:: watch the scene (40 sec) ::         :: clips ::               



Now and then, I've supplied images to Robin Scagell who places them primarily with natural science & nonfiction print outlets in Europe and the U.K. Illustrations for popular-science books mostly. One day he asked for a very wide image of the winter sky for a booklet accompanying a planisphere. I found a promising spot half a mile from my front door, shot two frames with a Nikon DSLR and 16mm fisheye, remapped them to a less distorted projection and stitched them together. Worked fine. The result was a winter sky panorama from Taurus to Lepus including Orion, Canis Major, Monoceros, and assorted pieces of Gemini, Cetus, and other constellations. Just a hint of light domes over nearby townships silhouetted pines on the horizon.

Months later, Robin asked for a higher resolution version of that photograph. An anonymous motion picture company had asked for a night sky shot showing Orion, Gemini, and Canis Major from North Carolina. My wife immediately said, "Must be for 'Cold Mountain'" which we knew was in post-production in Europe and already anticipated by our neighbors. I am the pessimist in the family, so I thought, "Might be for 'XXX Moonshine Murders in Spooky Hollow.'" Hollywood being Hollywood, Robin gritted his teeth and asked for a very large number. It was one of the biggest single-image invoices he'd ever sent. Nobody blinked. Well, he wrote, if we knew it was for an $80 million project, I could've asked for even more, but we don't. It was. S'OK – even a glancing blow from Hollywood puts a dent in the mortgage.

I have no idea how many of my pixels made it into the final scene; maybe my shot was just used to guide some digital FX painter. I don't know and I'm not asking. Here's the original photo as NASA ran it on their Picture of the Day website: Cold Mountain Sky.

The field of view has been extended to the left. And the foreground tree branches have been added. And the actors, of course. And the fog. Even so, when I sat in a theatre waiting to see if I'd made the final cut and this scene began (1hr 46m in), I went numb, half-blind and completely deaf. When it ended, my friends gave me a round of applause; the right-wing fundamentalist among them passed a flask. Several movie-goers stuck around after the credits to ask what the celebration was about (no, I didn't get an onscreen credit or there would have been two whoops to explain). I had to watch the movie three times before my cinemaniac deafness subsided and I could hear a word of the dialog.


Thanks for the link, Bill. But you still can't have Nicole's cell number.