Filming With a Hankie in the Snow

Mule Polly waits to be photographed in the snow.
Even mule Polly will tell you there’s a LOT of standing around during movie making. Here, she hunkers down in a South Dakota snow while I fiddle with the camera. It sure was worth it go get the footage (though arguably, Polly would have preferred a flake of hay and a stall…)

While I’m snug inside my studio tweaking on the “Lost Sea Expedition” footage, I think back on what it took to get some of that amazing footage. Especially those outdoor scenes in the rain and snow.

Okay, mostly it took a really patient mule! But somebody had to get out there and capture the footage of her marching through the hard times.

You see, sunny days are boring. But they’re easy. That’s why most pictures have the sun in them. Sloshy, wet, clumpy snow?  Nah. Not so many of those photos around. And besides, I knew you didn’t want to watch a TV series about a guy walking across America with his mule in pure sunshine.

No, I wanted to show you the American West in all it’s meteorological moods. And because I lived out there in my wagon for 14 months, I got a whole lot of weather thrown at me: rain, snow, wind, hail enough to kill a Montana cow and then some more wind.  And I wanted to capture all of it.

Not the Fancy Snow Gear

A bandana keeps Bernie's camera dry.
Instead of fancy gear bags, I kept my cameras dry with something more mundane. When I didn’t have a shopping bag handy, I found the solution to keeping my camera dry around me neck – my bandana. For you film makers, that’s a hardworking RØDE VideoMic and dead cat capturing the sounds. (Black Hills, SD)

I didn’t have fancy movie cameras to record my trip. Before I took off on my mule voyage across America, I just bought the most rugged gear I could afford – two hard knocking Sony hi-def rigs and a Rode shotgun mic. No, they weren’t waterproof. That’s why I carried shopping baggies around.

Some of the snowiest weather I ran in to was in the Black Hills of South Dakota. When things got really wet, I wrapped my cameras in those bags and just kept filming. Yeah, it got some funny looks from the snow plow drivers.  Me out there on the side of the road filming them with with these baggie-covered cameras. Like a hobo, really.

Bernie's map of the Black HIlls, SD.
I painted most of the maps for the Lost Sea Expdedition TV series. The ridges you see are brush strokes. If I was a art gallery, I’d call it “acrylic on board” instead of just “paint on a plank”.

The great thing was, in a pinch, I could wear the baggies over my socks when my boots got wet. Try that with one of those high tech yellow gear bags.

Now, looking at the “Lost Sea Expedition” series, when I see all the snow scenes, I get downright chilly. Brrrrr! Man I’m glad I did it. If you look real close when you watch the footage, maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of one of those shopping bags on my camera.

I sure look forward to sharing the voyage with you.

PS: Yes, both cameras and the RØDE VideoMic survived the 2,500 mile ordeal.


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