In September 2015 I got the chance to do a really unusual shoot in a country I’ve never worked in before, South Korea. It was for the first episode in a new four part BBC Science series with Brian Cox called Forces of Nature. The episode title is The Universe in a snowflake and it explores the way shapes are integral to life.
My sequence involved filming the Haenyeo freedivers of Jeju island in South Korea. These ‘sea women’ are in their 60’s and 70’s and can freedive for shellfish in rough temperate seas for over 4hrs at a stretch. Fierce. Historically a large part of the female population of Jeju would have been involved in the harvesting but in modern times the practice has died out which means the average age of the diver is somewhere around 60 years old. They are basically a bingo club on steroids! We filmed them during conch fishing season and the ladies were excited and driven during the shoot. I had an excellent Korean dive assistant in the water with me but even so, communication with the ladies was tricky due to their intensity and focus on their job. I was really in awe of how hard they worked and the also the size of the harvest.
I got the chance to use the Canon 1DC underwater for the first time, to have some amazing food – Korean barbeque is incredible – and to work with DP Simon DeGlanville and Director/Producer Matt Dyas again. Simon worked with me previously filming blue whales for the excellent Wild Sri Lanka and Matt directed Jimmy and the Whales which we shot in Dominica. The shoot was challenging and fun, and a very different experience for me. Please check out the teaser trailer above (only available in some territories).
Update (2016): Forces of Nature The Universe in a Snowflake aired on BBC1 on July 4th 2016 and is available to watch on iPlayer until 4th August 2016.
Update (2017): Forces of Nature has been nominated for an Emmy for outstanding cinematography: documentary
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