Magazine article American Cinematographer

Sea Salt

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Sea Salt

Article excerpt


The filming of SEA SALT, a new documentary by Del Rey Communications for CRC Television, afforded an ideal test of Eastman's newly offered ECH 7293 (5293) high-speed negative stock. Snot last spring as one of the first independent documentary field tests of the emulsion since its market release, SEA SALT put the highly acclaimed negative through its paces in a wide range of situations, from under five foot-candles tungsten and mixed illumination to 7,000 footcandles daylight.

Some directors of photography have rated the high speed negative at up to ASA 500 normal. In our tests and location shooting, using two different processing laboratories, we did not find that we could honestly consider the stock much higher than its stated ASA 250 (ASA 160 with #85 filter). But . . . how excellent it is to have a fairly low grain film whose normal exposure index is 250. This in itself is an extremely valuable photographic advance. The higher speed allows shooting under the often encountered dimly lit situations of actual life, without having to force process the film and pick up golf balls of grain. Or in low to medium light circumstances, the greater speed permits use of a smaller lens aperture by one and one-half stops over the ECN 7247 negative (ASA 100 tungsten; 64 with #85 filter), thereby achieving greater depth of field, which is an important boon to the helter-skelter exigencies of documentary work.

The film SEA SALT is set against the backdrop of Montreal, Quebec, with its French Canadian flavor, international port, and the special ambience of the waterfront. Here are shipping vessels of fifty countries, discovered as one wends in and out of gates, past guardhouses and on to hidden quays. We see cargo loading, French-speaking longshoremen, and the great container ship operations. A mosaic of nationalities awaits the visitor on board. One Hong Kong registered vessel, the Cast Dolphin, for example, had a British captain, a chief officer from India, a Tanzanian second offcer, a Ghanian third officer, a Chinese radio officer, an Irish chief engineer, and a crew from India and mainland China, including Macao.

This veritable floating microcosm is not without its hazards. There is danger in the fierce North Atlantic at all times of year. Even the largest ship is like a matchstick out there. A fifty-ton locomotive could snap a holding chain, roll away to one side, and throw off the ballast, capsizing the ship in an instant. Jane's Book of Ships lists over two hundred unexplained disappearances of merchant marine vessels every year.

Into this sequestered and risky world enters Hans Uittenbosch, the "padre" of Montreal's Mariner's House, and the port's chaplain as it were. For eighteen years now, since he was 32, this salty Dutch minister of the Christian Reformed Church has been meeting the needs of the lonely men in their isolated nautical "villages." The average age of the mariner is 25. Often they have joined their country's merchant marine to avoid military service or to see the world before taking up a more domestic vocation. Hans, conversant in a dozen tongues, offers them a listening ear, reading material in their own language, and an easy way to make phone calls back home. He arbitrates labor disputes between crews, captains and owners. And of course he reminds the seamen of the fragility of their lives and their need to tune into the God of the Bibles he brings on board.

The harbor chaplaincy has established itself internationally, with a ready access to ships. And thus our crew followed him on and off some two dozen vessels, documenting his unique work amid these forgotten sea-going souls.

It was in the dark cabins and dimly lit engine rooms where the 7293 negative really shone. Our cameraman was shocked to see a normal light workprint of a Yugoslavian cabin scene looking perfectly bright and smooth-grained. It was more light and detail than he had seen in the viewfinder. …

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