Capturing the Captivating Panaon Island - Oceana Philippines
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November 19, 2020

Capturing the Captivating Panaon Island

Marco Biemann and his team directs a video shoot on board.

While the science team was busy lugging their equipment for research, Marco Biemann’s weapon of choice was a video camera. Together with his team, their task was to film the entire expedition, especially underwater, and create a documentary that will allow others to see the beauty of Panaon Island. We talked to Marco to learn more about a filmmaker’s life onboard.  

Can you tell us what a typical day is for your team during the expedition? 

Every day is quite hectic for us. Typically, our day looks like this:  

  • 6: 00AM – Wakeup call 
  • 6:30AM – Prepare underwater camera & light 
  • 7:00AM – First Dive 
  • 9:00AM – Switch batteries and SD Card of underwater camera 
  • 9:15AM – Dump and inspect files  
  • 9:30AM – Breakfast 
  • 10:30AM – 2nd Dive 
  • 12:30NN – Switch batteries and SD card of underwater camera 
  • 12:45PM – Dump and inspect files 
  • 1:00PM – Lunch 
  • 2:00PM – 3rd dive 
  • 2:45PM – Dump and inspect files 
  • 4:00PM – Shower 
  • 4:30PM – Film or editing depending on weather 
  • 7:00PM – Dinner 
  • 9:00PM – Bedtime 

How is documenting an expedition different from the usual projects you have? 

Expeditions are at the core of every natural history documentary that does not take place in your backyard. The Panaon expedition was my 5th scientific expedition as well as the 12th underwater film expedition. They have been the roots of all my filming projects. 

How challenging was it for your team to work on filming the Panaon expedition during a pandemic? 

Apart from the constant worry of (COVID-19) infection, preparing for a locked in shoot –meaning nobody comes in and nobody goes out – requires going through all sorts of imaginable scenarios as you need to be able to fix it on location. Should a piece of equipment gets lost at sea or gets broken, you have to have a spare or be able to prepare it. The same goes with your team members. First, you reduce your crew to the absolute necessary. Each of our three team members had at least a 2nd job to fulfill on location and we are each other’s own backups. On a 3-week diving expedition, the occasional ear infection or a common cold can prevent your team from getting the shots you need to tell the story. Redundancy is important, especially in the middle of the sea. 

How important is it to document and capture the beauty of underwater treasures such as Panaon Island as we aim to conserve and protect it? 

Documenting the natural world has never been as important as it is now. More and more ecosystems are collapsing, and destruction is at such a fast pace. If we do not collect evidence of their beauty now, we might lose them forever.