've ever had while on assignment .... at least it seems great after being away from Chicago for a month! If you ever find yourself on this sand pile, I highly recommend the "Missile Burger" or the chicken and cheese quesadillas. Darren, our bartender, served up some icy cold beers and white russians and before I got too much into the spirit, I pried myself away and returned to my dormitory style room and began my website work.
Working on the website sounds simple enough but many of you following our adventures have noticed that the postings have been anything but regular. I apologize but hope that you'll recognize that the priorities run from filmmaking at the top, eating and sleeping near the middle, and posting the pages somewhere near the bottom. When you see this film you'll know that your patience has been rewarded!
Like a typical evening, I begin by preparing my video equipment for the next day. This included: opening up my Extreme Exposure video light module and connecting it to the charger. I have two 14 amp batteries but one will typically power my 18 watt HID lights for more than three hours (adequate for a day's worth of diving). I open up my Ikelite housing and remove the Sony VX-1000 camera. I exchange the battery and place it in a charger and connect the camera via Firewire connection to my Apple Powerbook to capture video still images of our underwater adventures.
I essentially watch that day's footage (Jonathan's and mine) and capture short video clips using a software called iMovie from Apple. Once the video is captured, an individual frame is chosen, captured, imported into Photoshop, cropped, sized, color-balanced, ..... and eventually saved as a jpeg to be used on the website. Once this is done, the video clips are erased from the hard drive to make room for future files. A single day's captures can take up to a half gig of space and would quickly clog my hard drive!
Next I download the digital images from my FujiFilm MX-2700 still camera. This is the camera we've used to capture surface stills. The camera comes equipped with a 32 mb SmartCard that will store up to 72 high resolution images. These too are downloaded to the Powerbook using an accessory USB cardreader (waaay faster than using the standard serial connection). These images are then cropped, sized, and compressed for website use.
No, it's still not bedtime yet! The selected images are arranged in a html document using MacroMedia's Dreamweaver so that the team member who will write that day's text will have a visual guide to assist them in merging their words with our images. Also, during all of this the team members are also jumping in to use the laptop to check their e-mail or send messages to home along with some of their favorite images ..... of themselves! That's enough product endorsements for the techies, I'm bushed, and I'm going to bed!
After waking up, decongesting, and eating my breakfast of chocolate frosted fudge PopTarts (could anything be more nutritious), I begin reassembling my video gear. Inserting a fresh battery in the camera, adding colorbars to the tape, cleaning o-rings and sealing surfaces, cleaning and dusting the lens port .....
Our accommodations are about a mile from the Dolphin's Scuba Club facilities where we store our gear. Spare Time is docked about an eighth of a mile from the scuba club. Luckily, Tom's been able to appropriate a golf cart that we use for carrying heavy gear from location to location. About 8:30 there's a knock on the door and Tom's there to pick up heavy gear and transport it to the boat where he'll load it and begin preparing the boat for the day.
The rest of us board our Kwaj bicycles and pedal to the scuba club to prepare our dive gear for the day. The previous night, Mark Miller and Roger Carr (president of the Dolphins Dive Club) filled our nitrox cylinders with a 38% mix for today's planned 110 foot dives and topped off our bail-out cylinders. The cylinders that provide a 50% mix for the safety whips which hang from the side of the boat have also been filled. We gather up our individual dive gear that hasn't dried overnight and begin assembly of the rebreathers. There's something about wet smelly dive gear that saps you enthusiasm at 9am. Scrubber canisters need to be either refreshed or dumped and rebatched with fresh DiveSorb. Breathing bags are installed into the rebreather housings and tested. The cylinders are attached, the regulators are connected, and flow rates and o2 percentages are tested.
|Depending on the tide level, sometimes we had to hand the gear as much as six feet down to the floating dock from the pier. Cliff on the pier hands gear to Tom who passes it on.|
About this time Tom arrives at the scuba club after preparing the boat. We load all of the heavy gear onto the golf cart so he can deliver it to Spare Time. With all the gear there's only room for two on the cart so the rest of us mount our trusty bikes and chase after Tom or try to "hitch a ride" as he drives the cart to the marina. Once on the pier, we form a "fire brigade" to hand the gear as much as 6 feet down to the floating dock and out to the boat. By this time (between 10 and 11 am) everyone's sweated so much that our shirts are soaked through. It'll feel great to get underway and underwater!
Today's dive plan returns us to the collection of planes that we dove on July 28th. We know that there are many more planes in the vicinity and Jon's eager to film a corsair that's sitting nose down in the sand. We know from talking with other divers on Roi that the Corsair we're looking for in in the general vicinity of the B-25 and we hope that by splitting into teams searching likely areas we'll be able to pinpoint the location.
We break up into two teams. Mark will join me and Tom will join Jonathan. Cliff who wasn't able to dive these planes earlier will be given an opportunity to explore on his own. The dive started out well enough. Cliff was first in followed shortly by Tom and Jon. Mark and I gave them a 20 minute headstart so that we wouldn't be bunched up on the safety stop. We quickly found the planes we had found earlier and took a moment to shoot a few shots that I thought would help complete our coverage.
|Thanks for cleaning the windshield and while you're at it could you check the tires and rotate the propeller?|
Mark and I continued past our known area of planes and began swimming 90 degree patterns at about 80 feet. Swimming at 80 feet allowed us good visibility of the bottom while conserving our bottom time for when we found the Corsair. I'll only admit this once - I've always Corsairs since Black Sheep Squadron, Pappy Boynton kicked butt!
|Tom approaches a Dauntless dive bomber|
Anyway, after swimming several patterns and dropping in on a couple jeeps, a square "something" we couldn't identify, and harassing a 4 foot grouper, we had used up our bottom time and needed to return to the boat. The Corsair would need to wait for another day. I signaled for the boat and Mark confidently pointed the direction. We ascended to about 30 feet and swam ..... and swam ....... and swam and like the children's song goes we swam right over the dam! Out of the blue (literally) we ran into Cliff who was also hanging out at thirty feet. We signaled where's the boat - he had no idea either. We decided to hold where we were until one of us could surface, take a bearing on the boat, and lead the others back.
|Gator lost and swimming in circles finally figures out that the only way he's going to show up in the film is if he films himself. Bad idea!|
Well, I was the first one who's computer cleared so I slowly ascended to look for the boat. I took a look around and didn't see it. What the .... It's got to be there somewhere. Oh oh, that dot over there looks like it. I point the direction to Cliff and Mark below me. I descend to join them for a subsurface swim back to the boat. We can't see the bottom for bearings because the vis is down today but I feel pretty confident that I know where I'm going. Mark and Cliff who are following behind me realize that I'm swimming less than a straight line so they stop and decide to wait until they can surface to take a bearing of their own. Meanwhile I'm oblivious that I'm off course and they've stopped following me. In about three minutes I see two divers hanging at 20 feet and I'm concluding that Jonathan and Tom got lost and couldn't find the boat either. WAIT A SECOND ..... that's Cliff and Mark ..... how did they get ahead of me??? We had a good laugh later on the boat. They realized that I was swimming in a big circle and they waited for me to swim right back to them. Well, I surfaced again, a little closer to the boat, took another bearing and swam at about 5 feet, popped back up and took another bearing, and by repeating this we got back to Spare Time.
|Cliff, our rebreather instructor, repeatedly reminded us that the proper procedure while on the safety stop hoses was to keep the rebreather hose under our chins. After 2 weeks, we finally converted him to the more-comfortable "let it fly" position.|
It turns our that Jonathan and Tom also got skunked. No Corsair and they finally admitted to getting lost! Well, that happens, we decided to try another sort of wreck for our second dive today. Off a nearby island allegedly was a tank (armored vehicle with large gun) lying on it's side in ninety to one hundred feet of water. We decided to give it a try. There were no GPS coordinates but a diver on Roi had given us some visual references. We lined up the boat, the depth finder indicated something below us so we dropped anchor.
Our depth finder, also known as a fish finder could also be known as another name - coral head finder. It was a nice coral head but still a let down when you're looking for Patton's tank! Well, making the best out of the situation, it was a short swim into shallow water and a nice coral reef. Those following our adventure will remember that I prefer barracuda to bulkheads and sea stars to smokestacks.
I found a goby with a commensal shrimp cleaning out their burrow. I had all the time in the world so I started out about three feet from them. Every few minutes I would move a few inches closer and refocus. I shot the entire time expecting that at some point the goby would retreat, alarming the shrimp to join it. Eventually I moved to within a foot before triggering the goby's boundary alarm, sending them back into their hole. By this time my rebreather had run out of gas and I had been breathing off my bailout bottle. Time to surface I suppose!
I don't even have to try to be funny with pictures like this ...
This is Mark in his wreck helmet.
Wait a minute, that means the diving is over ..... and so is the fun. We head back to shore and pretty much reverse the earlier process. If the tide's high, the seas are calm, and there's no wind we can bring the boat into the rickety pier by the scuba club. But like most days we need to dock at the marina, load the gear into the golf cart and move it back to the scuba club.
|Death at the end of the day - rather it feels like death, as you sweat through your shirt again while disassembling all the gear and preparing it for the next day's diving.|
Everything gets rinsed and while the gear hangs and drips, the rebreathers are stripped down. The tanks are removed and prepared for filling later that night. The scrubber canisters are sealed, the breathing bags and hose are removed, disinfected, rinsed, and hung to dry.
|Breathing bags or counterlungs are disinfected and rinsed at the end of each day|
Everything gets stowed and the camera gear is loaded into the cart to take back to our rooms for later maintenance. Tonight Cliff, Mark and I will mix the gas for tomorrow's mixture while Jonathan and Tom take the photo gear back and have dinner. We finish up around 9:00 pm and rush to the Outrigger to get our dinner orders in before they close the kitchen. Showers and dry clothes will have to wait!
So, back to that original question, is filmmaking fun or is it just hard work? Well, I hope I've explained and shown how it's a little of each. Hopefully I've convinced you that it's hard work and you'd be happier sticking with your 9-5 job. Why, because I love to do this and don't need anyone muscling in on my gig. I enjoy doing this; the hard work, the sweat, the disappointment. But I also love the ocean, the people I work with, the things I see and learn, and especially the new friends I make. So why do I do it? I think it's because making films is what I'm meant to do!