Whether you’re heading out for an afternoon stroll through the park, or attempting a first ascent of a mountain in the Himalayas, you may want to record your time outdoors for posterity. Alastair Lee – a specialist outdoor filmmaker and photographer who has spent the past 15 years pursuing rocks and mountains around the world – shares some of his insights into the best tech and techniques to make your photos and videos stand out.
Here’s Lee’s guide to capturing great outdoor memories:
* As we approach 2011, most of the country carry a camera of some sort with them at all times of the day, especially since the introduction of affordable HD smartphones. When you’re taking the effort to get out of the city for a while, a dedicated device pays dividends for really capturing those moments – and for the humble beginner a digital camera or camcorder is a lot more forgiving.
* Before heading out, rather than buy new equipment at the last minute, get it a few weeks beforehand, so that you’ve got time to get used to it – get to know the ins and outs and make sure it’s fit for purpose. Practice does make perfect and the last thing you want to be doing is looking for the instruction manual only to miss ‘that’ ultimate shot.
* For cameras, consider the new Samsung NX10 as a good introduction to the digital SLR world as it’s a light weight hybrid that fits neatly into the hand, has an AMOLED screen for easier viewing in sunlight and a range of lenses for different occasions. A sturdy HD camcorder, with natural viewing angles and lens position is also worth the investment too.
Once you’ve got the tech and have become familiar with it, Lee has a few basic rules of thumb you can adopt to make your memories last:
1. When out for long periods, keep an eye on battery levels and how much memory is left. If you haven’t packed spares – ration it so you’ve got some left for when you reach your ultimate destination (and a few for the way back – just in case).
2. The weather is a big factor in the shots you’re going to be getting – work with the light and air quality to build your picture – with relatively dry, clean air, you are more likely to get the best clarity and sharp images and the sun on the horizon may lend itself to silhouette shots.
3. Adding effects, such as mud splatter, are fine in post production when comfy at home – they shouldn’t be part of every shot you take when out and about, so it’s important to keep the lens clean. Check it before each shot.
4. When shooting video, using a wide-angle lens will let you appreciate the scale and grandeur of your surroundings when you’re reviewing them later. That’s not to say you shouldn’t zoom sporadically.
5. If you’re outside in an open (or cavernous) space put a bit of fur over the mics on the camera – this will help cut through the wind noise echoes. When doing this you have to make sure your hand isn’t over the mic too, otherwise it’ll be back to the Chaplin era when watching your movies.
6. The moments when you really should film are when you least feel like it, for example you could be too cold, when it’s too dangerous, or you can’t be bothered because you’re all exhausted. Remember it only takes a few seconds to turn a camera on and the results can be priceless.
7. Make sure you are recording when you think you are – double check especially if you’ve been out a while, as it’s likely that the elements, fatigue and hunger will have an impact on your judgement. You’ll only be kicking yourself afterwards if you miss the moment you’ve walked/climbed all that way for.
8. If you’re doing something really exciting, think of ways to capture that excitement – exactly how you remember it happening: helmet cams are good for gnarly activity – and afterwards they let you see the bits you missed while your eyes were closed!
Alastair Lee is the technology advisor to Team Samsung, climbers Nick Bullock, Matt Helliker and Pete Benson, who have headed out to Nepal in an attempt to be the first to reach the summit of Annapurna III via the eastern ridge. Visit the team’s blog to see how they have used his advice to capture some great shots of the Himalayas.