Fundy Subject of Planet Earth-style Short Docs

Posted August 21, 2013

Today, the UNESCO-designated Fundy Biosphere Reserve launched their first ever Trail Amazing Places video.  Filmed in Fundy National Park, it showcases Dickson Falls using state-of-the-art filming techniques similar to those seen in BBC’s popular nature documentary series, Planet Earth.

“We’re very proud of the Dickson Falls video” said the project’s director of photography, and owner of VIDEOBAND productions, Craig Norris.

“We take our audience into tiny bird nests perched on the mossy gorge walls flanking the waterfall.  Not only do you get to see a flycatcher feed its chicks, you also get to see the parents swoop into the nest in super slow motion.  We have slowed their movements down ten times, which really highlights their astounding agility.”

Super slow motion is just one of several advanced techniques being employed for this short doc series.  “We have a lot of fire power on this project - two great examples are our 18 foot crane, and our motion-controlled time lapse unit,” Norris explained.

“The crane is an 18 foot steel arm with a robotic, computerized head. It’s kind of like using a helicopter to fluidly swoop the camera over things like waterfalls,” Norris added.

“Our array of equipment gives us a lot of options in the field, the crane gives us a bird’s eye view, our underwater cameras adopt the perspective of fish in rivers, and our time-lapse equipment can compress time, producing a seconds-long Bay of Fundy tide cycle video. By combining all these techniques we are constantly giving our viewer a unique perspective of the location,” said the 33-year-old filmmaker.

According to Ben Phillips, the project’s co-director, and Conservation Program Manager of the UNESCO-designated Fundy Biosphere Reserve, this new generation of camera equipment is more portable than ever, but that doesn’t mean transporting it to remote locations is easy.

“With all the camera equipment and camping supplies we’re typically packing over four-hundred pounds of gear into the forest.  We rely on Fundy Biosphere Reserve staff, in-kind support from organizations like Parks Canada, and volunteers to help us access the Amazing Places,” said Phillips.

The remoteness of the locations is part of the allure according to Norris.  “We have to hike five or ten kilometers, our gear is heavy, and honestly it takes a tonne of work to lug everything to a place like Moosehorn falls. But once you get there, and you set up an 18 foot crane on the edge of a waterfall at sunset, you realize you’re doing something that’s never been done before, and you recognize you have a chance to create a video that actually does the place justice.”

According to Phillips the intention of each video is to explain important characteristics of each Amazing Place.  “The videos explore a wide variety of interesting animal and plant species like the endangered Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon, the incredible sandpipers and other shorebirds, animals like great blue herons and beavers, giant old growth trees, many strange and wonderful insects, tiny mosses and lichens, carnivorous plants - there really is a lot to explore within the Fundy Biosphere Reserve.”

Phillips, who is also an instructor at Mount Allison University and has a background in physical geography, has opted to bring that perspective into the video series as well.  “We’re looking at the formation of some of these places and explaining why they exist. The videos explore the formation of landscape features like bogs, waterfalls, glacial moraines, river deltas and mud flats.”

The Trail Amazing Places project originally launched in the spring of 2011 as a nature-based engagement tool.  “We mapped all of the official trails in the Fundy Biosphere Reserve and then selected 50 Amazing Places along those trails,” explains Phillips.  “Each Amazing Place was given a sign with a QR code smartphone portal to an interpretive webpage so visitors can access them on location.”

The project has become the Fundy Biosphere Reserve’s flagship activity over the last few years.  “Our mandate is to support conservation, sustainable development, and capacity building.  This project meshes those objectives so seamlessly,” shares FBR Executive Director Megan de Graaf.  “The UNESCO-designated Fundy Biosphere Reserve launched the Trail Amazing Places project to promote these amazing natural and scenic sites and to encourage people to seek them out.”

The reasons for creating such a project were numerous according to Phillips, “we wanted people to establish deeper connections with nature and to give them a cool new way to learn about local conservation.  Getting people out hiking is also a great way to promote healthy lifestyles and it is obviously a great tool for tourism operators.”

The 2.0 version of the project has all the same objectives but focuses on high quality video content. “Web-based video offers us the opportunity to connect with people at their convenience and point out all the interesting diversity the Amazing Places have to offer.”

This version of the project has been funded by Mountain Equipment Co-op and Parks Canada.  Fundy National Park, Mount Allison University’s Canada Research Chair, Dr. Ian Mauro, and The Postman Post Production Studio have also provided in-kind support.

So far the team has completed shooting at eight locations and is aiming to complete several more before the snow flies.  According to Phillips the most challenging test is ahead, “there are remote places in New Brunswick so amazing that most people wouldn’t even believe they exist here.  Walton Glen Canyon is our next and biggest challenge.  Getting our gear all the way back to the Eye of the Needle is going to be an expedition!”