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Olly Jelley is a freelance wildlife cameraman, working on television and film productions for some of the most respected companies, such as the BBC and National Geographic. You might think that would be enough to keep him busy, but in the time between those jobs this f-stop customer can’t sit still. Camera in hand, he loves any kind of adventure, and you’ll often find him battling through adverse weather conditions and exploring remote trails on foot or sometimes bike. He says that he is not much of a writer, and as cliché as it sounds, much prefers to tell his stories with a camera & lens. Luckily for us, Olly thought he’d give it a crack and share a bit of what goes on behind the lens on a shoot for Epic TV with the f-stop Shinn pack last winter...
Words and photos by Olly Jelley
It’s 4.30AM and after a solid week of early starts, long journeys and late nights, it’s time to haul my tired body off my sleeping mat once again. After a very mild week, it finally started snowing again last night, so we prayed today was the day the weather gods would deliver.
We’re in Fort William, deep in the highlands of Scotland, keeping an eagle eye on the North Face of the mighty Ben Nevis. Having just completed a mad few days doing a mid-winter camping & deep water solo climbing expedition out on the western isles, we’re now changing gear to head up into the mountains proper for a few days shooting some kit review & tutorial videos for Epic TV. The idea we had pitched was to take a look at winter in a different way from all the normal seasonal mountaineering media in the digital abyss, and have a look at what makes a Scottish winter different to an Alpine winter. Which by the way, is changeability, sleet, and short lived weather windows, which this mild weather was providing us with plenty of evidence of.
Today it turns out, is indeed the day. A peek out of the window into an orange streetlit garden shows a good few inches of snow, and it can only be better at altitude. Landrover loaded up we slither our way up tracks through the powder-silenced forest, passing the odd car abandoned at the bottom of steeper slopes from those who had been out on a night mission. Glad of a proper 4x4, we break clear of the tree line and park up to begin our hike, catching our first proper view of the north face hiding up the corrie. It’s still a good hour and a half until sunrise and the flat hint of pre-dawn light gives the blanket of snow the faintest blue hue of some seriously ‘in’ conditions. It was going to be a busy day up here soon with a town full of mountaineers who’d been itching all season to get anything resembling a proper day in, so it was time to saddle up and get going before the gold rush. Zeemon, our ‘fast and light’ Fort William resident & tech expert, questions my rucksack choice once more, “Can’t you just film it on a little camera and one lens?”. This has been a frequent topic of conversation leading up to the shoot, but the stubborn hiker/cameraman in me who is used to a life of hauling it decides the challenge worth it enough to wave him off. I’ll grant him now though, away from the mountain and my concerns having gauged the size of it for the first time, that indeed the Shinn is a big bag. Having said that, packing a filming kit, snow gear, and the 3 tons of Malt loaf required to survive a stop start day filming in such adverse and full on conditions needs some serious space.
For the tech nerds out there, I’m shooting with a Dslr for this project despite the video priority on it in an attempt to keep things light enough (and also because I’ve taken on role of shoot photographer). Body of choice is a Magic-Lantern hacked 5Dmk3 (the RAW video is astounding if you can be bothered and strict enough with the workflow) B-camera to Mike on a Canon C100ii who is doing our ‘sync’ work proper. I’ve got a 400mm lens and a doubler for those big compression shots to hopefully bring some proper scale in and make a double camera setup worthwhile. I also have a 70-200 & a 16-35 to cover my more general shooting when we’re filming ‘piece to camera’ sections, and for beauty shots of the kit we’re reviewing and using. A tripod too, for long lens & controlled beauty shots. A small speedlite head & profoto umbrella are stashed in as the light is incredibly unpredictable when shooting in low cloud and with so much reflection around from the snow you never know what you’re going to get. Aside from that, the aforementioned food, water & warm, waterproof snow gear is all in too with a pair of climbing axes strapped to the back for good measure. Like I said, big bag!
Laced & layered up now, kit checked, and backs strapped tightly on, we get our heads down and make our way towards the CIC hut, a 45min hard hike to the real start of our day, where we turn west and look straight up the 2300ft cliffs of the North Face, our shoot location for the day.
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