Field Journal- Jarvis Underwater

5.6.12  Today was my first day in the water filming on this expedition.

A little background on me and what I do. I’m a documentary filmmaker, but I spent many years as a marine field biologist in these very waters before heading off to film school. In Montana I earned an MFA in Science & Natural History Filmmaking at MSU, started my own production company- Open Boat Films- and jar_coral_cover_grouper1spent half a dozen years filming for projects all over the world. Last summer, Open Boat Films won the grant competition to make an outreach film for the three new Marine National Monuments and after nine months of preparations- here I am.

This trip is the first part of field film production for the outreach video. I am a team of one, or a part of a team of twenty, depending on how you look at it. I’d say it’s more accurate to call me the visual documentation member of the scientific research team. I am here to document the field science as it happens, as well as these remote, intact coral reef ecosystems. With saltwater, unpredictable ocean conditions, electronics, and nowhere to buy spare parts for jarvis uw_turtle1_sgordon3000 miles- wish me luck! Fingers crossed all my gear will work, and continue to work, and beyond that- yes, I’ll try to capture glimpses of these reefs that show how worthy they are of our care, our interest, and our protection. These reefs, unlike their sister reefs in heavily populated areas, are healthy and whole and function as a coral reef ecosystem should. Let’s see what that looks like. I’ll do my best to document it and will share images with you so you can see it too- what a lively reef looks like. It’s nothing like you’ll see off the sunscreen slicked waters off Waikiki, with all due respect to the fun little waves that break there.

So, today was my first day filming underwater, since I was on the island for 3 days. Did my camera gear work? Yes! Nothing leaked, fried, or fizzled. The buttons all lined up with the controls. I need to work on holding the camera very, very steady- it’s a smaller, jumpier setup than I’m used to and I haven’t fine-tuned the trim or buoyancy on it. Each blog post I’ll share a tip or trick forjar_molly_cloud_sgordon1 field shooting. Today’s tip- invest time in adjusting the ergonomics of how you shoot so the camera feels balanced and you can move effortlessly- topside or underwater. It’s worth it.

Here few stills I captured from the video showing the thick carpet of coral, algae, and other living creatures that absolutely blanket the reef at Jarvis. There were small flecks of nutrients in the water from upwelling (water that comes from deeper in the ocean) and clouds of purple and gold anthias were feeding on it.

jarvis uw_whitetip_shk1_sgordon

Turtles were tucked into the reef here and there, and as I swam slowly up to an overhanging ledge crowded with red soldierfish, three napping whitetip reef sharks pushed past the red fish and surprised me.

Note to self, be careful of swimming up to things while peering through the wide-angle port.

There should be a safety warning stenciled on it ‘objects may be closer than they appear!’