Still Travelling...

Seven hours in Paris airport and unable to check in luggage early. Then nine hours in a plane. My longest trip for ages.

Travelling Pt 2

The 'breakfast' part of my Glasgow B&B started too late for my 7:10
taxi, so it was egg roll at the airport for me. I've already devoured
half an excellent book bought for the journey, although as security
swabbed all four of my cameras I realised its title was slightly
suspicious - 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' by Mohsin Hamid. So now I
drop into cattle-mode, prodded and herded, going where I'm told. The
first hop is with EasyJet to Paris. The longer sector come later and I
should reach my destination on Saturday at 4am UK time.

Travelling Pt 1

Left home at 13:15 on 18.2.10. Driven 30 mins in the car, 4 min ferry
crossing and 3hr coach journey to Glasgow where I'm in a B&B. Much
more travelling tomorrow.

Comments Switched Off

We've been fighting some spam recently and, as I'm going to be away from a computer for a week or so, I've switched off the comments for this blog. I'll switch them back on as soon as I'm back.

New Calf

This lad arrived at Bluebell Croft at the weekend.


Edit 18th Feb - new photo. He's called Danny.

Golden Gate Symposium

This takes place 26-28th February and the list of attending coaches reads like a who's-who of sea kayaking.

Freya Hoffmeister is giving the keynote talk on the Saturday.

My own mate Gordon Brown is heading there this weekend and I've arranged for a box of DVDs to find it's way to him in case there's the chance to sell any!

Fortunately, one of the other coaches, Rob Avery of Active Paddles is distributing the DVD on the USA west coast and has a few copies to take.

I wish I could join them. However, I'm off on my own travels later this week, heading for somewhere a lot warmer, to shoot a different kind of sea kayak video.

Recommended Blog for Photographers & Videographers


He is heavily into shooting video with a digital SLR camera right now. I'm not, but there's stacks of interesting things on this site. Philip acquires the latest 'toys' ahead of other people and I've found his reviews helpful.

His films are also very inspiring. Some of the advice and recommendations are for professionals, but a lot of the kit is well within most people's price range.


And if you wonder whether he can actually shoot - take a look at his films. The one below was shot at the end of a workshop session in Dublin. Remember, this is shot on something that looks just like a regular stills camera. Albeit a very nice one...

Wall Street Journal Story - Kayaking Chile

Story here.

Happy Birthday Sukie

A great 50th birthday party last night for Sukie.

Sukie and Bill run Bluebell Croft and are very good friends of ours. Just about all their vast family arrived for the event.

Fortunately their rental houses are huge and, with the carpet rolled back, left lots of space for dancing.

They'll have been up early this morning though, as DeeDee has just had another calf who is demanding lts of attention.

South Georgia Circumnavigation Attempt is On

After a serious injury to one of the yacht members, Hayley Shepard's attempt to circumnavigate South Georgia was looking doubtful. Now the captain has decided to continue with the expedition under strict conditions. But it's on. Good luck to her. Read the full story on Hayley's blog.

Business Videos and the Video Business

I finally made it home after a busy few days doing many varied aspects of this daft media business.

Last week it was scripting work. I was going through a rough cut and rough script, trying to turn the commentary words into something which flowed naturally.

Then I spent two days as a presenter in a somewhat home-made looking yet surprisingly effective studio in Inverness.

I'm part of a team developing, shooting and in my case, actually presenting some business videos which we hope will be ready April.

Finally, after the pleasant news of our DVD winning two Best Instructional Film awards, I have had the rather crass task of self-promotion. I've been writing press releases about the awards and sending them out to newspapers and magazine, hoping to appeal to businesses which might hire my business to shoot a video for them.

One story has already run online (not what I wrote, but it's fine) plus here and I hope I might find more in todays newspapers when I go through them.

I have another big job starting at the end of this week - and that's a cracker of a kayak film! More soon.

My Day Job - Video

I still do some work for BBC Newsnight Scotland, the programme I helped to launch way back in 1999. This story ran recently on the programme and online. It's about four new businesses I've been following through the recession. I shot, edited and produced the item.


2 Awards for DVD - Sea Kayak With Gordon Brown.


Our instructional DVD Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown has won, not one, but two awards for the Best Instructional Film on the same day.


I awoke to an e-mail from Dominique who'd been to the Reel Paddling Film Festival Awards in Toronto where we'd won our category. At 9pm tonight, a press release confirmed this.

Yipee!

Justine Curgenven sent a message of congratulations linking to her blog. Following the link I discovered her new DVD This Is Canoeing had also won at the Reel Paddling Festival. What's more her DVD has also won at the Waterwalker festval. Superb news for her.

I kept reading her blog, and Justine reports that our DVD had also won best instructional film at both festivals!

Double Yipee!

Full winners lists below:

Reel Paddling Festival Winners
Best Sea Kayaking Film: In Paddle to Seattle, J.J. Kelly and Josh Thomas use their homemade wooden boats to kayak the 1,300-mile Inside Passage from Alaska to Seattle.
Best Canoeing Film: This is Canoeing is a celebration of canoeing, showcasing some of the single blade’s most talented paddlers, wilderness explorers and whitewater adventures.
Best Whitewater Film: In Into Perpetual Ice five kayakers visit Greenland to explore the whitewater of this remote island.
Best Kayak Fishing Film: Kayak Fishing: Game On 2 follows big game kayaker Jim Sammons on a three-hour battle with a 120-pound tuna.
Best Adventure Travel Film: Finding Farley, in which Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison, along with their two-year old son, set out on a 5,000-kilometre trip from the Prairies to the Maritimes to retrace the literary footsteps of legendary author Farley Mowat.
Best Environmental Paddling Film: Facing East is the final descent of the mighty Yangtze River before it is completely underwater and transformed into massive reservoirs.
Best Paddling Documentary: Kent Ford’s Call of the River traces whitewater’s history with as many twists and turns as the canyons its pioneers explored.
Best Amateur/Short Paddling Film: Falling is a thrill ride and a poetic meditation about harmonizing with the awesome forces of nature featuring the waterfalls of Agua Azul in Chiapas, Mexico.
Best Instructional Paddling Film: Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown offers exciting, practical instruction while on a four-day expedition around the Isle of Skye.

Best of the Festival - Finding Farley
Best Canoeing Film - This is Canoeing
Best Environmental Film - Terra Antarctica
Best Adventure Film - Paddle to Seattle
Best Instructional Film - Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown
Best Action Film - Let the Slave Run
Best Amateur Film - Armada



Glenuig Inn - Eco Kayaking Base

This shell of a building used to be the Glenuig Inn. Must have been a heck of a party!


Actually, the Inn is undergoing full-on refurbishment. The sea kayaking owner Steve MacFarlane is turning it into an environmentally friendly base for all sorts of activity on Scotland's west coast.


Earlier this week, Steve gave us a tour of the premises. In time his heating will come from solar and from burning waste wood, only topped up with electricity from local windfarms.

He spent a great deal of time explaining how his heating system worked. Much of the detail went over my head, but Liz seemed to understand.

Then we talked electrics. The entire place is lit with LEDs using an astonishing, computer controlled system. I think I understood this better.

(Oh, by the way, this is what the Inn looked like before the men with hammers came to visit.)

Unlike normal lighting, the LED lights are not on the same circuit as the switches. They're run together by computer wire which goes back to a mini-computer.

The normal looking switches also lead into this circuit board. Each switch can be programmed to operate any LED or group of LEDs. The output for an entire, large room is less than one 100w bulb!

Steve liked it so much he is now the UK importer for these LED systems and is building up a useful fund of knowledge. Who know, that might be a second business once the Inn is up and running.

On a previous post about Glenuig people commented nasty things about Steve. Please don't. Thanks.

Solo Around South Georgia - Touch And Go?

Hayley Shepard's attempted solo circumnavigation of South Georgia seems to hang in the balance. Check her blog for the latest.

A serious medical condition of a crew member on board her mandatory 'support' vessel required diversion to the Falkland Islands where a storm swept in.

In Monday's update from Port Stanley, Hayley wrote she hoped to find an additonal crew member to make the crossing to South Georgia.

If that fails, she suggests she might attempt to kayak around the Falkland Islands instead.

You have to feel for her when she writes, "Ahhh, can't express the emotions, thoughts and feelings on inside of me being so close to South Georgia yet so bloody far".

New Kayak Essentials DVD - Video

Nick Cunliffe and Matt Giblin have produced a new DVD, Kayak Essentials which can be ordered for £19.95.

Nick says it's focus is on foundation skills and analysis of key components that make up fundamental skills for kayakers, with footage from white water, surf and sea kayaking to provide examples of these skills being applied.

Edit: I've tweaked this entry and comments. I'd made a mistake, was correctly picked up on that mistake, and as I don't want to compound the error it's easier to simplify the post.

Anyway - I can't wait to see the DVD!

Here's their treatment of forward paddling.

And Now The Ferry News.... (again)

Last night's public meeting in Strontian heard the latest on the proposed disruption to the Corran Ferry.

The headline from the meeting is that the 4 week ferry suspension will now probably be in September or October, not May and June as originally planned. BBC report.

But what a meeting! After an 8pm start we endured one and a half hours of slow torture by powerpoint.

It was good Highland Council asked their expert contractor to explain the problem. It was not good that three people used the same slides to explain the same thing three times.

"There'll be fifteen minutes for questions", we were told. Consultation in action? No they had been listening.

Indeed, the message has got through to both sides. It seems fairly certain this closure will now happen. But the businesses on the peninsular are heaving a sigh of relief that it will be the back end, not the start of the tourist season.

We've been doing other things today, but I await local reaction to all this.

Published Articles Online

I've done some spring cleaning - early.

I've tidied the front page of the website where I host my published articles SimonWillis.co.uk

One of these days I'll drag all my sites under one page, but for now they're better off scattered around the place as they serve different purposes.

The web team at WideBlueYonder, who maintian the professional Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown.com, will no doubt snigger at my feeble efforts.

Helen Skelton Triples Guiness World Kayaking Record?????

Associated Press is reporting Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton has trippled the Guiness World Record for the longest solo journey by kayak.


It says 'The existing Guiness World Record, set in 2006, stands at 326.98 miles - but Skelton has clocked up more than 1,000 miles..."


I wonder if Freya told the Guiness people about her little effort? Or perhaps it wasn't verrified? And I wonder how they define solo?

For that matter - does anyone bother to tell the Guniess people about their paddling distances? Good grief, the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail is just under that 'record' distance!

New Podcast - Bryan Smith on 'The Season'

This is Bryan Smith. He's the driving force behind Pacific Horizons, Eastern Horizons and now, The Season.

It's a ground breaking piece of work, so I used this opportunity to record a podcast with Bryan. he takes us behind his new project and talks about his personl journey from kayak-bum to successful independent film-maker.

He revelas a little of his next project too, which is for National Georgaphic TV.

Bryan was in Canada and I was in Scotland, so we recorded the conversation using Skype. Sadly, the audio quality is not as good as normal (we sound like we're both in our bathrooms) but hopefully you can get past that.

Download free from SeaKayakPodcasts.com

Paddle to Seattle - Review & Video

Paddle To Seattle is the multi-award-winning story of two guys, Josh Thomas and JJ Kelley.

Together they sea kayak the Inside Passage, from Skagway, Alaska to Seattle in Washington State.

They paddle home-made wooden Pygmy kayaks.

The journey of 1,300 miles takes them ninety-seven days and, for most of the time, they’re alone.

Except for the bears, whales and almost constant rain.

How on earth their cameras coped with the climate is beyond me - it's bad enough filming in Scotland.

This exchange form the transcript of the film sets the tone.

JJ Kelley: “Honestly, I didn't think it'd be this rainy in

the rain forest.”

Josh Thomas: “Yeah, it's funny we didn't see that one coming”.

J.J. Kelley: “It is North America's only rain forest. It's the wettest place on our entire continent, and I didn't think it would be this rainy”.

This is absolutely not traditional observational documentary making. It is a doco for the YouTube generation. Horizons aren’t level, faces are often too dark against the light sky, the auto-focus hunts, and the jump cuts would give old-school film editors apoplexy. None of this matters.

A huge contribution is made by the invisible team member, the editor Ben Gottfried, who pulled all this material into such good shape.

The film draws its energy from the personalities of JJ, Josh, and their interaction with the biggest character of all – the amazing wild environment of the Pacific North West.

It’s not their first film. In 2006 these two friends filmed their 1,200 mile cycle ride from Seward, on the southern coast of Alaska, to the northern coast of that massive state. The resulting DVD, Pedal to the Midnight Sun costs $16 through Amazon.

The pair met each other while hiking the Appalachian Trail. While Josh is a carpenter in Seward, JJ is a media professional, working at National Geographic Television and living in Washington DC.

On screen, that partnership is everything.

The credits show we only meet eight other people in this eighty six minute long film, so the rest of the time we spend in the company of the floating double act that is JJ and Josh.

They’re not comedians, but their light-hearted take on the world is refreshingly honest and genuinely engaging.

Their effervescence only runs a little flat when they’re both sick with a stomach ailment which had them evacuating at both ends. JJ reveals his Mom used to call this, 'the burning turkey squirts'. Lovely.

Although there are plenty of shots of the pair paddling, this is not strictly a kayaking film.

It’s more like an exceptionally well-made video-diary of a challenging expedition through superb, wild scenery. In days gone by, people who did this sort of thing wrote a book. With the democratization of media, they now make a film.

I confidently predict it will be enjoyed by everyone, not only kayakers. But, I suspect they’ll watch it only once. Twice at most.

Which left me wondering – are they as bouncy as this all the time? Surely they can’t turn it on just for the camera or we’d see cracks in the masks? No, I’m pretty sure these are two, kayaking Tiggers.

Paddle to Seattle costs $19.95.

Next Winter's Logs

Ordered before Christmas they arrived this week and took us by surprise.

These are the hardwood logs we'll be burning next year. This year's store of hard wood is going down fast.

We have some softwood drying, but I doubt it will be ready until the summer. It took us best part of a day to get this lot stacked in the various places where it can dry under cover.

I like our wood burning stove, but carrying and stacking the logs is a real chore.

Kayaker Attacked. By A Goose. On Video.

The Season - Episodes 1 & 2 Review

We're two episodes into one of the most astonishing media productions I've seen.

The Season follows five athletes through the season for their sport. There will be 22 episodes, and what makes this high quality production so radically different is the episodes are free.

Subscribe via iTunes and the HD Podcast will be delivered. If you really want to watch the most recent episode, watch online on the Arc'teryx website. Don't hesitate. Seriously. Get it now.

Arc'teryx are main sponsor, the content driving traffic to their website. Other companies add funding, some for specific episodes.

So what's it like? Episode One, just under 7 minutes in length, is where we meet the athletes.

Anya Miller, a boulderer trying to regain confidence after 9 knee operations.

Jonaven Moore, a professional snowboarderrebelling against the way his sport does business.

Scott Petett, trying to test himself against mountain biking elete.

Matt Maddaloni, a climber trying to design some protection gear to tackle a dangerous route.

Paul Kuthe, a sea kayaker who... well, that's the subject of Episode Two.

Those who've watched Bryan Smith's Pacific Horizons DVD will know Paul, but may not know the story behind his love of kayaking.

That's what Bryan starts to tell here. And what a tragic story it is too - I'll say no more.

But by now I'm hooked and I want to know more. I want to know how Paul aims to push the boundaries of this sport.

I guess that's the idea - I have to wait.

The production values are the highest I've seen in any 'adventure' film making, and I include my own in this. I'm utterly blown away by the camera-work. Every image is a gem.

I've already written about the astonishing high-wire work shots. I guess we'll see just one of those in each episode. They must have taken ages to rig and shoot.

However, it's so much more than just snazzy pictures. It's the music, the graphics, the scripting, voice-over delivery, and the structured story-telling.

It all belongs in a top quality broadcast TV programme, not something given away (apparently) free.

This feels like what the industry calls a 'long-tail' product. So I'm guessing this is going to turn up edited in a different form, on a quality TV channel, maybe in time a DVD.

Don't wait until then. Get it now. Free!

Glenmore Lodge Greenland Trip

Glenmore Lodge is still looking for clients to join its trip to Greenland in July 2010.

Thw 14 days cost £1800 plus flights.

Kayaks, paddles tents and stoves are stored out in Nanortalik where the journey begins.

Full details on downloadable PDF. Places must be filled by the end of February.

More BBC Kayakers

It's not exactly Helen Skelton's Amazon attempt, but it's a pretty big challenge.

Dougie Vipond, who I work with on The Adventure Show and is a pretty good paddler, has teamed up with morning show presenter and comedian Fred MacAulay, who has been in a kayak three times.

(I think they're wearing PFDs in that photo - they're not that big!)


That means kayaking the length of Loch Ness, as well as portaging their kayak, equipment and food around the numerous canal locks. They'll camp and cook their own food, under the watchful eye of Neil Baxter.

Video - Blue Peter Presenter Kayaking On The Amazon

b'>You have to get past the advert, but then there's a short piece from Helen Skelton who hopes to kayak 2010 miles along the River Amazon for Sport Relief. Here's a map of her progress.


On the video she says she has covered 250 miles in a week. Her diary, updated later, shows that after nine days she is close to 400 miles. She's going well. With the flow of course.

Helen has wrapped her hands in white tape to prevent them blistering. She says the tape is replaced every few hours, "under the watchful eye of Dr Lucy Dickinson".

What with the camera crew and support boast, and having realised now how far Freya kayaked, you'll notice this is no longer bileld as a record breaking solo expedition.

But good on her for the attempt! Read her Amazon diary here. There's also more on the Telegraph's website.