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Lights! Camera! Action!
Oct. 20th, 2012
by John Rich & Bob Arthur
The Bayou Preservation Association (BPA) Paddle Trail Committee first broached the subject
of utilizing Buffalo Bayou in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Paddle Trail program in the fall of 2005. TPWD has a
relatively long list of criteria for the establishment of trails and they fall
into two categories, i.e. inland trails and "sea trails".
Over time, the BPA in conjunction with TPWD was able to meet the requisite
parameters for the establishment of the official Buffalo Bayou Paddle Trail.
The trail extends for 26 miles, starting at Hwy 6 and running to downtown
Houston with launch areas established at rough 6 mile intervals. At the time of
its grand opening it was the longest trail in the state and may still
be... and, it's entirely contained within the nations 4th largest population
Some months ago, TPWD's Abe Moore contacted me about doing
a photo shoot on the Buffalo Bayou Paddle Trail. Turns out they're doing a
program segment on the state's paddle trails and they wanted to feature one of
the urban trails. As usual, I promptly forgot about it until he called again
about 10 priors to wanting to do the shoot. So, the usual scramble to fill the
requested spots ensued. And where does one go for the most reliable folks, but
to the HCC. Abe wanted a small number of boats and paddlers and so thats what
he got. It was an interesting experience and here's John's article about
On Oct. 20th, four paddlers hand-picked by Bob Arthur, met at Briar Bend Park on Buffalo Bayou for a day trip downstream to the Woodway bridge. The four participants were Bob and John Rich from the Houston Canoe Club, along with Steve Hupp from the Bayou Preservation Association (BPA), and Betty Leite from Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), and a member of the BPA Advisory Board. The purpose of the trip was to assist in the filming of footage for a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department TV show segment on urban paddling trails. The cameraman and producer for TPWD was Abe Moore.
The paddlers got to observe first-hand how Hollywood does their work; fiddling with cameras, worrying about lighting, rigging microphones and staging scenes. It was quickly decided that John should use his large stable tandem boat as the camera platform for Abe, who would film the other two boats from the bow seat. Bob and Betty went tandem in Bob's canoe, and Steve went solo in his little boat called a pirogue. Bob, Betty and Steve would be the stars of the segment, while John would remain out of sight, to prevent editing problems maintaining consistency.
The TPWD TV show is typically a half-hour show, containing three 10-minute segments on different subjects. This urban paddling trail show will fill one of those 10-minute slots. But Abe is also shooting footage of other paddling trails besides the Buffalo Bayou trail. So of the seven hours we spent together on the Buffalo Bayou, only about two minutes of that video will actually make it into the show. It'll be interesting to see what all that condenses down into.
With only three boats, we ran the shuttle using Bob's pickup truck, with two canoes on top, and the pirogue in the bed. That way, three of the four paddlers had vehicles waiting for them at the take-out.
Photo: Abe was both the TPWD cameraman and producer, all rolled into one. He gets to travel all over the state, participate in grand outdoor adventures, film it, and gets paid for it. I want his job! Meanwhile, Bob stands by ready for a big moment on-camera.
Photo: The put-in at Briar Bend Park. The concrete bag reinforcing is mostly all still in place. The little green boat in the foreground is Steve's pirogue. The blue boat is Bob's tandem, and the red one is John's. There was actually a nice little current flowing through the pinch point there.
Abe attaches a camera to the side of Bob's boat with a suction cup, for a water level view of the trip. He had trouble getting it to stick properly to the side of the boat, but there was a safety lanyard to keep it from falling into the water and sinking.
Bob and Betty set out together from the Briar Bend park put-in. They were both fitted with wireless microphones, so that they could talk on-camera while paddling, with their voices being transmitted back to the cameraman in my boat.
Here, Abe has dismounted from the boat to shoot from the riverbank (left), while Bob, Betty and Steve appear from around the bend (right). These stars of the film got the tough part of the job: as Abe called for re-shoots, they had to paddle back upstream, and do it all over again. I simply got to rest and watch, from downstream.
This is how things looked from where I was, with Abe the cameraman in the front of my boat, filming Bob and Betty in front of me. My job was to do the usual paddling duties of avoiding obstacles like rocks, logs and shopping carts, and at the same time keep the boat as perfectly still and level as possible. This was not as easy to accomplish as I thought it would be. Sometimes he would be calling back to me for quiet drifting, which I couldn't comply with because of oncoming obstacles which required paddling to avoid. So if the camera seems all wiggly on TV, that's probably my fault. I did manage to succeed in not tipping the boat over and destroying a lot of very expensive equipment, so I considered that my major accomplishment.
When we took a rest break, Bob showed how serious he is about fresh, hot coffee. He broke out a little brew kit, boiled some water over a sterno can fire, and made fresh coffee, on the spot. Then he shared it with pretty Betty. Who needs Starbucks when you've got Bob?
Here you see Betty the movie starlet making an on-camera interview on a sand bar.
And with that, the shooting was just about complete. We arrived at the Woodway bridge just before dark, because all the filming set-ups and re-takes took much more time than we anticipated. Abe was also looking for shots of the Houston skyline from Buffalo Bayou, but we were on the wrong segment for him to get to see that. So he was advised of where to drive the next morning in order to capture such skyline shots, to add to his footage.
Bob was driven back to the put-in to retrieve his truck, while John and Betty guarded the gear and chatted. And when Bob returned, he loaded his boat and we all departed for home, with visions of seven-figure movie contracts dancing in our heads.
Abe returns to the studio with his footage, and will edit everything down into a 10-minute segment. There is no word yet on when this show will air on live TV. Abe did promise to send Bob a DVD of the show, so perhaps we can view that at a future club meeting.