Gaining Value in Letting Go of Comfort

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera - DB_1_2017-02-03_0543_C0005.mov.05_46_52_08.Still001.jpg

In the recent months after returning to America I have been consumed, at times, with thoughts about my time in Honduras.  This is not unusual after doing missionary work in such a remote and unique place.  It is difficult to be immersed in the world and way of life that La Moskitia, Honduras has to offer.  However, it has always been surprising to me how similar the return to America feels compared to the feeling of arrival in Honduras.  Both occurrences have, what can only be described as, a shocking mental aspect.

When I say shocking, I am speaking to the feeling of uncertainty that one may have when leaving their "Comfort Zone".  It is obvious that when proceeding to enter a 3rd world country that is well known as one of the most dangerous places in the world, the idea of a comfort zone is nowhere near the expected criteria.  As soon has one steps off of the plane and enters the world that is Honduras, it is truly Shocking.  And why would it not be?  The way of life here in America is one of relatively no true uncertainty.  Yes, people live on the popularized poster-board quotes that claim "You never know what tomorrow may bring", but largely you at least have a pretty good idea of what is coming tomorrow.  Generally, it is well known that you will eat, not worry for your safety, have shelter over you head, and should you get sick - likely have the means to make sure it doesn't reach a fatal point.  As long as those points are covered, you don't experience true uncertainty.  

Those simple luxuries,  the ones that we seldom bring to the front of our minds, they do not exist in the everyday life of the Honduran people.  And for the brief time that we as missionaries spend amongst them, they do not exist for us either.  However, the feeling of true uncertainty, the overwhelming loss of control, has an insurmountable value in it.  The obvious value comes from the sudden and immediate appreciation one gains for the sense of certainty and control that we are afforded through the American way of life.  This is instant and initially overwhelming.  

Though, there is a value in this experience that runs far deeper.  I always find it difficult to formulate the words to accurately describe this value; which is why this documentary is so vital in instilling the properties of what this experience has to offer.  I can only describe it as Self Enlightening. This is value that you find after being in this world of uncertainty for some time.  It has traditionally found me toward the end of each trip, as I am starting to become accustomed to the way of life that rural Honduras demands.  At this time, during every trip, I lay awake at night unable to sleep because I am thinking, just thinking.  I tend to do this often anyway, however, the thoughts are different than when I am in the comfort of American luxury. When I am home I think of all the stresses of life: What I need to do tomorrow, this week, this month, am I forgetting anything, how can I accomplish this goal, what if I underperform at my job, and so on.  When I lay awake in Honduras, away from the opulent luxury of a comfortable bed, spacious apartment, and air conditioning - The thoughts keeping me up change.  I think of my family, loved ones, my faith, who I am as person, how I might be seen by others, if I am truly good, and what can I do in the coming day to improve the lives of others.  

When I return to America I catch myself, laying in bed at night, having returned to my old thoughts of luxurious stresses keeping me awake.  I am not saying these are not valid thoughts for someone to have, they are without a doubt very real problems.  They are however, in the grand scheme of things, little.  The value of one having the distractions of luxury and comfort ripped away, is the profound vision that is gained into what is truly valuable.  This is the Self Enlightenment I am speaking to.  The insight that grants brief and involuntary moments of pure self exploration, where, for just a moment, you may gleam a picture of what you truly value out of yourself.  

This encountered change cannot be manufactured.  If it can, I have yet to find a method that brings me into that state of mind.  Surrounding yourself with true uncertainty, is the first step toward gaining the knowledge of what it is you truly value.  And perhaps you may be able to predict what is that you will lay awake thinking of.  It is not uncommon for one who does not know what tomorrow will bring to think of faith and family.  But you cannot fully feel how much you value and long for those very real aspects of life, until you no longer have a them immediately in your reach.  When comfort is replaced with uncertainty, you gain the sight to understand what brings you that comfort.  Once achieved, those things you truly value are never again taken for granted and can never be returned to the lesser value that they once were.  We simply need to be willing to, for a brief time, sacrifice the comforts of our everyday life.

-Luke Buchanan

Update 5 - Editing and Color Grading

Deciding what shots to use in the aftermath of shooting a massive amount of footage makes it easy to get lost in the editing process. Its especially difficult to choose the absolute best shots for The Spirits series because they are so short and specific. Some are easier than others. For example The Children require more specific shots that are cohesive with one another (direct shots of faces and medium shots of interactions) so the whole piece looks familiar the entire minute. So far, Ive finished three Spirits with a goal of eight to ten, depending on their relevancy to one another after they are all finished. Music has been composed for the three finished pieces as well, its really exciting to see film come to life with music that emotes it properly.

Alongside editing Ive been experimenting with color grading. Ive recently downloaded Davinci Resolve, a color grading software made by Black Magic. I must say that Resolve is far superior to Premiere Pro's Lumetri color grading engine. It is more complex, better designed, and smoother. Thats not knocking Premiere Pro, as that software has never focused on color grading as its main draw. Resolve is a deep program and I am just getting my feet wet, although I feel reasonably comfortable already. I have high standards when it comes to how my film looks, coming from a background of editing digital photos Ive realized how different color grading film is. There are so many more steps and options you have. Comparing my color grading to that of professional pieces is key to getting the look that I want, as well as a polished professional grade. Id like to post a sped-up video of my grading process once I get more confident and fluid in Resolve!

- Dale Booher

Creating the Spirits of Honduras - Update 4

The Spirits of Honduras are our way of bringing the different aspects of Honduras back home. There were so many things we saw, completely different from my life here, the life I've been so used to. We saw dogs on the streets. We saw hand built houses raised up on stilts. We saw makeshift kitchens cooking native food. We saw complete chaos on the streets that somehow flowed better than traffic here in the States. We saw strife, struggle, beauty, and love. We saw children happy in circumstances you, myself, my friends and family, would never be happy in. There is so much more.

The Spirits are 1-minute pieces meant to summarize a specific part of Honduras. Whether it be The People, The Streets, The Mission, or The Family. They all play their part in the ebb and flow of Honduran life and culture. They will be the first pieces of our trip and this experience we put out there. As of right now, the Spirits of Honduras are being put together while we are also conceptualizing/working with our composer. 

- Dale Booher

Update 3 - Working With a Composer

  Dale Booher

Dale Booher

Music, in any cinematic piece, is vastly important and influential. Even more so for me personally, because my background is in music. During the shoot in Honduras, we didn't have much time to absorb our surroundings therefore not lending much thought to the score for our documentary. We did have a couple ideas though. We knew that we want it to be emotionally moving, powerful at times and somber at others, and ultimately fit the tone we were going for while filming and constructing the narrative. Even before I went to Honduras, I had in mind a composer who I knew could breathe life into the documentary musically. Hunter Rogerson is a good friend of mind and a colleague who will be composing an original score for our documentary. 

After talking with Hunter a couple times, we have started to gain an understanding about what each of us have to offer to this piece of a whole. For me, working with a composer is about mutual understandings, some improvisation, and trust. Its a back and forth relationship, meaning that I give him reference material, he generates ideas, I may change the original material, and then we finally settle on a composition. This is how we are approaching the beginning of writing the score, which will become a more fluid process quickly. 

- Dale Booher

http://hunterrogerson.weebly.com/

First Steps into Puerto Lempira

 Luke Buchanan

Luke Buchanan

The day is February 1st, 2017.  Our feet hit the ground stepping off of a small fifteen person plane.  The flare of a glaring sun subsides, allowing Dale and myself to gaze on the world we have just been thrown into.  The soft grays and browns of washed out, one room, wooden houses upon stilts serve as backdrop to the dusty haze of a dirt runway.  I pause, giving Dale an unsure look as the military police approach us, directing questions in an unfamiliar tongue to our team.  I soon begin to feel as though I don't belong.  

My expectation was to enter a world that I had been several times before and pick up where I had left off.  Instead, the overwhelming feeling of uncertainty crept in. After just my first few steps into La Moskitia Honduras, I remember asking myself two questions:  "What was this place I had just stepped into?" and, "Had I been so far removed from this land, Honduras, that I should feel distant from a place that I so desperately wanted to come back to?"  

I felt as an outsider should.  I looked different, felt different,  and spoke differently. It had been almost six years since I had been here.  While it looked much the same as I remembered, everything felt different.  It did not take long before I found that this change, this uncomfortable sense of distance from something I felt was a fundamental part of me, may have come from within me.  Maybe it was me who had changed so drastically is these last six years.  I knew, in those first brief moments, that this trip would not effect me as my other ventures here had.  The effect would be more profound; reaching me on a deeper level and perhaps fostering a change to my fundamental person.

Stepping off the plane, for me, is one of the most important moments of the trip.  It is the one moment where wonder, imagination, and anxiety begin to turn to reality and experience.  This fleeting instance represents a point of true beginning.  The start of an ultimately real experience.  One with no limits, no protection, and no rules. There was no guide to documenting this place as it had yet to be done.  We were writing the book on capturing the spirit of this place. The missionary team, Dale, and myself take the first steps to this incredible mission when we take the first steps off of that plane.  If the trip starts at any one moment, it is that one.

This is where our challenge begins.  We allow ourselves only a brief moment to take in the beauty of our surroundings.  The pure colors, the untouched land, the strangers cautiously watching; it all rushes us so quickly.  That brief moment, the second of personal time we take to pause and say, "This could be the most incredible place I have ever seen." is all we are able to take.  If I could, I would spend all day just taking in those first few moments, but our team did not come in search of seeing incredible things.  Rather, we came to La Moskitia Honduras in search of doing incredible things.

Once that moment passes and each one of us have taken our small amount of time we need to acclimate,  we refocus. The team calmly takes count of every bag and piece of equipment they are responsible for.  Dale and I grab our camera gear, pile into the back of an old, rusted out Toyota pickup, and begin our journey of capturing the incredible places and people that are La Moskitia Honduras.

 

 

 

 

Gear Planning for Honduras

   Dale Booher

 Dale Booher

Going into this trip, we knew nothing of the circumstances except this one piece of advice from the members the group we were following: "Nothing is for sure in Honduras." For Luke and I, this was already something we had come to terms with because we actually didn't have any idea what to expect when it came to filming or anything related to our gear. We didn't know if we would have electricity (we sort of did), we didn't know what would get confiscated (nothing too important did) on the way there or back home, and we didn't know how the people of Honduras would view us with a largely unfamiliar camera rig and some white guy (Luke) talking about what he is seeing and experiencing. So yes, to us nothing was for sure in Honduras so far, but we weren't even there yet. 

Before I go into my planning process for all the gear I brought to Honduras, I'm going to explain my mindset. The things that I knew were this: we would have unreliable electricity which meant I wouldn't be able to charge batteries reliably or backup footage reliably. Another concern was the weather, which was also completely out of our perceivable control as clouds form within 15 minutes and pour rain in Honduras. Knowing all of these uncertainties is a huge advantage going into a third world country with the goal of filming a documentary. It is almost like a battle: will the circumstances of the environment trample my gear, or will my (hopefully) foolproof plan hold the front lines of Honduras? I could only plan and hope everything would work out, and that is exactly what I did the morning we left at 3 Am for the airport. 

*all equipment mentioned is not meant to be a brand plug, its just what I chose to bring for my own personal reasons. Links are given for the purpose of anyones own personal interest, nothing more.

Everything is based around the camera of choice. For me, my mindset was that I wanted the smallest possible camera rig with the highest quality that would suffice for what we wanted to do. After doing some research I settled on the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera. First of all it cant really get any smaller and lighter than this camera. Second, it shoots in HD, has a super 16mm sensor and MFT lens mount. All of these features lend to the camera being compact and fast. I knew that I would have this rig on my person in some way (being the sole cameraman) for at least 7 hours a day, so I needed it to be lite. Thankfully Luke was able to film, which was a great help. Knowing that I would basically be guerrilla shooting for most of the trip, I wanted one lens. I chose the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens. With this lens I could get all the shots I thought I would need, and just in case I got a MFT to F mount adapter to use any of my Nikon lenses I brought along for my Nikon D800. For the rig, I knew I wanted something shoulder mounted as this is the best way to go if you are filming people talking and walking, or pulling teeth. After some tireless research I settled on the Tilta ES-T13 cage for the BMPCC. It was my plan that I would then attach this to the Redrock Micro Shoulder Mount which has carbon fiber rails to keep the weight down. I also brought a Sony Handycam handheld camcorder which proved to be extremely useful for certain shots. Along with the Sony, I brought my Nikon D800 as backup for filming. So if all else failed, I would have two other cameras with sufficient lenses and batteries to at least complete the filming, if not ideally. This is extremely important as any filmmaker/photographer will tell you that you need backup cameras. 

At this point, I was beginning to fight with my budget for the trip. I wanted the best possible gear, relatively, that I could find. But as we all know, there is always better gear, and usually we are most creative when we function within some form of limitation. And it is that limitation that forces us to truly be creative and create something we never knew we had in us. This, for me, is when you really realize your potential: when it is almost hard to recognize your own work, but you just cant help to be proud of it.

Back to the rig. Batteries. What was I going to do about the need to film literally all day while also not being around anything relatively electric. Since the batteries for the Pocket Cinema last less than an hour, I knew that any amount I could purchase just wouldn't do. Theres no point in changing them out that often, and then there's the concern of charging that many every night for the next day. It simply wouldnt be possible. I ended up settling on two IDX Endura Cue batteries that supposedly would let me shoot for around 8 hours. they ended up being better than expected and not once did I run out of battery life, this was a huge relief to me during the shoot in Honduras. Attaching the battery to the rig was somewhat of a challenge. I put the battery in a large lens case, then I zip-tied that to the rig. A bit of improvisation. 

In terms of audio, I wanted to keep it simple. I knew that I wanted a shotgun mic on my rig recording at all times to get the dialogue of the subject I was filming, as well as to capture the environment. I put a Rode VideoMic on the rig and the Rode SmartLav Mic for Smartphones on Luke and various interview subjects. I was skeptical about the Rode smartphone lavalier but the mic and software were top notch and ended up working out great. 

Onto photography. I've always loved photography more than videography, but I'm biased as I've simply just done more of it than the latter. I went into this trip with the mindset that I would take very few photos and mainly be focusing almost entirely on filming. It turns out I did focus entirely on filming, but I still found time to take photos. I have never experienced photography the way I did on this trip (these thoughts are for another post). Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I'm glad I brought all my favorite gear to take pictures with. First, my nikon D800 which I've had for about six years now. I have faith in these cameras, it hasn't let me down yet. I also brought my nikon FM3a film camera with me because it doesn't need a battery to function and its a lot smaller and lighter than my D800, meaning I can basically have it on me at all times if I'm compelled to take a frame. I use almost all manual focus/manual aperture lenses because they work on both digital and film cameras. I brought my favorite lens, the Nikon 50mm 1.2, a Zeiss 35mm F2, and the Nikon 14-24mm 2.8. I switched out the lenses as I needed to. I ended up shooting 6 rolls of film and about 100GB of digital photos. 

I may expand this blog post if there is anyone who is more interested in a more detailed description.

- Dale Booher

 

 

 

 

Reflection On Being Home (Update 1)

  Dale Booher

Dale Booher

I have just arrived back in the States after being in Puerto Lempira, Honduras for 5 days.

Being brief (I will explain this in expanse later) life in Honduras is 100% different than it is at home. Ideals, day to day life, and society couldn't have been further than what I could have ever imagined. That being said, I truly hope that Luke and I were able to capture as much of what we felt in La Mosquitia on camera.

We shot for at least 8 hours everyday we were there, for five days straight. We got on the truck at 7:45am, came back for lunch at 12:30, and left at 2 for a different location usually returning around 7 or later. Everywhere we went pulsed with life and character. The streets took on life like a forest, and the people wore their souls on their faces. We were met with glances of curiosity, and treated with the respect we arrived with. 

We shot a total of approximately 2.5Tb of footage, and took around 100Gb of digital photos plus six rolls of film. From here on out, we will be sorting footage, editing photos, doing post-production, and piecing together the narrative that will drive the documentary on our experience and the Honduran People. Every aspect of our trip will be expanded in great detail as we continue this blog: it is meant to be an outlet for us as well as a guide to our process and experiences for you. We hope we can express the uncertain excitement and spirit of our adventure in a way that that affects you. We certainly are going to try. 

- Dale Booher