Updated: Nov 14, 2019
“People only see what they are prepared to see.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I always have a tendency to focus on the “prepared” part of that quote. Especially, when it comes to preparing for a shoot and/or presenting work. A couple of weeks back, I had the extraordinary experience hiking through the White Mountains of Eastern California and capturing some amazing footage of the Bristlecone Pines. Needless to say, it took some major preparation to get ready for this project.
Respect your elders.
Part vacay from cubicle life, this trip was mainly focused on paying homage to the oldest living organisms on earth, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. The oldest individual, Methuselah, is dated to be around 4700 years old! Yeah, do the math. So, as Fu-hsi is honing his teaching skills and King Zoser is scheming about the first Pyramid, this young pine tree germinated and is starting to grow. (Keep in mind that some dead samples date back 9000 BC.) I think the craziest thing is that they only grow at elevations of 10,000 – 11,000 feet!
Ready, set...wait hold on!
Okay, as you can see I have a very unique and amazing subject and I have a necessity to make sure that everything looks good. So where am I going with this? Well, outside of composition and framing, and making sure I have plenty of sunscreen, H2O, GORP and batteries, I had to consider color temperature and white balancing properly. Seems like a pretty easy task right? Using my trusty DVX100, Panasonic has made it simple for me to establish and set my color temp values and create a preset or two. BUT, one thing I had to consider was that as I climbed higher and higher into thin air, I had to keep reestablishing my white balance. More often than you’d think.
As you climb higher and higher, almost every 2000 – 2500 ft. or so, that mountain air gets thinner, and thankfully cleaner. This means the color temperature is going to change and get more cooler, or respectively bluer. At my apartment in the Outer Richmond (sea level) the color temp is 5500K, but at around 4000ft we move to 6000K. Climbing to 10000ft we are hovering around 7000K. So, you can see that when we last white balanced at the Grandview Campground (8500ft) we need to do it again at Shulman Grove (10,000ft) and then for safe keeping do it one more time at the Patriarch Grove (11,200ft). Your getting the picture now and it would be good to do it again before you do your amazing panoramic shot at the top of White Mountain (14,246ft). I think my mantra for the entire trip was, drink, eat, drink, white balance, rest, drink, white balance, drink, eat, make fire, white balance. I’m pretty sure it was in that order.
Breakout the High Life and turkey jerky.
A few hours of footage later, the end result turned out to be some amazing results! A job well done and worth the wait. If I could make a recommendation, it would be to get yourself a small sized white balance card and a small color check card to carry with you. If you get them at the smallest size they only add a few ounces to your pack and are good for marking a new scene and will make your life easier in post. I also add about a minute of color bars at the beginning of the tape and about 30 secs of color chip at the start of a new white balanced scene. I tell you, just a few minutes of prepping like this has saved me hours in color correcting in post. Unless you like making extra work for yourself?
Here are some items you might want to pickup for your next backpacking/video trip:
Porta Brace LC-35X5 Small Lens Cover
Xrite Mini ColorChecker Card
Panasonic AG-YURC100 Camcorder Rain Cover
Komperdell Guide Staff with Camera Mount
A box of Peanut Toffee Buzz Cliff Bars
6-Pack of Miller High Life