When filming in Virgin Islands I was most nervous about needing to film in public. It was short piece about aspects of the recovery efforts from Hurricane Irma & Maria in 2017. People were uncomfortable around camera, distrustful of what was being captured and how it may be used - and understandably so. Since the storms hit countless news crews had been dispatched to document the island and its recovery efforts - I think it’s safe to say locals had their fill of coverage.
Anyway, oddly connected as it was, this trip taught me to, as Philip Bloom often says, not be lead by the gear. I had the “brilliant” idea of trucking my larger camera rig downtown to film the local street market in order to capture footage of the locals, showing both areas affected by the hurricane and those which had been repaired.
This ended up being an embarrassing mistake as at every turn I was asked and questioned about what I was doing and if I was with the news. See the photo to the right, carrying all of that around downtown without an official guide made me look like some rouge news reporter or something.
Not to mention the personal side - I’m very introverted - very introverted. Being asked a lot of meddling questions about what I’m doing and why can make me really uncomfortable. So not only had I mistakenly made a scene, I was worrying about what others were thinking of me or what I was doing. In short, I was worring more about the scene I was making instead of the shots I was attempting to capture.
Now, had I used a small camera, like my Nikon D750, I likely would not have incurred so many defensive looks and remarks. I also could have shot handheld and looked like a tourist or just some random guy with a camera. But, alas, I was lead by the gear.
Had my wife not been there I may have just gone back to the hotel and sulked into a pina-colada. Thankfully, with her help I regained my nerve and captured some really good stuff before the day was out.
I learned from this A) to be more aware of where I am, respecting the culture and not forcing my needs into it. B) to really let the needs of good story telling outweighs the needs of using fancy toys. Todays camera market is literally saturated with excellent small cameras which are only getting better and better in both design and spec.
In general, filming in public is a tricky thing - I often want to capture interactions between peopled while also not calling attention to myself. Long lenses, looking away from the camera while filming, and letting the camera roll for long takes seems to do the trick - let’s me discrete while also not making the subject uncomfortable.
At the same time, I always need to keep in mind not to push it - if it’s obvious someone is aware or even leery of a camera being around, I just keep walking. Street videography is fun, you can get lots of cool shots of families interacting, seagulls attacking unsuspecting ice cream holding tourists, and friends laughing - one always has to keep in mind surroundings and how others are perceiving you. Take advantage of the small gear available to blend in as much as possible.