Shooting a Wedding by an Active Volcano – Interview with Martin Kacvinsky

The active volcano Fagradalsfjall in Iceland is definitely a popular location right now. Martin Kacvinsky (Kaco Films) recently filmed a wedding there with his Blackmagic Pocket 6K Pro and DJI Mavic 2 Pro. In the following short interview, Martin shares his experience from the shoot. (We are currently running a special promotion. Book one of Martin’s Master Classes and get a 45% discount using the code “CINED”).

Martin Kacvinsky is a filmmaker based in the Czech Republic, who specializes in wedding cinematography. Not long ago, in January 2021 we talked to him about his international work and how the global lockdown situation made him create his own Online Wedding Cinematography Masterclass.

Martin recently visited the active volcano Fagradalsfjall in Iceland and he shot a wedding right next to the site (and yes, that is the same volcano where Stefan Forster melted his Mavic 2 Pro drone). I asked Martin a few questions about the project as I think it is quite an interesting story.

CineD: Where did the idea of shooting a wedding video by an active volcano come from?

Martin: Immediately after I saw that there is an active volcano in Iceland, I wanted to go there and film it. At that time I had few other jobs going on, so I started planning the trip in the meantime. It is not easy to travel these days, but in the end, it worked out.

They currently have quite a strict policy on Iceland for people who arrive in the country. On top of having a valid negative PCR test by arrival, everyone has to spend the first 5 days in quarantine in Reykjavik (paid for by the Icelandic government), and then after a second negative PCR test, you are free to move around.

I wanted to film the volcano, but I thought it would be best to connect it with something, to have a story. I already filmed some weddings in Iceland in the previous years, so I contacted the same local wedding agency Pink Iceland before departure to see if they have any “project” now that we could connect with the location by Fagradalsfjall.

Hiking to the Fagradalsfjall volcano. Image Credit: Styrmir-Heiddis.com

Fortunately, they had a couple that was supposed to get married last year already but it was postponed because of the pandemic. Everything was last minute, but in the end, it worked out. The couple liked the idea, and the agency was able to organize it within days with the cake and real marriage officiant.

CineD: What gear did you choose to shoot the video and why?

Martin: I realized that this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They could have closed the site any minute. That is why I took the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro (you can check our review here) to have the highest possible quality material to capture these quite unique images. I used to work with the BMPCC 4K previously, so I have a good BRAW-based workflow. I only took two lenses with me – the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 and the Tamron 150-600mm.

I did not know how exactly the area looks, so I took the longer lens as well in case we will not be able to get close to the lava. In the end, however, I was able to get very close, so I shot the whole video with the SIGMA. I wanted to avoid changing lenses as the danger of getting some particles on a sensor in such conditions (wind, dust, smoke, cold weather, snow) is quite high. Of course, I also took my DJI Mavic 2 Pro with me as this is still my favorite foldable drone to shoot with.

Filming by the volcano. Image Credit: Styrmir-Heiddis.com

CineD: How did the cameras deal with the shoot?

Martin: The temperature during the hike was around -6°C but with the very strong wind (up to 25m/s) it felt like -20°C. My water bottle froze completely on the way there. At the location itself, the temperature was quite comfortable, thanks to the lava.

The equipment worked well, but of course, the batteries did not last that long. I also had to store the drone battery packs close to my body to keep them warm and operational. The Pocket 6K Pro worked well the whole time – I was powering it only with NP-F batteries (without the battery grip).

Filming by the volcano. Image Credit: Kaco Films

From my experience, the Pocket 6K Pro has a higher DR than the Pocket 4K. I also like the new Gen5 BRAW color science. I shot the wedding in 6K50 Q3 quality to the connected SSD. The camera is also quite comfortable for handheld shooting thanks to the larger grip. As I was shooting with a non-stabilized lens, I at least used the stretched camera strap to add another point of contact so that the footage is more stable.

Nevertheless, I had to further stabilize the footage in DaVinci Resolve 17 which I used for the whole post-production. The large display of the Pocket 6K Pro (that is now brighter and articulating) was quite nice for monitoring.

Filming by the volcano. Image Credit: Kaco Films

Because of the gases from the cooling lava, it has to be windy. If the air stands still by the volcano, they will evacuate the surroundings. That presented another challenge for the drone shots as it was very windy there on the day of the wedding. I was prepared that I could lose the drone at any time. In the beginning, I was keeping my distance when flying and I was changing memory cards often to keep some footage in case I lose the drone.

Later, I was flying closer and closer and I was ready to use the in-phone recorded low-res files in case something happens. In the end, the heat only slightly melted the landing sensors, the bottom LED lights and the memory card cover of my Mavic 2 Pro.

Filming by the volcano. Image Credit: Kaco Films

CineD: What were the greatest challenges of this project?

Martin: First of all, getting to Iceland was a challenge in itself with all the travel restrictions. You also need to plan in the five days quarantine upon arrival. The hike to the volcano itself is also quite a challenge. It is around a two to three hours hike in a rough terrain from the nearest parking possibility (unless you have a press permit, which we did not manage to get due to limited time). Carrying a heavy backpack with equipment does not make the hike easier, either.

Hiking to the volcano. Image Credit: Styrmir-Heiddis.com

Another huge challenge was the weather. In Iceland, you always battle with the quickly changing weather – it was cold and the wind was changing constantly. When we were scouting the location two days before the wedding, the wind suddenly turned on us and the whole area by the volcano had to be evacuated. That means we were not sure if the wedding will even happen on the planned day.

CineD: Was there any special gear necessary to shoot by the volcano?

Martin: There is quite a lot of people from the local authorities that monitor the area around the volcano and take care about safety. We still brought protection masks and glasses. That was especially useful as I had to get close to the lava for some b-roll shots.

The mask allowed me get really close and not worry about the lava gases. Another thing is good outdoor equipment. To get there, you need good shoes with crampons (as the hiking route has some icy segments) and warm clothing. Otherwise, the volcano was accessible without any special permission.

Filming by the volcano. Image Credit: Kaco Films

CineD: What should everyone keep in mind when shooting in such environment?

Martin: You should be prepared for anything. The site can be closed due to weather or changing seismic activity at any time. There is always the possibility that the flight and quarantine were for nothing. Be prepared for extreme weather – rain, cold, snow, wind – that can change rapidly within minutes. Many people also lost drones there, so be prepared to sacrifice gear.

By the volcano, you also need to take care not to crash into other drones. I had to constantly keep an eye on the drone not to crash into others. There were even a few FPV drones as well. I did not go there with any high hopes. In the end, we were lucky and it worked out well. On the day of the wedding, we were able to stay there until the evening and had perfect conditions.

Flying over the volcano. Image Credit: Kaco Films

Book one of Martin’s Master Classes at Kaco Films and get a 45% discount using the code “CINED”.

How do you like the resulting video? Do you also often film in harsh outdoor conditions? Let us know in the comments underneath the article.

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