Beneath Ofotfjord

I edited this together in 2010 from footage and stills I shot on a trip to dive the harbour wrecks in Narvik in the summer of 2008. It was a was a fantastic week with near-perfect conditions diving these well preserved and historically significant shipwrecks with a great bunch of friends and new acquaintances. However, after the trip, I had never got very far with editing this together.

Two years later, I decided I should really do something with this especially as—great as the trip was—I had no immediate plans to go back. I my mind’s eye, I saw something potentially epic, however the reality was that the only epic footage I had captured was through my eyes rather than through a lens! What I did come back with was some reasonable stills (above-water only) and some rather mediocre underwater video.

Equipment

The camera was my old Sanyo Xacti HD1000. Essentially an impulse purchase having seen a friend’s earlier model Xacti, it had the advantage of being very small and also compatible with a very affordable housing and wide-angle conversion lens made by Epoque. However, I had never got around to thinking about additional lighting which limited my use of the camera and completely ruled it out for cave use. Narvik was borderline in that all the wrecks in the harbour are relatively shallow and therefore give a good amount of ambient light. This also allowed for some really long dives (cold was the only real limiting factor, being 4°C in the still water of the wrecks’ cargo holds).

I had been white balancing underwater on a page from an underwater notebook, and whilst this gave relatively accurate overall colours (and certainly moved it away from being predominately green), the resultant image was not only very washed out (probably also a result of the auto settings trying to bring up the levels to what it was used to: a bright daylight-balanced scene) but had very little tonal range and hugely blown-out highlights in some of the channels. As a result, the files mostly just fell apart when trying to do any kind of colour correction. It was partly this trip that led me to the inevitable (if expensive) conclusion that you really cannot get away with not using additional lighting for video underwater (and the more, the better).

Editing

The section I probably worked the most on was the opening. It was fun to do, if a little bit over-the-top (Nazi occupation symbolised by the flag rising up out of the blood-filled Fjord anyone…), but I did learn lots along the way.

I also made a conscious decision to edit all the scooter footage separately. As I remember from the time, I had tried to shoot a number of sequences where divers on DPVs would approach, and then “fly-by”, the camera. These did work (sort of), but I also had a bunch of useable shots of Howard messing around doing loop-the-loops, etc. (point a camera at the boy Payne and what do you expect…). Stylistically, it didn’t seem appropriate to cut these into the other diving sequences which had more serious music to reflect the fact we were diving on wartime wrecks and (in the case of the German destroyers) war graves. I think this worked well in the end, as it does inject some visual humour (and auditory variety) into an otherwise quite sombre piece. The week’s diving was really fun and at least allowed some of that to come through.

Wrecks dived that week were SS Romanby, Wilhelm Heidkamp, Anton Schmitt, Hermann Künne, MS Stråssa, SS Neuenfels and Martha Heinrich Fisser.

For some images from the week please also see my flickr set here.

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