Sri Lanka’s tea is regarded as the world’s finest. It was also, for us, a way to illustrate the country’s developing economy, which is slowly recovering after decades of civil war and uncertainty. Correspondent Steve Chao and I were on assignment in Sri Lanka to cover the president’s inauguration but went further afield to capture the story of the tea industry, which once accounted for almost 60% of all export revenues.
It is grown in the western highlands, almost four hours drive from Colombo, and we had to leave at two in the morning as I wanted to be there for sunrise. Tea country is high in the mountains and you get great early morning mist mixed with sunshine. I set up on the side of a hill and waited till the sun came up over the mountains. The air and sky were very crisp and provided wonderful natural colours.
I didn’t have my matte box with me so I held two of my 5.6” x 4” 0.6ND graduated filters together upside-down hard against the glass. This basically cut down the light from the sky by 1.2 stops over the foreground. There was no use of Magic Bullet Looks or similar software throughout the story; I don’t like doing things in post. If I want to use a filter, I do it in the field.
The rolling hills and workers provided wonderful opportunities for fantastic visuals. Inside the tea factory it was quite dark and it was surrounded by large windows making it very contrasty. I tried to use this light to my advantage as the 5D handles these conditions pretty well. I tried using a recently purchased Steadicam Merlin but I wasn’t 100% happy with my results so I didn’t include any of the shots in the story. Most of it was shot on a Canon 16-35mm f2.8L, Canon 70-200 2.8L IS f2.8, Canon 50mm f1.2 and a Canon 100mm macro f2.8 (non IS version).
In the end I was happy with how the story turned out. It was all shot in one day and then edited in Final Cut Pro. If you have any other questions about it, please feel free to ask.
About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Senior Field Cameraman, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for 20 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He has covered news events in more than 30 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras as well as new Canon DSLR’s.