Tiny Elbow Cay (pronounced "key"), just off the eastern coast of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, set the stage for filming Dolphins. Located in the Bermuda Triangle and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Sea of Abaco, Elbow Cay's crystalline, turquoise waters were ideal for filming Atlantic spotted dolphins in the large-format. The clear waters are also ideal for observing and studying dolphins. Even though the Bahamas are relatively flat, the shallow waters surrounding the islands offer some protection from storms. These shallow waters also provide dolphins with a place for socializing, rest, and protection from deep-water sharks and the whims of oceanic waters. Often the dolphins are seen heading out in the late afternoon to feed in deep water.
Following are notes from the film crew:
We should be on vacation! Working in the Bahamas? We must be nuts! This location is spectacular. The three-mile long and narrow island absolutely sparkles in the blue-green waters of the Little Bahamas Bank. Only 350 people call Elbow Cay's Hope Town home, and it wasn't long before everyone in town knew we were here. Nineteenth century, pastel-colored cottages line Hope Town's very narrow streets. Charming, unless you need to transport five tons of camera equipment through streets that only permit bicycles and electric golf carts! Fortunately, our production crew wrangled help from the locals on foot and even secured use of the garbage trucks on their days off. We didn't go to film school for nothin'!
It's not the heat, it's the humidity! Nope. It's the heat. Did we mention the heat? We're experiencing record temperatures here. 100 degrees Fahrenheit! Fortunately, our cooperative, energetic and smiling scientists are keeping their cool. Out there in that beautiful water they don't look uncomfortable at all.
We got some great shots of dolphins leaping behind and next to the boat. We shot super slow-motion -- up to 96 frames per second -- so the audience should really be able to see how amazing and beautiful these animals are. If we can't be dolphins playing in the water, or scientists happily studying dolphins, maybe being a sweaty film producer isn't so bad after all.
See also: Underwater Cinematography
For the final sequences of Dolphins, the MFF film crew journeyed to Puerto Piramides, located in the Patagonia region of Argentina, to film scientists studying dusky dolphins in the waters of Golfo Nuevo. An old fishing town, Puerto Piramides is a small village with one main road, about 200 residents, one motel and a few cabanas for rent. Visitors can take tour boats for dolphin-watching trips but there is no public swimming allowed with the dolphins. Our film crew and scientists obtained a special permit to film and study the dolphins and were accompanied by a conservation officer from the area.
Puerto Piramides proved to be an incredible location, but it was affectionately referred to by our crew as "two hours from nowhere" for its remote locale. It was a challenge to film because of the winds, which were more like hair-raising gales capable of making a placid sea fraught with foam in under thirty minutes. Between the wind and the cold water, the location proved a stark contrast to the shoot in the Bahamas.
Following are notes from Dr. Kathleen Dudzinski:
Patagonia reminds me of west Texas...very dry and flat with short and spiny-looking bushes. I very much enjoyed the scenes, especially since we were on the water each day.
The dusky dolphins are FAST! The spotted and bottlenose dolphins I have studied seem like old folks compared to the speedy duskies. The anchovies were not as prevalent as expected but the team did observe feeding on several fish groups -- just not gigantic aggregations that seem to invite not only dolphins but sea lions, penguins and birds of a variety of species numbering in the thousands. Being able to chat with Bernd, Alejandro and others about the duskies' underwater actions, immediately after observing their behaviors, made what I do, my work, feel much less isolating as compared to the work of my colleagues. The dusky dolphins were very inquisitive and came very close. Many have at least some sort of body marking or scarring to facilitate individual identification. WAY COOL! I definitely can gather lots of data on communication among individuals and already have data to compare with my work on spotted and bottlenose dolphins...my trip was a complete success!
See also: Underwater Cinematography