A behind-the-scenes look at an island shoot
Working at a video production company can land you a lot of cool gigs. Sometimes those gigs are destination shoots on the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii. From sweltering humidity to rain pockets that stop three feet in front of you while you’re getting poured on, there’s a lot of factors to consider when shooting in paradise. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through all the ups and downs of shooting on one of the most beautiful locations in the world. So follow along for our story of production in the Aloha State.
Touching Down in Paradise
It was noon when Miranda, IDR’s production assistant, and Shana, IDR’s producer-editor, stepped off the tarmac and into the Kahului Airport terminal. “Stepped into” may be a bit of an exaggeration, as many of the airport’s corridors were wall-less, letting in the fragrant Hawaiian breeze. It wasn’t the air the girls noticed, though; it was the humidity. Humidity that slammed into your body like a brick wall and broke you out into an instant sweat. This made carrying all of their camera bags and equipment extra fun. The humidity clung to them as they made their way to the baggage claim.
When you bring all your production equipment overseas, airline workers assume you decided to pack for a month instead of ten days. Shana heaved their overweight bags down from the carousel. With bags almost bursting at the seams, they made their way out into the Hawaiian sun.
Within seconds, Kelly, IDR’s executive producer, roared up in her red Mercedes and leaped out to greet the girls. Various “How are you?”’s and “How was your flights?”s were exchanged before they began strategizing how to fit three large bags of luggage and several smaller camera bags into the small car. After some strategic luggage Tetris, they took off.
Their first stop was Costco. “Grace has been freaking out trying to figure out what you two are going to eat,” Kelly said. Kelly’s daughter Grace had some validation in worrying about feeding the two girls. With Shana being gluten-free, and Miranda being vegan, between the two of them there weren’t a lot of food choices left.
They strolled through Costco, meal-planning for the next week and a half. Into the cart went lots of rice, meat, beans, and produce. For these two problem children, diet-wise, whole foods were almost always a safe bet. And wine. They could always count on the wine.
Trying to fit all the grocery bags into the car was borderline comical. Between the dozen bags of food, three beach umbrellas, and the giant turtle floatie that was too cute to pass up, there was barely room in the car for the groceries, much less the people eating them. It all fit… mostly. Miranda wound up crunched in the backseat hidden beneath all the bags and said large turtle. But all the doors closed, and that was all that mattered.
The crew pulled up to Polo Beach Club and was met by 10-year-old Grace and Tiffany, IDR’s junior video editor. Between the five of them, they managed to haul all the bags upstairs to the two condos the team would be staying in. Shana and Miranda unpacked, and the crew began to plan the next ten days. Even though it seemed like a long time, the shot list for this production spanned page after page, with little detail changes between shots that would take a keen eye and attention to detail from all crew members.
That afternoon, it was time to shop for props and get everything shoot-ready. Kelly, Miranda, and Shana set off for a craft store a few towns over, while Tiffany and Grace went to get their nails done for the shoot (you always need a good hand model!). In the craft store, the team basically proceeded to buy up a good portion of the store. They planned to set the tone for Grace Kelly Beauty with wood planks, sea glass, sea shells, glass bottles, firefly lights, and more sea shells. The makeup bottles for this all-natural, organic airbrush makeup would be the star of the show, and the team wanted just the right accessories to match the brand’s upscale, natural vibe.
With the car full of loot once again, the team headed back to Polo Beach. They began setting up the daily shoot schedule. Early morning and late evening would prove to be the best times to shoot photo and video due to blustering trade winds that arrived late morning and lasted until mid-afternoon. The lighting at these times was perfect, less harsh than when the sun was directly overhead. Morning shoots would begin at about 7:30 am. Luckily, energy levels were high on set, and early call times were no problem for the IDR crew.
Shoots in the Sun
Each morning, the greatest challenge always proved to be carrying down all the equipment and props they needed that given day. There were the products (makeup bottles, compressors, finishing sprays), the cameras and equipment (lenses, tripods, camera bags), the props and accessories (see craft store list above), and towels and umbrellas to keep the sand as far away as possible. Shots were set up meticulously, in a way that kept everything uniform. Even more meticulous was keeping track of the ever-changing shots.
By the time the crew wrapped each morning (around 11:00 am), the team was wiped. That Hawaiian sun really takes it out of you! But, hey, at least they were getting a tan. They would retreat to their rooms to relax before heading back down to the beach or pool to enjoy the midday heat. They had a break for a couple hours before coming back together again to shoot in the evening, until the sun sank behind the sea. They regrouped over dinner each night, discussing which shots were complete for the day, and whether they were ahead of or behind schedule.
A “Honu” Experience
A couple days in, the girls got a break in their intense shooting schedule. Kelly planned a snorkeling excursion (talk about a great boss!) to Molokini Crater, a preservation site that boasted an assortment of tropical fish. The girls ascended the ladder onto the Kai Kanani II, the catamaran that would take them out to the crater. The boat glided effortlessly over the crystal blue waters. The team sat at the front of the ship on the nets of the catamaran to get the best view of the scenery. Upon arriving at Molokini, the ladies grabbed their snorkels, fins, and GoPros and headed out into the warm turquoise water. They spent the next hour swimming alongside the shimmering tropical fish that didn’t seem at all bothered by their presence.
The tour moved on to the next site known as “Turtle Town,” a place where sea turtles gather to rest. A quiet sense of awe fell over the tour as they got the chance to swim with creatures that likely outdated them by a good number of years. Shana had the chance to capture a moment as one turtle swam right up from under her, meandering slowly from the ocean floor all the way to the surface.
Once at home, Shana and Tiffany were eager to play with the real star of the show (in their eyes), the company’s brand-new DJI Phantom 4 Pro+. Shana had rushed to get FAA certified in the days leading up to the trip (no easy feat – it’s a two-hour test with a 20-hour prep course!) and had received her certification just two days before leaving for Hawaii. The girls were excited to rush outside and test the new device. They felt a bit wary after reading the battery safety manual, a hesitant excitement hanging in the air. Because drone batteries are lithium-ion polymer batteries very special care must be taken.
“So let me get this straight,” Miranda said after having the information relayed to her, “It can’t be too hot, or too cold. There can’t be any weather. Or wind. The batteries can’t be checked on a plane and need to be drained quite a bit before storing them. Or they’ll explode or be ruined.”
“Yeah, basically,” Shana replied. “Oh, and we shouldn’t leave them charging alone, ever. Because they can catch fire if damaged.”
So naturally, it made perfect sense that they would bring the drone and said explosive batteries on a daylong trip to Road to Hana the following morning.
The Road to Hana, for those who don’t know, is a road that winds around the northern and east sides of Maui. The road boasts dozens of hikes leading to gorgeous waterfalls, black sand beaches, and overall some of the most beautiful sights ever seen by human eyes. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. The road is fairly dangerous, winding and often turning into a one-lane road, when you really need two lanes. Scattered showers and rockslides are common on this side of the island, and you need to start heading home before 4:30 pm, or you risk getting caught in the dark on the dangerous part of the island where it’s all one-lane country road on the side of a cliff.
But the scenery would be breathtaking, so of course we brought the drone – unstable batteries and all.
“The Divorce Highway”
Three of the five IDR girls took the Road to Hana. Shana, Tiffany, and Miranda left with plenty of time (5:30 am to be exact) and made good progress throughout the morning. They flew the drone over beautiful beaches and in the Rainbow Eucalyptus forest. It was good to practice in more challenging environments that weren’t as open as Polo Beach. Along the way, some scattered showers appeared, but nothing too drastic. That is, until they reached the Seven Sacred Pools, the final stop on the Road to Hana. These pools accompanied a 4-mile round-trip hike to Waimoku Falls, a roaring 400-foot tall waterfall. As they pulled into the park and began to gather snacks and supplies for the long trek, Miranda noticed some ominous clouds hovering on the horizon.
“Yo, those are rainclouds,” she said.
“Are you sure?” Shana replied.
“I’m not 100%, but my Midwest weather sense says we’re getting caught in that rain.”
The girls rushed to gather the rest of their belongings, never taking their eyes off the encroaching clouds. They hustled to the beginning of the trail; they only had about two hours to complete the hike before they needed to start worrying about driving back home in the dark. The girls trekked through the slippery trail quickly but deliberately, carefully choosing their steps over loose rocks, slick with previous rain. They moved mostly in silence, breaking their focus only to shout warnings or comment on the beauty surrounding them.
Throughout the four-mile journey, the girls’ efforts to capture pictures on the hike led to a few catastrophes along the way. They would slip and tumble in the mud (R.I.P. Tiffany’s white shorts), fall into a river (Good one, Miranda), fall down while snapchatting (a truly iconic Shana Yurko production) and get caught in downpours that would clear up, only to start again minutes later. But it was all worth it when they reached Waimoku Falls. Standing beside that waterfall was a feeling that could never be captured, even with the beautiful photos they shot.
The girls returned to Polo Beach that night, exhausted and sore. Maybe it hadn’t been the best idea to make this trip the day before their longest shoot day of the trip. The girls had hiked about nine miles that day, and they knew they would feel it the next morning.
And feel it they did. That 6:30 alarm hit them like a championship boxer. The girls woke sore and achy, but they were proud of themselves for completing the journey.
Bottles and Models
IDR’s last official shoot day in Hawaii was a busy one. They would shoot product photos in the morning, and lifestyle photos with models in the afternoon, with additional local crew members. The entire team gathered for their morning product shoot, leaving only a couple shots to pick up the next morning. By the end of the trip, they’d have all the website content needed for Grace Kelly Beauty, an airbrush makeup company launching later this year. The team hustled back to their room to prepare for the models’ arrival for the evening shoot.
As the additional crew began to show up in the afternoon, their excited energy conflicted with the conspicuous clouds hanging in the sky.
“You think it’s rain?” Michael, a local photographer, asked.
“Those are pretty dark clouds,” Luna, key makeup artist, replied, while her assistant Mira looked at the sky in disapproval. “We’re shooting. Rain or shine!” Kelly said.
Things carried on as normal. The models sat in hair and makeup as Shana, Michael, and Kelly discussed their vision and goals for the shoot. Kelly would be overseeing the entire shoot, and Shana would be shooting video while Michael took photos.
Just as the first model Sheana was preparing to head outside for the first shot, the skies opened up and the rain came tumbling down. This wasn’t a sprinkle. It was a full-on torrential downpour.
“Well, that’s production,” Kelly said.
Joke’s on the weather, really. Once it stopped raining, we were left with cloud cover that provided the most beautiful glowing lighting.
Not that it was all fun and giggles. The rain could return anytime, leaving Miranda and Tiffany, the set’s production assistants, to constantly carry around umbrellas and keep a nervous eye on the sky. The increased humidity from the rain left everyone, models included, sticky and sweaty. The constant movement and ever-fading light meant things needed to be done right and done quickly. Luckily, IDR’s team is spectacular and easily adapts to the variety of jobs we must each fulfill on set. They wrapped only once the sun had set completely, leaving them in near darkness.
The End of an Epic Adventure
They all returned to the condo to clean up and look over the shots from the day. Let us just say – Michael is a wonderful photographer. He knew how to bring out the best in the models, found the best natural light, and captured the brand’s essence beautifully. We blew through the shotlist, capturing beautiful shot after beautiful shot.
We spent our last day-and-a-half on the island leisurely picking up the remaining product shots on our shotlist and testing more features on the drone along Polo Beach. The condo managers saw us with the drone and asked to use some of the footage for their website! With those last shots in the bag, we officially wrapped and began to pack our bags to head back to California.
Every shoot is a new adventure. Some days you’re in-studio, others…. well, on a Hawaiian island. Thank you to our wonderful crew and talent who made the best out of a rainy day. Without them, our shoot could have been a wash (literally). Check out the rest of the blog for more IDR Productions experiences, and you’ll see the results of our shoot soon!
Would you like to learn more about our days on set, or about other video topics? Reach out to IDR for additional information and answers to all your questions. You’ll discover why we’re Orange County’s premier producer of TV commercials, infomercials, and online videos for a wide range of businesses, organizations, and brands.
Judy Ann Kettner
Jul 25, 2017
So enjoyed hearing “behind the scenes” story line of what a photo shoot entails. Beautifully written. Spent three years in Hawaii back in the 1960s and know the magic of the islands. For a few moments you transported me back to a wonderful experience. Looking forward to seeing your finished shots and videos!
Jul 28, 2017
So glad you enjoyed the piece! We agree; there’s nothing quite as magical as time on Hawaii. We can’t wait to share the finished product!
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