IWFF 40 / Dive One Screening

Today marks the start of the 40th International Wildlife Film Festival here in Missoula, Montana, which will continue through the 22nd of April.

Throughout the last week, I've been coordinating a program called the IWFF Filmmaker Labs in which 17 scientists and filmmakers come together to produce science media for 6 days of workshops, video production, and editing. Their films will screen on Monday, April 16th at 6pm as part of IWFF 40. This year was the first annual Filmmaker Labs event and will certainly not be the last.

IWFF is the longest running wildlife media event, celebrating 40 years of scientific natural history films in 2017. I am honored to announce that Dive One, my most recent short film, has been accepted into the festival and will screen on Saturday the 22nd! I will be there to represent the film and to answer public questions.

A frame grab from Dive One, Alex's most recent short and first 100% underwater film.

A frame grab from Dive One, Alex's most recent short and first 100% underwater film.

See you there!

 

Dive One

It's official: "Dive One", my newest completed short and my first 100% underwater short film, has been submitted to film festivals and will be available to watch soon.

"Dive One" is a love story about a diver and the sea. At just under 4 minutes, this short film follows the journey of emotions exhibited by a first-time SCUBA diver. Nervousness, excitement, panic, fear, awe, and love, all feelings I've witnesses personally in my past dive students, evolve over time to music as our narrator Michele Venlee tells her story.

A still frame from "Dive One" of a diver exiting a cavern.

A still frame from "Dive One" of a diver exiting a cavern.

Using underwater footage I've collected over the past year in Hawai'i, Philippines, and California, editor Ali Nidzgorski complemented Sean Walsh's incredible original song to each of the story's emotions. After a month of editing, we are proud to stand by a product that will hopefully inspire others to join the "silent world".

Stay updated on Facebook for news about "Dive One" and its festival submissions.

A still frame from "Dive One" of a sea turtle breathing at the surface.

A still frame from "Dive One" of a sea turtle breathing at the surface.

New Additions to NatureFootage.com

Good news - my Nature Footage stock contributions have DOUBLED in number! New dolphin and turtle clips, lava time-lapses, wreck footage, macro beetle shots, and more are now available for licensing in 4K and HD, Royalty Free for as low as $49/clip.

As always, if you see a shot you like in any of my films or you want to request an original shot, contact me. I'd be more than happy to provide what you need to make your production flow beautifully.

Ice Diving in June Lake

Ever wonder what it feels like to be under a frozen lake? I was lucky enough to find out this past weekend while taking an ice diving course up in June Lake, California under instructor Darrell Walker. To answer your question, yes, it's cold!

After our first day of "acclimation" to June Lake's freezing water temperatures, I was confident in my dive gear (including my brand new OMS San Diego dry suit!) and introductory ice diving skills. We spent the entire morning and most of the afternoon practicing each ice diving position: diver, tether, and bucket. Unlike most other forms of SCUBA diving, I found diving under the ice to be a perfect team-building experience; each diver was reliant on surface support and gear assistance before, during, and after each dive. With spirits high, we ended the first day by struggling, yet succeeding in sawing and shoveling open a triangular hole in the 36 inches of ice over Gull Lake, just down the road from June Lake.

Day two was all about displaying our skills in a true ice diving environment (and having fun, of course). Three divers dove at a time under Gull Lake's ice, each diver on his or her own line and respective corner of the triangular hole. Using a "wheel" design we had carved into the snow, navigating was as simple as following lines of light on the underside of the ice. The creation of this wheel pattern is summarized in a timelapse at the beginning of the video above. As the last diver of the morning and with camera in hand, I dove into the black triangle of 36 degree lake water and performed my final three dives. The experience was unlike anything I've witnessed before.

Under the ice in Gull Lake, looking up through the triangular opening. Diver Bethy Driscoll descends off to the bottom right as my line tether peers down from above.

Under the ice in Gull Lake, looking up through the triangular opening. Diver Bethy Driscoll descends off to the bottom right as my line tether peers down from above.

Upon completing my certification course, my dive buddy Justin and I decided a grand finale was in order. After stripping off our dry suits, we both marked the "polar bear plunge" off our bucket lists by cannonballing half-naked into the icy water. I'm sure the video will be circulating on social media sooner or later...

For anyone who is interested in ice diving, I highly recommend it. Even though there are some potentially miserable situations, the reward is much greater than the risk. Darrell teaches this course every February in June Lake, so don't hesitate to reach out.

Beetles, Festivals, and a New Short

Well, with respect to my personal productions and the future of Alexander Finden Cinematography (soon to be LLC!), 2017 is off to a good start! As for the world's wildlife and conservation lands, I cannot say the same. For those of you who are worried, keep pushing forward with your conservation efforts and ideas. In the long run, it's you, me, and every other passionate individual who will end up making the biggest changes. Don't be discouraged.

On a brighter note: beetles! For the 2016 Audience Awards' Fusion Documentary Challenge, I produced a short film entitled "Weapons of Beetles" which will be screening at this year's Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana. With the help of the Emlen lab at the University of Montana, and Missoula's own Insectarium, I had the opportunity to shoot great footage of various weaponized beetles and talk with rhinoceros beetle experts. Though the film will not be publicly accessible for two years, you can view the best of the beetle footage on my new YouTube channel. Make sure to SUBSCRIBE!

Happily sitting on a piece of overripe fruit, a female Asian Rhinoceros Beetle (T. dichotomus)

Happily sitting on a piece of overripe fruit, a female Asian Rhinoceros Beetle (T. dichotomus)

"Stonefly" is still chugging along through the film festival circuit and will be screened next at DCEFF 2017. I've been asked about potential plans to "flesh out" this story into something longer, and yes, I love the idea. More news on this later.

Before the end of next week, a new short film will be completed featuring my own underwater cinematography, my professional friend Ali Nidzgorski's editing skills, and of course Sean Walsh's epic music. Right now, all I can reveal is that it's an experimental diving story. We hope to submit the film to underwater film festivals for Spring of 2017. Follow my social media pages to hear the results!

Thank you to all of those who have supported Alexander Finden Cinematography in its first year. I greatly appreciate the comments, reviews, and requests on my video productions. Have a wonderful new year.

Stonefly - Best Cinematography!

A couple of weeks ago, I received news that Stonefly, my most recent short documentary film, won the award for "Best Cinematography" while screening at DOC NYC. The film was produced in under 120 hours for the Fusion Project Earth Doc Challenge through the Audience Awards. To read what the Audience Awards had to say about the award win, check out their article on the top three films published November 30:

http://www.audnews.com/jury-selected-winners-project-earth-doc-challenge/

Ice melting from the opening title sequence of Stonefly. This segment is complimented by the Audience Awards jury and is described as, "One of those filmmaker blessings which fell together effortlessly...".

Ice melting from the opening title sequence of Stonefly. This segment is complimented by the Audience Awards jury and is described as, "One of those filmmaker blessings which fell together effortlessly...".

Stonefly will screen as a selected short in the 2017 Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capitol as well as the 2017 International Wildlife Film Festival here in Missoula, Montana. Following the festival circuit, the film will be used by the Fusion Network to create content for the public and for its streaming services.

Next May, 2017, the Audience Awards will re-open the top 12 films for viewing and voting in a competition identical to the one Kuwan won a couple of years back. While Stonefly did not win any of the cash prizes presented by the jury, it still has a chance to place in the top three during this Audience Awards competition. Don't worry, I'll bug you every day about it when the time comes!

The Last Okay Place as an IMDB Pro

First off, as of today, I'm officially listed as a professional on IMDB's database. You can now view my profile and resume, as well as the IMDB pages for some of the productions I've been a part of by clicking the logo below.

In other news, I've been managing social media and still photography for a local Missoulian web series entitled "The Last Okay Place", the brain-child of filmmaker Cassidy Belus. We are almost finished with pre-production and the Indiegogo Funding Page will be online soon! If you enjoy Zombies, post-apocalyptic stories, LGBT media, woman main characters, or a combination of all four, you should help us reach our funding goal and keep updated with the series as it's released!

For now, you can follow the social media sites for the production where photos and updates are regularly posted: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr

Writer/Director Cassidy Belus made-up and ready for last week's photo shoot

Writer/Director Cassidy Belus made-up and ready for last week's photo shoot

New Reel for an Official Business

Alexander Finden Cinematography is now officially a freelance contractor in the State of Montana. This means we can do business together and be taxed on it! (Yay)

To push business forward, I've developed a new demo reel featuring highlight shots from my recent projects in wildlife stock, music videos, documentaries, promos, and more. Keep in mind that almost all of the footage you see is available for stock licensing. If you love it, share it! The more eyes on this demo reel, the better. Thank you in advance for your support.

Enjoy.

Stonefly - The Fusion Challenge

A couple of weeks ago, I fought sleep and altitude to craft a 7-minute documentary in 120 hours.

The headwaters of a glacial stream in Glacier National Park.

The headwaters of a glacial stream in Glacier National Park.

The Fusion Project Earth Documentary Challenge gave me the topic of extinction and 5 days to create an original short film. Using my solo production gear and some help from the USGS, I was able to meet the challenge and exceed expectations. Stoneflies of Glacier National Park became the subject of the short, two species of which are now proposed for protection under the endangered species act due to the effects of climate change.

A meltwater stonefly (lednia tumana) on a rock near the source of a glacial stream.

A meltwater stonefly (lednia tumana) on a rock near the source of a glacial stream.

Though the film is not yet public, it will be viewable as a top 12 finalist at the DOC NYC Film Festival, Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capitol, and the International Wildlife Film Festival here in Missoula, Montana. It will also enter an audience voting round in May. I'll be sure to remind you to vote!

Thank you to Sean Walsh for his wonderful music and to the USGS for their help.

Half under water in a very cold stream below the Rockies in Glacier National Park.

Half under water in a very cold stream below the Rockies in Glacier National Park.

San Diego Videos now Live!

A sea lion in La Jolla Cove gets curious about his reflection in my housing dome.

A sea lion in La Jolla Cove gets curious about his reflection in my housing dome.

After a week of diving in San Diego and absolutely no break from the 5-10 feet of visibility, I had to take a different approach to my underwater subjects. Instead of hunting for the "larger animals" and unique animal behaviors, I searched for subjects that posed beautifully in high-surge, low-vis environments. Seagrass, kelp, red algae, floating particles, sand grains, light rays, and small schools of fish seemed to dance well in the surge. They also looked particularly appealing in shallow water near sunset. The photo above was taken on one of those shallow shoots in La Jolla Cove, one of the two dive locations where my first dive certifications took place in 2013.

Though I did manage to find some kelp while in San Diego, it wasn't easy. My shooting period was between the 11th and 16th of August, historically one of the warmest weeks of the year for coastal San Diego. Kelp is a cold-water organism that grows very quickly but is also susceptible to disease and damage when water temperatures increase beyond a certain threshold. In recent years, the water has gotten so warm that entire kelp forests vanish. The forests I dove through a few years ago are no longer there; there were no forests in La Jolla, none near the Marine Room, and only a few lingering, lonely stalks in north-county coastal areas. If we don't make an effort to reduce our impact on sea temperature and help balance the coastal aquatic ecosystems, we may lose entire populations of organisms that rely on kelp forests throughout the southern California coastline. For some species, it is already too late. Keep this idea in mind as you watch the first video listed above.

On a more positive note, we had some wonderful dives through Marissa Dive Charters on the Ruby E and Yukon wrecks. Visibility on these wrecks was much better (about 30 feet). A video showing some highlights of the Yukon dive can be seen here.

Looking down the barrels of the front guns on the Yukon wreck.

Looking down the barrels of the front guns on the Yukon wreck.

I hope to return to San Diego for some better visibility in the near future. In the spring, there is a chance we will see kelp forests for a period of time. Let's hope this is true!

Relocation: Missoula, Montana

After a drawn-out move from Hilo, Hawai'i through San Diego, California, I'm now permanently located in the mountain town of Missoula, Montana. Here, I'll begin the "land-portion" of my wildlife film experience.

Don't worry, I'm still going to take trips to the ocean! Underwater cinematography will remain my biggest passion.

Over the next few years, I'll be looking for work in the film and photography industry, continuing my personal projects, and creating new short films of all types.

I have some underwater footage from San Diego that I'll be posting soon! Here's a sneak preview:

My buddy, Francois, at the stern of the sunken Yukon in San Diego, CA.

My buddy, Francois, at the stern of the sunken Yukon in San Diego, CA.

The Pu'u O'o Flow

On Sunday, July 17th, a few friends and I hiked out to the active Pu'u O'o lava flow on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Watching an active flow and feeling the heat energy from the lava is a surreal experience. Watching the flow in a timelapse is even better!

Check out my new video, "The Pu'u O'o Flow", on Vimeo. Let me know what you think - like, comment, and share on social media if you enjoy it!

The flow should hit the ocean soon...

https://vimeo.com/175505288

 

Announcement: Untitled Aquarium Trade Documentary

For the first time in almost two years, I've started production on a new documentary. This time around, I'm focusing on the aquarium industry - it's benefits, flaws, scientific progress, community involvement, ethical conflicts, and more!

After late afternoon dive in Oahu, the boat mounted with GoPros to capture the action.

After late afternoon dive in Oahu, the boat mounted with GoPros to capture the action.

The idea was conceived via text message back in November of 2015. Since then, I've been researching the aquarium trade, contacting the key players involved in every branch internationally, and attempting to craft a story worth telling. Feeling confident, I took a dive into a one-man-crew production this past week in Honolulu, Hawai'i to collect some interviews for a funding campaign.

Setting up for an interview with Chad Callan, finfish breeding expert of the Oceanic Institute.

Setting up for an interview with Chad Callan, finfish breeding expert of the Oceanic Institute.

After spending some time in and out of the water with aquarium fish collectors, scientists, Hawai'i State aquatic management, aquaculture professionals, hobbyists, and a public aquarium, I have collected a fair amount of footage for the "first wave" of the film's progress. From here, Ali Nidzgorski and Sean Walsh will work with me to create a 5-ish minute pitch video to seek additional funding.

An interview with Dr. William Walsh of the Hawai'i Department of Aquatic Resources.

An interview with Dr. William Walsh of the Hawai'i Department of Aquatic Resources.

We want to go global with this story and produce a 60-90 minute film targeted for film festivals. There are too many misconceptions within the aquarium industry and plenty of opportunities to solve management and husbandry issues! Keep updated on Facebook and this blog for information about the project launch. Our first deadline is August 9th, so it's only a few weeks away!

A Commerson's Frogfish at the Waikiki Aquarium.

A Commerson's Frogfish at the Waikiki Aquarium.

Spread the word and get ready...

Finally... A Reel!

It's taken a little over a year, but I finally have a reel put together for Alexander Finden Cinematography!

The 2015/2016 highlight reel features all 4K footage and timelapses taken using the Sony a7s-II and Canon 5D mk-3 throughout the past year. Hawai'i, Malapascua, and Death Valley are featured locations.

Sean Walsh composed and recorded some awesome original music for the reel. After winning the "Best Sound and Music" award for his music in my first short film, "Sweet, Sexy Ocean" (public viewing will be available soon), Sean has worked with me on every big project since 2013. He has also composed for feature-length movies and will be composing original music for my first feature-length documentary (currently in pre-production).

Let me know what you think of the reel by commenting through Vimeo or Facebook! Share it around with friend and family - the more eyes, the better! Thanks for your support.

Nature Footage

Alexander Finden Cinematography is now an official contributor to Nature Footage! This means a portion of Alex's best underwater, topside, and timelapse footage can now be licensed Royalty Free through a professional outlet in 4K definition.

In other news, Alex's first professional cinematographer's reel is going to be completed this week! Keep your eyes peeled for some best-of-the-best clips in this compilation of Alex's video work from his past year in Hawai'i. The reel will also feature an original song by Sean Walsh, the composer of music from Alex's short films Sweet, Sexy Ocean and Kuwan.

Kona Underwater Shootout 2016

Last weekend, my friend Francois and I traveled the Kona and Hilo coastlines looking for interesting underwater subjects. The goal: take my best (first) underwater photos ever!

Francois and I returning from our last Honokohau dive on Sunday.

Francois and I returning from our last Honokohau dive on Sunday.

I participated in the first annual Kona Underwater Shootout, a 54-hour ocean photography competition put on by Kona Honu Divers. After a wonderful dive on Friday at Honokohau Harbor (video coming soon), I felt confident that I could find some large animals. At 6pm, 20+ local and traveling amateur photographers were released to compete for the best shot.

On Saturday, I focused on what I knew along the Hilo coast. Turtles, tangs, butterfly fishes, trumpet fish, and more. That evening, we experimented with some long exposure photography using a tripod, some weights, and the shallow waters of Onekahakaha.

Yellow Tangs and Hawaiian Dascyllus, both endemic fishes of Hawai'i, gather around a coral head.

Yellow Tangs and Hawaiian Dascyllus, both endemic fishes of Hawai'i, gather around a coral head.

Sunday was the big day. Big animals were my targets, so we returned to Honokohau. Unfortunately, only a couple of sand bar sharks showed throughout three 1+ hour dives. However, the sea cucumbers were breeding and the eels were out! With some success and good shark sightings, we settled for a round of beers in Kailua and I submitted my photos.

A sea cucumber "standing upright" and releasing gametes into the water column.

A sea cucumber "standing upright" and releasing gametes into the water column.

On Monday, I gave a talk on underwater videography for the competitors at Kona Honu Divers. Shortly afterward, the awards ceremony took place. With a few scoring images in the wide-angle category, I placed within the top 10!

To see the rest of the images from the shootout, visit the Alexander Finden Cinematography Facebook page.

Fossil Creek and Puhi's Edge

Two new videos are up on my Vimeo channel!

The first, entitled "Fossil Creek Highlights", contains footage I shot as a test back in Spring of 2015 for my new Sigma 105mm Macro and Canon 35mm lenses on the Sony a7s. Fossil Creek was one of Erika and I's favorite hikes to do in Arizona and was one of the few northern Arizona parks not included in "Kuwan" (2014). Located directly south of Flagstaff, this spring-fed stream cuts through some desolate desert terrain and crafts a biologically rich valley of green. Getting there requires a drive to a small town called Strawberry and a 4-mile hike from the valley edge down to the stream. I'm sure I will be back; the underwater plants and fishes are even more beautiful!

"Edge of Puhi" is the second new video, a 30-second series of clips from an interesting local dive. Puhi Bay, the name of the dive site, is a shallow reef flat that sits between 8ft-25ft of water. Most of the dive tours and dive students we take out from Hilo Ocean Adventures come here to enjoy a casual dive with turtles. On the day in which this video was taken, the silt at the bottom of the reef's edge had been stirred up. The particles were aggregating into a form of marine snow. As you'll see, this is what gave the dive such a surreal and haunting feel.

More from Puhi Bay to come soon!

 
A frog watching the night sky in Fossil Creek, AZ.

A frog watching the night sky in Fossil Creek, AZ.

 
The plate coral edge of Puhi Bay's reef flat in a "marine snow" of stirred bottom silt.

The plate coral edge of Puhi Bay's reef flat in a "marine snow" of stirred bottom silt.

Shooting with Algenist

Tammy holding and touching a bundle of A. concinna.

Tammy holding and touching a bundle of A. concinna.

Production with Algenist's Tammy Yaiser has come to a successful end.

Tammy experiences the same wave impacts that A. concinna lives through every day.

Tammy experiences the same wave impacts that A. concinna lives through every day.

For her first visit to Hawai'i, Tammy flew into Hilo seeking Ahnfeltia concinna, an alga that is used in cosmetic products and in the manufacturing of biofuels. With assistance from University of Hawai'i at Hilo's marine biology department, our team tracked down this turbulence-loving seaweed in the rough intertidal zones along Hawai'i's Keaukaha coastline.

After a beautiful SCUBA dive with turtles and a very wet, yet successful search for algae, Tammy returned home to New Jersey. Tammy will use the video I took of her journey and her hands-on experience with A. concinna to talk on QTV some time this year.

To see more photos from this production and read about others by Alexander Finden Cinematography, navigate to my Filmmaking page.

"Kuwan" now Free to Watch

My second festival award-winning documentary short is now free to watch online via AFC's Vimeo channel!

"Kuwan", entitled after the Hopi word for beautiful, is an experimental nature film about the human-nature relationship in northern Arizona. Watch to find an inspiring message or just sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery that Arizona has to offer.

Make sure to comment on, review, and share the film on social media and on Kuwan's Facebook page!

"Kuwan" was nominated for a Student Emmy in Cinematography, won Audience's Choice at the Flagstaff Student Film Festival, achieved first place in the Audience Awards' Avante Garde Showdown, and was featured in several film festivals around North America.

All footage you see in the film is available for licensing in 1080p. If interested, contact me for more details.