Monday, May 27, 2013

New Zealand 2013 - A Wrap Up (With Pictures!!!!)

I wrote this blog post on one of our last shoots in New Zealand. We've been home now for 2 months, and I found it stuffed in a Word document on my desktop. New Zealand needed some closure, as things are once again getting busy. Hope you enjoy!
One of our very last shoots I had ordered a helicopter shoot of some glaciers on the South Island. We had some delays and transfers to different branches, but at the last minute we got the all clear to fly out of Queenstown and to visit one of the nearby glaciers. After doing a shoot on a rock climbing face (and conquering my fear of heights…or, rather, learning to cope with it), we hopped into a helicopter and took a 90 minute flight to the middle of the Southern Alps.

The flight took us right over some of the most spectacular mountains on Earth. Rolling green hills turned into giant gorges with raging rivers flowing at the bottom. If you’ve ever been in a helicopter, it has a certain grace that just can’t be described. On the right day, it’s a very smooth ride. It’s so nimble, and you’re easily consumed by the landscape. It feels like you’re diving in and out of reality, like you're part of a painting or a giant photograph, and you’re stuck in between the real world and this spectacular sight. I love helicopter rides, and they’re worth every penny if you want to soak in a place like New Zealand.

Our pilot, Dave, was also a cool guy. He was a banker for a number of years, decided that his job kinda sucked, and decided to fly helicopters instead. 12 years later and he’s never regretted his decision. He pulled some strings and, rather than limit us to a standard 40 minute tour, took us the long way around.

We had 2 landings scheduled for the day. The first was on top of the glacier, and it was the most dangerous one. A cloud was hanging on top of the mountain, and throughout the day it would regularly roll down the glacier, blanketing the landing site. We had a small window to land in and, serendipitously, we got in and out just as the sun decided to peek out and grant us some fair weather.

Production Value
Sitting on top of a glacier with a helicopter in the background is something else entirely. Now you’re part of the painting, and all you can do is soak it all in. Of course, I had a job to do and had to film as much as possible in our 15 minute landing window, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying myself. Above us was a blanket of clouds waiting to roll back in and overtake the glacier. Fifty feet in three directions was a cliff face that plummeted a good 1000 feet down the mountain side, and everywhere around us were giant crevices that are notorious for eating people and giving poor Dave a ton of paperwork to fill out.

After a snow fight and some “we’re awesome” pictures on top, Dave took us down to a lake that forms every summer as the glacier melts. It was at the bottom of that giant cliff face, and in many ways it was even more majestic than standing at the top. From down there, you can truly grasp how huge this place is. Waterfalls from the melting glacier were tumbling a thousand feet down into this sky-blue lake. Small mountain flowers grew in the cracks of the glacier rock. On 3 sides is melting ice, and in that moment as you stare up you think only of how small you truly are.

Dave took us back the long way, making sure to do some incredible banks above the glacier face. I got a shot of us flying along a crevice and banking off a cliff that was just absolutely incredible and, in that moment, brought me back to why I loved filmmaking in the first place. The stress of getting the perfect shot melts away when you're consumed by a location like this. You and your camera are just minor players on this grand stage, and so whether the film that results is stunning or not is irrelevant. This is an experience, and you and your camera are just there for the ride. It’s taken me to some amazing places thus far, and I’m bent on riding this adventure as long as I can.
That was one of the last posts I wrote while actually in New Zealand. It's been 2 months since then, and looking back I'm reminded of how lucky we were to go on a trip like that...and have it funded nonetheless. We accomplished something amazing, and I'm sure we'll reap the rewards later down the road. 

For us and the cast, it was a bonding experience that still lingers today. We've all met up again in Seoul a couple of times, and it's always been met with inside jokes and fond memories. Spending 30 days in a Mini Van driving one of the most beautiful countries on the planet will do that to you. You'll always have a fondness for the time spent there...especially if you have friends to share that feeling with you. That's what traveling's all about, and I'm lucky to be able to take these memories and shelve them next to all the others.

Now, we did take a slew of cameras with us. It was a job after all. Here's some of the images from the trip. And trust me, with a country like New Zealand, the pictures never do the country justice. Enjoy!

Sara and Steven getting their Zen on

Steven doing most of the always

Me taking a break near the tide pools in Dunedin

Never leave Sara alone in the car...

Doing some mountain biking in Rotorua

GoProing it up before bungy jumping
Trevor off in the distance. Glacier country is so colorful
Early morning Balloon ride
Taking a breather on top of a glacier. Some clouds are rolling in.

That's a nervous smile from me...
This is what fear looks like... (Photo by Steven Mortinson)
Hot Air Ballooning
The whole gang

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