Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WILD Alaska

This place is everything I expected.  I'm up here in Sitka, Alaska, which is an island on the southeastern part of Alaska.  It's December so there's not much light, but because we are so far south it's much lighter and warmer than I would have thought.  Temperatures hoover around 32 degrees day and night, and it's light from about 8:30am to 3:30pm.  The other camera guys I work with call it our winter raise because since there is less daylight we don't have to work as many hours and get paid the same amount.  With this job we usually film from before sunrise until after sunset, so it's LONG days.  In Alaska, though, it's almost like a normal workday.
I'm filming for the show "Dead Meat", so we've been hunting for deer, ducks, crabbing, fishing, and diving for sea creatures. Then we learn how they cook everything up.  Sea cucumbers have by far been the most disgusting thing I've ever seen cooked.  I also ate gooey duck, which looks like a giant penis with one ball on the end.  The ball part was sliced up and cooked in butter and garlic and was actually really good tasting.
One of the days on this trip was the highlight of my filmmaking career. I was given a hundred buck, a van, and a camera, and was told to go get B-roll (random shots) of the island.  There's only 15 miles of road, but I drove the hole thing trying to film everything I could.  It was awesome breaking away from the crew and doing my own thing.  I went on a hike and got to explore the rainforest, filmed tons of bald eagles, filmed the largest brown bears I've ever seen, and some owls.  When I tried to film town it just pored rain on me, which has been the story of the week.  It pretty much rains, snows, or sleets 24/7 here in the winter.  There have been a couple hour breaks in the clouds where I actually get to see the mountains and realize how amazing this place is.  I've been a lot of places in this world, but Alaska is truly one of the wildest most amazing places I've experienced.
I definitely need to come back here in the spring/summertime.  I've filmed all of this amazing stuff, but there's something missing... I need to get into the mountains and climb or ski or film climbing or skiing.  There is just so much untouched terrain up here I can't even describe it.
It does take a special person to live here year round, though.  One of the hunters that we went out with told me his favorite color was grey.  I giggled a little bit and he said, "No, I'm serious.  My favorite color is grey.  I mean look at all the beautiful shades of grey there are."  We were on a boat driving to another island and the window was foggy, it was raining heavily and you could only see the shapes of land out front.  He said, "Look at how beautiful this is.  You almost can’t even tell the window is fogged."
He was dead serious, too.  There are some special people that live up here who have learned to appreciate everything Alaska has to offer, even the grey days.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kansas-Waiting for Deer

Two things I've never worn before this trip are shown in the picture: Carhartts and Camo.  Don't make fun of me with this picture.  Actually, I make fun of myself so it's okay.
So I guess this was my first big game hunting show. I never thought I'd be filming hunting, but I've been learning a lot.  I guess it’s just broadening my knowledge.  Kansas is what you would expect...flat and pretty boring.  But, there's lots of huge white tail deer.  We'd be up at 5am everyday to get out to our blind.  I had to close the car door quietly, walk quietly, cover any velcro, and move super slow in the blind.  I saw some huge bucks, but Bill Gorman, the host of this show for L.L. Bean wanted to wait for the largest one.  I got to film some bucks fighting, a mother and baby licking each other, some turkeys, a couple coyotes, and some beautiful sunrises, but it took three days of sitting there from sunrise until sunset before Bill found the buck he wanted.

His adrenaline kicked in and although the deer would have probably stood in the field eating for an hour, Bill had to take the shot that second.  I was stationed on the left side of the blind, which was five feet by five feet.  My camera and me took up most of the blind.  Bill had to shoot out of the window between me and my camera. He wouldn't trade me spots, so I had to lean over his gun to run the camera.  I got focus on the deer, and BOOOOOOM!  I jumped through the roof with my ears ringing. I got back to the camera and fortunately he dropped the deer in his tracks.  I was so freaked out because I'm not used to guns and I couldn't hear at all.  My ears were ringing!  We reenacted the whole sequence so I could get some different shots and then went to check out the buck.  Bill wouldn't let me film anything at first because the deer was surrounded by corn and I think they wanted me to show that it was just eating wheat.  Bill and Tim moved it and reenacted the recovery of the deer.  Making TV I guess isn't always real.

The whole rest of the day I was kind of pissed off because I couldn't hear anything.  The next day my hearing came back a little bit, but it still sucked.  We filmed some b-roll and did some interviews.  I thought that was a rap, but Bill wanted to go hunt a doe on the last day.

Day 5 we got to go tree climbing.  If any of you guys know me I love tree climbing.  It was fun for about 2 minutes and then we sat there in the tree stand.  My hearing was a little better, but it still would randomly start ringing.  We saw five bucks, but no doe.  Just our luck.  It was probably 4pm before we saw a doe.  Bill shot one, but it ran for quite a ways.  I stayed on her with the camera until she finally fell over.  It took one more shot until she was dead.  They are trying to keep the male and female populations more consistent, so I guess Bill was helping out the deer population by shooting a doe, and I guess they taste better.

It was a pretty interesting crew.  I think there were about 6 people at the lodge who all had their own TV shows.  I made some great connections and might have gotten myself some more work either as a videographer or doing time-lapse stuff in the future.  As boring as it was, I still learned a lot.  Every trip I go on, I sure learn a lot.

Next week...ALASKA!