My Journey

#microadventure with Al Humphreys

Credit: Alastair Humphreys

Credit: Alastair Humphreys

In my years stumbling awkwardly around this planet, I have met many whom I admire. Some became heroes in my eyes. But I have always had a flaw in my way of thinking, I tend to put people on top of a pedestal so high up that even in all their apparent brilliance, they could not possibly live up to my high ideals. Alas, one such individual has succeeded in capturing my imagination with his normality, his humour and his enthusiasm.  His ideas have provided me with a path to freedom and the possibilities I hold. All of it spawns from a concept of his; the microadventure.

Up the Campsie Fells we scrambled on a Tuesday evening, backpacks on our back. Me inappropriately dressed for the activity as always in my trusty Doc Martens and jeans. Climbing over a barbed wire fence, I typically lose my footing and get two pretty gashes across the palm of my right hand. Onwards we climb, the weather could not be more perfect. We source a suitable spot to set up camp, protected from the brunt of the wind and lay out the sleeping bags and bivvy bags, pee, layer up and then tuck ourselves  in our blankets and try take it all in; the madness, the simplicity of it all, the thoughts of the people tucked up in their beds below, the possibilities…

Credit: Alastair Humphreys

Credit: Alastair Humphreys

The night swept in bringing the cold, the rain but also the stars. I toss and turn but eventually I fall asleep. At 4.30am, the birds begin their song, the sky turns pink and seeps through the hole in the top of our sleeping bags, coaxing me and another from sleep and leading us out of our bivvys and over the hills to watch the sun rise. Two hours later the boys rise, we gather up our stuff and scramble down a different route towards home. Me sliding on my backside for the majority of the descent.

I open the door of my flat at 10.30 am, one flatmate still in bed, the other hears me and gets up to greet me, she whips up some pancakes for us to share. It is as if I was here all night, nothing on the outside has changed but if you look closely you might notice the spark in my eye that was not there before. Inside I am buzzing. The key has finally been turned, the door pushed open. I am free, the doubt erased and I know what I need to do.

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Adventure, Interviews

Interview with Videographer and Producer Ash Bhardwaj

Age: 29

Occupation: Videographer and Producer

Location: London

1. You are a producer and presenter of travel and adventure programming. How did you get into the field?

It started when I went backpacking at age eighteen, I kept a diary and updated my friends at home via email (a precursor to blogging).  After uni I was planning on taking my father’s ashes to India. A producer suggested this might make a good documentary.  I wrote the treatment and won development funding from BBC Three and it went from there.

I also make videos for the corporate sector taking the storytelling and production that I have learned in broadcast to tell stories about companies to use in their internal or external communications which includes training and events.

2. Advice for anyone wanting to do the same?

Find a good story, and start producing content even if nobody is paying you for it.  Start doing what you want to be paid for now and someone will pay you for it eventually!  Make videos, write blogs, submit ideas to magazines, develop programme ideas with a production company.

3. You are also a Media Guardian One to Watch for the Edinburgh International Television Festival (MGEITF) – What does this mean?

It does three things: it gives you credibility, gives you some extra training, and makes it much easier to make contacts with senior people in the industry.  To get a place on it you have to be seen as one of the 30 ‘leading lights’ in television production – future heads of channel; development, production.  There is a nomination process followed by a series of applications and selection by a panel.  It’s part of a charity programme funded by the Media Guardian at the Edinburgh Television Festival, where you have special sessions with Heads Of Production, Development and even Heads Of Channel, which no-one else at the festival has, plus there are no journalists in these sessions, so the speakers are much more open and honest.

– Will it open any doors for you?

Yes. It enabled me to meet panellists who I would otherwise not be able to meet and I can use it in introductions as a form of credibility.

4. What are you working on at the moment?

Video production of events, including charity events.  I have just finished a piece about the Royal Marines Association.  I am also possibly working on a great series about education for Channel 4.

5. What can we expect from you in the next few years?

More films about wild locations, possibly a big trip through Africa, some films about skiing, a return to New Zealand, something about polo/gaucho and cowboys and more work in mentoring and education.

6. What piece of work are you most proud of?

The five short films that I made about the soldiers from Walking With The Wounded who went to Everest.

7. Have you got to meet anyone interesting through your profession?

Absolutely, and not just soldiers and royalty.  The most interesting and impressive people are not necessarily famous but people with a certain determination and passion.  Kris Hallenga of Coppafeel has created a campaign about early detection of breast cancer after her own battle with the illness.  A phenomenal woman.

8. What are your hobbies?

Rugby, skiing, hiking, clubbing, reading ,travel, film-making, story-telling.  I am in the process of adding a few more to that list though!

9. What have you done personally adventure wise?

I backpacked through India and Nepal when I was 18 which was quite a challenge.  After a ski season in France, I lived in the South Island of New Zealand which is where I really fell in love with the wilderness. There, I started getting into kayaking, tramping, and horse-riding.  Most recently I went to Mount Everest to film an expedition for Walking With The Wounded and Glenfiddich.

10. Who have you worked for or contributed content to?

  • The Sunday Times Travel Magazine
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • City AM
  • Glow
  • Beyond Limits
  • The Mayfair Magazine
  • Jet International
  • Etihad Inflight.

 

11. Why have you chosen to put your work up on Vimeo rather than YouTube?

I actually use both.  Vimeo is more “cinematic” and higher quality, it looks more “professional” and is a better place to host a portfolio.  But YouTube loads quicker and is much more searchable,  it’s also easier to embed content from YouTube.  In commercial production, I tend to create YouTube accounts for clients and host their videos there as it is easier for them to use and get the most value from.

12. Have you found it a difficult industry to break into?

Yes.  It is a fairly traditional industry that looks for direct experience, but if you have great ideas, energy and unique experience, that can be circumvented.  There is a lot of competition so you have to stand out not just by what you do and how you do it, but why you do it.

13. What’s the dream job?

I think I’d rather avoid ever getting a job but run a business that allows me to be creative and travel . It is through writing and video production that are taking me in that direction.  Other than that, acting and presenting.  If there were a way to get that tied together with travel, I’d be a very happy man.

14. Are you en route to getting there?

We’ll see. It’s very much stop and start but I have done more now than I had a year ago.

15. Whose YouTube or video accounts do you follow that produce great work?

Al Humphreys does some great stuff.  Dave Cornthwaite is very accessible.  Tim Ferriss has some great tutorials and insights.  Old Spice produce some of the funniest social video’s out there.  I also use YouTube to listen to music recommended by friends.

16. Also what websites or blogs?

The BBC College Of Production is awesome for video production tips.  Their College Of Production Podcast is a must-listen if you are interested.  William Dalrymple talks about writing in a way that you can learn from.  Tim Ferriss’ blog is always useful.  There are a lot of the digital media agencies that I follow to see new creativity in copyediting and video.

17. How did you get from a degree in philosophy to working in journalism and copywriting?

A lot of the skills are transferable. I learned by going through lots of information to find facts and tidbits, then re-writing and analysing  as well as finding more effective ways to say things.  For copywriting you need to have a decent vocabulary and be able to put yourself into the mind of a reader. It’s more targeted and character-driven than journalism.  Like all things, it’s about practice.

18. Are your skills in video and writing self-taught or did you take a course?

Largely self-taught.  I think storytelling is the key element, writing and video are just the media that I work in.  Most editing tools are easy to work with, but there are plenty of free courses and online video tutorials which I use to learn.  I have done two directing and camerawork courses at 3 days each, which have been more than worthwhile.  As for writing , the key is to read a lot.  Submit lots to magazines and listen to your sub-editors!

19. Any advice for pitching ideas on documentary’s etc. to media companies?

Figure out what channels would be interested in your idea.  That is down to your research, but it’s all on channel websites.  Think about the idea from an audience perspective, not just because you are interested in it.  Then take it to a production company with a track record in that area.  But to be taken seriously, you would have to have unique access to a subject, specialist technology or specialist knowledge.

20. How do you come up with ideas for your next project?

  • Reading
  • Talking to everyone I can
  • Thinking of how different ideas and combinations could come together
  • Going to talks, presentations and exhibitions

 

21 .Where is the coolest destination you’ve been to?

New Zealand –  standing on the point looking out over the Matakitaki Valley and Mount Aspiring on the closing day of Treble Cone ski season in 2007.

22. What is the coolest thing you have ever done?

Probably hiking to Everest Base Camp.  I have done 6 ski seasons, but the landscape and immensity of the Himalaya utterly took my breath away.  It was a far more challenging and cultural experience than I anticipated because of the expedition company we went with. We stayed in lodges that had far fewer Western tourists, allowing us to get to know the Sherpa better.   I carried by father’s ashes to scatter them there making it an incredibly spiritual journey.

23. What brand of equipment do you use most often?

None in particular.  We used Helly Hansen for the Walking With The Wounded expedition.  My skis are Dynastar or Volkl.  My computer is a Mac, my boots are Meindl.  Whatever has the best recommendation in that particular field, but I find them all much of a muchness.  Although my new red Rab waterproof is awesome.

24. What make is your camcorder?

Canon.

25. What is the most vital piece of equipment to carry with you while working?

A notebook and pen!  Or an iPhone, the video tool allows you to capture anything anywhere and make short films of everything.

Follow Ash on Twitter @AshBhardwaj

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