I remember the first time I tried to write about a hiking trip, not to just tell the story behind it, but to also give useful information about it. I realized I was missing a lot of useful material, such as photos, GPS tracks, landmarks, names, directions. Indeed, to document an adventure is very different from experiencing it.
Of course, we are not talking about easy materials to collect once you realize something is missing. Starting from the premise that you would probably have to go through your adventure all over again, it is a rather unpleasant feeling to have holes in your narration, even if it is just for personal use and display.
When you tell a story, you don’t want to have gaps where you would actually have a lot to say. Not to mention the frustration when you realize the material you have could have been better: audio is not very clear, a photo is underexposed, you can’t find the actual starting point on the map...and so on.
So if you are a passionate photographer, videomaker or blogger, here’s a guide to film and document your adventure. We at Apache Pine want to help you not to have holes in your process and to have all the material you need to narrate your adventure in a compelling and concrete way. So here are some tips on how to document your adventure properly.
First of all, plan your storytelling. Even if you don’t know what exactly awaits you, plan how you want to structure your video or your journal. Make some sort of storyboard, or a schema that will help you remember all the shots and information you need. Try to get an answer to all your questions, check the weather in case you’ll need waterproof gear to protect your electronic devices.
Long story short, just make sure to be ready. Like a production manager, make a schedule you’ll be able to stick to, like a continuity, make sure there’s a logical follow-on of your filming, shots, and writing. This will help you to keep everything in check while also enjoying your microadventure.
Indeed, you don’t want your storytelling purposes to keep you from living the moment and truly deepen into what you are experiencing. Also, keep in mind you’ll probably get increasingly tired and your memory may forget about something, so better to note it down.
Be ready for adventure
You won’t have anything to film if you won’t have the right gear with you. So make sure to put in your backpack all your emergency stuff, your bush knife, your waterproof jacket and your camping essentials. Make sure you don’t overpack and be ready and comfortable, so you won’t have to worry about it while taking care of your storytelling. Remember: pockets can be very helpful!
The most annoying thing that can happen is to not have a GPS track to show the itinerary you are talking about and to pass on to your viewers or readers. GPS tracks are very precious to remember about places you visited and give you access to extremely precise and useful information that will give a professional touch to your documentation. You don't necessarily need a GPS device, a GPS app on your smartphone will be enough. Remember, many cameras have an incorporated GPS to track down where you took your photos or videos: it might be a very good idea to use that as well, in order to create a visual map of your itinerary.
Batteries and memory cards
Batteries can become your ugliest nightmare if they run out while you still need them. They can completely ruin your plans and nullify all your efforts. We are talking about all sorts of batteries: whether it's your phone, your GPS, your cameras or your audio recorder. A good thing would be to carry a second battery for each one of them, as well as a power bank to recharge them in case they run out. Some power banks can be rather heavy though, as well as very expensive, so make a wise choice of what to take with you and what to leave home. Remember that the same power bank can be used for many devices, as far as you change the cable.
Same goes for memory cards: you don’t want to run out of space right in the middle of your filming or shooting and sacrifice precious material to make room for new one. So make sure to have all the gigas you need. Exaggerate if necessary, especially when you’re not an experienced videomaker: at the beginning, you’ll probably end up collecting a lot of shots you won’t actually use, nor need and probably are not even that good. In the long run, you’ll learn to economize, which will help you a lot during the editing phase.
These are useful for both gear and storytelling material. First of all, write down a checklist in order to remember everything you need in terms of your own gear, your shooting material, your tracking devices, batteries and whatever else you may need for your microadventuring experience and your documentary. Then write down a checklist of the shots and notes you want to take while on your little expedition.
Based on your research, at this point you probably already know there’s a critical part of your activity you really want to cover, or some technical information you want to film or write down and that you can collect only while you’re on the go. If you have some sort of storyline, maybe because of an interview you’ve done, note down the material you need to edit or document properly.
Here we are talking about videos mainly. At the base of a good shooting there usually is the use of multiple devices, that will help you immortalize different points of view, different moments and different spaces at the same time. A camera and a drone, for example, can be a great team, as well as a gopro capturing your point of view in a completely different way.
Different devices also mean to make sure you don’t have important information and material covered by one device only: if that breaks down, or your memory card suddenly has a problem, well, shall we really name the feeling you will encounter? So best to make sure you have some sort of copy of everything, whether it’s a GPS track, the picture of an important landmark, some documents you will need during your adventure, or the important parts of the research you’ve done.
Filming tip: don’t zoom. If you don’t know which one is best, or if you need them both, take two shots or two videos from two different zooming conditions: it will look a lot more professional and clean. Also, remember of your cutways: always allow a few seconds before and after your filming. This will make it easier to edit it without abrupt cuts or scene changes.
Especially when you’re shooting something, but even when you want to write an editorial or a blog post about your microadventure, the worst and messiest thing that can happen is to forget what you’ve done, or what you’ve shot. If you don’t keep track of your material, of your thoughts, reflections, and labels, I promise you it will be a nightmare once you are back home and you enter the editing phase.
Somehow, imagine being your own secretary. If you feel you have too much to think about already, partner up with your buddy and ask them to take the notes for you, keep records and label stuff. This goes for memory cards, or multiple shots: maybe you want to remember which one is the good one without having to go through them all again.
Maybe you want them to note down all the names and heights, so you won’t have to go look for them again once you are back home. Or maybe you just want them to keep a record of your microadventurous activities so you won’t forget anything and you won’t mess chronology up.
Writing tip: note down every single adjective or description that comes to your mind. Chances are they are the fruit of an instant inspiration and your memory will forget about them, overwhelmed by the new memories of a wonderful adventure. We all know how hard it is to remember the exact words!
When in doubt, go for it!
Assuming you’ve followed all the previous pieces of advice, you will have plenty of space and batteries for your photos and videos. So when in doubt whether to take a photo, or record something, just go for it! Better to have it and never use it, than to regret not having it available. Also, when you are telling your story, don’t hold back when it comes to your thoughts or your own experience.
Of course, don’t make it too self-referential and all about yourself, but don’t even make it too serious or objective, unless requested. It might be a very interesting point of view and it will certainly make it possible for people to engage with it and possibly even leaving you a comment. You can spark a constructive dialogue and that’s always a great ending for a story.