“Dreaming Awake” at Big Sur

posted in: Jeff Shapiro | 0

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Last week, I had the opportunity to drive out of the deep snow in Montana and road trip my way down to Big Sur, on the California coast. The coast line is super dramatic and you can’t help but to recognize how special and unique that place is. Large rocks just off shore getting pounded by waves, turquoise water filled with kelp forests and mountains rising right out of the ocean covered in Spring green grass that’s practically fluorescent. Just driving down the 1 and winding your way down that coast line is an experience.

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The plan was to meet Dave Aldrich and his crew and try to film for his new free flight film “Dreaming Awake” while flying from the launch at Plaskett creek, south of Big Sur. He invited Dustin and Zippy as well and the intention was to get a Gyro mounted Cineflex camera, operated by Tom Miller of Blue Sky Aerials (http://www.aerialimage.com/index.html)flown up on a helicopter piloted by Chris Gularte of Specialized Helicopters – (http://specializedheli.com/Default.aspx) to film some flying.

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We also had a large variety of cameras for the gliders including some really cool, new camera gear from GoPro (3D) and one of the only 360 cams in existence. This thing is crazy, it’s the size of a coconut and had HD lenses pointed in every direction. The idea is that with all lenses capturing images simultaneously, the editor can pan seamlessly in any direction he/she wants to give the viewer any perspective they want. It’s as if the camera was smoothly able to turn in any direction to film it all. Pretty cool.

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I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it off. The drive is pretty long from Missoula and the forecast was iffy. It was a huge gamble but it was agreed that the weather is always iffy at Big Sur and it’ lucky to get a good flight there no matter what so if we were going to try to film there, we should go for it. Never know until you go, yea? Zippy and Dave were going. I called Dustin and he was in so I threw the glider on and made a pot of coffee.

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The first day, Dave and our friend, Dusty Rhodes drove up the coast to just North of Monterrey to sort out the chopper while Dave’s brother, Brad, Dustin, Zipp and I drove up to the lower launch. We set up and mounted cameras but it was classic Big Sur. Blue above with a thick fog/cloud bank from the start of land, far out to sea. We waited for the LZ to open and eventually, small holes started to form. We piled off one after the other during one of the small holes and had a nice flight and collected some good “on board” images.

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Later, we headed up to the upper and main launch as the coast burned clear of any fog or clouds. We were set up and ready for the 4pm arrival of Dave in the helicopter but about 10 mins before they showed up, the clouds started to form quickly. In a matter of 15 mins, the land at the base of the mountain was completely covered and the clouds were spilling up into the draws, seeping up hill. We could no longer see the land and it was disheartening thinking we were quickly getting hosed. Not an issue when there is a chopper in radio contact, especially one with a hang glider pilot in it. Dave had the heli fly out to the edge of the clouds and they were able to tell us that the clouds were 500′ off the ground and it was about a 45 degree glide from the far side of the clouds to the LZ. We got the green light and again, piled off together. I’m not sure it could have been any better or more lucky. A beautiful orographic feature in such a dramatic place with such high quality film gear to capture it. Zippy, Dustin and I were all laughing as we flew together out to the edge of the clouds, looping and spinning our way to land after passing from blue sky to thick overcast. The lighting was something that sticks out in my memory.

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The Next day, the weather was blue most of the day. We had a decent tail wind when we got to launch but the heat of the day won with nice cycles pouring into the hill. I had a nice flight with a 3D camera mounted on my wing. I flew with Zippy who had the dangle mount hanging under him, filming straight up. A few close passes gave us the result we were after. We took turns looping over the coast line and landed in time to see Dustin spin into a low level loop that made me want to go flying.

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Dave got to come up the hill to get some filming done himself and the helicopter was scheduled to show up at 5pm with hopes of getting the sun setting. We were going to try to go one at a time to record as much footage as possible with the stellar weather. For this flight, Zippy was loaded to the hilt with the 3D cam and off of a long nose boom, the 360 cam. His would be the first flight in a hang glider with the new camera. It looked like a disco ball hanging out in front of his glider with the battery and processor inside his sail. The latter is a box about the size of a large shoe box and weighed enough to choke a donkey. Dustin and I looked at each other wondering how the F*&% Zippy was going to get that glider off the hill. He was keen though and somehow, I wasn’t that worried.

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We all had really fun flights and after seeing some of the raw footage I was stoked to have made the drive, to say the least. Always a good time flying with those boys and the beauty of that place had very real impact on me. Feeling pretty lucky indeed. From what I’ve seen, Dave’s film is really capturing the essence of our sport and will give the person that doesn’t fly hang gliders a pretty accurate idea of what its like. Hopefully, it might get some people to step up to their dreams and give it a go. I’m stoked to be part of it and thankful for the opportunity to share what we love to do. He’ll be compiling a new trailer soon and the movie itself should be released sometime in 2012. Check it out.

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