How To Make A Travel Video: Focus

how to make a travel video

 

The How To Make A Travel Video series looks at the different aspects of capturing travel memories on film. You’ll see great examples to inspire and learn about the gear and techniques that help make great travel videos better.

I recently traveled to Amsterdam by myself. It was my first bit of solo travel in a while and with my camera in hand, I didn’t really know what to point it at. I had a Nikon D750 with a small Joby tripod that fit inside my backpack. The houses were there, people were everywhere and yet I had no inspiration. Every time I pointed the camera at something, I would get shy and not sure if that’s what I wanted to shoot. In short, I had no focus. My regular travel companion had just flown to Pittsburgh from Paris and I was definitely short of inspiration.

So where do you find focus?  Lets take a look at a few different types of travel videos and then see what sets them apart.

 

Berlin and People

 

In this video by David Drills you get an up close and personal look at Berlin. By personal, I mean most frames are filled with a person. It’s less a look at the city structurally than a gaze at its inhabitants. There’s a personal feeling to the video that really captures the essence of Berlin more than other types of travel video. Drills focus was on the interactions and microcosm of Berliners. You still see shots of the city’s transportation, skyline and even some street art, but they are a vehicle to break up the look at different people. If your focus is on new experiences, this a perfect type of video to create them. Why not try filming some local people on your next trip and see what adventures come out of it.

I also love that he shot the whole thing through a single 35mm lens. The wider angle caused him to have to get up close and personal with his subjects. What a great way to meet new people in a foreign city. With his focus on the people, Drills creates a stunning look at the modern city of Berlin.

 

Memories of Italy

 

If Drills looked at people, Gunther Machu went the other direction and focused completely on the beauty and aesthetic of Italy. Here you see stunning landscapes, timeless architecture and lots of sumptuous lens flare. There’s no competing with the grandiose scenes of Venice and Florence. The focus is clearly on conveying beauty and the few people that show up are simply taking that beauty in. For people who are sightseers, this is a super effective way of capturing the heart and soul of the subjects history. The different sites draw you into the tourist’s path and invite you to come along. These are the kind of videos that people search for before they go on a trip.

Now lets take a look at a totally different, and much more involved type of travel video.

 

Travel Where You Live

 

In this video, which was sponsored, concepted and probably scripted, we see Sebastian Linda create a compelling argument for traveling where you live. This is a much higher concept piece than the last two, but is easily repeatable with a little bit of time and brainstorming. The focus here, like with Berlin 35, is on people but the difference lies with what those people are doing. Not only is a narrator talking about a particular subject, the people in the shot are interacting with their surroundings. It’s a marriage of the first two video concepts built around a specific purpose.

The narrative structure puts the experience in focus, with the people and the destination acting together. Berlin 35 shows the people. Memories of Italy shows the place. Travel Where You Live shows the people experiencing the place. The difference in focus is small but the resulting footage is vastly different.

Finding Your Focus

All three of these videos work. They have many similarities in style, execution and subject but it’s their focus that sets them apart. When you’re filming your travel, remember that the memories are what’s important. If you’re a people person, Berlin 35 probably speaks to you more than Memories of Italy. If you want to remember the stunning beauty of the destination, Memories of Italy will definitely be the type of focus you look for. If you want to show others the experiences they can have, the Travel Where You Live model makes the most sense for you. The important thing is to keep your focus in mind when you start. Don’t close yourself off to a narrative structure change, but just be aware of what you want to capture. It’ll make the experience more enjoyable and probably result in more professional footage.

What other types of narrative focus do you like to use in travel videos?

Vinta S Series Review: Form And Function

banner-1-of-8

 

A few months ago I stumbled across a camera/travel bag from a new company called Vinta. Billed as a bag for the “modern traveler”, the Vinta S Series fits somewhere between a less canvas version of a Bradley Mountain backpack and a functional camera bag. I ordered mine in the Forest Green color-way with tan leather handles and accents. In pictures it looked rugged and refined, calling back to a woodsman’s sensibilities but in a bit more of a functional fashion.

 

vint s series

Green With Envy

Right out of the box the S Series was everything I wanted it to be. The Forest Green color really pops when paired with the leather accents. At only 2.2 pounds, it is super comfortable on your back, even when fully loaded down. For my purposes that includes a Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-120mm lens, Nikkor 85mm lens, battery grip, two batteries and chargers, Rode VideoMic Go, and a lens filter kit. At full capacity, the S Series never felt too full or heavy. The weight distribution over the small footprint bag was perfect and makes carrying it all day a breeze.

Continue Reading…

The Rooftops of Paris

The rooftops of Paris are a beautiful sight to behold. The last two times that I’ve been to the French capital, I’ve stayed in a 5-story walk up. Good for the view, bad for the calf muscles. Seeing simple things like laundry on the line adds immensely to the romanticism of the city. Each night before bed we would stare out the window at the few lights that were left on, wondering what their lives were like. We were just tourists interloping on Rue Mouffetard but these people, they had to be Parisians.

 

Sure the above video is an advertising stunt, but doesn’t it make you want to be on a fifth floor terrace in Montparnasse? There’s something romantic about watching life unfold in Paris as you sit quietly above it. Sip your coffee. Breathe in the air. Simply slow down.

 

If you haven’t been to Paris yet, you can color your way through its rooftops with this beautiful adult coloring book.

 

rooftops of paris

Our view from rue Mouffetard, June 2016.

 

In Search Of A Travel Bucket List

bucket list

I need to make a travel bucket list.

travel

Us in Paris. June, 2016.

See, I didn’t grow up traveling. My childhood was wonderful and full of adventure, but our family wasn’t one for going far for that adventure. We had an almost yearly visit to Florida, trips to Illinois, Tennessee or Indiana to see family and that was about it. My wife still finds it hard to believe that I’ve never been to either Disneyworld or Disneyland. We were always busy with school, sports or work and seeing family just took precedence.

There was a trip to Mount Rushmore once. I was young and don’t remember the details but can still see those stone mountain heads in my mind. There was a magic quality to those massive busts that enthralled me. That magic feeling is what I’m still chasing when I head out to a new country. A certain wide-eyed wonder that only seeing the world through those kid-like eyes can bring.

Lately, we’ve been dreaming of taking more exotic trips so we’ve started making a bucket list to help guide us in our adventures. Kim is a beach lover so we’re combing through lists of best beaches and dreaming big. I’m more of an urban or cold weather traveler so basically I’ve tagged Iceland and the Nordic regions. Needless to say, it’s a bit slow going. There’s going to be a lot of compromise, a must for any marriage.

Travel Bucket List Resources

One of my new favorite apps is Journi. A simple way to keep track of where you’ve been, what you’re doing while there, and a way to let people know about your adventures. The virtual passport map is probably my favorite part. Each country you visit gives you a stamp to fill up a map of the world. The adventurer in me wants to color the entire thing.

I also like to watch travel videos on Vimeo for inspiration. There’s nothing like seeing others experience new places. That visual look into a trip really whets my appetite to pack a bag and go.

You can’t forget the classic resources like bucketlist.org, which is invaluable for finding perfect places to achieve those hard to check off items. For now I think I’m going to get more comfortable with going to the beach. There’s plenty of beaches I’ve yet to go to and those passport stamps don’t stamp themselves.

What are some of your more exotic bucket list locations?

Can You See All the Art In London In One Day?

 

London is a beautiful city. It’s galleries and museums hold countless treasures from the ancient and modern world. But what happens when you try to see all the art in London in one single day? Well, Alex Gorush tried to find out.

In a clever bit of marketing for the National Art Pass, Gorush rushed to visit all the art in London in a single 24 hour period. From the Tate Modern to my personal favorite, the Victoria & Albert Museum, we get a look inside some of the worlds greatest displays of art, just very quickly. Although my favorite piece of art, Kandinsky’s “Red-Yellow-Blue”, 1925, is housed in Paris’ Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, my favorite glass sculpture is in London’s  V&A. The rotunda chandelier by Dale Chihuly is absolutely breathtaking and a must see if you’re in London. With something for everyone, London really is an art lovers destination.

A Wing A Day

In 2007 I spent a month in London as part of my first extended stay outside the US. I had made some friends in the city but they all worked during the day so I made a new plan. Each morning I took a new wing of a museum or gallery and thoroughly went through it. From historical treasures in the British Museum to troves of silhouettes in the National Portrait Gallery, I experienced a crash course in art history. It was the opposite of what Gorush did in the video above and it was absolutely amazing.

It seems like so long ago now but I can still feel the creative rush I had when browsing through Soviet propaganda posters at the Tate Modern. The bold lettering, imposing faces and harsh colors still take me back to that day. I also found my personal favorite bathroom on what I think was floor 4. Seriously, check it out.

Art For Inspiration

Whether you see it fast or slow, there’s not many things better for a creative kick in the ass than seeing masterworks of art. There’s a great run of museums and galleries in Houston that I don’t visit often enough, even though most of them are free at least one day a week. So take the time to see the art that’s around you. London and Paris are wonderful but if you don’t appreciate the art in your own area, you probably won’t appreciate it anywhere else.

 

8 Movies To See Before You Visit London

london

London. One of the worlds truly great cities. From Piccadilly Circus to Paddington, the Tower of London to Hampstead Heath, there’s something for everyone in the United  Kingdom’s capital city. So as you prepare to get lost in Camden Market or wander around Soho, here’s a few movies to get you acquainted with London.

Love Actually


One of the quintessential British romantic comedies of the 2000’s, Richard Curtis’ Love, Actually packs pretty much every well-known British film star of the time into a somehow workable plot that is equal parts funny and romantic. Sporting stars like Colin Firth,  Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy and Hugh Grant, the real star is the city itself. With scenes in Heathrow Airport, Selfridges, Trafalgar Square and Grosvenor Chapel, Love, Actually is a fun starting point for any London cinematic journey.

 

Match Point

Known more for films in New York City, Woody Allen’s thrilling tale of love, intrigue and betrayal in London might just be some of his best work of the era. Match Point stars Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Emily Mortimer romping around Chelsea, Covent Garden, Belgravia and the Tate Modern. Much more of a thrilling affair, Match Point will keep you guessing until the very end.

 

Breaking And Entering

Keeping with the same thematics as Match Point, Anthony Minghella’s Breaking And Entering features Jude Law, Juliette Binoche and Rafi Gavron living and working in the Kings Cross area of London. A story of immigrants from Sarajevo who’ve settled into a part of London caught in the throes of gentrification, the Rowley Way building Gavron’s character lives in may be a bit familiar to fans of 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service.

 

An Education

The first of the two period films on the list, Lone Scherfig’s An Education features Carey Mulligan as young woman in the 1960’s that is seduced by an older man. With scenes set in Soho, Ealing and Twickenham, the Guardian named it one of their “10 Best Films Set In London.” A moving coming-of-age film, An Education looks at the suburban side of London and typical 60’s family life. A must see.

 

Shaun Of The Dead

Also set in the suburbs of London, Shaun of the Dead kicks off director Edgar Wright’s so-called Cornetto trilogy with all the blood, gore and laughter you can handle. Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in a soon to be post apocalyptic zombie wasteland, Shaun of the Dead manages to look at the hum drum life of average London suburbanites content with spending all their time at home or in the pub. But, you know, with zombies and stuff. It’s really good.

 

About Time

Another one from Richard Curtis, About Time mixes romance with time travel and family drama. Shot at locations along South Bank and in the Royal Courts of Justice, the film casually floats its sci-fi realm amidst the hustle and bustle of London. Featuring a great soundtrack, and the song that my wife and I first danced to at our wedding, About Time is a must see, especially if your planning to travel outside of London as well.

 

A Royal Night Out

For the history buff, 2015’s A Royal Night Out looks at Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret as they join the country’s celebration of V.E. Day in 1945. Rounding out the period films on the list, A Royal Night Out manages to show off World War II era London in all its splendor. Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire and Chatsworth House in Derbyshire serve as the interior of Buckingham Palace, but since they don’t normally do tours, you’d probably never know the difference.

 

About A Boy

Adapted from Nick Hornby’s coming-of-age tale, boy and man, About A Boy takes place in Islington in the book but for the film Clerkenwell does a fine stand in. Hugh Grant, Toni Collette and a young Nicholas Hoult are pitch perfect in this semi-dark comedy from the directors of American Pie (yes, that American Pie.)

 

With so many great options to choose from, I’m bound to have missed some great ones. Let me know which London movie is your favorite in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Travel Inspiration For The Weekend

journey

He who is outside his door has the hardest part of his journey behind him. -Dutch proverb

I’ve been reading this book on armchair travel inspiration and even though I love the idea of being transported to different places without leaving my house, there’s something about taking that first step outside your door. That act alone can be life-changing. I really believe that some of the hardest parts to travel is finding the inspiration and courage to just take that first step. I’m always dreaming up new places to go and things to see but without an initiating action, nothing happens.

Sometimes all we need to do is take that first step. Just step outside your own door. You never know what you might see by just getting out of your own comfort zone and exploring your city and the world. Take a photo. Write a poem. Share your experience with the world. Just take that first step outside of your door. It really is the hardest part.

Use Music To Unlock Your Creativity

hammon (1 of 1)

People talk a lot about the benefits of travel on creativity but what happens when you need a creative jolt and can’t leave your own city? Of course there’s always movies, travel documentaries (bienvenue, Rick Steves), exploring the history of your own city or even just perusing a bookstore. Me, I like to see live music. Bands spend most of their career traveling, experiencing different cultures in mini ways every night. It’s a hazard of the job. Touring makes money and connects to fans so the more places you go, the better chance you have of recouping costs. Musicians are a bit utilitarian like that, with just enough excess built-in for fun.

 

Eve 6 and Freshman Year

Eve6AlbumA few years back I wrote about the first real modern rock band that I listened to. I was a pretty sheltered kid growing up. I hadn’t branched out into any new music beyond the Christian music that was allowed in the house and Jim Croce. One day in high school my friend Blake popped in an album that opened my eyes. Eve 6‘s self titled album was unlike anything I had ever heard. I borrowed the album, burned it onto a MiniDisc (that was an actual thing) and listened to it day and night.

The thing I appreciate about Eve 6 is the literalness of their lyrics. No pretension, no allegory. If Max Collins sings that a girl is “doing body shots off Italian guys in Mexico,” that’s exactly what he means. Its like country music but with louder guitars and more midwestern fraternity brothers. I tend to get really philosophical with my music these days so when I need to relax and enjoy music, I reach for something like Eve 6. It’s simple, catchy and even somewhat dance-y. That’s basically the definition of a pop song, right?

 

Cultivating Experiences

All the rage these days in minimalism circles is the thought of spending money on experiences, not things. I believe live music fits into that category perfectly. I once saw Bob Dylan in a little venue in Springfield, Missouri and I honestly will never forget that experience. It was surreal, a little hot inside and I couldn’t barely understand a word that he said but it’s seared into my memory. As Dylan broke into “Lay Lady, Lay” the crowd paused and let the moment roll over them. In that instance, the world was right. Like travel, we were transported to a different place.

For a long time I shunned going to concerts because on some level it made me jealous. I’m a musician that consciously decided to not be a professional on any level. I played on the side and for fun but never wanted to tour or record. part of me thought it was because I didn’t have the chops but in reality it was more of a decision of lifestyle than anything. I know lots of touring musicians and they all describe it as a hard life. Like any creative endeavor, if your heart isn’t in it, don’t do it.

Lately I’ve been doing all I can to see the bands that I love. My wife and I are now planning travel around concerts, using a certain band as a jumping off point to a new city. It’s a way of mixing two things we both love. My trip to Amsterdam this summer even included a visit to the Melkweg to see The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

So next time you’re feeling drained creatively, try seeing a local band or whoever is touring near you at the time. Try seeing a new type of musical act that you wouldn’t normally see. It just might be the jolt you need to see things differently.

 

*The image above is my good friend Matt Hammon, my greatest musical influence and best friend. Playing music with him is one of the great joys of my life. Rock on, man. 

 

 

 

Terror and Resilience in London

superhero
Me in London, June 2007

Me in London, June 2007

It was June 29, 2007 and I was right in the middle of a one-month vacation in London. This was my first time in the United Kingdom and after 4 weeks in Birmingham I was ready to get out and experience all that the capital had to offer. I spent the evening listening to punk bands at a club called Barfly, then decided to walk back towards Trafalgar Square to catch a night bus out to Bethnal Green to my hostel. My path led me right into the Haymarket District where I had eaten a very gourmet version of Fish & Chips earlier in the evening. After a long bus ride I was finally sitting in my tiny room when I decided to check some e-mails.

That’s when everything changed.

 

The Night Is Dark And Full of Terror

The newshound in me went straight to CNN where the top headline read “Bomb Found in London”. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Just 15 minutes after I walked through the Haymarket District a car bomb was found and defused outside of the Tiger Tiger nightclub. A Google map search showed that I had walked right past where the car full of petrol and nails was found. The alley where it was parked was still fresh in my mind.

My body went numb. I read reports of how many people would have died if it had detonated. I was in one of the worlds largest cities, by myself and scared.

My hostel was in Hackney, East London. I watched TV for a while before I decided it was time to venture back out into the city. I hopped the tube and within minutes emerged at Oxford Circus. A typical London fog had taken over the day with a steady mist of rain falling. It was Pride weekend in London and there were lots of people dressed brightly, slowly filling the streets. I had never seen the city so quiet, especially right before a big parade day.

 

A City Asleep

People just shuffled along with shocked looks on their faces, staying close to friends and huddled under umbrellas. A haze of sadness and sorrow hung in the air. No bomb had gone off. No lives were lost during the incident, but it seemed the people of London had once again lost their innocence. Anguish was painted on their faces as clear as the rainbow flags on every street corner.

After a couple of hours of walking I finally pieced together the courage to head back towards Haymarket to see if I could find where the car was. Sure enough, I had walked directly past it. I can’t really explain the feeling that came over me when I realized that if something had actually happened the night before, I very much could have been right in the midst of it. Mortality is not something I think about much, but that day it was the only thing in my head. I wanted to call my parents and tell them I loved them. Suddenly my choices over the past year felt stupid and trivial.

The rest of the day was pretty surreal and sedate. I shopped a little bit and then headed back and watched Big Brother with some of the other students at the hostel. Still, I couldn’t shake this feeling that the city had changed somehow, suddenly and overnight.

Then the morning came.

 

IMGP1817.JPG

Pride Changes Everything

The next morning I made my way up by the Houses of Parliament. Large crowds had formed for the Pride London parade. Just as suddenly as the city had slipped into its gloom, it shed it’s coat for a sunny summer day of optimism and hope. There was no trace of the sorrow and angst from the day before. It’s as if London was saying “You can’t hurt me, you can’t bring me down.”

I left some of my innocence in Haymarket that day, but found hope amid a group of smiling revelers in the streets on a beautiful day after. London moves on.

Revisiting Ladonia, Land of Creativity

 

ladoniaIn 2014 I wrote about a place called Ladonia, a micronation of claimed land in southern Sweden. In those two short years the amount of “citizens” of Ladonia has jumped to over 17,700 and on their website, future plans promise expansion, which I’m sure Sweden will have something to say about. Regardless of your thoughts on micronations, Ladonia is teeming with creative inspiration. From its haphazard and otherworldly looking structures to the beautiful, serene nature preserve that encompasses it, Ladonia is strikingly creative. Also, it’s only around $30 USD for an application for a title of nobility. Seems like a nice Christmas present to me.

 

Ladonia, February, 2014

As a child, my brother and I built some pretty impressive forts using reclaimed plywood, old blankets, the base of a pecan tree and the shade of a banana tree. We had one fort that could hold up to 6 people and even had an observation deck and safety bunker, just in case any neighboring forts were to attack. So I was definitely excited when I ran across this article on Atlas Obscura about Lars Vilks and his micronation of Ladonia. According to the website, Vilks founded the micronation on June 2, 1996 after using 1 square kilometer in southern Sweden for art installations composed of wood and concrete for years. Vilks simply declared the tiny tract of land in the Kullaberg Nature Reserve an independent nation. As of 2011, Ladonia had over 16,000 registered citizens, although none can live in the tiny country.  In Ladonia all taxes are paid in creativity, even though they have their own currency, the Örtug.

The Ladonian language consists of two words: “waaaall” and “ÿp”.

Most of Ladonia is based around Nimis, which Atlas Obscura describes as a “maze-like wooden artwork made of 70 tons of driftwood and nails and culminating in a teetering, nine-story wooden tower.” So maybe it’s a bit taller than what I built as a kid, but then again, they have their own Republican Monarchy and national anthem. Oh yeah, one of the two national anthems of Ladonia is the sound of throwing a stone into water and was composed by Greve Jan Lothe von Eriksen.

Head over to Atlas Obscura or Ladonia’s website to learn more about this curious little country.