GE Puerto Rico Volunteer Trip
Before 2017, Puerto Rico was one of those places you heard about in conversation when someone would talk about a vacation that they took a few years ago. After Hurricane Maria and Irma hit Puerto Rico during September2017, people talked about this U.S. Territory in a different light. Hurricane Maria was the most active hurricane that Puerto Rico had experienced in over eighty years, and it destroyed homes, created massive flooding, and disabled power across the entire island. With a population of 3.4 million, every resident of the island had been affected by this natural disaster.
It took almost eight months to restore power to most of the island. However, some residents who lived in more remote locations such as the mountains had to wait nearly eleven months to have their power restored. Aside from dealing with no power, Puerto Ricans also had to face food and water shortages, disease outbreaks, and hospitals and schools being shut down.
During July of 2018, members of General Electric's (GE) Accelerated Leadership Program (XLP) worked with NGOs on rehabilitation projects around the island. GE was interested in more than just providing physical labor in helping rebuild; they also wanted to support the social needs of Puerto Ricans, as well as help train leaders to deal with future disasters.
Before going to Puerto Rico, I had only worked on one travel type documentary in the past, where my issue was carrying around too much camera equipment. Making matters even more complicated, transportation around the island was not confirmed until I arrived onsite, and consistent power was another huge concern.
In order to cut down on weight, I only brought with as much equipment as I could fit into a camera backpack, aside from some simple travel sticks, which broke down to a Canon C300, Rode NTG3 Microphone, 2 Wireless Sennheiser Microphones, 4 7350 mAh batteries, basic shoulder mount with follow focus, a top mount LED light, a 16-35 f/2.8, and a IS 27-40 f/4. I also brought along a DJI Mavic Pro in a separate shoulder bag with 4 batteries.
After a full day of shooting, I was feeling very confident about my equipment choices. The Canon C300, fully kitted out with what I brought along, came out to be about 5 lbs. Being supported with a shoulder mount and padded backpack straps made it a breeze to shoot all day without any back or shoulder problems. Also, using an image stabilized lens in combination with the shoulder mount meant I could capture interviews very easily without having to carry around a set of sticks. It is fair to say though that every interview used a little bit of warp stabilization.
Over the next seven days, I traveled around Puerto Rico and had the chance to see first hand the damage that the island had endured. While it was difficult at times to look at the extremes that people went through, it was encouraging to see individuals spending their time to help those less fortunate.