When cinematographer David Linstrom signed on to shoot a segment of National Geographic Wild-America’s Big Five, he turned to Sachtler, (a Vitec Group brand), for camera support. “This segment is about scientists from the United States Geological Survey, surveying polar bears,” he explained. “They go out across the frozen sea from the town of Deadhorse, on the northern slope near the Arctic, and look for bears on the ice. When they find a bear that hasn’t been tagged before, they shoot it from a distance with a tranquilizer dart. After it becomes immobilized, they land and go to work taking the bear’s vitals — tagging, weighing and logging the information into their record book.
“To document this, my camera package featured a Sony F800 and the Sachtler System 20 S1 SL HD fluid head and tripod. I would be covering everything from helicopter-to-helicopter shots to tripod shots of details of polar bears in the snow. We needed solid support that could stand up to the rigors of the arctic locations,” he explained. “At times we were at -28 degrees Fahrenheit (-33 degrees C), flying in a Hughes 500D helicopter. Even with these extreme conditions, I knew I could rely on my Sachtler to work flawlessly… They are lightweight yet stable and the controls make it a joy to work with a long lens. By using the tension settings, I personalize the balance and resistance so I can dial in just the right amount of tension in order to get beautifully smooth pans and tilts. And the head always works like it is supposed to, no matter what the temperature.”
Hampered by extreme temperatures and heavy winds over the week-long shoot, Linstrom said he was still able to get more than enough shots for the episode. “The scientists we work with are happy to have us along but we are guests on their mission,” he explained. “I didn’t have time for things not to work. That’s why the Sachtler fluid head stayed fluid. I didn’t even notice a difference in the -28 degrees F degree weather.”
Linstrom says some of his favorite shots on this particular episode were the extreme close ups of bears’ teeth, claws and hair. “They are amazing animals and have adapted incredibly well for that extreme environment. They need all the help we can give them to survive.”
The segment of National Geographic Wild-America’s Big Five will air later this year.