Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


If You Can’t See It: It’s Somewhere Down There

“Alan, are you afraid of death?” asks the Buddhist monk at Odiyan Retreat Center.

Alan is the founder and guiding light of the tall ship project I’m shooting. There’s no stopping the monk.

“Alan, what will you regret on your deathbed?”

In a flash, Alan realizes that he must build a 100 foot brigantine tall ship—a replica of a ship built in 1891. He finishes his volunteer work at Odiyan and—psyched up and inspired—returns to fulfill his life’s mission.

It’s a great story and the start of my documentary. I have Alan’s VO, now I need some visuals. I search through Alan’s scrapbook

“Have you got any photos of you at the monastery?” “No, nothing. It’s a monastery—you don’t take photos.”

Let’s see if Odiyan has a web site. Yep, it does. Alan is surprised. We search. There are photos but they’re all strange sizes, like 582 x 418 pixels. I need 1920 x 1080, so that’s way too small.

Odiyan volunteers are on Facebook—just three iPhone videos—some swans and a rainy day—come on, guys, you can do better.

Phone Odiyan

I find a “volunteer now” number and phone up. A nice lady answers. I explain that I need to go to the center and take some video. “The monks would never let you do that.” “How about I tailgate a car?” “We’d throw you out.” “I have a drone. I could fly over the monastery.” “We’d shoot it down.”

We laugh. I don’t want to upset Alan or the monks. Good video of the Buddhist retreat seems to be mission impossible.

Then I remember Chris. He was in my pinot documentary. Besides owning a vineyard, he’s a United Airlines pilot. He flies an Airbus A320 and has access to a local Cessna 172.

While I’m thinking about Chris and his Cessna, guess what? The phone rings. Guess who? It’s Chris. He wants some help with his web site. We strike a deal. We’ll shoot next week.

I Google-up on shooting GoPro aerials from a Cessna. Decide that the GoPro fitting that attaches to the plane’s wing struts will be the best and safest solution. They arrive (two, as I’m shooting 3D)—but the adjustable ring seems too small. I go to Jackson’s, our local hardware store. Yes, they have larger sizes.

The Big Day

Brandon attaches the GoPro cameras. We shoot at 60p with Polar Pro ND filters to reduce rolling shutter jello.

It only takes half an hour to fly to the Buddhist retreat. We’re at 2,500 feet and from the air it looks amazing. He circles twice.

Chris wants to land and check out the GoPros. The nearest airport is at Cloverdale. We land; play back a GoPro. I’d set the HERO4 to shoot at the narrow setting. Oops. We have nice shots of lakes and fir trees but no temples.

Take Two

Now we know Chris has to fly directly over the Buddhist center. We fly back. The temples come toward us and then disappear right under the plane. Gone. Can’t see them. They must be somewhere down there.

Back home. Perfect. Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Buddha.