Build Battery Packs
Record Your Sounds
VNF Film and Filters
Super 8mm Links
Super 8 in PC Mag!
Kodak's S8mm Site
Ode to Regular 8mm
Cyber Film School
Stats & Translation
My Super 8mm cameras of choice would be the Minolta XL-601 and the Eumig Nautica. The Eumig was the preferred camera due to its rugged construction and being completely waterproof. Being capable of submersion to over 140 feet guaranteed its ability to render some "exciting" skin diving footage. The Minolta was of a much lighter construction. It was used primarily for time-lapse tropical sunrises and easy carrying around the island streets. Both cameras guaranteed absolutely sparkling, crisp footage.
How much film to take on the trip was another concern. Super 8mm film is bulky, even in its 50 foot roll packaging. I bought a 9 inch high by 15 inch wide bag for use as a carry-on. Airlines seem to be shrinking the size (and amount) of baggage you may carry on to the planes these days so, as I had accurately guessed, this was the biggest bag I could get safely on board. The international flight was not the squeeze point - it was the "shuttle" flight in the domestic USA that barely passed my bag. I ended up taking 24 rolls of movie film: 15 rolls of Kodachrome 40, 4 rolls of Plus-X, and 5 rolls of Tri-X. Add to this the two movie cameras, filters, batteries, remote triggers, tripod head, clamp, 30 rolls of 35mm film, tape recorder with headphones and microphone, and various other "necessities." The bag was no chore to lug around. Never mind my complete Contaflex system hanging off of my other arm - this was my purse since the flight regulations allowed one! Visions of me taping additional fifty foot rolls of film to my body prior to passing through customs crossed my mind, but I did not want to re-live "Midnight Express."
In retrospect, I could not have brought any more film and from now on will only allocate no more than 10 rolls of film per country, depending on the itinerary. The 24 rolls of film took up a large part of the bag and did not get any smaller after being exposed.
Passing the film through the x-ray machines posed no problems. In Fiji, the security people did take an extra few seconds looking at the bag while under the x-ray. But then, maybe they were surprised at the number of cameras inside the bag - sometimes I was able to squeeze my Contaflex system in the bag if I carried the bulky 30 rolls of 35mm film and my toiletries separately. On the return trip, the Fiji inspectors asked me to open the bag but I had no sooner unzipped the top when the security lady said "OK." Perhaps they were thinking I would show some sign of hesitation. Both Tonga and US Customs showed no interest.
I usually carried one camera freshly loaded in my hand and a spare cartridge in my wife's purse. Guys, I would suggest it is better to slip it in to your hubby's purse without them knowing. My wife refused to carry any of my "camera junk" until I begged and pointed out how light the film cartridge really was. I was lucky. The next time I am making sure I have inside pockets or some other storage place!
I filmed mostly in a tourist-like fashion. It was simply a matter of being careful to frame my shots and look for interesting angles. My mind was set for a final film product along the lines of "This is Tonga!" I shot mostly interesting scenes and people in involved in various activities. None were done with corresponding sound. Sound would be added in "wild-sync" later. I had more than enough film for my purposes . The only time I came close to running out of film while on location was while skin diving. I had shot about 2/3rds of a roll and was preparing for a third dive. Thinking ahead, I changed to a fresh roll and upon my dive encountered sharks! Thankfully, I let the camera roll and had no worries of running out of film. I stopped filming only because I began to wonder if they would be attracted by the underwater electromagnetic shutter ticking away! Fortunately they were only a white-tipped reef sharks. When in doubt, reload and save the ends of unfinished rolls for titling purposes.
I did not use any strobes for my underwater filming. The next time I go, I will fashion a homemade light bar connected to the tripod mount. It will hold a dive light for illuminating the fish in the caves and caverns. A fairly wide throw would be very effective in particularly close shots. Natural light will illuminate anything farther than 20 feet.
I ended up shooting 19 rolls of movie film, leaving five for another adventure. It was nice to have brought a little too much instead of feeling the pressure to conserve film. If I had have done more skin diving, I probably would have run out of film faster!
Upon my return, I am afraid I am suffering from information overload. Journals, pamphlets, tickets, history books, shells and artifacts are everywhere in my house. Seven 60 and 90 minutes tapes of various sounds (radio and live sources). Nineteen rolls of movie film. Fifteen rolls of slide film. Four rolls of print film. Wow! By the last days of my trip, my cameras stayed home while enjoyed the city streets of Suva very "enlightened." I was tired. I could not take another picture.
I can safely say that the next time I travel to the South Pacific, I will take only two cameras: the Eumig Nautica and my 6x6 roll film camera, the Voigtlander Perkeo II with a Color Skopar f3.5 lens. Roll film is extremely small and the camera is one of the smallest ever made for that format. With a possible bigger focus on skin diving, I would imagine shooting no more than 10 rolls of film underwater (at the extreme) and another five rolls per island (max). As I mentioned, it is nicer to be a little over prepared when it comes to film.
A final word on the safety of my valuables. In Tonga, there was no concern about our safety of that of my cameras. I left my cameras in the room in their bag. I did lock the bag but that was the extent of my safety precautions. The maids never laid a finger on them. On the streets there was no concern for safety. Life was as it should be - peaceful and carefree. The blowholes, a famous stretch of the coast where the waves roll in from hundreds of miles and crash into the coastline, were absolutely deserted as were most of the other scenic spots. People were friendly and nice. They were always quick to smile that big Polynesian smile.
Fiji was also quite safe although you felt safer in Tonga. In Nadi, I had no concerns about theft in my hotel room. Again, I simply locked the bag and put it out of the way of the cleaning staff. In fact, at the Sandalwood Inn in Nadi, the night staff called me at 11 PM to inform me that the rate of exchange I was given for a traveler's cheque earlier that day was incorrect. They owed me seven dollars!
Suva was just as safe but with a caveat. Our room was undisturbed and, again, I usually locked the camera bag. Like a normal big city though, you were best to keep a close eye on your belongings while wandering the streets. The rural end of the city can be a bit rough, particularly if you are alone. Stories of theft while leaving your things on the beach in the non-resort areas were also rampant. Although, I never did hear of any first hand accounts. The tour bus drivers, cab drivers, and even the Fijians themselves were quick to give you a few warnings about sticking to the safe parts of town, avoiding the alleys at night, etc.
So, relax, be careful but not paranoid, and enjoy your adventure should you care to follow one similar to mine.