In the summer 2018 I had the opportunity to travel to a distant island, part of the most remote island archipelago from any continent, to document one of the world’s rarest birds. I was contacted by two dedicated Oxford University scientists, Liv Grant and Annika Schlemm, who proposed that I join their team on a month long expedition to Ua Huka Island in French Polynesia to produce a short film. I immediately knew this was a special project and an opportunity that I should not miss, so of course I said yes.
The project focused on the Ultra Marine Lorikeet, a critically endangered bird which is only found on this remote island. The bird and our guide Tuhuna are the main characters of the film but the film also explores other remarkable wildlife spectacles as well as the amazing culture on the island. The tightknit community of Ua Huka welcomed us with open arms and helped to make this project possible. The film is now in the editing process and as I go through it I’m reminded again of the high quality of images captured with my range of SIGMA glass.
Choosing what lenses to bring
If luggage wasn’t an issue I would have brought in addition to my photography set-up; a dedicated cinema camera, a heavy duty video tripod, a good quality gimbal and a variety of cinema lenses. Instead however I could only take two hold bags and a carry-on bag to fit everything I needed for the trip. The project received a Grant to fund the trip and an extra bag to the other side of the world would have cost an extra £400. Therefore I had to be sensible and carefully plan what equipment I would bring with me. A small compact kit was necessary in order for me to complete the various small boat and pick-up truck journeys around the island.
The first lens choice was the SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports lens. It is ideal for filmmakers like me because of its range, quality and portability. With a large well dampened focus ring, weather sealing and included lens hood, this lens lends itself so well to hybrid shooters like me with many requirements.
Images captured with the SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports lens:
Film screen grabs captured with the SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports lens:
The next ‘no-brainer’ choice was the SIGMA 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art lens. Any photographer/cinematographer who’s shot on an APS-C/Super 35 camera has definitely heard of or used this lens. It is sharp wide open, offers fantastic separation with a quick variety of shots thanks to its helpful zoom range. This lens is the nuts!
Film screen grabs. Shot on a gimbal with the GH5s and SIGMA 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art lens. Pictured is Tuhuna, the guide for the trip and a main character in the short film. An amazing person with tremendous knowledge, enthusiasm and warmth that I proudly call a friend.
The third lens selected was the heavenly SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art. I just love using this lens for stills or filming. I love the SIGMA | Art prime series and the 24mm, 35mm and 85mm are the next lenses that are high on my list to purchase.
Images captured with the SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens: Annika Schlemm and Liv Grants, Oxford Scientists and Jean Baptiste Tepea doing Tiki sculpturing
Film screen grabs of Tuhuna captured with the SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSm | Art lens:
My trusty SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Art lens also made the journey and spent most of the trip strapped to my SONY A7riii for stills and time lapse images. I brought it along to use it mostly for my photography work to enable me to cover scenes quickly as the zoom offers a great range of images that can be captured. It’s a ‘do-it-all’ lens for me and it’s always in my bag.
Images captured with the SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Art lens:
My final lens selected is an ‘Oldie but a Goldie’ the SIGMA 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS lens This is a fantastically sharp lens and proved very helpful for detail shots. I would love for SIGMA to expand their MACRO line into the Art series and to include some true manual focusing lenses
Film screen grabs captured with the SIGMA 105mm F2.8 MACRO EX DG OS lens:
I am a big advocate for mirrorless camera systems, constantly pushing boundaries and offering more and more features. This project was primarily shot with a Panasonic GH5s onto an Atomos Shogun Inferno external recorder giving me great ProRes 4K files to work with in the edit. Using Canon EF mount lenses over native mirrorless lenses offered up many benefits, first and foremost a true manual focus ring, allowing full, repeatable focus control.
To make it all work I brought a range of filters, including a Formatt Hitech 105mm variable ND for the SIGMA 150-600mm | Sports. It’s great that Formatt Hitech do NDs up to this size, I plan on getting some non-variable NDs instead of the variable in the future. I brought a small gimbal which was more a hindrance than a help but got some shots out of it. The final critical item was my Miller Compass 12 tripod which could fit inside one of my standard hold bags. Its lightweight and proved to be a great travel video tripod. All together this made a fantastic kit to travel with, a super lightweight system which had a 7” screen via the Atomos external recorder, allowing for 60p 4K, a range of stellar lenses and an incredible island to explore and document.
The film is now in edit and if I had a chance to do it all again I wouldn’t have changed a thing but brings more lenses! So typical but there are too many great choices. A huge thank you to all the various organisations which supported this trip, but a special thanks to Annika Schlemm and Liv Grant for getting me involved. I’m so grateful to have been able to help document these rare birds and to be a part of an amazing adventure.
You can see more images created by Ben Cherry and learn about his next adventure of one of the following links: