Work // Gaza tunnels with Islamic Jihad

18th June 2018

The summer was going to be long and hot. Interest in Gaza’s peace camps seemed to come in waves, as the violence ebbed and flowed, while Israel’s northern border with Syria was also teasing news shooters with the threat of war. Crews could barely utter the words “Gin and Tonic” at the American Colony Hotel, before they found themselves racing north to the Golan Heights before being diverted south to wrestle their equipment through the nightmarish steel maze of the Erez border crossing into the Gaza strip. The month became a testing and exhaustingly unrewarding marathon of hauling gear, logistics and dinners at petrol stations on highway 6.

It was on one of these fast scrambles back into Gaza, that a rare opportunity was offered to CNN’s Ian Lee to meet members of the Islamic Jihad movement, who had been responsible for rocket attacks against Israel only a few days previously. Steeped in secrecy and whispered arrangements, my main concern became that I’d only brought my shoulder mounted ENG camera (Sony PMW-500) into the strip, and was without the FS5 Camera I would normally carry and favour for these kinds of jobs.

Whilst many have abandoned full size ENG cameras all together, for me they still offer a safe, fast and reliable option, in fluid situations where you don’t want to be too close to the action (…airstrikes!) or need to be able to make smooth on-air moves with the ability to zoom. About the only situation that these cameras don’t excel is in confined spaces; like tunnels!

That was how I found myself clutching CNN Gaza bureau’s Sony PMW-200 chasing masked gunmen through a concrete lined burrow, with a camera I last used in 2012. I opted against a top light on the camera, instead encouraging Ian to use a torch as a kind of lantern; a technique which is more dramatic and atmospheric than flooding the picture with blue light from an LED toplight.

I’m fairly pleased with the way the camera performed and how the underground footage looked on a decent monitor. What is clear though, is that one of the biggest leaps in camera technology in the last five years has been in low light sensitivity. Even at 9db, many of the blacks from the 200 were a messy mix of purple and greeny blocks; sharpness was also massively comprimised, which was particularly noticable on attempts at macro shots as militants read the koran and tight shots of the fighter’s eyes.

Whilst Islamic Jihad seemed fairly relaxed around us, the presense of Israeli jets and drones above us whilst filming made the crew very nervous.

Note the Sony PMW-200 camera; it is not my first choice for these kinds of assigments.

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