A signature is your mark. It’s what you leave behind.  Like humans, each ship has its own signature. One of the current scientific programs run by the Defense Research and Development Canada is to better understand a ship’s signature and use that knowledge to design and build the ships of the future so they can control the size of the signature they make in any environment and become harder to detect.

The Journeyman crew recently spent the day on the waters off Nova Scotia capturing footage of some of DRDC’s latest experiments. Director of Photography, Kevin Fraser, shares his experience of an interesting day out on the waves.

Bright and early we loaded the gear onto a small Zodiac at CFB Shearwater and departed around 0800. We pulled up alongside QUEST, which was anchored in Halifax Harbour.  She’s a Canadian Navy research vessel and I’m told she was once the most silent ship on earth.

Once we got on the vessel, we got a safety briefing where we were told how to jump off the ship, should it catch on fire. I expected a crew of gruff Navy guys who would give me a hard time for being a long-haired, art-bum/hippy but everyone was very cool and very accommodating.

We were prepped to shoot one of the main experiments of the day, which consisted of lowering a buoy filled with expensive scientific sensors into the water.  As it usually happens in the movies, we had the crew go through this process several times so we could capture the deployment from different angles.

15 minutes to lunch time, we decided to squeeze in the last shot of the buoy from the water.  So we quickly jumped on to a boat and were craned down into the drink.  The swells were only about a metre or so, but it was nearly impossible to keep the camera steady.

As the ocean tossed us around, we motored around QUEST looking for a good position to capture the launch.  I strained to keep steady, knowing at any point the boom could start lowering the buoy, and I had to be ready for it. 

After quite some time, a message came to our pilot over the radio.  The QUEST wasn’t in the right position to deploy the device. So we turned south and steamed further from the shore where the swells were larger and even harder to fight than before. As we circled the ship, water was breaking over the side of the boat every few waves.  It was a challenge to keep the equipment dry, but we were ready. 

I can recall that moment vividly. Through the lens, I can see the boom pick up the buoy.  It hangs there.  Just as I’m trying desperately to hold a useable frame, a wave breaks over the rib the wrong way. I’m soaked and so is the camera.  It’s freezing – and the buoy still hasn’t moved!

So we bob around out there, soaked, cold and hungry for another exaggerated period – let’s say forty-five minutes – during which time I start to get very sleepy.  One of the crew members informs me this is the first step toward seasickness.  Great news…

Finally, the buoy is deployed and I get the shot – which, in the end, took under a minute. We get hoisted back onto QUEST and step into the lunchroom. On the menu – hot perogies.  I stare at my plate for a few minutes pretending there’s a chance I might eat but ultimately I can’t.

I wish this was the part of the story I told you I power vomited over some vital equipment, but that didn’t happen.  Rather, I felt pretty crumby for a while and the crew -both film and Navy – were very cool about it.

After a short break and some hot coffee, we were back to filming.  We went through all the coolest parts of the ship, learned a lot and witnessed a stunning sunset as we cruised back towards the harbour.  On the way back to the dock, Halifax was lit-up with city lights and the water was nice and calm. It was a chance to see the city from a position I hadn’t seen before.

It was a long day with almost every type of weather, low points, and fun, new experiences. Just another day at the office.  I love my job.”

Kevin Fraser is a talented Director of Photography from Scotsburn – a little village on the northern shore of Nova Scotia known for producing quality milk and cinematographers!  www.kevinAfraser.com



Leave a Comment