Having cameras around nonstop was difficult to get used to. We rarely have any privacy, even when we’re not on the road. But I think of it as an alternative to keeping a journal. All of our adventures over the years have been carefully and skillfully documented on camera, and it’s nice to go back and look at how far we’ve come.
The guys behind the cameras are often forgotten, in spite of the fact that they are the ones who bring the entire thing together. Without our beloved cinematographers we would be working overtime to get the job done. And the finished product would have lost it’s luster without the talents of the creative people behind the lens.
Both Daniel Lee and I actually work behind the cameras quite often, but hosting a show requires that we spend the majority of our time in front of the lens instead of behind it. We own the production company, so retaining creative control has always been crucial to our success. The key ingredient, however, is not the quality of camera gear that we have on hand. A master photographer can work magic with the most simple camera. And an amateur would have a difficult time convincing us of the quality of their work, even with the most expensive equipment available.
We’ve been fortunate to have some of the best cameramen in the world working with us on our show over the years. Some of them have put up with our crazy antics and absentminded moments, and they’re still around to talk about it. They have knelt down in thigh deep waters with sharks circling around them just to get the perfect shot of a bonefish on a fly. And some of them run up and down the mountains along side us just to get creative with b-roll.
The cameraman’s backpack is typically heavier than my own, and he’s focused on 10 things at a time instead of just one.
Our cameramen often sleep for short hours and eat less than any of us, just because that time-lapse isn’t going to film itself.
He knows how to make people seem comfortable in front of the camera, even when they forget their own name.
He will volunteer to sit in the freezing temperatures with us so that if that big buck walks out we’ll have epic footage, not just average footage.
While everyone else in the room is having a conversation, a laugh, and often a drink… the cameraman films and works, and never once complains. He might be funnier than all of us, but often his story is never told around the campfire. If he told a story, nobody would be there to capture any of it on film.
Our crew is our family. We spend an average of 250 days on the road per year, and having people around that you can trust and get along with is essential. They put up with our bad jokes, our morning breath, and our horrible taste in hotels… Our cameramen are essential to our success both in the field and when we get back from the trip. They are our friends. Our allies. And our inspiration to continue to get better at what we do.
Next time you watch a television show I hope you’ll think about the extra work that went into making it great. There’s usually a guy behind the camera who is more talented than any of us in front of it. You might never know his name, but he’s the one who deserves a fan club.