Movie of the Week: The Last Lions     (2)

I just saw “The Last Lions” – a film by Dereck & Beverly Joubert and National Geographic Entertainment that’s now in select theaters. Here’s the trailer:

My review? The cinematography was superb—Dereck Joubert’s camera work is artistically inspired, and I loved the way he really went in for tight shots. The full-screen images of lion faces and buffalo horns create a sense of immersion I haven’t seen or felt in other nature films. There are a few shots that actually looked painted, they were so beautiful.

The writing, however, left me wishing for a less heavy hand. Maybe it was Jeremy Irons’ narration. He has a great voice (and it’s a clever bit of casting getting The Lion King’s Scar to voice this film) but the storytelling was SO anthropomorphic that at times I felt the writing combined with his delivery was just too much. Am I glad I saw it? Absolutely. Would I recommend it? Yes, if you like lions and love nature docs. But the story and therefore the cause of this film—reversing the devastating drop of lions from 450,000 to 20,000 in just 50 years—fall a bit flat when compared to, say, Louis Psihoyos’ The Cove.  Having said that, I still give tremendous credit to the Jouberts for putting their passion on film (again) and to National Geographic Entertainment for helping make it happen.

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Categories: Movie of the Week Photography

National Geographic’s GREAT MIGRATIONS     (6)

I just got an email from Bob Poole, one of the most talented DPs working in the nature documentary space (for a list of shows he’s done, click here).  I haven’t (yet) had the chance to work with Bob, but there’s always next time….

Bob was principal cinematographer on Great Migrations, the new epic nature series from National Geographic that’s launching worldwide on Nov 7th. Here’s the trailer:

My other friends in the industry who worked on it say that it kicks Planet Earth’s butt. I’m certainly tuning in on Sundays to watch what looks like a masterpiece. Bravo, Bob and Nat Geo for all your hard work making this!

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Categories: Animals Movies, Books, TV Photography Travel

Rest in Peace: Wes Skiles     (4)

I just read that Wes Skiles, a pillar of the cave diving and underwater filming community in Florida, has died. I don’t know much more than that at this point—only that he was diving for National Geographic off of West Palm Beach. So sudden. So unexpected. I was just reading National Geographic’s cover story on Bahamas’ Blue Holes—photography by Wes C. Skiles. While many of the divers I know have been acquainted with Wes for years, I just met him a few months ago at the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride. He came to one of the breakfast panels that I was on and, afterward, we talked a bit about possibly working/diving together and he gave me his card. It’s sitting right here on the table next to my computer…

Technical diving is, as many know, a high-risk endeavor. I don’t think anyone in the diving community refuses to acknowledge that. Whether it’s in a cave or on a deepwater wreck, there’s little to no room for error. Last year, veteran diver Carl Spencer died while on a National Geographic expedition to the Brittanic. In Carl’s case, he made the mistake of breathing the wrong air mixture while at depth. I haven’t heard what led to Wes’ death—perhaps it wasn’t dive related at all. Perhaps he just had a heart attack. But the risks inherent to underwater exploration are well documented, so every diver knows what could happen when he or she enters the water. It’s just surprising (and sobering) when something like this happens to someone as experienced as Carl or Wes. I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to dive together, Wes. Rest in Peace.

[Post Script—This article just turned up online and offers a little more info….]

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Categories: Diving Photography

The Quest for a Camera     (5)

I love vintage cameras. I have a small collection of them at my place in Utah and marvel at the beauty of their construction. Laid out in a row, one can see how they’ve evolved, from the large folding plate-film dinosaurs to the smaller (but still pretty big) cartridge and roll-film models, all the way down the line to today’s featherweight and film-free digitals. One hundred years ago, people would have thought you mad if you talked about a film-free camera. Where would the image be stored? But I digress.

The hunt is now on for a very special old camera: A Kodak Vest Pocket Model B. But not just any Kodak Vest Pocket Model B. People are on the hunt for the Vest Pocket cameras carried by climbers George Mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine on their attempt to summit Mt. Everest in 1924. Here’s the last photo taken of them before they disappeared on June 8, 1924.

In the upper left inset, you can see what a Vest Pocket camera looks like. You can also read more about this particular model here.  We know Mallory had this camera with him on the climb (as did Irvine), but when his body was discovered on May 2, 1999, the camera wasn’t found. It’s possible that Irvine had both cameras on him (his body has not yet been found) or that the camera is somewhere nearby. Thus continues the quest to resolve one of the greatest mysteries in mountaineering: Is it possible that Mallory and Irvine got to the summit of Mt. Everest in 1924, almost 30 years earlier than the May 29, 1953 ascent by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay?

When last scene by climber Noel Odell in 1924, the pair were above the Second Step, just 850 feet below the summit and still climbing strong. They never returned. 75 years later, Mallory’s body was found by climber Conrad Anker 2,030 feet below the peak. From its condition and placement, Mallory appeared to have fallen before dying, as you can read from this website“The fall has dislocated Mallory’s right elbow and the rope is coiled around his chest, breaking his ribs. At some point he breaks his tibia and fibula just above his right foot. He is still sliding face down the mountain, his fingers digging into the rocky ground. He slides off another ledge and his forehead smashes into the rocks. Finally his battered body comes to a stop. He is still alive! He digs his fingers into the ground and to protect his shattered right leg, he crosses his left foot over the right foot—to protect it.” Pretty fascinating account, to say the least.

On the body were Mallory’s goggles, knife, altimeter and wristwatch.... but no camera. The climbers appeared to be descending when they fell—had they made the summit? This is the million dollar question. If either camera can be found, it’s possible that the film could contain images of Mallory or Irvine on the peak, thus re-writing history. Of course, the camera could be smashed to bits. Or 86 years of cosmic rays could have penetrated the camera’s body and ruined the film. The people at Eastman Kodak have long-pondered what could still be discernible on that film, should it be processed today. But first, of course, the camera must be found, and it’s the latest expedition that is now gearing up and looking for sponsors. If you’re interested, you can read more here. Either way, it certainly makes me appreciate the benefit of recording history with a camera and inspires me to take even more photographs of my journeys.

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Categories: Photography Survival Travel News & World Events

Galápagos Photos Now Online!     (18)

For those wondering when the photos I shot in the Galápagos would be posted to the Gallery, well ... they’re up! I’ve posted 24 of my favorite images shot during the 5-day trip. I really hope you enjoy them.  Of course, most of the photos are of animals, but there are a couple of landscapes at the beginning, too (from my hike on Bartholome Island). For those who want more info about each image, we’ll be launching a new version of the Gallery in a few months that will include information from me on each slide. For now, though, you’ll just have to let the images speak for themselves. Happy viewing!

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Categories: Animals Photography

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