Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WILD Alaska

This place is everything I expected.  I'm up here in Sitka, Alaska, which is an island on the southeastern part of Alaska.  It's December so there's not much light, but because we are so far south it's much lighter and warmer than I would have thought.  Temperatures hoover around 32 degrees day and night, and it's light from about 8:30am to 3:30pm.  The other camera guys I work with call it our winter raise because since there is less daylight we don't have to work as many hours and get paid the same amount.  With this job we usually film from before sunrise until after sunset, so it's LONG days.  In Alaska, though, it's almost like a normal workday.
I'm filming for the show "Dead Meat", so we've been hunting for deer, ducks, crabbing, fishing, and diving for sea creatures. Then we learn how they cook everything up.  Sea cucumbers have by far been the most disgusting thing I've ever seen cooked.  I also ate gooey duck, which looks like a giant penis with one ball on the end.  The ball part was sliced up and cooked in butter and garlic and was actually really good tasting.
One of the days on this trip was the highlight of my filmmaking career. I was given a hundred buck, a van, and a camera, and was told to go get B-roll (random shots) of the island.  There's only 15 miles of road, but I drove the hole thing trying to film everything I could.  It was awesome breaking away from the crew and doing my own thing.  I went on a hike and got to explore the rainforest, filmed tons of bald eagles, filmed the largest brown bears I've ever seen, and some owls.  When I tried to film town it just pored rain on me, which has been the story of the week.  It pretty much rains, snows, or sleets 24/7 here in the winter.  There have been a couple hour breaks in the clouds where I actually get to see the mountains and realize how amazing this place is.  I've been a lot of places in this world, but Alaska is truly one of the wildest most amazing places I've experienced.
I definitely need to come back here in the spring/summertime.  I've filmed all of this amazing stuff, but there's something missing... I need to get into the mountains and climb or ski or film climbing or skiing.  There is just so much untouched terrain up here I can't even describe it.
It does take a special person to live here year round, though.  One of the hunters that we went out with told me his favorite color was grey.  I giggled a little bit and he said, "No, I'm serious.  My favorite color is grey.  I mean look at all the beautiful shades of grey there are."  We were on a boat driving to another island and the window was foggy, it was raining heavily and you could only see the shapes of land out front.  He said, "Look at how beautiful this is.  You almost can’t even tell the window is fogged."
He was dead serious, too.  There are some special people that live up here who have learned to appreciate everything Alaska has to offer, even the grey days.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kansas-Waiting for Deer

Two things I've never worn before this trip are shown in the picture: Carhartts and Camo.  Don't make fun of me with this picture.  Actually, I make fun of myself so it's okay.
So I guess this was my first big game hunting show. I never thought I'd be filming hunting, but I've been learning a lot.  I guess it’s just broadening my knowledge.  Kansas is what you would expect...flat and pretty boring.  But, there's lots of huge white tail deer.  We'd be up at 5am everyday to get out to our blind.  I had to close the car door quietly, walk quietly, cover any velcro, and move super slow in the blind.  I saw some huge bucks, but Bill Gorman, the host of this show for L.L. Bean wanted to wait for the largest one.  I got to film some bucks fighting, a mother and baby licking each other, some turkeys, a couple coyotes, and some beautiful sunrises, but it took three days of sitting there from sunrise until sunset before Bill found the buck he wanted.

His adrenaline kicked in and although the deer would have probably stood in the field eating for an hour, Bill had to take the shot that second.  I was stationed on the left side of the blind, which was five feet by five feet.  My camera and me took up most of the blind.  Bill had to shoot out of the window between me and my camera. He wouldn't trade me spots, so I had to lean over his gun to run the camera.  I got focus on the deer, and BOOOOOOM!  I jumped through the roof with my ears ringing. I got back to the camera and fortunately he dropped the deer in his tracks.  I was so freaked out because I'm not used to guns and I couldn't hear at all.  My ears were ringing!  We reenacted the whole sequence so I could get some different shots and then went to check out the buck.  Bill wouldn't let me film anything at first because the deer was surrounded by corn and I think they wanted me to show that it was just eating wheat.  Bill and Tim moved it and reenacted the recovery of the deer.  Making TV I guess isn't always real.

The whole rest of the day I was kind of pissed off because I couldn't hear anything.  The next day my hearing came back a little bit, but it still sucked.  We filmed some b-roll and did some interviews.  I thought that was a rap, but Bill wanted to go hunt a doe on the last day.

Day 5 we got to go tree climbing.  If any of you guys know me I love tree climbing.  It was fun for about 2 minutes and then we sat there in the tree stand.  My hearing was a little better, but it still would randomly start ringing.  We saw five bucks, but no doe.  Just our luck.  It was probably 4pm before we saw a doe.  Bill shot one, but it ran for quite a ways.  I stayed on her with the camera until she finally fell over.  It took one more shot until she was dead.  They are trying to keep the male and female populations more consistent, so I guess Bill was helping out the deer population by shooting a doe, and I guess they taste better.

It was a pretty interesting crew.  I think there were about 6 people at the lodge who all had their own TV shows.  I made some great connections and might have gotten myself some more work either as a videographer or doing time-lapse stuff in the future.  As boring as it was, I still learned a lot.  Every trip I go on, I sure learn a lot.

Next week...ALASKA!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Our last day squirrel hunting in Apalachicola, FL.  We had to be up a 6am because I guess squirrel hunting is easier at sunrise and sunset.  One of the rednecks down here had some great advice for squirrel hunting, "Them squirrels travel in trees, so you need to be lookin' up."  Dahhhhhhhh!  After hanging around people like that for a few days, I think we're all starting to loose a few IQ points.

We went to hunt the same spot today, but the tide must have been up because everything was submerged in water.  I didn't have waders or boots, so I just trudged through the muddy water in my tennis shoes hoping not to step on a snake or run into an alligator.  No one was really prepared for this.  Scott didn't have any luck finding a squirrel, so we headed back to the boat and floated down the river.  Along the way he shot a couple, and then we decided to hike through the woods again.  I was rigged up with all the audio gear, while Bill was filming.

I stepped off the boat onto a root that was pretty sturdy, while my other foot fallowed. I slipped and before I knew it, I was submerged in water up to my chest.  It turns out there was no land under the roots.  It was a deep water hole where my feet couldn't even touch.  I grabbed the root and tried to keep the audio gear above the water.  I finally got pulled out, but was soaking wet and had just dunked about $20,000 worth of audio gear.  We took everything apart and dried it out immediately, so it might work, but I still don't know.  My phone and wallet were also in my pants, so those got trashed.  The phone is drying and will hopefully work, but it was submerged for a while.  The main thing is that I didn't get hurt and didn't get eaten by an alligator ; )  We pretty much had to end the shoot there because you can't do anything without good audio.

I had some dry audio gear in my bag, so Bill and Scott wrapped up the shoot on the sandy beach by the Gulf of Mexico.  What a crazy trip!  Over the course of the last few days here's all the bad things that happened:  I almost missed my flight because I slept through my alarm, Bill forgot his camera on day one, Our guide bailed on us, Scott didn't wake up day three (we eventually woke him up), I fell in the river and soaked the audio gear, Scott forgot to put the car in park as it started to role away.
I think we all need to get out of here!

Don't Rely on Rednecks

We were supposed to go squirrel hunting again, but it turns out that our "guide" got too drunk last night and decided to blow us off.  He wouldn't answer his phone and never met us at the dock.  Fortunately we knew where he lived, and Scott (our host) had some connections to get us another boat to get down there.  We had to find this guy because he had our mics and we needed him to sign an appearance agreement for TV.  He was at his house, drinking beer, and tried to act like it was no big deal that he didn't pick us up.  Needless to say, we left him and went squirrel huntn' on our own.
We had to trudge through swampy, muddy ground, trying to find squirrels.  Scott shot a few, but it was just a shit-show.  There weren't many squirrels and they were fast.  Trying to document it was impossible because before the camera could be on the squirrel, the shotgun would be blasting away at them.  We quickly learned why people stay in their boats.  I lost my shoe trying to hike through the mud and we ran into several snakes.  It's a perfect habitat for snakes and alligators, which they have lots of.  We saw some colorful snakes, but couldn't remember the saying for if they were poisonous or not. "Red on Black, friend of Jack.  Red on Yellow, kill a fellow." I just googled that and there were definitely some poisonous snakes out there.  The sun finally set, and we headed back.
Dinner made up for the rest of the day because I ate some great oysters, huge shrimp, and an amazing crab cake.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Squirrel Huntn'

I'm down in Florida and we just had our first day of squirrel huntn'.  This is the most redneck place I've ever been.  I can't understand half of what these people say.  They live on the river in these small house boats and just shoot squirrels all day...and eat them.  We hung out at redneck camp almost all day cooking up squirrels, chickens, pork covered in bacon, ham, and some really good oysters.
Squirrels taste like shit! I bit into a tiny squirrel leg that was fried in oil and covered with some type of sauce.  I could barely pull the meat off of the bone it was so tough.  I tried to bite into it again and just ended up chewing on little bone fragments.
They hunt these squirrels with 12 gage shotguns driving down the bank on their boats.  We got to experience the squirrel hunt at the end of the day, but they didn't even get one squirrel.  I also forgot to mention that these people are all alcoholics and chain smokers.  By the time we got out hunting everyone was drunk and could barely steer a boat, let alone shoot a squirrel with a shotgun.  Fortunately no one got hurt, and we get to experience it all over again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Barrett Closing Down

Well, I'm in a weird position right now.  Barrett is closing down and moving all of their employees to Brainerd, Minnesota where InterMedia Outdoors (IMO) is located.  I'm just freelancing right now, so I don't know if I'm going to still have a job.  I'm kind of liking the freelancing gig and have found out about a lot of other companies that hire freelance videographers, so I'm sure there's still a lot of work out there for me if Barrett doesn't work out.  I guess there might still be a full time job open at IMO, but they might want me to be in Minnesota.  Who knows?  I've been thinking more about starting up my own show.  I have all of the equipment and have learned how things run at Barrett, so I don't think it's out of my realm.   I also want to fly my octocopter a lot and start contracting that.  Lots of companies are starting to use them, so the demand is rising and the money is great.  What do I do?  I'm young and can gamble, so maybe I should just keep working on my own thing.  If I get tied down to a full time job then I wont have time to work on my own stuff, I wont make as much money, and its hard for any of the videographers to hold a good relationship with their loved ones.  The full time job does have benefits, it's consistent work/pay check, and great experienced, so it would be hard to turn that down.  Oh, the choices in life!  Any comments or suggestions are welcome.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Toyota Texas Bass Classic

Our last assignment was a shit-show.  We filmed a huge bass tournament on Lake Conroe, TX.  It was a three day tournament with 50 anglers.  All the cameramen would be paired up with an angler and their judge.  The boats only had two seats, so the cameramen were screwed.  Day one was raining and cold and these fishermen like to drive their boats 70mph.  I had the privilege on sitting on the cup holder between the two seats.  Going 70mph over whitecaps, in the rain, sitting on a cup holder with no backrest was comparable to my vision of hell.  I didn't have rain pants so I was soaking wet, cold, and had a bruised tailbone. I was warned ahead of time about this tournament, but no stories prepared me for what I had to go through.
Just about every minute I had to wipe the rain off of the lens.  I'd stand for hours on the back of the boat trying to keep a level horizon as the boat rocked back and forth.  The camera would roll straight for eight hours in hopes that the angler would hook up a bass.  After that we headed over to the awards where, for 3 more hours, every angler would walk across the stage and either show off their larges bass or just find out what position they were in.  The cool thing about it was seeing how large of a production it was.  There was a professional jib operator out of california who operated an 18ft, remote jib. Aerial shots from another MT company who flies a hexacopter with a panasonic GH2.  And about ten cameraman stationed around the crowd or on stage.  After the awards there was a live country show, but during the show we would break down the jib and head out for dinner (maybe 9/10pm).  Dinner was awesome! We would gorge ourselves with sushi all on the company card.  Then I'd go back to my hotel room, get camera gear ready for the next day, finally get in bed around midnight, and wake up at 5am to do it all over again.
We had three days of pretty much the same routine.  The weather got much better, so that really helped out, and my angler on day 2 was catching fish almost every cast, so I was always on my toes.  By the time this trip was over I was definitely ready to head back to MT.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Arkansas' White River

Arkansas really sucks!  We arrived on a sunday and decided to go get some beer.  It turns out that we were in a dry county, so they told us we could get beer in the neighboring county.  We ended up going on a four hour beer run and came home empty handed.  You can't buy beer anywhere on a sunday in Arkansas.  The woman in the gas station told me "You're in the Bible Belt hun.  Aint nowhere sells beer on a Sunday."
Filming a fishing show at night does not work!  We spent three nights from around 10pm until sunrise trying to film our host, Conway and Joe Humpfrys (legend fly fisherman who is 83 years old) catch a record brown trout.  Ha!  That's a joke.  They caught I think a total of three fish and nothing of real size to film.
I was mostly an audio guy on this shoot, so learned a lot about mixing audio.  That was probably the only good thing about this trip.  Three days of filming and I don't think they're going to be able to make a show out of it.  Supposedly you can catch larger browns at night, so that was why we filmed at night.  But nobody is going to watch a show where they only catch small fish at night.  We would just sit in the dark and wait until someone said they hooked a fish.  We would then turn camera lights on and hope to document it.  No one was excited about this shoot accept for Joe.  He would not stop fishing.  Hands down the craziest 83 year old man I've ever met.
Well, now I'm sitting on a plane headed back to the deeper south, Texas.  Our next shoot is for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Devil's River, TX

            After arriving in San Antonio, TX I had two main goals for the trip.  Eat lots of good Mexican food and lots of pork BBQ.  After getting our rental car (huge Ford escalade – biggest vehicle I’ve driven in, but I guess it is Texas) we found a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, which turned out to exceed our expectations on Mexican food.  One of the main things I dislike about Missoula is the lack in variety of good food.  It took us four hours to drive to the 5000 acre ranch where we would be hosted.  Here we had some great southern hospitality and dinner was Pork BBQ.  Day one my expectations were met. 
We headed to the river at about 5 am the next day. Fly fishing turned into an extreme adventure on this trip.  We spent three days on a desolate river bordering Mexico.  The days were long and full of some fishing, but mostly paddling and hiking the canoe.  There wasn’t much water in the river, so it was tricky paddling.  Brad Tyer paddled my canoe as I sat up front filming our host, Conway Bowman.  The river was full of tricky spots including a 14 foot waterfall we had to lower the canoes down.  When you consider canoes full of $50,000 worth of camera gear, this trip was set up to be a disaster.  We had everything in dry bags, but this river is also notorious for flash floods.  It could be raining 50 miles away and because the land is mostly rock, everything drains to the river and “the wall” of water floods the valley in minutes.  The land on either side of the river is private, so camping is illegal.  We had to find little rock islands in the river to camp on.  The first night I slept on a small rock where my sleeping bag was only a foot from the water.  I woke up several times with only inches separating me from being a wet mummy submerged in the river.  The second night we found a better island with much more room. 
Conway didn’t catch many fish, but soon after we began the trip it became apparent that this show wasn’t about fishing, but rather surviving the 30 miles down this river.  There is no cell service and a recue on this trip would be nearly impossible.  It takes three days to get down the river and from there it’s still a couple hours on a washed out bumpy road to the nearest town.  No satellite phone or anything.  If someone got severely hurt on the river, then they’d be shit out of luck.  It made me think back to when I shattered my knee cap.  It was bad enough on the Gorge, but if something like that had happened on this river then…man, I don’t even want to think about what would happen.
            Fortunately, everyone made it down this river in one piece.  The other miracle is that all of our camera gear made it down with no problems.  It was an awesome river trip, but it also felt good to get all of that equipment off of the river.
Our final day we drove the ranch and checked out 10,000 year old Indian petroglyphs.  Learned about how people hunt in Texas.  In brief they fence the animals in their ranch, put up feeders, and wait in a shelter until the animals are feeding, so they have an easy shot.  Not quite the same as Montana.  We finished the day with some amazing steak and beer, and packed up for the next video shoot in Arkansas.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Yamsi Ranch

Barrett Productions sent me to the Yamsi Ranch, OR with two other videographers.  We flew there for a five day shoot with our host Tim (Worlds best caster) and our guide John.  It's going to be a fly fishing show for LL Bean's  Guide to the Outdoors.  Besides the crazy old woman, Girda, who cooks the meals, the ranch was an awesome place.  Girda is 81 years old (looks like she 100 and about to die - wow that's mean, but true), and is the grumpiest old woman I've ever met.

The Ranch is very secluded and they own eight miles of a private spring fed river (lower stretch of the Williamson).  The first day I just stayed at the ranch of filmed b-roll of everything going on at the ranch.  I got to learn the camera pretty easily and ran around the ranch like a mad man filming everything I could.  I also set up several time-lapses, which I'll show on the blog or youtube channel.

The next day I got to be a third camera for the fishing part of the show.  I waded through the tall grasses and water all day with a huge, heavy ladder and my camera.  I got high angle shots from the ladder from 8am until after sunset.  Tim and John caught tons of fish, so we already have the making for a good TV show.

The next couple of days we were able to get more creative with our shots because we had all the necessary ones.  We did a lot of underwater shots of both fish swimming around and underwater releases after they were caught.  I even got to do a little bit of fishing myself during our lunch break.
It was a fun shoot.  I work with some awesome videographers.  Tim was a blast to film because he's know as a "man-child''.  He's basically an immature, older man, who just cracks jokes all day.  We also got fed really well, and stopped at the Ten Barrel Brewery in Eugene on the way back.

Next show might involve canoeing somewhere in the midwest.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Working with Barrett 1080

I just got my first full time job as a videographer and thought it might be a cool thing to start blogging about it.  Barrett productions is contracting me for the month of September and then supposedly hiring me on with a salary gig come October.  Who knows what's really going to happen, but this blog will cover my journey as I try to make a living as a filmmaker and slowly work up the ladder to being a known cinematographer who films some bad ass shit!  That's the plan.

With my job, it sound like I'll be filming all around the world.  Although I'll be filming hunting and fishing, I'll try to update my blog with a videographers perspective of these shoots and the amazing places I'm hopefully taken.