Holiday Gifts for the Adventure Photographer

December 13th, 2013

Some people are impossible to shop for. But the Adventurer/Photographer need not be one of them. To take some strain off your Holiday gift-giving I’ve put together this list of approved gifts for that special someone in your life who also happens to getting outside AND taking photos/videos. Some of these items are near and dear to my heart. More than a couple are with me on almost every trip I take, in order to stay light, fast and connected. I’m not one to give in so readily to the materialism that often runs rampant this time of the year, but I also acknowledge that in this profession/hobby, there are things that are really nice to have and some things that are nice to wish for. You’ll find a little of both below.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

jimmychin_olympusomd1

1. Olympus OM-D

Yup, I’m starting off with big-ticket. The Olympus has been in my trusted ally in so many situations that it would be unjust not to include it. When I can’t pack heavy, I pack my OM-D. It’s weather-sealed, super compact (about a 1/3 the size of a DSLR) and yields super nice photos, especially in the right hands.

The mirrorless camera category is really taking off, but despite some recent entries by big players, the OM-D still remains one of the top dogs. A shame you didn’t have it for Christmas Card picture time but I guess there’s always next year. Definitely on the pricier side as this gift list goes, but worth every penny.
Price: $1,399

jimmychin_inreach-se1

2. inReach SE

Do you get nervous when your loved one departs on a trip? Give yourself a little peace of mind by giving the inReach SE satellite communicator. It fills in the cellular coverage gaps (which are enormous) to provide service anywhere on the Earth, from the tallest peaks to deepest canyons.

I’ve highlighted the inReach in a recent post about travel safety and it’s another one that I don’t leave home without. It’s as close to a get out of jail free card as you’re going to get in real life.
Price: $299.95

pdp_image_hero3plus_black_45__1_

3. GoPro Hero 3+

Forget adventure photographer. The GoPro Hero 3+ will make the sweetest stocking stuffer for pretty much anyone in your life. Literally any trip taken can become an awesome visual story by bringing a GoPro along. It’s also great for shooting just about everything else in your life including your baby or kids growing up.

One of the best parts about having one is becoming part of the huge GoPro community of users who share sick edits and vids and constantly push the envelope on what this magical camera can capture.

Price: $399.99

nomad7-h

4. Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel

There’s a harsh reality we face when heading off the grid for a few days with electronic devices that need to stay charged. You start looking at battery power the way a desert wanderer looks at his water supply. The relatively inexpensive Goal Zero products lessen the harshness of that reality.

We do a fair amount of timelapse shots on the projects I’ve been involved with, and the Goal Zero provide assurance that the batteries aren’t going to quit during the money sunset shot.
Price: $79.99

nols

5. NOLS Course

I taught for NOLS right out of college in my early twenties. I know personally that NOLS builds an incredible foundation for a life in the outdoors. The best part about NOLS is that they offer courses for all ages and across a spectrum of disciplines, including mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing/snowboarding and backpacking, to name a few.

They’ve got locations all across the world, with a whole slew on the West Coast. There’s nothing like the gift of experience!

Price: Varies

bd_headlamp_storm_mngo_web

6. Black Diamond Headlamp

A nice BD headlamp is always useful for adventure travel or to keep in the hiking backpack, backcountry ski pack, car for emergencies, etc. Having a back-up is never a bad thing, either. I can’t imagine heading out the door without one in my pack.

I didn’t specify a model because they’re all really quite nice and there are a couple features here and there that may work best with the person you have in mind, like waterproofing, running-specific, and so on.

Price: $49.95 (for pictured)

jimmychin_leathermanedc

7. Leatherman Wave

No, there is no shortage of multi-tools to choose from. I have tons of experience with the Leatherman Wave, however, so I stand by it. And it has stood by me. 16 tools, one-hand accessibility, compact and light. Remember those “must-haves” I was talking about? Yup, this is one of them.

Between the skis, bindings, camera equipment, climbing gear and various and sundry items that are routinely on my person during an adventure shoot, having one tool that can rule them all is pretty sweet.

Price: $80

tnf_abs_vest

8. The North Face Power Guide ABS Vest

Big ticket, I know. But NOT a luxury item. This is a life-saver. I can speak first-hand to the power and unpredictability of an avalanche. The ABS vest not only gives you a great chance of surviving one, it also distributes your backcountry kit weight nicely AND keeps you warm. Looks kinda badass, too.

In all seriousness, I would recommend anyone doing skiing or snowboarding in avalanche-prone areas to have some kind of avalanche airbag system on their person.

Price: $1,397

dynafitboot

9. Dynafit Vulcan TF

I consider the Vulcan the perfect combo / Holy Grail of backcountry ski boots. It’s lightweight, super stiff and manages to be all about both the up and the down. These say “I love you. Period.”

Yes, you’re likely dropping more on a pair of boots than a pair of skis, but no one is going to argue that the boot makes the biggest difference in the backcountry experience. Or at least I’m not going to argue.

Price: $1000

gs-extreme-gopro-pole-1

10. GoPro Telescoping Pole

POV shots with the GoPro are essential, but since the subject of the video is YOU (or the person you’ve given the GoPro to), the camera has to be turned around from time to time. Enter the telescoping pole. I went with the GoScope® Extreme – GoPro Pole 2X Telescoping pole because they are sturdy, light-weight and durable in saltwarer, freshwater and snow.

Best of all, it may just fit in the stocking when collapsed.

Price: $54.95

phantom04

11. DJI Phantom

I wouldn’t call the Phantom a GoPro accessory, but it was designed with the little camera in mind. It may seem like a hefty price tag, but it’s about as budget-friendly as you’re going to get in a drone, and the aerial footage yielded will put any amateur video over the top.

Note that I also wouldn’t call the Phantom a toy. It really is a tool first. Yes, flying it is fun, but it should always be done responsibly, and these control belong in responsible hands.

Price: $479

tnf_mens_super_diez

12. TNF Super Diez Jacket

The Super Diez from The North Face is one of the nicer jackets I’ve ever worn. I love this jacket. Packed with 900-fill down, it’s ultra lightweight, packs down and is sooooo nice to put on. Great Winter coat that will last the years.

If the Super Diez isn’t the right style, check out the Supernatural. 950-fill goose down! It’s the highest fill down in the world. Plus a super weight-to-warmth ratio. Only available in limited supply.

Price: $349 ($449 for Supernatural)

kelvin-glove-a93x_ye0_hero

13. TNF Kelvin Glove

The Kelvin was made for mountaineering but makes a great, warm ski glove. It’s what I ski in all winter in super cold Jackson conditions. It’s waterproof and breathable and provides great movement even when things get really frosty. You don’t have to worry about losing grip on your poles, axe, etc.

Despite the abuse I give it, the Kelvin holds up nicely, so though you’re investing a decent amount for a glove, it should last well into next season and beyond.

Price: $165

ef24-70_28usm_1_l

14. Canon 24-70mm 2.8 USM

If you’re a Canon shooter, Canon’s latest 24-70mm 2.8 is probably one of the nicest zoom lenses I’ve used. Beautiful bokah for a zoom and sharp as shit. I don’t like to admit it but I’ve found that I’ve been shooting with less primes since I got it.

It’s sealed and gasketed against dust and moisture — super important for any adventure photographer heading out into the wilderness. Great for digital and film shooting. Nice, fast AF.

Price: $1,399

armada_jj2

15. Armada JJ skis

The JJ’s might seem like an unlikely ski to consider for backcountry use but they are my favorite because they are light for hiking or skinning and are awesome for shredding pow.

They’ve got great floatation in the soft stuff but still handle great in the crud.

Price: $674.99

At the Intersection Of Artist + Athlete

December 10th, 2013

jc_charakusa1

It’s hard not to be a fan of Travis Rice. He’s a Jackson Hole local and is considered one of the most influential snowboarders of our time. Despite always having several major projects firing and some serious sponsorship face time obligations, the man refuses to rest. Travis is always looking to take things to the next level and gets after everything he does, whether that is with his snowboarding, building inner tube race tracks for his annual party or finding people to collaborate with in his relatively new Asymbol initiative.

Having long been inspired by photographs (or paintings) of mountains and fascinated by the art that graces snowboards, particularly art created BY athletes, Travis founded Asymbol as a way to recognize the artists who have been inspiring his kind for so many years. On the Aysmbol site, you can go from prints by Jamie Lynn and Hydro74 to photos by Chris Brunkhart and Danny Zapalac. There’s some seriously beautiful work found on Asymbol.

Which is why I’m honored to have some of my work up there now. Asymbol reached out to my good friends at TheGoodLife and forged a collaboration to feature some pieces by a few TGL artists — Dean Blotto Grey, Cole Barash and Laura Austin. My shot from Charakusa Valley in Pakistan (pictured above) made it into the co-curation initiative, alongside the photos you see below.

The Charakusa pic is from one of my first rolls of film shot on a proper SLR camera. In a lot of ways, it marked my start as a professional photographer. At any rate, pop over to Asymbol and check out the artists and work featured there. It’s a rabbit hole worth jumping into.

Dean Blotto Grey, Lift Station db_lift_station

Laura Austin, Road to Nowhere la_road_to_nowhere

Cole Barash, Untitled cb_untitled

How to Navigate the Client-Guide Relationship

December 4th, 2013

North Face Climbing expedition, Chad, AfricaSo you’ve booked your next adventure. Nicely done! What’s more, you’ve followed the wisdom of the sages and hired a professional guide or outfitter to assist you in your travels. Smart move.

However, the client-guide relationship can be tricky, so I’m offering these words of advice, starting with a lesson I learned from Homer. [No, not that one!]

One of the main themes in Homer’s The Odyssey is the notion of xenia, an ancient Greek concept of hospitality and treatment of those who are far from home. Odysseus finds himself in many situations where xenia is applied — or violated. I am reminded of Odysseus and this theme when I travel. Countless cultures apply the principles of xenia when interacting with outsiders. They’ll offer portions of an already meager meal to a guest, or make space in cramped quarters to provide shelter. I’ve also been to places where the opposite is the norm.

I’ve also learned that xenia is a two-sided coin. The burden of hospitality may fall upon the host, but in return the guest must not be a burden upon the host. Courtesy and graciousness are an obligation.

If you find yourself on a guided adventure in a strange land, think of yourself as the guest, and your guide as the host. To wit:

You are a Guest. Act Like One. There may be some behaviors you can get away with at home, but this is not your home. There are rules — and more importantly, laws — in this foreign land. Your responsibility as the guest/client is to know those rules and laws and to obey them. If the sign says “no trespassing,” don’t trespass. Even if an epic photo op awaits. Breaking cultural rules and laws of the land is a sign of disrespect for the people of that land. When you go over to the house of some new friends for the first time, the first thing you [should] ask is “shoes on or off?”

Your guide can be a great asset when it comes to understanding the customs of their land. Ask questions. Your interest in following local customs and laws will earn you an ally — and hopefully a friend. Which dovetails nicely into my next piece of advice, which is:

20060917_everest_1_0088Make Friends. Sure, you are paying for their service, but that doesn’t mean there has to be an awkward barrier between you and your guide. They are human beings, just like you and me. Guides have families, experienced childhoods, got into adventures, love some kind of music. Your adventure will always be a little less rewarding if you don’t come away with some sort of real connection with your guide. You don’t have to be soul mates, but you ARE on the same trip together. That’s common ground, isn’t it?

Be Generous. The best guests are givers. Let’s hop back to that house-guest analogy. You’re invited over for a dinner party. What do you do? You bring some flowers or something to contribute to the meal. You also help with meal prep and clean up. Do the same with your guides. Bring a gift that represents you and your country or region. Help schlep, or set up camp, or break down camp, or cook, or clean up. Be an asset, not a liability. And I know what you’re thinking, “But we paid to have all our stuff carried.” Maybe so, but do you REALLY want to be remembered as that “lazy so-and-so” who sat on your a$$ when everyone else pitched in?

Also, don’t be stingy when it comes to tipping. On most guided expeditions that involve porters, it is customary to tip at or near the journey’s end. Find out ahead of time what is customary.

I’ve been on many trips to some pretty remote places. Although I feel pretty comfortable on my own in some spots (Everest; Bugaboos), there are others (Chad) where I’d be a waterless fish without some sort of local help to steer me true. In at least one situation, having someone who knew the lay of the land kept me safe when some knife-wielding locals descended on our group. [Check the footage from that confrontation below] I’m never too proud to know when I am lacking the experience or know-how to successfully complete a journey or adventure. And I hope you never are, too.

PAUSE #19 from PAUSE on Vimeo.

Why Your Next Expedition Should Be Guided

November 27th, 2013

20060921_everest_2_0058There is an undeniably romantic quality about being alone in nature. Reality shows like “Survivor Man” and “Man vs Wild” have elevated the solo outdoorsman to rock star status; climbers like Alex Honnold demonstrate the breathtaking beauty and present-ness that is free climbing massive rock faces; a solo swimmer crosses the English Channel and a solo sailer circumnavigates the globe in a bathtub boat. We glorify those who take up the quest without support or guidance and only their training and wits to keep them alive.

The cost of all this is a sense of “cheating” when it comes to hiring an outfitter or company to assist in an expedition. I don’t know if this is more of an American thing — I tend to hear it less from Europeans, for example — but there are so many benefits to engaging a local expert that it’s something you may want to consider seriously for your next big expedition.

Here’s what you’ll be getting:

Logistics & Travel

There are companies that will do everything from handling your international flight, securing your visa and permits and getting you from the airport to your accommodations to the trailhead, etc. It does not lessen your achievement to get a ride to your hotel.

Access

For some expeditions, guides are almost the only way in. For some trips, working with a guide is the best way to obtain necessary permits without months (or years) of wrangling with the local bureaucracy. And let’s be honest, a local who spends 365 days a year climbing, trekking or skiing in a mountain range has an infinitely better idea of what aspects, elevation or areas are in good condition on any given day. If you only have a week, sometimes its better to spend it getting the goods than trying to figure out how to navigate the region.

Three Needs

With the prospect of tackling a 8,000 meter peak renting space in your mind, it’s a huge relief to know that your food and shelter is taken care of. A “full service” base camp package will handle the following details for you:

  • Tent
  • Food (which can include mid-day snacks)
  • Bathroom Facilities (yes, hot showers at base camps do exist)
  • Support

    High output adventures like mountain climbing require a good deal of experience and a great deal of energy expenditure. A quality outfitter can stop the gap in the former and address the latter by handling things like rope fixing, porterage of gear and supplying oxygen for high altitude ascents.

    Safety & Communications

    This, in my opinion, is the biggie. I’ve brought up safety steps in a past post, and I know first-hand some of the dangers that can strike even the most prepared traveler and adventurer. When you hire a guide or expedition company, you’re not just getting a hot meal and a dry bag. With the right group, you’re getting a med kit, emergency kit, plus a line of communication (and the equipment) to the outside world. If they’re really good, they’ll also know how to handle an emergency situation, like altitude sickness or a dealing with a broken bone on the side of a mountain.

    Yes, all this comes at a cost. A real, monetary cost. But better to have achieved the goal — and come home alive and intact — than the alternative.

    Safety Advice for Adventure Travel

    October 30th, 2013

    Shangri La Expedition, HimalayasJust recently five kayakers went missing in the remote Badakhshan National Park of Tajikstan. I was amazed to see how quickly word and updates spread across social media channels and relieved to find out that all five were rescued after a three-day search. As it turns out, one of the kayakers (Ben Luck) came down with high-altitude sickness at 14,000 feet on their way to descend the Muksu River.

    This was not a case of careless travelers becoming victims of their own poor planning. The group, which included 2011 Outside Magazine Adventurers of the Year Matt and Nate Klema, were experienced expedition kayakers who followed some solid safety precautions, including packing the SPOT beacon which they used to trigger the emergency signal when Luck got sick.

    The group’s trial and ultimate happy ending warrant this short guide to expedition safety. Some lessons are best learned the easy way.

    1) Share your itinerary. I know in past posts I’ve encouraged being flexible with your adventure travel schedule, but for serious expeditions like the one Luck and the Klema brothers were on, sharing your itinerary with family and/or friends and sticking to it can mean the difference between life or death. Naturally weather can impact start times and distances covered, but so long as the general route isn’t deviated from (e.g. we’ll be kayaking the Muksu River from point X to point Y), help will be much more likely to find you in the case of an emergency.

    2) Pack proper emergency gear. This is not a place to skimp or drop ounces. One can make a solid argument that these five were saved because they packed a SPOT beacon. When they activated the emergency signal, it connected them to the GEOS Alliance, which offers SAR (search and rescue) and Medivac services to members. Think of it like an insurance policy for travelers. (It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: familiarize yourself ahead of time with the emergency gear. No one wants to hear “how do I turn this on?” from the guy who was supposed to have this covered.) Side note: I always travel with the Delorme InReach SE, which is small, relatively cheap and allows you to communicate through it. If Ben and Co had this device or a sat phone, they would have gotten help a bit faster, or at least saved their families a bit of grief wondering whether or no they were alive.

    3) Align your abilities and fitness with the adventure. I’ve touched on this before, but this bears repeating - it’s good to push your limits with each outing, but you don’t go from the T-bar to double black diamond on your first day on skis. And even the most accomplished of mountaineers know that you can’t pack your bags after months of inactivity and think that a Meru ascent is going to be like a jog through the park. None of this is to say that Ben Luck was neither fit enough nor experienced for Muksu, mind you. Altitude sickness is a whole other ball game, and even those who take proper acclimatization steps can be afflicted.

    4) Get Travel and Evacuation Insurance. I use Global Rescue insurance. All of the North Face athletes and expeditions going out right now are covered by Global Rescue policies. They have a ton of experience in remote location evacuation and they pride themselves in executing missions swiftly. They also proudly proclaim to be the only emergency response service that will rescue you anywhere in the world and bring you the hospital of your choice. That’s pretty serious peace of mind.

    Other safety measures to consider:

  • Pack a first aid kit
  • Only use a reputable, established guide or outfitter (3+ years of continuous business history)
  • Check the CDC website for travel notices
  • Research required vaccinations for your destination and schedule a doctor’s appointment to get them
  • I’m thankful that Ben made it out okay. His survival story is a reminder that proper preparation will save lives.

    5 Tips for Shooting on Snow

    October 22nd, 2013

    jimmychin_snow_insta3Since my job has me regularly traveling to locations with year-round snow, it’s easy to forget that back here at home, we’re at the mercy of the seasons. This time of the year that means patiently waiting for the temps to drop and the clouds to roll in. Is there anything quite like that first big snowfall?

    For me, a mountain of snow is not just a playground. It is the backdrop, the foreground and sometimes the subject of a photo all at once. It can also be a b!@$# to shoot in if you’re unfamiliar with alpine light and working in cold conditions.

    In preparation for this year’s winter season, here are some of my tips for shooting on snow. I hope they help.

    1. Coddle Your Gear. It should go without saying that you should dress appropriately for the colder weather. (Warm hands in particular are vital, so gloves that let you shoot but also keep those fingers from freezing up are a good investment). Your gear needs to be protected, too — particularly those batteries. I suggest carrying them as close to your body as possible to keep them warm.

    When you get a break in the shoot, rotate a warm battery in for the one being used, to keep it from dying on you mid-shoot. Side tip: Your camera and gear want to warm up gradually post-shoot, so keep it far from that crackling wood stove when you do come in from the cold. One mistake people make is leaving their camera / lenses in a damp bag from the shoot the day before. If you don’t let it dry out completely, you’re likely going to be dealing with a fogged up interior element which is a pain to deal with the following day. Make sure you dry out those damp bags and leave your lenses and cameras out in a place that allows them to dry out over night. Then pack them in the morning. Lastly, add a lens cleaning cloth to your gear list if it’s not there already.

    jimmychin_snow_insta22. Proper Exposure. If you shoot on auto mode in the snow, there’s a damn good chance you’ll see a lot of grey in the final shot. That’s because the camera gets a bit overwhelmed by all the white and tries to find that mid-tone middle ground. To correct, try overexposing the shot by a stop or two. You can use the camera’s histogram to get it right — literally — by adjusting the “hump” (all that white) to the right (over-exposing). Just don’t overdo it, or you’ll blow out all the highlights in the shot.

    3. Time of Day. One way to deal with the harsh light bouncing off the snow is to shoot early morning and late afternoon: Magic hour, magic light. With the sun at a low angle, you’ll be picking up cool shadows and contrast in your shot, and the light is much softer. Experiment with location of the rising/falling sun in relation to your subject. However, remember that mountains cause different areas to fall into the shade at radically different times, so think ahead.

    4. Timing. Whether you’re shooting your buddies, your kids or any sort of action, timing is critical. Off-the-cuff moments aren’t impossible, but you have a much better chance of nailing the shot with an ounce or two of preparation. If you have directorial control over the scene, work with your subject to determine where you are going to sit, where the subject will drop in, and where he/she will pass you. Quiet that voice in your head telling you that you sound too bossy and controlling. Know the shot you’re after, communicate your vision and be patient during re-takes. Side tip: While some autofocus features are fast enough to both focus and capture the action, it’s a good idea to test your camera out ahead of time to determine if yours is going to get this job done. You can always use manual focus or focus lock and position your subject (or a subject) in the spot where you’ll be capturing the action.

    5. Contrast and Composition. Winter sport action shots benefit from a built-in contrast — the subject almost always stands out in form and color against the white snowy background. Keep this element of contrast in mind when you are shooting a snowy scene. Look for contrasts in color and find at least two cool features in the scene — a tree, interesting shadows, rocky outcropping — to play against all that white.

    jimmychin_snow_insta

    Bundle up, get out there and have fun!

    The New GoPro Hero3+ Is Next Level Impressive

    October 1st, 2013

    If you’ve been near a screen in the last 12 hours, you’ve probably noticed a little buzz coming out of GoPro’s corner of the world. They’ve just released the next iteration of the Hero3, called Hero3+. At this point we’re all used to upgrade announcements that are more fanfare than substance, more hype than delivery, more talk than walk. This is NOT that. The Hero3+ is 20% lighter and smaller than the predecessor and it features a new SuperView video mode as well as an Auto Low Light mode that will adjust frame rate to maximize performance in those situations.

    Oh, and the battery lasts 30% longer, the built-in WiFi is 4x faster and the lens got an upgrade.

    Convinced? Head over to GoPro HQ and check in out for yourself. And don’t feel guilty for watching the above video more than once. Everyone’s doing it.

    If you’re clicking to buy, don’t forget to read up on my Top 5 GoPro Accessories. They’ll still apply to the Hero3+, though you’ll want to stay tuned for new accessories that make the most of this upgraded beauty.

    “Into the Mind” of Sherpas Cinema director Eric Crosland

    September 30th, 2013

    Working on Into the Mind with Sherpas at Bella Coola.

    Working on Into the Mind with Sherpas at Bella Coola.

    One of the highlights of my year was working with Eric Crosland and Dave Mossop in Bella Coola on the Into the Mind film. At worst, creative collaborations can be unsuccessful juggling acts with too many cooks in the kitchen, too many egos and agendas especially in high pressure shooting situations. At best, they can be an amazing team effort with creative results that add up to more than the sum of its parts. I’d say my experience with the Sherpas Cinema crew was the latter. Not only are Dave and Eric incredibly talented and tireless filmmakers, they’re awesome guys to hang with in the mountains. It was truly an honor to work with them and I think the results speak to the tremendous effort and vision of these guys and the incredible athletes they worked with. I was able to catch up with Eric to get an inside look at what makes him tick and why the Sherpas are at the top of their game.

    1. Let’s get some of the basics out of the way. Can you give me a quick introduction to yourself? Where did you grow up? What did you do for fun? How did you get into filmmaking?

    Hi I’m Eric Crosland - co-founder and a director of Sherpas Cinema. I live in Nelson BC Canada, but I was fortunate to grow up in Calgary Alberta. Calgary is really close to the Canadian Rockies which are some of the most breath-taking mountains on earth. Visiting the mountains regularly as a kid I became a mountain advocate. In my free time when I’m home I ski, mountain bike and play with my son, but mainly I work on the road, which on some days can be fun. I got into film making through still photography at a young age, and I made my first ski movie when I was 20 on digi 8mm camera. Dave I started collaborating shortly after that. I was hooked instantly on film making and I knew it was what I wanted to do with the rest my life.

    2. Do you have a specific director or DP that you feel has really influenced your work?

    I have been influenced by Mark Romanek, Michel Gondryi, Spike Jones, Wes Anderson, Ron Fricke, David Geffen and Rick Rueben.

    3. What is/are your all time favorite films?

    My favorite movies are Koyaanisqatsi, Fubar, There Will Be Blood, and The Cove.

    4. What inspired the themes and messages of INTO THE MIND?

    The themes and messages in the movie were inspired by our own life experiences in the mountains. Personally having been through some bad accidents, the mountains’ power and beauty have always drawn me back in. [I take] inspiration from my personal heroes and how they made it through a life of exposure climbing and skiing, as well as Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces for our chapter titles. …part of the “protagonist journey” sections of Into The Mind is based on Renan Ozturk’s life and his story of how he climbed Meru after recovering from a life threatening injury.

    5. What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

    I think the biggest challenges in this film was continuity. In the start it was difficult figuring out what we were trying to say and finding a vehicle for all the ideas Dave and I had. [It was also difficult] finding a marriage of all the different concepts. The final 12 months of shooting and editing was intense, as I had to spend a lot of time away from my wife and son. It was depressing being away and missing large gaps of my sons son life while trying to create a great film that would live outside the shadow of ALL I CAN and exceed the expectations we had created with the ITM trailer.

    6. What was your favorite part about making this film?

    My favorite part of making ITM was collaborating with great people. My best memories are always of the friends I’ve made along the way of making films. In particular this time it was working with Renan Ozturk. He is a very inspiring guy with absolutely no ego, and he made a huge impact on the film.

    7. What was your original vision for the film? Did it change?

    Well, the original vision of the film was ridiculously ambitious and we sort of worked backwards from there, putting out fires as they flared up in our faces. The film changed drastically and we cut out large parts that we did not capture properly. The skeleton of the film was always the same but the circulatory systems of the film changed everyday depending on what shots the natural world gave us and what we failed to capture. The editing process was truly how the film was shaped. Our original edit structure made sense on paper but was too complicated, so we had to re work our stack of segments and the protagonist’s journey.

    8. If you wanted the film to say something, what would it be in one sentence? What do you hope to inspire and/or what idea do you wish to share with the viewer?

    “The mountains will always draw you back in”. We really wanted to leave it open ended, so the viewer could come up with their own conclusions and make his own meaning based on their own life experiences. Some say great art is achieved when each viewer takes something different from the experience. We just showed 3 different outcomes to an adventure in the mountains - no one outcome is wrong or right.

    9. If you had to choose one, what’s more important - narrative or images/ visuals? Why?

    In general you could never choose one over the other for film, but since we are making a film that is rooted in action sports I would have to say images or visual story telling. Visual story telling relies more on filming the natural world, which in my opinion is the greatest single star in every film ever made.

    10. What was the hardest / lowest moment in the making of this film?

    The lowest part for me in the making of ITM is seeing athletes hurting themselves. Both Kye Petersen and Ingrid Backstorm had some bad accidents. Every time this happens and you see your friends lying in the snow in pain, I really question what I’m doing with my life, and why I put them in this situation or why I am making this movie if someone could die. I just really struggle with the risks involved and whether it’s worth it.

    11. What was the highest / best moment in the making of Into the Mind?

    The best moment while making into the mind is hard to say because it’s not over yet. I would say the best moment during shooting the project would be the ski sessions we had in Bella Coola BC in April 2012. It was perfect conditions and I got to see some incredible athleticism go down. I also was very happy when we finished shooting the movie and nobody got seriously injured or killed. I imagine the Whistler world premiere could be a highlight.

    12. How do you see narrative playing a role in this movie? Should we expect to see more narrative based films coming out of Sherpas?

    I think you will see more narrative films from sherpas, but that is not our M.O. The Sherpas at the core are an art collective with many talented people working in a team. Different directors may take on different projects based on their passion and we all support each other. So I imagine that we will be dabbling in all genre of film making as we move forward. Our films tend to be fusion of multiple genres, but our roots are based in nature cinematography so we will continue along that path. The Sherpas are just trying to pull off the ideas in our heads and manifest them on screen. We are just truly grateful that we have the opportunity to make these films.

    See the new trailer here:

    Top 5 GoPro Accessories

    September 26th, 2013

    jimmychin_tetons_goproSo you’ve just dropped $400 on a new GoPro Hero3. Well played. Take it everywhere and test it like crazy. But first, get ready to swallow this pill — they haven’t taken your last dollar yet. While great out of the box, a GoPro — like any camera, really — requires a few add-ons to make it a truly trusted tool in the arsenal of the adventure storyteller. Consider:

    1) Battery BacPac. Technology has opened a million doors for us creatively, but it has also made us slaves to the battery. I lessen the pain of that shackle by carrying extras…a lot of extras. The Battery BacPac essentially doubles your battery life, letting you grab those time-lapse shots or capture long sequences without interruption. It doesn’t mean you won’t run out of juice, and it still pays to know exactly how much battery life you have left, so test this appropriately ahead of time.

    Add’l Upgrade: Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel. Why buy? If you’re setting up your GoPro for a time-lapse and you’ve got some sun to work with, you can plug the Nomad 7 directly into the GoPro and be charging throughout the shoot. Portable, light-weight and dependable.

    The Nomad 7 Solar Panel from Goal Zero.

    The Nomad 7 Solar Panel from Goal Zero.

    2) Suction Cup. Getting there is often half the fun. It’s also an integral part of the story. Tell this segment of the tale by mounting the GoPro onto the vehicle that’s getting you there. It’s a great way to show passage of time + distance while taking in the landscape. (Disclaimer - I do NOT recommend affixing to the fuselage of a commercial airplane. The suction cup is only rated for 150+ mph. Plus this will get you arrested.)

    3) Mounting Frame. Those who want to play around with mounting options will soon grow frustrated with the limitations of the GoPro housing. Consider an upgrade, like Unruly’s Headgear or Headcase frames, which add a slew of 1/4″-20 mounting point options. The Headgear is designed to work with the existing GoPro housing; the Headcase replaces it. (Note: Unruly’s current options cover only the GoPro and Hero 2. You can make reservations to purchase the upcoming Hero III Headgear.)

    4) Filters. If you’re doing underwater shoots or ski/snowboard stories, you’ll want some filters. A red filter is crucial for heading deeper than 10 feet, where you need to filter out the blues. A solid polarizer filter is essential for any sort of shooting where glare is an issue (snow + water). PolarPro has a pretty comprehensive collection of filters worth checking out.

    The Polarizer Cube Filter from PolarPro.

    The Polarizer Cube Filter from PolarPro.

    5) Telescoping Pole. Ah, the selfie. I’m as guilty as anyone of turning the camera on myself from time to time. There’s a definite skill involved in performing a stunt/sport/activity one-handed, and to be quite honest I sometimes question the wisdom of using these things while, say, tooling around crowded streets on a motorcycle, but there’s no question they provide a unique perspective and one that has become synonymous with the GoPro. You’ll want one that extends, is light and ideally will float when the camera is attached. Durability is a must, as this thing will likely get banged up. This is another accessory category filled with options, but Go-Scope ticks all the boxes for me.

    Got any must-haves on your list? Shout ‘em out in the comments below.

    Pause - How a 60 Second Video Can Change Your Day

    September 16th, 2013

    I’ve been pretty excited about a small project that we’ve been playing with and developing over at Camp4 Collective for the last few months. At its most base, you can call it bite-sized visual poetry, something easily digestible. We think of it as a chance for the viewer to break from the grind or, better still, the mindless rabbit-holing into the endless abyss we call the Internet. It’s an opportunity to observe. To breathe. To Pause.

    When Pause #1 was first dropped, the concept was really just an outlet for some of the stunning, but unused, footage we all have collecting dust in drawers. There are always gems from shoots that we loved but didn’t necessarily fit in an edit, funny moments, beautiful moments. It has since evolved into a bit more: the skeleton of a story; a classic behind the scenes moment; a sequence of athletic movements that will leave you breathless.

    I’ve assembled below a handful of my favorites so far. If you like what you see, I invite you to head over to the Pause vimeo page or the Pause Facebook page to check out more. My advice? Don’t watch them all at once. Turn to them when you truly need a break. But if you do binge, rest assured there will be more….

    PAUSE 8 from PAUSE on Vimeo.

    PAUSE 1 from PAUSE on Vimeo.

    PAUSE 3 from PAUSE on Vimeo.

    Pause #14 from PAUSE on Vimeo.

    PAUSE 11 from PAUSE on Vimeo.