I’ve had better days

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You know how some days, everything just goes your way… well today wasn’t one of those days.

I knew it was going to be a close call, the forecast wasn’t ideal, but I’m running out of days, so I had to give it a go.

I’m on a countdown for leaving the Bay. I have my ferry ticket booked for Dec 22nd and still at least 2 ½ days of filming to complete. These particular scenes are all really important, and simply can’t be shot anywhere else.

I have some fairy straightforward stuff to do at the Abel Tasman Memorial; I need this for the opening of the documentary. There’s not a great deal to do, but it’s quite fussy in terms of linking shots, close-ups’ different angles, long views etc. It has to be filmed late afternoon for the right sun direction, but finished before 7:00 in the evening, at which time it falls into shadow. The good news about this place is that’s it’s only a 5 minute walk from where I can park.

The other two days of filming are much harder work. I have to shoot first thing in the morning, and last thing in the evening. I can’t really do both on the same days because there are some hard limits on what I can do. If I try to do everything then I will run out of storage on the cameras, battery for the cameras or battery on the sound kit. But in reality, the biggest limitation is me… it’s simply too much to do in one day. By the time I film the evening shots I simply won’t be able to muster the concentration or enthusiasm to complete it properly… so, all ways ‘round, it’s 2 visits.

Unfortunately, this is one of the less accessible places I have to film at, and it has lots of constraints.

The camera angles and sun lighting I need absolutely determine the limits on times that I can film there, but there are other problems too. It’s a 20 minute drive from the closest place I can camp, and then there’s about an hour and a half of walking. I say about, because it depends entirely on the state of the tide. For the top 2 hours of tide I can’t get there (or back) at without taking an inland detour track to get around one particular bluff.

It’s not a big hill in the scheme of things, but I’ve given it a name.

From the top of

From the top of “What? really? again? Hill” looking towards Taupo Point (taken on a different day)

Each time, before I go over it I look in dismay at the rocks and the waves… and I say the same thing. So I call it… “what?… really?… again? Hill.”

All in all it’s a bit of a drama getting there and back, and it really takes it out of me… which is problematic, as I need to be on the ball once I get there.

The other issue there is the wind. It seems to be relentless.

I’ve been there 6 times now, and only managed one day of useful filming in all that.

Each visit needs a big build up. I need to have a big breakfast, and a good shave (the close-ups pick up any bits I’ve missed) and pack a lunch. I’ll drink lots of water and juice before I leave, as I’ll only carry 1 litre with me. I need 14 hours charging to guarantee that all my batteries are full. I need my script boards ready, and any illustrations I refer to. And I need to check, double check and then check again that I have every single piece of equipment packed. I don’t carry anything spare, so missing any single piece means scratching the whole day.

And so it was this morning.

It was 5:15 when the alarm went off. Sunrise was 5:50, and I wanted to be rolling by then. So it was straight out of bed, get the porridge and coffee on, and shave. All my batteries had to go from the chargers into all my gear, and then check, and re-check that everything, EVERYTHING was in my pack.

Next, was pack down the van; Down with the satellite dish, bed down, strap down over the duvet, rear curtains tied back, disconnect the power & stow the lead, roll the van off my leveling chocks… stow the chocks, get everything loose into cupboards, clear the tops, and count the latches as I close them… 20 drawers in total. Then stow the TV, strap up the tea and coffee rail, raise the netting that holds everything in place up in the over-cab,… shower door, fridge door and cooker lid. Finally, a last check inside… “is everything already on the floor that I want on the floor?”… yes?… then throw the outside mat in, close the door, and we’re off… or not.

I jumped down from the cab, went back inside, picked up my keys, and leapt back into the drivers seat.

It’s about a 20 minute drive around to the start of the Abel Tasman Coastal track, and then … boots on, pack on and go.

The first sun was shining on the hills on the far side of the bay as I stepped onto the track. The start is flat and broad, through coastal bush. It’s always sheltered on this part, so at this stage I had no idea of what the wind would be doing out on the beaches. Soon enough though I stepped off onto a smaller track that lead out to the line of 3 beaches.

It was still calm on the first beach… that looked promising.

I remember thinking damn! I forgot sun block. As it turned out I didn’t need it. At the far end of the bay it was a beautiful morning… but here, it was overcast.

I was surprised to see the tide as high as it was. I’d expected more beach to walk down and less boulders… but, you get what you get. Wanting it different doesn’t change things… it just made for harder going.

The tide was still pretty high when I got to the decision point… up over the hill, or try to climb ‘round. I decided to scramble and climb. Today, that was the wrong choice.

After 10 minutes of slow climb around the foot of the bluff I came to a 10m stretch that was impassable… sheer and green with weed… but only a foot or so deep if I stepped on the submerged rocks.

I had a choice… double back 10 minutes, and then take the hill detour, or walk through the water. I took the second option… I didn’t want to waste more time, but that meant I would have wet feet for the rest of the day.

I scrambled round the rest of the rocks and then squelched my way down the second beach, before the stretch of large uneven rocks and boulders, and the short last beach.

Once I reached Taupo Point, I didn’t stop, but walked straight through to my destination, over a little bushy rise to the beach on the far side.

This was where I would be filming this morning.

The good news was that the wind was very light, the bad news was that the sky was very dark.

I moved to my first setup position, started assembling my rig, and checked the test shots in the cameras…. too dull! I stepped up the aperture, more, and more, until my face turned red and the sky was a solid white. Everything in the replay looked flat and featureless…
…and why was I itching everywhere?

In the moist and overcast calm, the sand flies were out in force… and I was the only food on the beach. It wasn’t sun block I’d needed today, it was mossie lotion.

Things weren’t looking promising, but there was no point in going all that way and simply turning back, so I pressed on and shot all my scenes anyway. I had little confidence that anything I was doing would be usable, but there was no point in going to all that trouble and not getting something in the can. At least I could have some dialogue that I could use to voice over the top of other video.

The timestamp on the file for the first ‘take’ shows me that I started filming at 07:33 am. Two and a half hours after waking. That was pretty good going.

Scenes done I spent some time getting some supporting ‘cut-away’ shots: Looking up the beach, down the beach, out to sea, across the bay, me walking west, me walking east, me walking to the camera, me walking away from the camera, me walking out of the bush as seen from the beach, me walking out of the bush as seen from the bush… you get the idea.

An hour earlier, there was a beach there

Two hours earlier, there was a beach there (taken on a different day)

Then, I called it quits. There was nothing more I could do there of any value, so I re-packed my pack, flattened a final few sand flies, and squelched off back down the beaches. But I didn’t get far.

I’d got the tides completely wrong today… and it was fully high as I left. This made the beaches short, and the rocky shore longer, and there were now two extra stretches of rock to traverse. When I finally got to the middle beach and looked to the end I said “what?… really?… again?”… and turned up the hill track.

It would have been more comfortable with dry feet.

I was back on my favourite perch on my preferred campsite at Tukurua Road by 2:00 pm, and asleep by 2:15.

This evening as sit here, I have downloaded and reviewed the footage, and it’s pretty much all useless. If everything had worked out well, I’d have about 4 minutes of final footage for my trouble, but today all I got was some walking about scenes. The dialogue is OK, but none of the dialogue has usable video, it’s just all too dark and flat.

What-oh. I’ll just have to do it all again.

The next day that even looks possible is Tuesday… and tonight, I feel as though I could sleep until then.

I didn’t achieve much today, but I’ve learned something really useful. The next time I go there I’ll take an old pair of runners with me. That way, if I meet high water, I’ll just wade through it, but still have dry socks and boots to get back into. It will save me a lot of time and effort… oh… and I’ll take the mossie spray.

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