Its a terrifying thing to go into a shoot not knowing if you have the physical skills to be in the environment you are going to shoot in. I was in this position last week while filming a mini shakedown expedition at Finse in Norway. The expedition comprising of a Norwegian and American polar duo is going to spend 70 days in the high Arctic next year. I was there to document their preparation.
Hooked up to two sleds with my skis and poles in hand I said, “I think this is going to be a pretty humbling 10 minutes.” As we dragged our sleds across a frozen lake and into the wilderness of Finse I have to admit being pretty nervous. The duo have literally hundreds of days of sled dragging experience between them in the North and South Poles. I started skiing in December…
Now, the crazy thing is that being so far out of one’s comfort zone you also have to shoot. Day one had heavy snow and such flat light that we had to throw snowballs in front of us to make sure we were not about to plummet, sleds and all, down a steep slope. Depending on how long the snowball takes to make a sound tells you how steep the slope is. If you hear nothing its probably best not to continue.
One thing I have learned on mountaineering trips is that if your camera is in a bag and you have to stop what you are doing and take it out to shoot, then you will never film enough. I had my trusty Panasonic GH1, which has been to the top of 3 of the seven summits and refuses to die, around my neck and under my jacket so I could shoot. The GoPro was a life saver and somehow I managed to muddle my way through the first day.
Now if it had just been sled dragging that would have been fine, but the plan was also to ski sail, which is skiing with a kite like sail while dragging 40kg of two sleds behind you on a rope – not being the most co-ordinated person the possibility of things going wrong with ropes, kites and skis was high. However, with some expert instruction I soon found myself whizzing along at high speed across a frozen landscape with my sleds dragging behind and a huge smile on my face. Despite the ups and downs of documentary film making I still think it is the best job in the world.