It’s 5 am and we’re speeding down a dark snowy road, deep in the backwoods of Maine. Another sip of sludge hotel coffee, and somehow my sleep deprived body doesn’t have enough energy to recoil from the revolting taste. I’m lucky enough to be riding shotgun for this leg of the trip, which gives me a few sparing chances to catch some shut eye on the way to our location. Unfortunately the festering pre-shoot adrenaline has another agenda. Then it occurs to me: we are blindly following two people we just met into remote New England forest to shoot a massive, tree-eating logging machine, with no clue how to get back. Fargo meets Deliverence. Oh, and did I mention we’re in Steven King’s hometown?
We’re on day nine of a 16 day production that takes us to 11 locations, three provinces, two states, and far too many complimentary continental breakfasts. Our assignment is to shoot massive machines and the technicians that work on them. We just finished our leg through Montreal, which had to be some of the coldest conditions I’ve ever shot in. A plate of poutine and a pint later, and the cold was a distant memory. We managed to squeeze in a whopping two hours of sleep before being stung with a 3am wakeup call for our flight down to Bangor, Maine.
When we’re not dodging flying trees while trying to light and shoot, we’re punching through waist deep snow.
After braving the cold in Montreal, a little snow in the backwoods of Maine seems like child’s play. Then we decide to do a follow shot of the monstrous logging machine. We’ll be moving on foot through a tangled mess of downed trees and four feet of snow. When we’re not dodging flying trees while trying to light and shoot the machine, we’re punching through waist deep snow. It’s slow going. Before long, the ever resourceful photo assistant, Aaron Hoskins, manages to track down a pair of snowshoes to keep him afloat.
Aaron Hoskins sporting snowshoes while traipsing through the forest with our battery lighting kit.
This behemoth and futuristic logging machine makes quick work of the forest, and can drive over the most unruly terrain.
Wrapping up our shoot days in Maine, we head off for the obligatory east coast lobster feast. Word on the street is that the best lobster in town is on the permanently moored boat-restaurant down in the port. Yes, a suspicious old boat that’s been converted into a restaurant. Against our better judgment, we trust local advice and climb aboard. In true American fashion, we each got a plate with two lobsters for cheaper than the price of one. Makes perfect sense. So, with full bellies and our New England shoot days under our belt, it’s off to Portland’s aptly named Jetport to head home and regroup in Toronto.
The abnormally high static electricity was threatening to fry the camera…
Two weeks later, we’re back on the move, this time to Edmonton. One of the challenges with shooting large machines on location is often the environment they work in. Over the course of this shoot, we’ve had to brave different obstacles at every location. If it’s not the flying debris and strong winds we had in Massachusetts, it’s the abnormally high static electricity threatening to fry the camera we were trying to rig to a crane in Oakville. In Edmonton, it is the seemingly innocuous clay soil. While setting up and shooting one of the first shots, I’m standing behind the camera for a few minutes getting things sorted. As soon as I try to move, lo and behold my feet are completely locked in the mud. I don’t know whether to laugh or panic. After a few deep breaths, some calm and collected jiggling of my feet, minutes later I break free. But not without six inches of mud stuck to the bottom of my boots. Welcome to Edmonton. It’s not long before all our gear is also covered in thick, greasy clay. Fantastic.
With a filthy truck towering over Aaron and I, you can get a sense of the scale of these massive machines.
Don’t be fooled by the pretty mud. This sticky clay will stop you in your tracks.
With high voltage power lines flanking this worksite, extreme static electricity prevents us from rigging the camera to the top of the crane.
Our final shoot day of the whole project takes us to a worksite full of nothing but massive pipes. I’m not sure whether I should be more afraid of the deadly piles of pipes we have to set up beside while shooting, or the salty workers who have no patience for us taking over their work area. With the efficiency of a team on our tenth shoot day, we blast off our three shots and officially wrap what is one of the longest shoots I’ve ever done.
Working around these giant pipe stacks makes for a tense shot. If even one pipe shifts and lands on you, it’s certain death.
Shooting on location is always an adventure, and this project did not disappoint. Thanks to Art, Michael and the team at Atlanta Visual Communications for the inspiring creative collaboration. Thanks also to Steve Wallace at Barnes Communications, and of course to Bob Dryburgh, Charlene Kelly and the entire team over at Strongco.