Moving windows on the world

Who me? A movie producer?

Yes, YOU!

In this post Gordon shares some of his favourite videos with his own memories along with the occasional tip and insight as to how he captured particular scenes.

Do you realise that you can easily become a very impressive movie producer? Whether using a full-frame DSLR camera, compact and lightweight mirrorless cameras, point and shoot, a GoPro or smart phone, we can all document our travel experiences with brilliant movies and bring a new dimension to our special memories.

I have never regretted taking my first tentative movies. The learning curve was not as steep as feared. The whole experience has been fun. Seven years and some 250 videos under my belt I have a wonderful record of our travels. Here are some of our favourites.

The visual impression of a travel page is king. That is something that National Geographic magazine realised right from its first issue. This site relies on the same principle with literally thousands of images which have recorded every aspect of our travels. More recently we have added the dimension of video to our pages. Each is a mini-documentary of fascinating travel events filled with movement and sound that bring our memories back to life.

Let me illustrate. The above still image is one of my favourites. It capture a teacher praying for her pupils in the Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was one of those golden moments when the story was rapidly unfolding in front of me and I had my camera on the ready. The still image captured a moment, but the seconds preceding that moment come to life with the video. What struck me was the kindness and gentleness of the teacher as she helped the children light their candles and mount them in the candelabra. She gave their 'candle prayers' priority before she finally took a quiet moment to offer he own prayer. I wished that I had a teacher like that. Her spiritual goodness is self-evident. It was obvious that the kids loved her. The video below captured the essence of the interaction. I love working with both platforms, something that is revealed in this post.

 

 

My all-time favourite video has to be the joyous celebrations of Tet (New Year) in Hoi An, Vietnam. Every one dresses in their best clothes and hit the streets. It is a blaze of colour and noise topped off with the wonderful smells of food cooking in road-side stalls and little restaurants wherever you look. I figured that the best way to capture the vibrance was by compiling a heap of very short clips into a dynamic and fast-moving movie. A day I will never forget.

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Even though I grew up in Asia, I had never been to Japan till much later in life. Japan shaped so much of modern Asia in many ways that I was determined to get there. This video records my first impressions when arriving on the cruise ship Celebrity Millennium in the port of Kobe.  The drummers performed on board giving a pulsating rhythm that reflected the heartbeat and energy of this country. We fell in love with Japan from day one.  Tip. I always carry a quality, small stereo microphone to record local sounds and music and then use it where appropriate as background audio/music. In this instance I positioned myself near a speaker for a good strong signal. It is completely authentic and circumvents copyright issues.

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We travel best when it is just the two of us. One of our fondest memories is finding our way to the tiny Swiss village of Les Charbonniéres near the border of Switzerland and France for its cheese festival. Farm animals are decorated and parade through the town. Men crack giant rope whips, an ensemble of locals march with the heavy cow bells, and the mournful sound of the Alpine horns provides background music to flag tossing. And then came the cheese tasting and the fun of the competition. It was magical day.

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In 2017 we experienced Eastern Europe and the Balkans for the first time. It was like driving through an exciting new, book. Split and Trogir are scaled down versions of Dubrovnik, more relaxed and less crowded, compact, with a network of narrow roads and alleys spilling out onto the waterfront. Both are wonderful places to explore and relax. And if you hear the distance music of harmonising male voices, track it down. It will probably be a Klapa or a cappella choir.

Tip. I had fun blending the CD music of one group with the live recording of another. You can pick the transition, but it breathes life into the performance. I like that about video. It is not only capturing the nuances of movement, it adds the sense of sound to the memories.

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Before visiting Tokyo I didn’t know whether we would enjoy it or not. We needn’t have worried. Overnighting in the Ginza district, famous for its upmarket shopping, restaurants and cafes, night life and boutique shops, we had just over 24 hours to introduce ourselves to the place and loved every minute. It has a wonderful energy but is relaxed and friendly at the same time. We happened to be there on a Saturday when the main street, Chuo Dori St is closed to traffic from midday to 5 and is transformed into a buzzing pedestrian mall.

Tip: If you have never used the time-lapse setting  on your camera or phone, give it a go. As long as the camera is stabilised you will end up with a surprisingly good result. 150 frames at one frame per second works really well in a crowded city and gives you six seconds of action.

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The Hawaiian island of Maui is an island of contrasts. From towering mountains to wild rocky coasts, beautiful beaches and charming villages to jungles and fertile plains of sugar cane, it is easy to find yourself falling for this little spot of paradise in the Pacific. We hired a car for three days and did our own thing. We particularly enjoyed exploring the food scene of the island. Lots of pleasant surprises.

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Most travellers are fascinated by monkeys. Just treat them with caution. They bite and are master thieves. Never trust them and think twice before feeding them. They can be very aggressive and attack quickly and without warning raiding a handbag or camera equipment in a flash. The woman in this video was taking quite a risk. To shoot this video I used a compact camera on a hand-held Sony action monopod. I wasn't prepared to risk good equipment in the hands of one these critters. These days, compact cameras deliver remarkably good quality video.

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Few things are more relaxing and delightful than cruising in a luxury barge along the canals of France. "Rosa" is an old Dutch "Clipper" barge that was completely refitted in 2010 transforming it into a very comfortable vessel which slowly travels the canals between Montauban and Agen in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France. Every time I watch this video it all comes back. Bit more of my music.

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When our cross-Pacific cruise ended in Seward, Alaska, we took a coach to Anchorage and then rented a car, enjoying the freedom to explore and experience this remote state of the USA. It is a beautiful and wild place. As a couple of Aussies who rarely see snow at home, we were fascinated by the white world we had stepped into. It was also a great opportunity to see some of the wild life of North America up close and personal and realise that many of these creatures are dangerous in the wild.

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I really should follow the last video with this interview. We repeatedly say that it is the people we meet that make travel worthwhile. This chat with the naturist Seward barber confirms that observation.
Tip: Interviews are not always predictable and can end up being quite ragged. Don’t be afraid to ask the storyteller if you could record a short video of their yarn after the event. It gives you a chance to add a bit of structure and direction to the recording and the second time around is usually more concise. Sometimes the camera work may not be perfect, but the loss of quality is offset by the interesting story.

 

Formerly known as Mysore, Karnataka is one of India's real gems. The iconic states tend to hog the limelight, but Karnataka offers a wonderful cross-section of Indian life and culture. It is more laid back and less crowded and not spoiled by red tape and excessive entry fees. The temples are some of the finest in the land and the wild life reserves are rich with game. And we were fortunate to see what few visitors to India ever see - a family of tigers in the wild. Unforgettable. This video is like India itself, packed with interest and variety. One of my personal favourites.

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Penang, Malaysia, is a wonderfully cosmopolitan place with the best food in the world. I grew up here during the 1950’s. Although the island and its capital, Georgetown, have changed enormously over the years, the abundance and variety of food hasn’t. It is still one of the great food hubs in the world. As a child I would frequent the hawker stands and gorge on the wonderful and cheap food. On a recent visit we ventured out in the rain to experience the sounds and smell of the Lorong Baru (New Lane) evening hawker stalls, conveniently open for business in front of our hotel.

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Truffle hunting is fun. There are a number of trufferies operating in Australia, including this one at Tarago, near Canberra. It takes years for the trees to mature and the truffles to establish themselves in their underground world. It only takes a few seconds for a well-trained dog to sniff them out and then a couple of minutes for the farmed to prise them out of the earth. Once they are safely tucked in the bag they are worth their weight in gold, well, not quite, but are certainly one of life’s more expensive foods.
 

Tip: Taking video when being part of a large group can be challenging. Everyone seems to be vying for the best spot and people have a way of wandering in front of the camera. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Just make them part of the movie. Kids especially add interest and spontaneity.

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Is there any more beautiful county in England than Cumbria? It was a question we had often asked ourselves. On a number of occasions we had passed by the southern corner of the Lake District at high speed and never experienced it for ourselves. In 2016 we decided to find out and spent a number of days soaking up the charm and the beauty of this incredibly beautiful corner of the country. We were blessed with glorious weather which enhanced the experience. On the downside it was a long weekend and it felt like half the country had the same idea as we did. In a small country with a relatively large population the most popular holiday spots can become a bit congested. When travelling you learn to take things as you find them.

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Ever since learning of the remarkable Kecak (kay-chack) dance of Bali I had wanted to witness it first hand. Yes, it is all about hands. They are quite hypnotic and the dance really draws you in. Various villages have their own interpretation but the story is basically the old theme of good overcoming evil. This group performed on the stage of the cruise ship Crystal Symphony by special arrangement. It was a challenge to video it. I had to stand with a tripod at the rear of the theatre and used a telephoto lens to close in. Once again my trusty little stereo mike was up to the task. The secret was in keeping the camera still. There was so much happening in front of me that there was no need to move the camera. The performance lasted for more than half an hour. It was frustrating to have so many in the audience stand up in front of my line of view to take their own pictures and video. Then there were those who wanted to give their own loud commentary to fellow audience members. With a bit of patience and some careful editing I was more than happy with the final result.

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On my first visit to the Cameron Highlands (Malaya) in 1952, my parents drove up a narrow jungle road surrounded by armoured vehicles of an army convoy. It was the height of the Emergency and the British High Commissioner had recently been murdered by communist terrorists at Frasers Hill. Sixty-five years later the place had changed completely. The only thing I recognised was the place where we stayed, Kedah House, a favoured mountain retreat of the Sultan of Kedah. In this video we extended our visit of the Central highlands to include the Genting Highlands and Fraser's Hill. It is a different, much cooler world than lowland Malaysia and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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I think you would agree that good, simple videos bring travel memories back to life. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on expensive equipment. I only carry a small mirrorless camera (Olympus OMD em5 Mk 2) on a lightweight tripod and rely on a small stereo mike for quality live audio recording. You may want to join my Facebook group on travel videography to pick up on a few tips and improve you movie work. It is in its infancy, but give it time and you will end up with a lot of valuable information. It is definitely geared for the average punter like you and me. The following video was put together to inspire others to take the plunge and concentrate on fast-tracking their video skills. You will really come to value your moving memories.


Videos and text: Gordon Hammond

 

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