I am currently traveling in the Philippines with my girlfriend. The next two weeks will contain articles about travel videography. I hope you enjoy!
For the most part, these blog posts contain tips and tricks about making videos. Sometimes I post about a new course or I rave about the latest piece of video technology. I have left out a major part of my video making life – life as a travel videographer. I’ve traveled since a young child. Most of my travels up until the age of nineteen were in the United States. My parents took my sisters and I up and down the coast of California. We visited the Grand Canyon, Wrigley Field, the Statue of Liberty. I never stepped foot outside of the United States until I went to Tijuana, Mexico. During high school, I went there often on service trips to help the poor. I’d always wanted to go abroad, but never had the chance until my junior year at Loyola Marymount University.
Before I get into tips for traveling video makers, here is how I got the travel bug
I was very fortunate to be selected to take part in the study abroad program in Bonn, Germany. The film school had a satellite program there for students interested in making documentaries. For an entire semester, I romped across Europe seeing the sights and visiting places I never dreamed I would have seen. I made my junior thesis film in Switzerland. The film is titled Bike Life and it focused on the amazing bike culture in Europe. Not only did I get the travel bug, I got the travel videography bug. I have a lot of family on my dad’s side in Switzerland. My friend Sam and I stayed with them while we interviewed bike shop owners and bike enthusiasts about what it means to be a cyclist. I am very proud of the film, which played at film festivals around the country.
Coming back to the United States after that experience was just as much of a shock as the first weeks I spent eating bratwurst and schnitzel in Germany. It was hard to be here, honestly. I needed to get away as soon as possible. The pace of life, the culture, the food, the environmentalism, the history, and the public transportation of European countries are just a few of the things I like better. At the time, my girlfriend was living in Santiago, Chile. Living thousands of miles away in stuffy Los Angeles didn’t help. What did I do? I found a way to get away. That spring break, I participated in an alternative breaks trip through my school. These trips were part service, part cultural immersion. I went to rural Mexico – Coatatelco, Cuernavaca, and Cuentepec. We slept on dirt floors under the stars and ate simple meals with the locals. We visited ancient pyramids and helped local potters collect materials. It was another eye-opening experience.
That summer, my friend Vince Patin and I organized another service trip to rural India. There we helped the Real Medicine Foundation at a malnutrition center. We taught at a school for the poor. While there, we shot another documentary, my senior thesis. The film followed a young girl who came to the malnutrition center weighing eight pounds. She was three years old and severely malnourished. The documentary follows her journey to recovery. Filming in India was difficult. We had to carry all of our equipment on our backs – camera, lenses, batteries, laptops, hard drives, audio equipment, etc. I have carried this style of filmmaking with me to this day. I am very minimalistic in my approach. This guerrilla stye of filmmaking is very important when traveling.
Since India, I traveled to Chile, South America with my girlfriend to visit her friends and see the places she lived. We shot a short documentary about the people and culture of Chile on that trip. Even on smaller trips, I love bringing my camera. Camping in Big Bear, visiting Death Valley with my family – these are opportunities to improve on my skills and be creative. Next week I’ll be posting a video from my latest camping trip in Joshua Tree. It is just a montage, but it is an opportunity for me to do something more creative than corporate or education videos.
As you can tell, I love traveling. This love turned into another side project www.Doc360.org. My friends and I are still building up the content and after having a successful beta launch want to redo the website and relaunch in the near future. Being a traveling video maker isn’t easy. You have to deal with bringing your equipment along. Sometimes it is more important to put the camera down and just enjoy your time there.
Here are my top five tips for being a travel videographer.
- Tip 1 – Bring Enough Memory Cards for the Entire TripBringing a laptop and external hard drive can be a pain. Not only do you have to carry the extra weight, you have to worry about it getting stolen or breaking down. When I travel, I try to bring enough memory cards for the entire trip. I invested in over 100 GB of memory cards, which usually lasts an entire trip.
- Tip 2 – Convert Your Luggage to a Camera CaseYou may want to bring a separate camera bag with the perfect pockets for lenses and gadgets. But, this means more things to carry and being a target for thieves. Instead, I try to convert my backpacking backpack or suitcase to a camera case. I put my lenses in socks to protect them. I wrap my audio equipment in my tshirts. Most of the time I have my camera around my neck. This saves space and the hassle of bringing an extra pack.
- Tip 3 – Monopods rock!If you are shooting video and not just taking photos, using a monopod is a life saver. Bringing a tripod is can be a pain. They are bulky and hard to fit in backpacks. My monopod fits in the side of my backpack and is easy to set up. If you are doing interviews or need a long stable shot, use your backpack, a chair, a rock, or any combination of these items to set your camera on. Don’t try to shoot a long interview handheld. It is impossible to get a perfectly still shot this way. Use a monopod!
- Tip 4 – Be VigilantCarrying around a $2000 camera package in the busy streets of Mumbai was scary. Once, I had to catch a 5 am train in Geneva. By myself, I had to walk through the dark streets with my backpack and a case full of gear. This was dumb. Someone could have easily stolen the gear from me. So my tip is to just be vigilant. Be aware of your surroundings. Be wary of anyone who asks to take your picture (this happens a lot). I never let anyone I don’t know hold my camera. That being said, most of the world is safe – safer than your home town. I don’t want you to be scared of using your camera. You just have to be careful.
- Tip 5 – Put Down the CameraMy last and most important tip is to put down the camera. Traveling is a beautiful thing. While having a photo or video to remember is nice, sometimes it is even better to just put the camera away and be present to your surroundings. It is very hard to do this while looking through a camera lens. So, put it away, talk to the locals, breath in the air, eat the food, see the sights with your own eyes. Some of my favorite moments while traveling were when I didn’t have my camera out, when I was just present to the situation.
Go travel! If you can’t afford to travel to another country, travel around your own. Travel around your state or your city. Travel doesn’t have to be abroad. My favorite definition of the word travel is: to go from one place to another; journey. Every day you travel. Enjoy it!