Miller Sharpshooters

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Arrow on the edge

Even back in school days, Geoff Mackley was looking for danger, racing to police emergencies on a motor bike to capture still images for local newspapers for a $10 fee and a roll of film.

Geoff MackleyFrom accident-chasing it seemed erupting volcanoes, eyes of tornadoes and peaks of hurricanes were a natural career path for cameraman and extreme documenter, Geoff, aka Geoff has spent the last six months in the wilds of Indonesia, South America and Italy getting closer than anyone else to erupting volcanoes, including Mt Etna's best fireworks display in 33 years, as well as in the thick of it in Argentina (volcanoes), Atlanta (hurricanes), Darwin (typhoon) and the Pacific Islands (cyclone).

Geoff's lifestyle and images are about to be documented as his clients realise the logistical complexities involved in reaching remote locations with gear and supplies, and often without official approval, just so he can be where the action will soon be. Geoff explains: "The Mt Etna shoot involved climbing with stills and video kit, plus backpack supplies, 3000m up the mountain, and 5km inside the exclusion zone. You and your colleague are usually the only ones there, so you have to be fit and your gear has to offer the ultimate in reliability under extremes of temperature and environment." A South American shoot posed different problems. "We got as far as 6000m up Argentina's Mt Aconcagua, before we had to turn back, without our gear, due to bad weather. We left the gear in -30°C overnight, before picking it up the next day. The gear worked perfectly as soon as it was set up".

The gear Geoff depends on comprises a Panasonic AJD-800 DVCPRO camcorder, Pag batteries, Panasonic LT-75 laptop editor and Miller Arrow 50 fluid head 2-Stage and Mini tripod. He also runs a 75mm Miller DS10 system and MiniDV second unit. "The camera and tripod have to endure temperatures from -30°C in the Alps to 54°C at the rim of volcanoes. You also have to get yourself and the gear there, and that could be on the back of a stubborn mule for up to 100km or tied and suspended from a pole (as in Indonesia recently) and carried on the shoulders of locals."

So, what's the limit that Geoff takes his gear. "If a human can't survive then neither will your gear, so I take it as close as I can and use my judgement about safety, temperature etc. The gear I use can never be the limiting factor." "In all the environments I have taken the Arrow 50 - tropical rainstorm or searing volcanic heat - the head's action and control have remained consistent and allowed me to achieve the best shots possible under incredibly adverse conditions". N.B. Thanks to Grant Cummuskey from New Zealand Video News for some quotes used in this article.