Flight of the Stoneflies

As a cameraman I’m always trying to challenge myself, at first I thought I had met my match with these stoneflies. Trying to film the females flying upstream was one of the most difficult operating jobs yet – they made hummingbirds look easy. The females are quite small at three inches and charge upstream at about 20 mph, the river varies from 70 to 40 feet across, they follow no set path, the wind moves them around, your working with a 500 or 800mm lens trying to keep them properly framed, shooting at 75 or 150 frames a second so your depth of field is measured in inches – about 6. The toughest bit was keeping them in frame, then in focus, it was a difficult two-eye job and I wasn’t doing that well at it. The normal little finder widget I hang off the lens for panning with flying birds wasn’t up to the job.

We were staying at a small Best Western outside of Yellowstone. One day the front desk rang my room saying they had a package for me. Strange, I wasn’t expecting anything; I opened the box and discovered to my delight a beautifully crafted custom sport finder made from a riflescope sight courtesy of David Quaid ASC. It was large and bright with a red dot in the middle, fashioned to fit any viewfinder; it even had parallax adjustment. Ray Emertiz had made it especially for Dave when Panavision New York was General Camera. Brilliant, but what the…!!???

I hadn’t spoken to Dave for months – how did he know where to find me or what I was up to? It turned out he had tried to contact me and found out I was shooting at Yellowstone. Dave had been going through his bag of tricks, having a bit of a clear out and seeing the sport finder he thought of me. It was perfect for the job, just the tool for super fast framing of swift subjects. I was even able to get the females laying eggs over the river. Dave had no way of knowing it was exactly what we needed – it was one of those extraordinary times when the Gods smile on you. Thanks again Dave!

Clip from BIG SKY BEARS
Producer Writer Director Cameraman: Phil Savoie
AC: Adam Scott
Editor: Vincent Wright
Music: Malcomb Laws & Nainita Desai
Narrator: Jeremy Northam
Super 16: Kodak 7293 7279
Location: Montana
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