Filming in Cambodia, Part 3: Fishing at Sunrise

This is the third post in a three-part series documenting CI’s visual storytelling team’s recent trip to Cambodia. Read the previous posts. 

filming fishing at sunrise, Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

CI’s visual storytelling team films fisherman Mao as he paddles out to check his nets at sunrise. (© Conservation International/photo by Molly Bergen)

The next morning we rose even earlier. The team would be filming Sophy’s husband, Mao, as he did his morning check of the family’s fishing nets.

Mao sat at the very front of his rough-hewn wooden boat, paddling it with one oar. We followed in two motorboats. One carried John with the camera, Becca with the sound equipment and Nara, along with the boat driver. Peter, Sokrith and I took the other boat, making sure to stay out of the shot of John’s camera.

In the pre-dawn darkness, Mao has no trouble seeing where he’s going — he does this every day. The scene proved a bit dark for our camera, however, so John loaned him his headlamp.

fisherman at sunrise, Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

Mao, wearing John’s headlamp, on his way to check his nets for fish. (© Conservation International/photo by Molly Bergen)

Just as the sun was rising, Mao paddled into a natural channel made by the treetops indicating the flooded forest beneath us. This is where many fishermen set up their nets, as fish often hide in the tree branches.

As Mao headed for the plastic bottle that served as his net’s buoy, our two boat drivers cut their motors. Suddenly the loud rumbling was replaced by the more peaceful sounds of the lake: water splashing, wind, birdsong.

While Mao prepared to pull up the net and see what he’d caught, John took out his newest experiment: a GoPro camera. Safe in an underwater housing attached to a long pole, this would be a cheaper, easier way to get underwater footage compared with the expensive, fragile camera the team often takes scuba diving.

Getting this footage required some creative maneuvering, as you can see in the video clip below. The down side is that when John’s holding the camera from above the water, he can’t see what he’s filming — but as you’ll see in the final “Field Chronicles” video at the end of this post, he got some good shots.

Tonle Sap: The Lifeblood of Cambodia

Peter, John, Becca and I spent much of the next week and a half traveling to other parts of the country, where the team filmed supplemental footage that would provide important visuals for the videos — the ancient temples of Angkor and the world’s only captive hairy-nosed otter were among our additional subjects.

But all of these sights tie back in some way to the Tonle Sap. Not only is the lake a unique ecosystem and a testament to the ability of humans to adapt to their surroundings, but it’s a critical component of the Greater Mekong region, which provides about 80% of the protein consumed by the people living there.

Below is the visual storytelling team’s finished “Field Chronicles Tonle Sap” piece, in which you can see much of the footage discussed in this series (and more).

Our trip would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the dedicated CI-Greater Mekong team, several of whom spent their weekends traveling with us. They are the ones who have built strong relationships with people like Sophy and Mao that made them willing to open up their home to us and our cameras.

We hope that the videos produced from this trip will bring more attention to the importance of — and threats to — this remarkable place, as well as the projects already underway to protect and restore the health of these ecosystems for the benefit of people near and far. Please consider sharing these stories, and help us spread the word.

CI-Greater Mekong floating office, Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

Some of the CI-Greater Mekong team at the floating office on Tonle Sap. (© Conservation International/photo by Molly Bergen)

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature. This is the third post in a three-part series; read earlier posts.

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