Flat Pack Fever


The old desk was barely big enough for all the bits which come with editing. It was certainly too small if I buy a new MacPro to edit. (Now a big 'IF'),

So Monday's Glasgow journey included a visit to the Swedish furniture giant Ikea.

It was the only firm who could provide a desk long enough to accommodate what I wanted - room for the iMac at one end, and a new edit system in the middle.

Today Liz and I had to assemble the damn thing. Actually it was easier than I feared.

The difficuty was taking apart all the stuff which used to be in there and finding new places for it. I'd had a massive clear out and sold lots on e-bay.

It's always great to get rid of 'stuff'.

But next thing I knew it's 8pm in the evening - where did yesterday go?

I hadn't missed much of a day. Snow and high winds caused traffic choas on the main road here. Glencoe was shut (I'm told) and today doesn't look much better.

Filming I had scheduled for this morning had been cancelled.

So it looks like I can spend a little more time deciding whether or not to invest in this damn computer. After yesterday's excellent advice (see comments) I might wait for a while....

Drying Out Wet Electronics

If it works, this could be fantastic for careless kayakers (ie me!)


If you accidentally drop your camera, phone or other electronic gadget into water it could easily be ruined.

It's claimed that popping the gadget into this bag, called the Bheestie, will dry it out.

And it costs just $20. Will try to find out more...

New Mac for Video Editing?

Not particularly attractive, is she? But the Mac pro is the heart of a new video editing system I'm hoping to out together.

[Edit - based on comments below and what I've read online I now intend to wait until after the summer to buy].

I'd been asked a couple of questions about it as the result of yesterday's posting. Anyone who knows about this stuff and can advise - please do so, it's really appreciated. I'm a technical dunce!

All this could be on hold if what i read online the other day is true - that 12-core machines are due this year. If so, the price of those lower down the food chain will drop.

Currently I shoot HDV but downconvert to SD to edit for the BBC and my own projects. My iMac copes fine and the storage is just a series of LaCie 500GB hard-drives hanging off the back. This means I can also edit on the road.

Clients increasingly want 'HD' videos, even if it's just for the web. With my current camera, the Sony Z1, that'll be HDV. But the business plan looks to a new camera in 2011, currently it would be a Sony XD CAM EX3, but things will move on.

My editing requirements start with a computer that's fast enough to edit the material which will come out of this camera, even though I don't own it yet. But we'll come back to that lower down + .

* I need monitoring. For this I'll need an IO card, probably the Black Diamond, which I'll connect to a fla-screen HD TV 1080p as I can't afford a reference monitor. This is to detect any artifacts which creep into the edit and which can't be seen in FCP. This happened in the slow-motion sequences in Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown but were picked up by the post production team at Stable Recordings. I'd like to detect them myself.

* I need a screen. I'll start with 22" so in time I might be able to add a second.

* I need storage. I'd been advised to add internal storage (for speed). I prefer external as it's more flexible and I can take it on the road.

* I need a new copy of FCP and Applecare.

So with £5,000 to spend, work backwards from those needs, and the balance of what's left is what I have to spend on a MacPro. (Go back to +) Can I get one which is fast enough to handle the output of a Sony XD CAM EX3?

If not, then I'll wait until I've earnt more money!

City Day

We've made a day trip to Glasgow. I spent some time in this place,
discussing my needs for a new Mac. Lots of other things on the To Do
list as we come here so rarely now.

Hollywood Kayakers

From movie Leaves of Grass, actors Edward Norton and Josh Pais. Well, that's what I read here....

GoPro Hero HD Camera - 1st Test

These are my first attempts using the tiny camera to shoot cycling. I've had it clamped on my helmet, pointing forward and back, and handle bars, pointing forward and up. Most successful in my opinion are the sequences where I've used it hand-held. Of course, these are just my first attempt and I've downconverted to SD. I'm impressed.

"It's Thursday and you're not working!"

That was Liz's comment today as we had a great 20km paddle north of Ardnamurchan.

Such are the delights of working for oneself. It's the freedom to starve, but at least you are your own boss.

The north easterly wind and westerly swell gave lively conditions along this lovely part of the coast. We skirted the boundary between the white water and black, enjoying the surge, ebb and flow of the sea.

Rather than launch at usual spot in Loch Moidart, we launched from Ardtoe. We found ourselves out in the exciting stuff a lot quicker.

We gradually made our way north to Salaman Island near Glenuig. A cracking good day.

How To Get Fit - New Website

Reading the website alone won't do it. Sadly.

But this is a brand new site which offers to, step by step, take you through a fitness regieme to achieve your goals.

By complete coincidentce (honestly!) it's written by the friend who I wrote about earlier today.

Is it any good? Too soon to say. Follow it for a while and, if it works for you, let me know. If it doesn't, then definitely let me know why.

21 Natural Wonders of Scotland

Compiled by a journalist friend of mine, blogger Fiona Russell and featuring in the Spring edition of the excellent Scotland Outdoors magazine.



I'm delighted to say, The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail gets a mention in there too.

World Tour Program - Reel Paddling Film Fest

20,000 people in more than 75 cities around the world are expected to see the Reel Paddling Film Festival when it embarks on its world tour.

The program arrived today, and I'm delighted to see I had a hand in two of the films hosts can choose to show.

As a winner, a 19 minute version of Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown is part of the program, and I produced and shot that.

However, it was a total surprise to see Kayak - Scotland to the Faeroes among the list.

I shot quite a lot of this for BBC-2's The Adventure Show. Triple Echo Productions entered it to the competition. If you haven't seen it, there's some footage on their website, second film down.

Maggie's Monster Event

I was recently asked to be part of the team shooting a video about Maggies Monster Bike and Hike 2010.

Spaces for competitors are going fast - it's Saturday & Sunday 1st & 2nd May 2010 - Bank Holiday weekend.

Maggie's is a great charity with which I had several dealings while working for the BBC. The staff and volunteers support people with cancer and their families, but do so in a very special way. It's hard to describe here, but they're good, good people.

The Monster Event is a 24 hour fundraising team challenge. You cycle 30 miles then hike either 8, 22, or 43 miles to one of three finish points, labelled Bronze, Silver and Gold. The route goes from Fort William to Inverness, so very much my home territory.

The video below is Part One of last year's event. Part 2 is here.

Sunart Media - On The Front Page

I was rather surprised to see my face staring out of the front page of the Press and Journal last Friday.


A couple of weeks ago I'd given an interview to Susan Weir from their Jobs section about leaving the BBC and starting Sunart Media.

Most of my business comes is non-adventure related, but this was what Susan wanted to focus on. No matter.

As articles go, it's pretty accurate. There's a tiny spot of confusion. She has Gordon Brown working at Glenmore Lodge, and Doug Cooper making a DVD with me.

Apart from that, it's good publicity for my young business.


Incidentally, that photo in the cover was taken by Liz when we were out on the Treshnish Isles a couple of years ago.

The small camera, the Sony A1E, was out as I'd been 'shooting' puffins.

We head out most years to the Treshnish Isles, although I only have one trip recorded in SeaKayakRoutes.com.

How They Made This Video

At the start of the month I asked a question - how did they make this video? I was talking about an astonishing pop video which is like a crazy Heath Robinson invention. In the US read Rube Goldberg - every country seems to have a description of this type of crazy machine.

Now we know. According to an article in The Sunday Times, this entire sequence is real. No CGI, no post production invisible edits. The £60,000 contraption took two months to build, and failed 47 times on the first day of shooting. It worked perfectly the next day - three times.

I watch it again with renewed respect, and awe.




Kayaking Around Cornwall

Three blokes will attempt to kayak 300 mles around the coast of the Cornish peninsular, starting 1st May.

They're calling their trip, The Wet Way Around.

Kyle Abrahams, Paul Beckinsale and Darren Pascoe hope to raise £30,000 for three charities, Shelterbox, RNLI and Help for Heroes.

Donate here. A brief evrsion of their story was on the BBC website last Thursday and I caught up a little late.


Tai Chi Ch'uan

John Grocott, principal instructor and founder of the Silk Road School of Tai Chi Ch'uan came to the Sunart Centre yesterday here in Strontian.

There was a good turn out for the three hour session. Our bodies were left realising they'd had a work-out.

Remembering the parts of the 'form' we'd learnt are a real struggle.

Something to practice... perhaps.

Birthright Film

This video has made quite an impact on the surf and kayaking communities since it was released around a month ago by Sean Mullens. I was recently asked by a surfer friend in Hawaii, Eric, who is also a wheelchair user, what I thought of it. I've asked Eric the same question.


Some of the comments on the Vimeo page are worth reading, but I was especially interested in the film-maker's own disection of the video. Once you've watched the film above, take a look at the version below, on which you'll hear Sean Mullens talk about how and why he made it. It's one of a series of director commentaries done by DSLR Storytelling.

Day Job

Earlier this week I drove to Edinburgh and back in a day, around 300 miles. (The 'campital' as my daft fingers typed it).

While there, I developed a shooting brief for a client, and then shot the first part of their video. So all-in-all a busy day.

My time since then has been spent scripting, setting up other elements and generally making sure everything comes together for what I hope will be a two-day shoot next week.

However, I did manage to squeeze a bike ride into the week's activities.

I had to take the van to the garage in Fort William and leave it overnight. An excellent opportunity, I thought, to take the road bike and ride the 45 miles home, as I have done a couple of times previously.

Then, I bonked. Part way home, I had to call Liz and ask her to pick me up in the car.

I know I can ride more than 35 miles.

Poor nutrition from eating just snacks on the Edinburgh journey, combined with a lack of winter training left me 'legless', and not in the drunken way.

So I'm heading out for a run. Right now. Off road, of course.

I'm on Street View - Twice!

Eleanor spotted me again!


As she said in her comment on my previous post, I crop up again in Torrin.

Not exactly 'lurking' though....

Hey - That's Me on Google Street View!

Spotted by eagle-eyed Eleanor, one of the paddlers in the DVD Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown.


The bloke in the blue shirt and salopettes at Elgol is me, and that's our campervan in the car park.

Not a bad view eh? Not sure if it's a 'street' exactly...

I'm looking down because I was videoing the Google car as it drove through this small village on the tip of Skye.

As it left I also manged to get a still photo of it.

From the time-stamp on that photo I know it was taken at 10:04 on 8th June 2009.

I was using Street View yesterday to plan a visit to a client in Edinburgh.

As you read this I'll be somewhere en-route to the campital to discuss a video project and, if all goes well, shoot on of the interviews.

It's the first time I'd used Street View to see where I'll be going in advance, and it was hugely helpful. I now know exactly which building to look for.

So quite a coincidence to hear from Eleanor that she'd been browsing too and found me.

Leaving Kayaks Unattended in Tobermory

When I wrote The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail guide book, I recommended against leaving kayaks unattended in Tobermory overnight.

However, I'm told by people planning to kayak the route that they want to spend a night in this lovely little tourist town. So they ask, "where's the least worst place to leave the kayaks?"

It's not theft that's the main problem, it's drunken holiday-makers staggering out of the bars, seeing the kayaks and thinking, "I could paddle that".

So I've found a least worst option. I've posted details in the Author Updates section of the ScottishSeaKayakTrail.com along with other updates and a couple of corrections.

Yes, mistakes have been found in the book.

Alex the Lobster - King of the Tank

Life was tough when Alex was young. He was a small lobster and larger lobsters bullied him.


One day a beating went too far. A large lobster cut off both of Alex's claws, leaving him defenceless.

Alex was rescued and taken into the large tank at the Sea Life Centre in Tobermory on Mull where the kind staff fed him.

But Alex wasn't king of the tank. Although he was largest creature in this new glass-walled world, there were two crabs and each of them had one pincer each. (How they each lost one pincer is another story altogether).

So the larger crab was king of the tank. Or at least, he was until a few weeks ago.

Then Alex did what all lobsters do from time to time. Alex shed his shell.

The new Alex which emerged was significantly different from the old Alex in one very important way.

The new Alex had one claw. The crab shat himself.

New Alex was big and tooled up. He took the crown by force.

Today, the other crabs hide in the small nooks and crannys of the tank where Alex and his crushing claw can't reach, fondly remembering when they were in charge.

Occasionally new crabs are introduced to the tank, but they can't learn fast enough.

Alex eats them.

In fact, anything the kind staff drop in the tank, Alex gets to first. Especially the (dead) prawns, which he burries in the sand to save for later.

One day Alex will shed his shell again. perhaps the new new Alex will have two claws.

If he does, he'll be put back in the Sound of Mull. We'll see who's king then.

We learnt all this on a day paddle from Glenborrodale to Tobermory. Honestly, it was better than Eastenders.

Solo South Georgia Circumnavigation - Off

What a shame! In her blog Hayley Shephard writes:


"Today is the day for me to finally come to terms with the fact that I am not able to complete what I originally set out to do, my 10 year dream and 3+ years of a 'work in progress'....To solo sea kayak around South Georgia Island."

In short, she has run out of time.

"It is time I accept whole heartedly the entire situation which has led to this extremely disappointing circumstance.

We were 20 days late in departing due to: Gregs injury, time it took to find another crew person, rotten weather which slowed us down sailing to Sth G and finally, my badly bruised and beaten kayak which needed a few 'touch ups'."

A Rune of Morvern

We were kayaking in the Sound of Mull at the weekend and ate lunch at bothy on the Morvern shore. The photos below show a verse, pasted onto a piece of wood, which was propped in the window. The sketch of the bothy was on the other side.


Video - Full version of real Sea Kayaking in the Seychelles

The first version was a promo video to go on a page of Terra Santa Kayak Expedition's website. This full version is to give more information to people who're interested in kayaking in this excellent destination. There's also an article to come. I made these videos and wrote the article in exchange for a week kayaking in the Seychelles. Hope you like it!


This Is Canoeing DVD - Review

Despite the title, this DVD is not about canoeing, it’s about canoeists, the people who canoe.

A major part of Justine Curgenven’s documentary-making skill has been to find the right characters and these chosen individuals are relaxed, quirky, interesting and utterly captivated by their chosen sport.

It’s obvious Justine likes them and they both like and trust her. The results are quality documentary making.

Then there is the photography, which divides into two types. First, there are the films where the subject can be shot time and again, asked to repeat sequences from a different angle. These are lovingly directed and photographed from boats, canoes, shore and high cliffs - I had no idea a canoe could be filmed in so many different ways.

Secondly, there are the films where events happen so fast there’s just one chance to capture them. These require a very different approach to camera work and here Justine’s expedition experience is evident. Obviously, I don’t know what she missed, but I’m guessing it’s not much.

It’s not so much a DVD as a film-festival in a box.

A staggering three hours of material is contained in this two DVD set, too much for me to watch in one sitting, which is a good thing. In the style of This Is The Sea, there are twelve films, six on each disc, and I’d roughly categorise them as follows: 2 ‘expedition’ films; 2 white-water ‘jumping-off-waterfalls’ films; and 8 films profiling canoeists.

Only in the expedition films does Justine include herself as a participant in the action.

The first is a journey from Rannoch Moor to Loch Tummel in Scotland. Justine and her partner Barry Shaw, both experienced kayakers but new to canoes, are guided by top coaches Scott Simon and Dave Rossetter.

With cameras clamped to canoe bows and the side of helmets, I felt I was in the canoe with them. Right up to the point where the canoe became trapped between a tree and a rock - that’s when I bailed out. Justine did too, and we see her clinging to that rock in the middle of a rapid while Scott and Dave attempt to recover a fast flooding canoe that’s in danger of being torn to pieces.

The other expedition film is a multi-day descent of the Mountain River in Canada’s remote North West Territories, where canoes, equipment, provisions, and people are flown in by Twin Otter float plane.

Justine joins a outfitted group, organised by Blackfeather Adventure Company, and we watch as guides and paying clients drag, paddle and portage their craft the entire length of the river; from an infant trickle, to a fast flowing adult before emptying into the mighty Mackenzie River.

The side-hikes up neighbouring peaks reveal nothing but wilderness in every direction. What a place.

Two films I’ve classed as white-water ‘jumping off waterfalls’, but that’s not really fair. Only The Moose involves waterfall jumping, something that normally makes me yawn, but since these guys are in canoes it has to be seen to be believed.

The other white-water canoe film is Open Canoe Slalom, which offers all the excitement of a major slalom event with the added difficulty that these boats become increasingly hard to handle as they fill with water. There’s a limit to how much slalom a viewer can watch, so Justine focuses on the competitors’ characters. There’s a real tussle underway between an ageing master, winner of 95 events, and a relatively young upstart who is trying to stop the master reaching 100. It underlines the friendliness of this sport when Justine reveals that the rivals share each other’s canoes.

Almost all the other films are people profiles, beautifully crafted portraits of individuals for whom the way of the paddle is a passion. Birchbark Man is nearing the end of a one thousand mile paddle in his traditional craft. Becky Mason is the daughter of Bill Mason, the man who did so much to popularise canoeing. In Wales, Ray Goodwin demonstrates effortless control of his craft in challenging conditions.

However, the outstanding film is Dougie Down the Pet in which Scott Macgregor takes his four-year old son down the Petawawa River in Canada.

In less accomplished hands, this film could degenerate into soggy sentimentality. Instead Justine delivers a documentary that allows us to see Algonquin Provincial Park through Dougie’s eyes, gazing in child-like wonder at the natural beauty.

Scott has been criticised for running rapids with a three year old on board, but this film is an eloquent answer to such narrow mindedness. This film is a worthy winner of Best Professional Documentary at the USA’s National Paddling Film Festival, and the whole DVD a winner at the Reel Paddling Film Festival and Waterwalker Film Festival.

Definitely a DVD to buy - it's £19.99 from Cackle TV.

Video - Real sea kayaking in the Seychelles

So this is what I've been doing for the last couple of weeks. Full version is here.


Bunking Off to go Ski-ing

I had worked on the edit of the Seychelles kayaking video until the early hours of Wednesday morning. (More tomorrow).

So when Liz insisted we go ski-ing it didn't feel too much like bunking off work.

Liz has downhill skied once before, before we met ten years ago. Apart from a day on the slopes, it would be my first skiing in twenty five years.

However, the snow in Scotland is excellent (we were told). So we drove to Glencoe and had a superb half-day on the mountain. No queues, lovely weather and superb scenery.

We'll go again. But prhaps not wait another 25 years. If only we could guarantee such snow ever year.

How Did They Make This Video????

Corran Ferry Slipway Damage

The Corran Ferry was not running for a couple of hours Sunday, Monday and Tuesday while guys from the council tried to repair a rather big hole in the slpway. Will the repair last until the main work starts at the end of the summer?


3rd Festival Win for DVD - Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown

This is a nice home-coming present.


At the National Paddling Festival 2010 in the USA, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown won the category for Best professional Safetly/Instructional Film. And I'm delighted to say Justine Curgenven took best Professional Documentary.

I'm now spending quite a few days locked in an edit suite, but I'll soon have some video to show you of sea kayaking in the Seychelles.

Heading Home

Leaving Glasgow by bus heading for the highlands on a gloriously sunny
winter day. That photo is the running clock at Buchannan Bus Station.

We're 20 mins late, but that's nothing compared to yesterday.

After Air Seychelles landed in Paris there were no available jetways
and no ground bussed, so we sat 2 and a half hours on the aircraft,
trapped, waiting to disembark. Eventually the mainly French passengers
revolted and things unfolded out if chaos.

So 20 mins bus delay is nothing. I'll catch a later ferry. And I am
very much looking forward to being driven through a sunny snowscape.