2017-01-27

Recovery

Out of the corner of my eye I see a small flutter of brown. I turn my head to see a bald eagle just off the tip of my wing turning back towards the mountains. I lean hard, bank my glider and follow his lead. Moments later we are met with dynamic rising air, pushing us upwards. With wing tips locked together we rapidly climb upwards, with each circle leaving the snow covered landscape below. This is not an uncommon occurrence in my life, it seems to happen all the time, but in this particuarly intimate moment with nature, I take a deep breath and realize how lucky I truly am.

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Last flight. The next day I could not walk.

Back in October of last year my legs and feet suddenly began to hurt.  At first it felt like really sore muscles. No big deal, so I kept pushing harder and harder, but as the days passed my condition rapidly deteriorated. I remember stepping out of a truck on a high mountain launch site, barely able to walk. That flight was breathtaking, beautiful, rugged, and memorable in so many ways.  The next morning, I could no longer walk. The pain and inflammation in my feet, legs and back was so overwhelming that my body could no longer stand upright, let alone push itself forward.

After countless doctor visits, I was still nowhere. Things spiraled out of control and I soon found myself in the Emergency Room fighting this mysterious illness. That led to several days in the hospital, along with every possible test known to mankind. I had my fair share of needles, blood tests, MRI machines, and head scratching doctors.  From back specialists to orthopedic doctors, oncology to infectious disease specialists; nobody could determine the root cause.  Eventually I ended up in the Rheumatology department. It was here I finally had some real answers, some actual proof, and more importantly a pathway to moving forward.  Unfortunately, there was so much damage in the tendons and soft tissues of my feet that healing was going to be a slow process.

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There were many dark days in pain sector 9, but I found hope and healing in the kindness of my friends. So many were eager to lend a kind hand, a listening ear, or just a few minutes of distraction. Even with all the help around me, I knew I had to do my part too.  So, each day I would try and walk just a little. I remember how excited I was when I walked 150 steps in a single day. Each day I continued to walk, step by step, looking, hoping, and praying for the opportunity to someday hike and fly above the mountains again.

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Circling with Bald Eagles again.

As I circle wing tip to wing tip with this majestic bald eagle I realize how lucky I truly am. Blessed for the opportunity to fly once again.  I am not fully recovered as I will never be fully rid of this disease.  Hard as it may seem, it is just something I must now learn to live with each day.  I may be hiking a little slower these days, but I am hiking again, flying again, and trying to enjoy the simple sensations that this amazing life on this amazing earth provides.

(For better or worst, I film stuff. This short video captures a few scenes during my recovery process. Not a great film, but a journal entry)

Recovery from DEAF Crew on Vimeo.

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Top 3 Tips to Making Better Videos

I was a photographer before I was a film maker. I was a film maker before I was a paraglider pilot. I was a paraglider pilot before I tried to succesfully merge all three together. Over the last 6 or 7 years I have made way too many videos related to paragliding (just ask my wife). Most of those videos are equally as terrible (again, just ask my wife). Through it all, I have learned many valuable lessons, mostly on how not to do it. Whether skiing, paragliding, climbing or backpacking, I have picked up a few tricks that will often lead to more memorable adventure videos.

In an effort to share, I thought I would offer my Top 3 simple tricks that will help make your next adventure video more meaningful.

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Unique shot angles make any video more interesting. It is always fun when people ask “how on earth did you get THAT shot?”

 

#1 – GET THAT CAMERA OFF YOUR HEAD
This is by far the number one thing that can make or break your video. The advent of GoPro and other personal cameras has caused everyone, by default, to unfortunately put a camera on their heads. Yes,I am as guilty as the next adventure sports guy. It was a cool idea at first, but we should all realize from a filming standpoint, a helmet cam is terrible idea. Over the years I realized that viewers don’t care about what you are looking at, they care about what you are experiencing. Therefore, make it a point to show them the experience, not just the view from your head. So, if you want to do just one thing to make your videos exponentially better, get that camera off your head!

Who is this Jerry with his camera in his toggles? Yeah, I admit, that's me. Just another good reason to get that camera off you head.
Who is this ‘Jerry’ with his camera caught in his toggles? Yeah, that’s me 6 years ago in Austria. Just another good reason to get that camera off you head.

As a side note: If you are into the “flying” sports like BASE jumping, skydiving, speed wings, and/or paragliding then a camera on your head can actually be a very dangerous proposition as getting your lines caught on your helmet can quickly become a safety concern.

 

#2 – MAKE THOSE CLIPS SHORTER
The attention span of most people is pretty short, especially when it comes to internet videos. Why else do so many videos these days have to say…”wait for it” in their captions? If you want to make you films more interesting and less…well…boring, then change the duration of your clips to no more than 5-7 seconds. You should be switching views to different angles or vantage points often. Yes, that means that for a 2:00 minute video, you will need 15 to 25 different shot changes. That may sound like a lot, but trust me, it is worth it.

 

#3 – SYNC TO THE MUSIC
No matter what you are filming, the audio track you chose will define the mood of your video. When choosing a track, be sure to first define the “beat” and then sync your clips to change with that beat. Some songs are fast, so you need to change shots every 3-4 seconds, others are slower and only require a shot change every 6-7 seconds. No matter what track you choose, be sure to sync your shots to the music.

 

Those may sound too simple and not that earth shattering, but you would be surprised how many videos violate not just one, but all three. Best of luck in your next video project. If you make a video you are proud of, feel free to send it my way or post in the comments as I would love to check it out. Happy Shooting.

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Top 5 Inspiring Videos 2015

There are so many avenues to draw inspiration from these days. As a professional photographer for nearly 20 years, naturally I am inspired by the images created by others. It allows me to see a different interpretation to perhaps an otherwise common or familiar scene. Another means of great inspiration to me through the years has been music. That may sound odd as a photographer, but music has always infused my mind with images, ideas, and thus a driving force in making some of those images a reality. Finally, I have been finding the most inspiration from independent videos these days. Those moving pictures, built around music that in the end tell a story, share a message or encourage a change. Needless to say, I have watched too many hours of video this year, but in the process have discovered a few nuggets of inspiration along the way.  Well, inspiration to me at least, and towards my photographic and filming pursuits.  I thought I would share them with you…so buckle up, crank up those speakers, and enjoy the stories, messages, and fantastic filming.

#5 – The Chase by Mike Olbinski

I love time-lapse photography and how it shows motion. I particularly like the subject of clouds and their motion.  This short video captures a great sequence of storms, how they develop, and the beauty that can be witnessed amidst the American Plains.

#4 – Denali by Felt Soul Media

Those who know me, know that I am no lover of dogs. That said, many of my friends are. Regardless of my own thoughts, there is no question the companionship and loving bond that can exist between man and animal.  The message of this video, captured mostly in still images, is done so well, and has been so inspiring to me and to portions of my life.  We never know how long we will have with the ones we love…so you should go totally insane with joy.

#3-Merely Observations by Gnarly Bay

Gnarly Bay is honestly one of my all time favorite independent film makers. Their approach to filming, music and narration produce some of the greatest inspiration to me and my photographic pursuits.  Whenever I feel stuck, I just need to watch one of Dana and Dan’s films and I am once again inspired. Inspired to create something in the now.

 

#2-Timedrift II by Martin Heck

Like I stated earlier, I love time-lapse work, especially as it relates to clouds.  This short film is a great resource in watching the subtle movements of air, how they roll over the mountains, and across the valley floor.  I have been so lucky in life to fly my paraglider across these mountains, so perhaps they stir inside myself a unique set of memories. A reminder to keep watching, learning, and experiencing.

 

#1-Space by Gnarly Bay

No surprise, but the top of the list this year goes to Gnarly Bay. Their latest creation called Space.  Find a quiet place to watch this film, listen to the message, because the message is fantastic!  I hope you will be inspired by this film as much as I have. Each day the lights come on.

I hope this short collection of videos has inspired you in some way or another. They have inspired me.  As we begin a new year, my hope is to take full advantage of each day, to live life more fully, be observant, create; to be thankful, giving and full of joy. How lucky we are to be on this amazing earth, learning, experiencing and hopefully making the most of each moment we are given.