Add Venture #2 

For Explorers, Adventurers and Visual Storytellers

Sat Feb 20th, 2021

What is adventure, anyway?

Is climbing Mount Everest adventure? It pushes you to your limits. You can't get much closer to the stars without an engine. And it's not been 70 years, less than a human lifetime, since the first recorded successful climb. Today, though, over 5 000 people have summited and the excursion comes as a packaged deal for the wealthy. It's impossible to get lost on the climb to Mont Blanc, just follow the litter and the vomit. The Inca Trail is similarly "signposted" by human detritus and erosion, K2 and Mount Everest add human bodies to the signage. The Milford Sound needs to be booked months or years in advance. None of those excursions are much easier than they ever were, but are they still the adventures they used to be or just entries in an extreme bucket list for people wanting to prove points to themselves? We can't judge this: the sublety here is that they can be both!

Adventures change you for the better. Bit by bit, step by step, experience by experience. And sleeping in a tent in your backgarden with your children or grandkids certainly qualifies as an adventure - every bit as much as scaling a Himalayan peak - if you've never done it before and come out of the experience with a changed appreciation for the comfort of a real bed, the connection to the outdoors, the sounds of the night, what makes a child truly happy ...

In between the two lies a vast spectrum of experiences, none of which qualify as adventure by default, but only by mindest of those taking part. Getting up 2 hours earlier than usual to photograph the fog on a lake can end in a shallow ego boosting display on social media or can ignite a lifelong deep love for water and canoeing. It's the interaction of mindset and external events that works the magic!

At the very pinnacle of adventure stands exploring.  Adventurers do it for themselves. Explorers do it for others. A big part of exploring is the documenation of what you encounter along the way. Adventure challenges your worldview, just like stories do to their heroes. Adventure is a personal story you are both the author and protagonist of. Exploring helps others challenge their worldview through your documentation of the experience.

In my mind, adventure, exploring and storytelling are inseparable constituents of personal journeys. Stories describe the adventures of others. Explorers describe their own adventures. Adventurers put themselves through stories. Add Venture is a newsletter to help adventurers hone the ability to share their experience, and visual storytellers experience more exciting moments to share.

Live exciting and prosper ;)

The elegant stone pillars of the natural history museum in Oxford is a mecca for young explorers at heart

The Natural History museum in Oxford. What young explorer at heart doesn't see Indiana Jones in here?

Travel, Adventures & Exploring

If there existed two taller mountains, the general public probably wouldn't have heard about Mount Everest or K2. Their celebrity comes not from a specific experience they offer but their position at the top of a quantitative list. "Approximately one person dies on K2 for every 4 who reach the summit". This alone should deter climbers and qualify an attempt as stupid or selfish. Still, scaling the most difficult peak on the planet exerts a tremendous pull on those wishing to accomplish the extraordinary. And proving one's worth isn't the only driving factor behind such exploits, the humbling lessons learned along the way also come as the counterbalancing feature to those who take this extreme path. Just like stories, adventure sees external difficulty shaping our internal views. Adventures makes us the protagonists of the stories and change us accordingly.

Less perilous feats can become even more significant when they are shared with others. Meet Paul Knapp Jr., ex-army man who now locates whales and brings their wonderful song to the ears of lucky tourists, sharing with them "evidence of a social system once thought exclusive to humans" and helping the fight against the latest human blasphemy against underwater nature: offshore drilling. Other interesting sources : Pure Whale Song (do try with headphones on), Sperm Whales Echolocating and A passing ship, both recoded with the same hydrophone from the same sailboat.

What better example of exploration can we find in recent news that the landing of NASA's Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars? Not only is the technical achievement wonderful, the collective human adventure heartwarming and the prospect of scientific discovery elating, but the vast outreach program that allows us all to be a part of this step forward for human kind is what separates this from a purely scientific mission and elevates it to true exploration.

In future episodes we will dive deeper into this notion of exploring, with a much stronger focus on what can be done right next to home, without the need for supplemental oxygen and sherpas, boats or spaceships!

A partial list of cimbers who lost their life on the slopes of Mount Everest and whose bodies now serve as landmarks for other climbers. A brutal fact check about the ethics of leaving fellow human beings to die in the cold. A reminder to never sleep or rest in extreme cold.

"The greatest lesson a climber can learn is how to listen to the mountain". This documentary shows both facets of extreme adventure : the self-centered desire to prove something and the lessons leared along the way.

Along the coast of Costa Rica, where thousands of tourists board boats to view the majestic passage of whales, one man seeks to present a different aspect of this event, focusing instead on sound. 

Explore the NASA Science official website describing this mission. Discover the rover, discover the project, the first images, the student involvement, the outreach program. A small step for a robot a giant leap for mankind.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” - T.S. Eliot

Photo Video & Storytelling

It's easy to think of Cinema superproductions as so far removed from solo amateur creations that we feel the recommendations of the great directors cannot possibly apply to us. But replace "team" with "I" in all those recommendations of the first video and you will be off to a brilliant start, whether as a photographer or filmmaker. Intention and process transcend budget, crew and gear. 

Another hands-on video from a DP dives deep (and fast) into actor placement, lighting and set design in the most recent batch of Superbowl commercials. The focus on creating depth, hence realism, is present at every stage, and is key to your storytelling in the future: "squeeze as much shape out of every image as you possibly can".

Robert Richardson offers his best advice about serving story before beauty, composition, feedback, studying the work of others. A visual arts degree in an 11 minute video, for those willing to listen and apply :)

Fast-paced and technical video analysing the lighting of Superbowl commercials. Watch without stopping and ask yourself what your n°1 takeaway is, for photography or filmmaking, even if you didn't understand every detail. 

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Tech Gear & Mind Gear

"It's not about gear!"  You bet it is ;) "It's not (only) about specifications" would be a more acceptable sweeping generality. 

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a Sony FX6 camera (more about this soon, on the blog), then had to (temporarily) cancel my order, due of a busy schedule which would have turned the beauty into an expensive paperweight. Before that decision, the battle for my cash between the Sony and the Canon C70 was epic. And this one-month-on review by an intensive pro user will show you the numerous, undeniable strengths of the Canon contender!

If your adventures are going to be sports or wildlife oriented - and if you have the GDP of a small country burning a hole in your pocket, the Sony a1 vs Canon R5 battle video below might be just what you need to choose your next camera. While no clear winner emerges from the confrontation (and with the Sony newcomer likely to make mid-term progress through firmware updates) some of the scenarios in the video might correspond to yours and give you a hint of the best option for your purposes.

Finally, news from the smartphone world. Samsung introduces a 3x optical zoom in the S21 (along with 108 megapixels in its Ultra incarnation, no less). And Apple rumours suggest a 10x optical zoom in the iPhone 13. Both (try to) position range-topping phones as standalone image making tools that require absolutely no external adjuncts to equal the shooting envelope of traditional cameras.

As much as I like camera phones, I don't buy this. By making it difficult to add filters, add-on lenses, grips, cages, ..., phone manufacturers effectively disqualify their products for many thriving segments such as action cameras and effectively confine them to everyday casual shooting that will only convince diletantes. My guess is most storytellers will look elsewhere for their tool of choice.

Canon C70 | My thoughts After a Month

by Potato Jet (YouTube)

Don't let the channel name or light-hearted tone fool you. Gene (aka Potato Jet) is a highly sought-after LA filmmaker and you need no pinch of salt to take his gear recommendations seriously. If you're transitioning from hybrid to full video, the Canon C70 is really hard to beat!

The title says it all. Our dynamic duo put the two superstar action photo / video cameras of the moment through their paces in shooting scenarios they were designed for. The final preference is of no importance, but you might relate to some of the individual conclusions. 

4 cameras, plenty of pixels, the S21 addresses the issues of past models and more. It also makes add-ons more difficult to use.

Sunny Optical could soon join the ranks of Largan, Yujingguang, and Kantatsu as provider of lenses both for iPads and iPhone 13. A faster wide angle lens and a periscope long lens could soon (2022) boost the specs beyond anything ever to fit in a shirt sleeve.

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