Shooting on the Water

Things to think about. It takes a lot of time and communication to anchor or move boats. In the water there are few reference points. Instructions should be closer/further to shore and up or down the coast. Don't expect someone in a boat to know when they are lined up with the sun for a sun ball shot. They can't see their shadow. Always think and give directions relative to their perspective.

For a shooting platform we have used flat bottomed boats such as aluminum duck boats. We build a platform between two with no less than 2" x 6"s on edge that are solidly tied to the seats or gunwales. Leave a 3 or more foot gap between the boats. Clamping another 2" x 6" between the transoms allows an outboard motor to push both boats equally. Leaving room for the oarlocks can be helpful so two people can row short distances if necessary. This will allow fairly long lens work if the surface is calm. Canoes and catamaran designs are the least stable as they displace little difference in water with weight on the steep sides. A flat bottom required a lot of weight to change the draft. Once a camera boat is positioned, get unnecessary people off. More weight doesn't make it more stable.

If you want to get camera lower to the water, use 2" x 6"s that extend over one side and attach a nodal head to a crosspiece. Have a way to level the head. Bring extended eyepiece and pad for operator. Tie things off such as camera doors so they can't go swimming.

To anchor, get 4 real anchors or lead weights and use plenty of line to allow adjustments in all directions. Place the anchors further than you think you need them. Anchors have little holding power if right under the boat, they will tend to lift off the bottom.

Make your talent comfortable in a picture boat. If they are uncomfortable it is hard for them to look comfortable. Be prepared with what might be needed to get them in comfortable positions required for camera.

Things to consider. A net to remove stuff on surface. Are matching boats needed or even available? Straps and furniture clamps to attach beams to boats. Protecting the boats. Does the outboard start. Enough anchors rope. Ways to hide anchor ropes on picture boat from camera. (A thin aluminum plate to fit the contour of the boat bottom can be taped and will stay for hours if the bottom is clean and dry. TEST wet first) Climbing hardware (Jumars) and prussic knots can be helpful for faster rope adjustments. Radios. Warm clothes.

Having a third workboat is helpful for positioning, delivering stuff and asking other boats to cooperate with your filming. (Use a friendly approach.)

Local boats can get expensive if earlier crews throwing money at people for services have spoiled the area. Plead low budget and consider bringing in boats or going to another location.

Always consider shooting wide sunset or sunrise shots with doubles if possible and necessary.

Plan for everything to take longer than you think.

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