It’s that time of year again. It’s Spring: when days get longer, sleeves get shorter, and we all get reminded that the ball of fire in the sky will burn us at the slightest opportunity. Last weekend I was reminded after an eight hour shooting day which began with a windy morning, so we didn’t feel the heat, and carried on through a pleasantly warm spring afternoon. Only later did I realize my forearms and my nose were scorched.
The burn-of-the-day award goes to the crew member who dutifully blocked the sun from our actors with a large bounce. This reflector is the two-sided type, such that the black side was facing our actors and the silver side was redirecting unwanted sunlight directly into the face of the grip holding it in place. In addition to potentially blinding a grip this way, we also bounced sun into every shadow of his face. The insides of his nostrils are probably burning.
After witnessing a few on-set injuries over the years, I made a med-kit a permanent fixture in my camera bag. The latest addition is a small tube of sunscreen. Here are some extra tips for avoiding sun exposure on outdoor shoots:
- Sun is harshest when it’s directly overhead (11am-1pm); most people try not to shoot at this hour for lighting reasons, but even if you’re taking lunch it’s still worth reminding everyone to get out of the sun for a moment.
- Sunscreen is greasy! Bring hand towels to wipe hands after applying, especially for camera operators and grips who will be handling expensive equipment
- Cloud cover does NOT prevent sunburn (as my mother reminds us every summer)
- Reflected sun will burn too; keep this in mind when shooting around light concrete, snow, & sand, near mirrors and reflectors, etc.
- A wide-brimmed hat is a great way to shade your face and neck, preventing burn and unwanted glare. As a camera operator, a large hat often keeps the sun out of my face and off of my camera.
If you have a good sun tip, or cautionary story, share it in a comment below!