AD227lr

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.

PG_20130122_05
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.

HT140

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.

PG_20150529_015

Alaska Clarity

IMG_1293
Top of the glacier now in uncomfortable silence trying to figure out how to fly up, out and over the ocean to those mountains in the distance.

It has been a few months since I first walked off that plane into the rain filled skies of Alaska.  My bulky pack full of fabric and string which through the years has become just another extension of my body.  Over those few short days adventure flying in Alaska I learned a few lessons about myself, others, and was endowed with some much needed mental clarity.  Through the last twenty years I have spent a fair bit of time in the Alaska wilderness, mostly behind the lens of a camera, but through it all I have come to know one indisputable fact.  It rains in Southeast Alaska, like a lot!  If it is not raining, then it is usually blanketed in low hanging clouds.  If you do get a rare glimpse of the sun, it is likely because it is really windy up high.  So needless to say, when we put this little paragliding expedition together, I was less than optimistic about the flying potential.  However, in my mind, Alaska is always a good idea, so I was the first to drop everything and make it happen.  As I walked off the plane in Juneau, the rain was already falling….ahh, southeast Alaska!

DSC00440
Near the BC/Yukon Border moments after launch. Let the adventures begin.

Lesson 1: Never Again
When it comes to another paragliding trip to Alaska, I tell people I will never go back.  Why?  Because from the day we landed our bush plane into the rainy town of Skagway, until the time we flew out under the rainy skies of Juneau we had the most ridiculous weather you have ever seen.  When I say ridiculous, I mean the most amazing, sunny, no wind, thermic, incredibly perfect flying weather you could ever imagine.  This never happens in coastal Alaska, let alone for 5 days in a row?  It was a fluke of nature, and honestly I can’t even comprehend a stretch of coastal Alaskan days ever being so good again for paragliding.  So, that is why I say never again!

Al-Can Highway makes a great landing site......now what?
Al-Can Highway makes a great landing site……now what?

The paragliding over those several days was just life altering good.  If I could sum the whole trip up in a few rambling words it would sound something like this:  Helicopters to the middle of nowhere, glaciers, airplanes, miles of desolate roads, thermic lift to 8,000 feet above the ocean, paragliding across entire coastal ranges and even across the ocean just to find civilization again.  With flights out of interior Canada across provinces, mountain ranges, forests, beaver ponds, and even landing along the deserted Al-Can Highway (scariest landing of my life) miles from nowhere.  Awake from 4 am until midnight each day fueled onward with nothing but Cheetos and Gatorade.  I was so deliriously exhausted that I actually did eat some fish, much to the entertainment of my friends.

AD276
Friends, new and old in the Alaska spendor.

Lesson 2: Others
No matter where I have traveled with a paraglider on my back from the Alps to the Rockies, Southern Deserts to the Pacific Islands I have learned that people are generous.  I have found that everything in Alaska is just a bit bigger, and so too did I find the size and capacity of the hearts of the locals.  They were so generous in opening up their homes, beds, food, cars, helicopters, and jovial conversation that I was humbly impressed.  It was so fun to interact with all the locals who were so excited to be a part of what we were doing, so willing to go the extra mile to help us be successful.

DSC00621
Crazy bunch of travel companions. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

For instance as I landed near the runway one day and started folding up my glider a police car pulled up and asked what I was doing.  Oh great….here we go.  Not only did he smile a warm welcome, but he became our best friend for the rest of the day opening his home to anything we needed.  One of the most generous and genuinely nice people I have met.  From then on he was the first one in the LZ to offer a thumbs up or a high five to all of us.  All of the local people we met in our journey, from the Alaskan’s to the Canadian’s all were the most generous souls I have had the pleasure of crossing paths with in a long time.  Likewise, my travel companions Hal, Jonny, Clark, and Mark were the perfect blend of crazy, funny with a small dash of stupidity that made this adventure so memorable.

P1000159
Dawn breaks on the wrong side of the border after the sleepless night from hell. I am still trying to forget that damn night.

Lesson 3: Moments of Clarity
This trip was amazing, but I have to be honest here.  As I first walked off that plane, I was already exhausted. Exhausted with the whole paragliding scene, the expectations, the filming, flying, everything really.  It felt like just another job that needed to be done and the joy that so often fuels my drive was just plain gone….months ago!  The local scene back home these days is all about XC, all about distance, your line on a map, regardless of…well, anything else.  I enjoy XC flying, but to me there is so much more to the miracle of free-flight than any line I make on a map.  So this deafening conversation all around me had left me frustrated and struggling to remember the real reasons why I choose to fly.  Two flights this trip changed my mind.

View of the Alaska Range.  A moment of complete clarity!
View of the Alaska Range outside Skagway. A moment of complete clarity!

It was late afternoon, the last day in Skagway when we were dropped off via helicopter on the upper moss covered ledges near the snowline.  After launching and finding some productive coastal thermals (miracle) and climbing to 8,000 feet above the ocean I watched the town disappear as I ventured out and across the Alaska Range.  I distinctly remember how I felt….utterly alone!  Like really alone.  There was nothing but glaciers, lakes, mountains and miles and miles of wild land.  As I soaked up the landscape, I felt the cold air on my face, cold air in my lungs, and my spirit just calmed to something resembling still water.  I was at one with my glider, the air, the trees, the snow, and I had a clear and distinct realization of what I was actually doing.  That moment of clarity realizing that this life, this experience is truly a divine gift, and I need to pay attention and realize it.  I landed near 10 p.m. back in Skagway amidst friends, old and new, and felt a distinct smile of joy, one I have not felt in a while.  Yes, tonight was a gift!

PG_20150529_019
Making it back to Skagway close to 10 p.m. with plenty of altitude to spare.
I am generally conservative and do not smile much, but that last night in Juneau I just couldn't control myself anymore.
I am generally conservative and do not smile much, but that last night in Juneau I just couldn’t control myself anymore.

It was the last evening in Alaska above the town of Juneau and I was hiking up for my fourth flight of the day.  It had been 5 days since I really slept and I was completely exhausted.  We decided to hike just a bit higher into a large sheltered bowl.  I knew it was going to be nothing like the last night in Skagway, but decided to tackle the terrain in my own way.  I launched and tucked in tight to the terrain.  A white ptarmigan took flight and I followed it around the bowl deeper into the mountain just feet off the ground.  We crossed the snow line and the mountain erupted in magical air.  I climbed, my friends climbed, and alongside the company of a bald eagle we ventured once again high above and out across the Alaska Range.  For over two hours we dashed along the peaks.  I only had my phone to capture a few fleeting moments, but once again the clarity of how special this pursuit is burned into my mind.

As I stumbled onto the plane to come home amidst the falling rain, my mind was clear.  I was reminded once again why I love the pursuit of free flight and that it is uniquely personal.  I decided it was time to fly much more ‘quietly’, away from the scene, away from those elements that detract from the real reasons why I personally fly.  I decided it was time to start spending more time behind the camera, and less time in front of it.  Perhaps that is the reason I seem more silent these days, or why it has taken almost three months to post this adventure.  I guess I have just been too busy flying my own way, flying my own quiet adventures away from the conversation.  And once again enjoying the view from behind the camera eye.  When it is time for clarity, Yes, Alaska, it is always a good idea!