Every now and then some really cool opportunities arise in the business of camera-guying. This year I joined the extreme-sports circus that is the Freeride World Tour. For two of the European stops (Fieberbrunn AUT, Verbier CH,) on the program I was to point a camera at some of the gnarliest modern athletes, bent on hurling themselves down very large mountain faces. Suffice to say; I was happy to be nestled safely behind the lens rather than performing countless tomahawks over rocks and avalanche debris… like some of the riders. While shooting big-mountain sports like this has it’s challenges, mine is really a much safer job in comparison. Check out some of the action here: FWT YouTube
My first challenge was to obtain a comprehensive light-weight, alpine, backpack that would allow me to hike/ride a decent gradient while carrying everything I needed. I would have to say that with a back-country pack; you can never have too many straps and clips. You really need to be able to put everything on your bag besides your camera gear ie. snowboard, avalanche safety gear, harness, ice axe, rope, crampons.. and be prepared for anything (depending on what you’re shooting of course). A large ICU cavity in the bag helps to keep your camera as built up as possible allowing you to pull it out quickly to get a shot.
Yep, barely awake at this time of morning.
Other apparent challenges were coverage and data management. When the sun pokes it’s head you just want to shoot the shit out of everything, but there is still an entire event to cover, so enough having media storage is crucial. With this particular Live/Outside Broadcast event I needed to record to media as well as output a live feed, so managing your time around delivering cards to the editors can be tricky. Everyone is incredibly busy, no one can really help so you have to prioritise and find the time to dart up to post-production as often as possible. Another obstacle on the live operating side is; being tethered by optical cable (BNC) to HQ while you’re hand-held. It helps to have a little movement pattern and a rhythm to match before things get underway. The best thing you can do is stay out of everyone else’s shot and discuss your movement with the other Camera Ops before-hand. One last, but sort of important point is protecting you camera from helicopter ‘rotor wash’. This stuff is fun to shoot at high frame rates but maybe have a plastic cover handy as well as an optical flat/protective filter on you lens.
So there you have it, not as extreme or incredibly insightful as the title sounds, but being amongst that sort of atmosphere in such an epic environment can give you a certain tingle in the proverbial nut-sack sometimes.
Ok, so by now you that I suck at keeping this blog up to date. So here is an entry that is about 6 months behind. Since my 2015 winter in New Zealand I have made somewhat of a sizeable plunge into the foreign playground of the limitless, the European Alps. I have lasted at least a winter and summer season here now and have started shooting some of the most extreme sports any hooligan could fathom. I had stripped back on all the gear that I had built up for the last 10 years and settled for a lightweight package to run around the mountains with. This meant that my video output would be inevitably depleted thus, I began to explore more photographic opportunities.
I began by shooting some skiing and snowboarding photographically and quickly moved on to more high-risk sports such as speedriding and wingsuiting. Being in Chamonix gave me every opportunity to shoot these sports as athletes frequent the area all year round jumping off Les Brevent or racing around the Mont Blanc Massif in a single day. There became another element to ‘getting the shot’ now, and that was; to not die trying. Upon extending my photographic skills, I also have to gain a high level mountaineering skills and awareness which has its’ own art-form and expenses attached. I haven’t been able to shoot as much video and work as much as I’d liked but that’s what you get when you decide to move your life to a foreign country. To be honest, I’ve had to dig some holes and wash some dishes to get by but at least now I’m not stuck in a studio full of bluescreen working on a piece of regurgitated franchise garbage contemplating on what it would be like if the bluescreen was real.
With the days getting longer and the snow melting away there emerged another sport to keep me occupied at the end of the winter season. Although it’s not a big town, Queenstown in New Zealand has a healthy gathering of downhill enthusiasts who are taking advantage of the nicely sealed ski area access roads in the area. I ran into downhill artist, Dale Goodwin of the UK one picturesque afternoon when looking for members of the QLA (Queenstown Longboard Association) to film. While getting some photos we got chatting about the idea of shooting a downhill video at night. A couple of days later we all returned to the Remarks access road to shoot some action. I managed to wrangle some helpers on this one with some of the riders holding me upright in the car as we scoot around the corners trying to keep up with the skateboard. Adam Flemming with some top driving and also, Raj Patel who lent his Sony A7 with an Atmos Shogun 4K recorder, his Zeiss Compact Primes II and of course his Cinematographic and Focus Pulling skills. The Ronin really came into it’s own on this sort of set up, holding the horizon reasonably well considering I was almost laying down on some corners. As the day faded we prepared for the night shoot by attaching LEDs to the bottom of Dale’s board and rigging a torch or two to his helmet and body, trying to get as much light as we could. We also had a follow car for this purpose and got the driver of the camera vehicle to ride the breaks as much as possible while keeping in a safe distance from the skater (which was quite a difficult task!). All in all we just got enough light to see Dale and track his movements effectively while having a great time flying down the mountain.
Wanaka was a great place to live. It has two of the best mountains in the Otago region close by, a whole bunch of available activities to keep ones self occupied including skiing, climbing, hiking, MTB, kayaking, sailing and now one of the country’s best skate parks. With the recent upgrade on the park boasting several features and a massive pool, it’s no wonder this place gets crowded after school hours, let alone the weekend! We managed to get a reasonably quiet day for filming when I met up with Luke Sinclair and Arthur Eacott to shoot some stuff. Shooting against a backdrop like Lake Wanaka and surrounding mountains is a pleasure and found myself shooting with that back ground for the majority of the project. Using the Ronin was really easy here, apart from the super quick whip-pans when in the middle of the pool, having the skater fly around you the gimbal held up nicely and it’s good to see nice structured and stabalised shots for shooting a pretty hectic sport on foot. I’m going to miss Wanaka and it’s lovely community, the charm is just off the scale here.
My second project for the NZ SnowTrade campaign was based at the South Island’s largest ski area Treble Cone which offers some great big mountain runs and quality back country with easy access. I met up with the young Austrian renegade, Freeskier Bernhard Gigler to shoot some action as he dropped massive cliffs and put up an exceptional effort of shredding for the camera without a sweat. On my end, it was quite tricky getting around with the Ronin gimbal on the mountain, I had adapted a backpack for easy porting which made it a bit more manageable. In hindsight, it was definitely worth the trouble to get those nice moving images, it really makes the difference in the edit. I also grabbed some alternative angles on the GoPro at 120fps which is a great help when you’re limited to 50fps on the 7D. Glad to know everything is getting smaller these days with technology, makes a mountain Videographer’s job a hell of a lot easier! Treble Cone is an amazing location to shoot, as you’ll see it’s very easy on the eye which also makes my job easier. Watch out for the Kia bird, they will try and steal anything you leave around, including GoPro’s!! Almost lost mine:/
Back in July I had my first project to sink my teeth into for the NZ SnowTrade 2015 campaign. WinterQuest is an annual meet for mountain biking and trail running enthusiasts from all over the country, held near Cromwell, Central Otago. While the weather wasn’t on my side it didn’t worry the competitors too much as they slogged it out on the 40 odd kilometer course regardless. It was a challenge to get the coverage I wanted over such a large area but we had a 4 wheeler handy to scoot around when it was available. I managed to get some of the desired content in between bagging up the Ronin rig from the wet weather and catching a lift on the bike from A to B. It was a good introductory project to get me use to the terrain out here.
Sorry I’ve been plenty slack on updating the blog lately. Here’s something I should have told you all about a few months ago before I started but anyway, any news is good news right? Welcome to NZ SnowTrade 2015, a notion of non-fiscal trade for services in the form of videography and photography in the adventure/action sports arena of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. I’ve had a few projects to date and have been enjoying the amazing sights and terrain this country has to offer. It has been an interesting trip so far, I won’t go into to much detail here as you’ll hear all about it in my next blog entries soon to come! (I promise). Basically I have been teaming up with various different skiers, snowboarders, skaters and other mountaineers to shoot some active content for the Cinemachanics youtube channel and having mad adventures doing so! So stay tuned!!