The photos on this blogpost highlight some of our camera locations where we shot sequences at various times of the day and night mid-river. I quote some of Alan Nolan’s words that inspired these sequences. “When we are turning off the bedside lamp and curling up under the blankets, the river Lee flows ceaselessly onward through the darkness of the night and the wild Atlantic salmon continue their journey through the darkened waters oblivious to us humans”.
Location, location, location is a term we are all familiar with. It is of course critical when it comes to shooting a film. The more exotic the location, the richer the footage one can shoot. I often go out paddling on the river just before dawn breaks. The city sleeps. The street lights still burn. On occasion, a giant ship will silently slip away to sea at this early morning hour. Extreme care is the call of the day when you are alongside one of these steel monsters in a 14 foot flimsy kayak. This is a very special time when the darkness of night fades, and slowly the sunrise brings the colour, clarity and contour of the city to life.
The river Lee flows ceaselessly day and night into Cork harbour, where on a six hourly cycle, it rises and falls by as much as 4.5 meters (13 feet). The river is now under the influence of tidal currents, rising and falling. This is where the fresh water from the Lee meets the salt water from the Atlantic ocean. In order to highlight this continuous rise and fall of the tide, Barry McCarthy proposed that I shoot a time-lapse sequence of a water-marker in an interesting location. “Nothing like an old challenge my friend!” No better place than mid-harbour with the iconic Blackrock Castle in view.
I could not locate a metre water-maker so I improvised and attached a handmade one to an old greenwood stay mid stream! This was nailed on at high tide at 6am again at mid-tide at 9am, and once again at low-tide at 12noon. The improvised toilet roll principle worked a treat. Once the marker was set in position my good friend John Neville who is an engineer with the Port of Cork, assisted on several occasions to set up the shoot on a dis-used jetty. Sincere thanks to John & the Port of Cork Authority for permission! The six marker question however is, will this sequence make the final cut?
We will hear from Alan Nolan in the film how this tidal action of the Lee plays a very important role for the returning wild Atlantic salmon. This is their reviére, their element, their rhythm. These fish torpedo their way from Greenland, approximately a 2,000 kilometre stretch of ocean to Cork harbour every year. Possibly since the ice melted 10,000 years ago in the Lee Valley basin. It has been 12 months and in some cases two years since they passed through this vast open water harbour as smolts heading to sea . A smolt is a juvenile salmon approximately 20 cms (8-9 inches) in length. It is at this stage that they leave the shallow waters of their natal river and negotiate the ancient route from the river Lee to Greenland.
Occasionally while silently paddling in the semi darkness, with the river as black as oil, a sudden churning of the water surface will occur just in front of the bough of the kayak. When all you can hear is the paddle stroking the water, your own breathing and all of a sudden a sizeable disturbance occurs just a few feet away, your heart can skip a beat or two. It is large enough to be a seal or a shoal of fish but you cannot determine or see exactly what you have disturbed. It comes as a startle, causes a serious adrenalin rush and is an uncanny feeling as you paddle ahead and leave the churning water behind you. I fantasised when it happened first that I had come upon the giant salmo salar that the anglers upstream dream of. “I doubt that very much” explained Alan “but the beauty about Atlantic salmon is that from one day to the next you simply never know what can happen. They are unpredictable wild creatures of nature!”