Shooting a Luxury Yacht in the Bahamas

I recently got to shoot a luxury yacht on a private island in the Bahama’s. It was definitely the best location I’ve ever shot at, and it was a pretty cool shoot. The owners of the yacht are looking to sell it and they wanted a video to showcase the boat.

The plan was to shoot the boat in Miami, but the night before I was to fly to Miami I got a call saying to bring my passport, because they wanted to shoot the yacht in the Bahamas instead because it was a nicer looking location.

When I landed in Miami we got on the yacht and took the 3 hour boat trip to the Bahamas.


The view from my room as we headed to the Bahamas.

We were in 5 foot swells and to be honest I got a little sea sick, I had cold sweats and I had to lay down. I put some sea bands on to help, but I’m not sure if it did anything.


Seabands to help with sea sickness.

I have a new respect for the guys that film Deadliest Catch. They do this in 25 foot swells and in freezing cold, wet conditions. My hats off to them, I’m not sure if I could do it.


Pretending to drive.

After 3 hours we arrived at a private island called Cat Cay. There are roughly 40 homes on the island.


Arriving at Cat Cay.

It’s a gorgeous place, the water is clear as can be. If you sit by the docks you can see starfish, stingrays and sharks swimming by, it’s kinda crazy.


Me waiting for the sharks to swim by, the two dark spots at the top of the pic are sharks.

It was getting dark when we got there, so we did a little tour of the island and planned out where we would shoot our exteriors.

The next day we got up and shot all of the interiors of the boat. I was shooting with Dave Liberstein. He shot most of the interiors. It was a sales video, so the main point was to show all of the rooms of the yacht. We did pans, tilts and dollys of all of the interior rooms. We used the widest lens we had, the Tokina 11-16mm.

Shooting on the yacht was challenging in some of the smaller rooms, space was always an issue.


Trying to fit in small areas was a big challenge.

It was also difficult to get a lot of lighting in the rooms. We used LED’s, and we had to get creative with their placement. I used a lot of smaller LED’s with no stands to help save room.


Small LED’s balanced on picture frames to save space.

We had a lot of outside natural light coming in, so the ability to change color temperature with the LED’s was nice.


Mixed lighting, natural and LED.

I used two dollys on the shoot. One was the Kessler Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly with the Oracle motor.


The Pocket Dolly and Sony A7s.

This was nice because of it’s small size, and smoothness with the motor. It was easy to get in and out of the rooms with it.


Kessler Philip Bloom Pocket Dolly.

I also used a new dolly from Digital Juice called the Master Slyder and Trolley Dolly. I was sent a pre-production prototype of the dolly to get some shots for them to use in a promo video.


The new Digital Juice Master Slyder and Trolley Dolly.

It’s a very sturdy dolly and over 5 feet long. I used it for a few exterior shots, and one interior shot. The dolly has an optional motor but I didn’t have it with me. Both dollys had uses and both worked, I think having a motor on the DJ dolly will really make it shine. You can see my initial test shots with the Master Slyder here.


The Master Slyder is large and very sturdy so you can put it in various places and balance it on things.

To add some more interesting shots I also used the Kessler Pocket Jib. I like this Jib because it can fold up and fit in a suitcase, and it’s good for tight locations.


The Jib, and the rest of our gear, storage was tight.

After a full day of shooting interiors, we got to have a little fun. They drove the yacht to a nearby island Bimini and we went to a casino, I ended up winning $300 playing the slots, so I had a good night.

The next day we got up and were planning to shoot our aerials and running shots. For the aerials we were using the DJI Inspire 1 drone.


The DJI Inspire 1.

It is a phenomenal drone, an absolute blast to fly and operate. It has the ability to have two controllers, one for the drone and one for the camera. On this shoot I controlled the camera while Angel Fernandez controlled the drone.

The original plan was to fly the drone from a tender (small boat) a mile out in the ocean, but once we were there, we changed our mind. We ran into another guy that had an Inspire 1, he was shooting a fishing tournament and he lost his drone in the water.


We decided not to try and fly the drone from the tender.

When we tried to start the drone it wouldn’t let us fly it because it said we needed firmware updates. The updates had come out the day before and we were unaware of them. The drone wouldn’t fly without them. The problem was we were on a yacht in the middle of the ocean with no wifi. The owners of the boast had satellite internet which is crazy expensive, but they let us use it. The updates said it would take a few hours. So while we updated, we decided to start shooting some running shots of the yacht.

We loaded our gear onto a tender and drove out in the ocean, then we started driving by the yacht and shooting it, we had walkie talkies to coordinate with the yacht.

To get stable shots, we used CineSaddles to balance our cameras. It was pretty wavy, and a bit challenging to get the shots, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. I was loving it. In post we added some stabilization to smooth out the shots.


The Tender we used for the running shots.


I used the Cine Saddle to help stabilize my camera while I was on the Tender.

After we got our running shots, the tender took us to the end of the island and we waded to shore with our gear. We then got a few shots from shore of the yacht going by. The tender picked us up and we went to check on the drones updates.

When the drone was ready we took the tender back to shore and got a good spot near the edge of the island. We used Walkie to communicate with the yacht. Once we had the yacht going where we wanted it, we launched the drone and got our shots as quickly as we could. The Inspire has about a 12 minute battery life, and we had two batteries. So we had about 20 minutes to get our shots. That’s pretty quick considering how long it takes the yacht to turn around.


We felt a little safer flying the drone from land.

We got about 5 or 6 flybys with the drone, and a few pan and tilt shots. I found when flying the drone it’s better to only do one thing at a time. Meaning you should either set the camera and let the drone do the movement, or let the drone stay still and let the camera do the movement. It seemed to work better for us that way. With more flight time experience I may get better at doing both.

The drone comes with a neutral density filter, and I definitely recommend putting it on if your shooting outside in the sun. I also recommend checking the firmware before you want to fly, we got lucky, but it could have been a disaster.

The other nice thing about the Inspire 1 is that it shoots in 4k. We knew the final delivery mode of the video was the internet so I used a 720 timeline. This gave me the ability to really push in on the drone shots, which helped showcase the yacht a little more. The drone shots really raised the production value of the video, I love shooting with them.

When we were done with the drone, we got a few more shots from shore, and headed back to the dock. We packed up the gear, had a nice meal and went to bed. It was an exhausting shooting in the sun all day.


Th Cat Cay Special is pretty tasty.

The next day, we went to the owners private beach and I shot some more drone footage of their house and property. It was amazing!


Me with the Inspire 1 on their private beach.

I then had about 3 hours to enjoy the water, before we headed back to Miami.


The black dot is me, enjoying the water and scenery.

It was a fun shoot, challenging at times, but I had a great time, and I couldn’t ask for a better location.  I also want to thank the owners of the yacht, the boat crew, the captain and engineer, for all of their help on the shoot, everything from cleaning the rooms, to cleaning the exterior and driving the yacht. They gave us everything we asked for and did an awesome job, it was a great team effort.


Leaving Cat Cay, I hope to go back some day.

One final thing, I think this sign sums it up.



Here’s a link to some of the aerial shots from the drone.

You can watch the whole video here.

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