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BTS: The Waterfall Shot from “So Mote It Be”


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THE CONCEPT

Last May I was approached by local Nashville Artist Persephone Godwin to create a music video for her song “So Mote It Be”. The song is very spiritual and dreamy and Persephone is a water sign, so she wanted to have a strong water element throughout the video. As luck would have it, my friend and I had just gone down to Machine Falls to test out some new equipment, so we instantly had images in our head of Persephone standing in front of the falls.


Video from Machine Falls that we turned into a short vignette.

EVINS MILL

Unfortunately, Machine Falls is a public place and there’s no way to prevent people from interrupting a shoot, so we wanted to find a similar place that could be a little more private. Persephone knew of a place east of Nashville called Evins Mill, which is part of Bed & Breakfast style Inn. Their waterfall is very private and they would allow us to block off the entrance for a few hours so we could be uninterrupted by other foot traffic.

The down-side (which really turned into an up-side as I’ll explain later) was that the pool at the bottom of the waterfall is much deeper than the one at Machine Falls. There we were able to wade no more than ankle deep to pretty much any corner of the falls. At Evins Mill, we would have to be almost swimming to get certain angles that we wanted.

HOW TO GO SWIMMING WITH A CAMERA

After doing some test shots out at Evins Mill, we decided we’d have to come back with an underwater housing. Thanks to BorrowLenses.com we were able to rent a specific housing for my Canon 60D and the lens port for my 24-70 f/2.8.

Just a little tip for anybody going underwater with any gear for the first time, make sure you test out the housing BEFORE putting your camera inside. Especially since this particular solution is modular (lens and body are separate components), you want to make sure all the O-Rings are properly fitted so they perfectly seal the camera inside. I’m glad I did this, since it’s hard to tell just how much you need to tighten everything. The first time I put this rig together, when I put it under water I noticed a small leak between the lens and body housing. I put a little more torque into the lens housing and it screwed in just a little bit more, stopping the leak.

To get a little more confident, I dipped the entire housing about a foot under water and checked inside – no leaks. Satisfied with the results, I put the camera in and went swimming. I will say I’m not 100% happy with how easy it is to use the camera in the housing. Even though it’s designed specifically for the 60D, the external controls are limited to the shutter release, the button to record video, and the main control dial on the top of the camera. Reviewing footage or changing settings once the camera is inside is completely impossible, and taking the camera out of the housing requires loosening several hex screws, so it’s not something you should think about doing while in the water. Knowing this, I made sure to set my exposure before locking everything down.




AN UNEXPECTED CHANGE

We tried a few things and I was swimming around looking for good angles, then all of a sudden everything changed. The waterfall at Evins Mill gets a sudden rush of current every now and then due to a dam upstream. There isn’t a specific time, but we found out later it generally only happens once a day. What was a gentle stream of water when we started was turning into a roaring waterfall. Noticing this, I had Persephone stand directly in front of the falls.

Remember earlier when I said the underwater housing made it very difficult to change settings? Well this sudden surge of water also meant my fairly dark backdrop was now a bright white sheet of water. The only way I could get any hope of exposing properly was to incrase my shutter speed. I really hesitated to do this since I was recording video, but there was no telling how long the water would keep up this current and everything was completely overexposed. On top of that, the sunlight coming into the space was hitting Persephone perfectly.

Had I anticipated this problem, I probably would have set the dial on top of the camera to change aperture instead of shutter speed, but in the end I was really glad I didn’t. Increasing the shutter speed gave me the ability to do two different things that ended up being my favorite part of the shoot. First, since the water was falling at such a rapid pace, I was able to grab the still frame below. Had I been at 1/50, both the water and Persephone’s hair would’ve been blurry. All the wind coming off the falling water was actually making her hair blow pretty wildly. Slower shutter speeds would’ve made this not as crisp in the still frame.



Secondly, the fast shutter speed allowed me to do something I wouldn’t have attempted to do otherwise in the video – slow motion. Normally when you shoot video with the idea of slowing it down later, you want to shoot both high shutter speeds and a faster frame rate (50P or higher typically). Since I didn’t have access to change this in the underwater housing, I was stuck with 24P footage, but I was shooting with a 1/200 shutter speed. I decided to throw the video into After Effects and slow it down using Time Remapping. I have to say I was very happy with how it came out given the chaos of the moment. You can watch the video below (this shot is at 4:11) to see for yourself. I’ll admit it’s not perfect, but given the situation and equipment I had it’s still my favorite shot and the most fun I had making this video.


“So Mote It Be” full video. If you like this article/video, go watch it on Vimeo and use the “Tip Jar” feature to support me.

EQUIPMENT USED

*DISCLAIMER* The above links are not affiliate links and I was not paid by anybody for this article. This just happens to be where I got the equipment for this shoot.