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Level 1 | Filmer Unknown

Each year, one of my favourite ski movie production companies, Level 1, put on a competition called SuperUnknown. The competition is to find the best unknown ski talent out there to come and film with the Level 1 crew in there upcoming movies. This year however, they put on a competition called FilmerUnknown, which is the flip side to the competition and is trying to find the best unknown talent behind the lens. The winner of this competition got to go to Level 1's end of season park shoot, work and film along side Level 1's top film crew and shoot the best unknown ski talent.

The first stage of this competition was to send in a 90 second reel of your best footage with 50% being action sports related (so they know you can film in what they do). On the 1st of Feb, the top 10 finalists were announced and I was beyond stoked when I found out I had made it, especially when they also mentioned there were over 100 submissions... Below was my initial submission

The top 10 finalist were then sent a Sony Action camera, which is a very basic, one dimensional camera used in many action sports due to its small size and ability to be mounted nearly anywhere you want. For those who don't know, its essentially Sony's version of a GoPro - everyone knows what GoPros are. We then had to produce another 90 second video solely with this camera, but the content could be anything you wanted to do. The idea behind this was to level the playing field as no filmer would be at an advantage. Fair game. Below are the 8 finalist videos that were submitted, including my own.

The competition as you can see came up with various different angles, with my personal favourites being the brilliance of Matthew Ballard and the comical Jere Toivonen. 

After almost a month or so of waiting they finally announced the winner of this competition and I couldn't be more stoked when I found out that it was me! To be in the top 10 was an achievement in itself, but to be chosen at the end just made all the effort worth while. I cant wait to go to the shoot, learn and film with the best and be apart of Level 1's next movie. This is without a doubt the biggest achievement I have accomplished, thanks so much to level 1 for the opportunity.

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Kung Hei Fat Choi - CNY Fireworks in HK

Kung Hei Fat Choi everyone. Last Saterday was Chinese New Year and in traditional fashion Hong Kong put on and incredible fireworks display lasting 24 minutes!

In past years I have gone down to the Harbour and been right in the thick of the action. The atmosphere is amazing with "ooo's and ahhh's" to be heard in every direction and the bangs of the fireworks ecohing through Hong Kong's skyscrapers. 

Around CNY Hong Kong weather is typically dreadful, but this yea we got so lucky and it was clear and warm. With this "freak" occurrence I decided this year to take myself away from the action and post up in the mountains giving me a full view of Hong Kong and Kowloon with the fireworks being the center of attention and what an awesome decision it was. 

However we weren't the only ones with this idea and when we arrived at location it was jammed packed with no way to get to the front and get a good view. If I'm honest I was getting pretty cranky and didn't know what to do, however with my brother at hand, and with his new found love of trail walking he bushwhacked our way round the side of the crowd and found a place in the bushes in front but still with an excellent view! Cracking. 

The idea was the get a time-lapse of the fireworks and a cracking one we got at that too. 

 Wide angle Overview of HK! 

Wide angle Overview of HK! 

 Close-up. Just a crop from the wide angle

Close-up. Just a crop from the wide angle


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Japan. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly... But pretty much all good!

The first thing you think of about skiing in Japan is DEEP POWDER, amazing culture and great food. Well, yes, Japan is all that and more, the place is simply incredible. My latest trip to Niseko, Japan I was there from the 24th of December to the 11th of January, almost 3 weeks and it snowed without fail, everyday! In fact, I tallied up the snowfall we had each day and by the 15th day we were just shy of a total of 3m of snowfall. Luckily for us, the last 2 days brought in 40cm new snow so that 3m mark was hit. 17 days and 3m of snow... that's crazy!

Its not always all fun and games though. Even after hearing all these amazing stories about Japan and how much snowfall they get and how you're guaranteed snow, sometimes not everything runs so smoothly. For 2 days straight we were shut off the slopes because winds were too strong. The whole upper mountain closed and we were forced to ski the bottom half - it's still is really good and plenty to ski but everyone is there as there is nowhere else to go. The following day even the bottom was shut. With thousands of people wanting to ski, it becomes a mess and full days can be ruined. The funny thing about it is that the winds weren't even that strong. At the bottom it was bluebird and calm and yet they refused to open anything up, everyone was baffled. I've been on chairlifts where the whole chair is on its side due to wind but they kept running. Japan, its great, but it can get frustrating at times. Not all hope is lost though. On days like these you can travel to nearby resorts that are less affected by winds or book yourself on a tour and they will take you to the goods! And there is plenty to go around!

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If your lucky enough to still be around when the winds die down and the lifts open... there is snow everywhere and you can be skiing full days of untracked powder. Unlike other well known resorts when by lunchtime the slopes look like they haven't been snowed on for days!

As I said before, if the times call for it and you want to go on a tour you can easily do so and there are plenty of companies. The one we use and love is called Black Diamond Tours, many of you may have heard of them before as they play host to many, if not all the pro ski companies that roll through Japan each year. The tour we always pick is called the mushroom trip which basically is finding stuff to jump on, over, off, find avi barriers, pillows cliffs and deep pow! Its amazing! This year we only managed one trip but we skinned up into the backcountry and found this awesome pillow tree we could launch ourselves through! It was something we hadn't done before, so we all had an amazing time! Just being in the backcountry itself is something everyone should try as its a whole new ball game from a resort and the options are endless.

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About halfway through the trip we were gifted with one of the deepest days skiing of our lives. We werent even expecting it either. We went to bed the night before knowing is was snowing but had no idea how much. By morning 35cm had fallen and EVERYONE knew about it. We arrived before first chair and it was rammed. Quickly we decided this was not where we wanted to be and jetted off to a nearby resort called Moiwa. Right next door and almost no people, we were right! However when we arrived the lift was closed, and they called for maintenance. It got to about 10.30am and still wasn't open. As we were waiting I brushed the snow off my skis and watched as the it built up again... it was going at a rate close to 5-10cm an hour! With the lifts still closed we were feeling that we'd made a huge mistake coming. Luckily at 11.30 the lifts finally opened and we were on chair No.1. What a feeling! As we picked our first line we could barely ski, it was so deep, at least 50cm. The whole run we were skiing was blind there was so much snow, it was pure joy! It was so deep you couldn't hike very far either to get to the next zone, so each run was fresh and people started not to bother trekking out! Deepest day of my life, all day, off a lift, sensational!

By the last 5 days, I'll be honest with you, our fuel was running low. Skiing powder everyday is a dream, but my god it's tiring. We still got up early each morning, looked at the reports and chose where we though the best place to ski was and went for first chair, but found ourselves going in far more often for hot chocolates and cookies. Along with tiredness we were also starting to feel the loss of many items we had lost or broken along the way. These included: 1 lost ski, 1 broken binding, 1 pole snapped, lost batteries, lost microphone holder, 1 broken filter and finally one Canon 5D broke down on us. Luckily we had a spare camera otherwise that would have been awful! Yes, thats a lot of stuff that went wrong, and its never happened before in one go. We must of had a string of bad luck that holiday but that bad luck wasn't really anything when considering the grand scene of things. I would do it all over if I had too.

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17 days skiing powder. Thats what Japan is all about, through the good, the bad and the ugly I will always love Japan and I can't see myself ever not coming back!

Here is the video from our holiday, see for yourselves what Japan has to offer!


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GoPro Skiing Adventures. A teaser of whats to come.

I've just recently returned from Japan on what could probably now be called an annual trip. Other than the people, the culture and the amazing landscapes, ultimately the main reason for my love of Japan is the skiing. This trip has been my forth ski trip to Japan and each year it gets better. Not only does the snow get better each time but our knowledge of the area does too. It makes finding the right spots and knowing where best to go on each particular day that much easier and that much more rewarding. 

I wont get too in depth about the trip as thats what my next post will feature. This post is just a teaser to whats to come. Below is a mini GoPro edit I made the day after we had the deepest snowfall of our lives and it shows. I don't normally make GoPro only edits but I had so much footage I couldn't let it all go to waste. 

For this edit I made it black and white, to make it fit with the song and give it an old vintage feel. My GoPro version seems to have lost quite a bit of contrast and the casing has many scratches which are now visible in the footage. The B&W sort of disguises it too. Its also something I've never tried before and love the outcome!

Hope you enjoy. More to come soon so keep checking back!

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Daytime long exposure photos in Baler, Philippines

Folowing on from my last post, while in the Philippines I also experimented for the first time with long exposure photos during daylight hours. I've done plently of long exposures before, mainly nightime shots where they have been a necessity, never during the day. 

While in the Philippines, there was a surf spot we constanly would go to. Cemento Reef. To get there you had to take a 15 minute tricycle ride (the common mode of transport in the Philippines where you could see 5-7 people all cramed into, around or where ever they could find a place) follwed by a 10-15 minute walk through a mangrove covered reef to a rock sitting in the middle of the ocean. A very unique and different way to get to a surf sport which was also incredibly picturesque. It was here where I thought would be the perfect place to try out some long exposure daytime shots and the results were pretty awesome. 

The long exposures made the small crashing waves look like mist and had a really creamy texture. Its fair to say that after my first experimental photo I was hooked. 

For daytime exposures and absolutle necessary piece of gear is a ND filter. I had my Heliopan Vari ND with me so in the bright sunlight I could get exposures up to 5 seconds long. Even though this provided enough time I wish that I could have exposed for longer to see what results I could have got. 

Below's photo is one of my favorites but it involved quite a lot of luck. I was shooting back at the rock where you view the surf and I knew that every now and then a bigger set would come and spray over the rock, however I would have no idea when this was going to happen. Along with this, I also had to people standing on the rock and with 5 second exposure, any slight movement would cause a blur. Luckily for me I managed to catch a splash and the people barely moved so I got an awesome photo. B&W or colour? I haven't decided yet.

The walk through the mangroves provided some interesting photos. I find the water texture simple facinating.

After finishing my first long exposure session during the day I know that I will try and find any opportunity to shoot like this again. The results are completly different to what I've done before and I can see them becoming very addictive to shoot.

Robin

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Surfing Baler, Philippines.

Three weeks before this trip my friend called me up and asked if I wanted to go to the Philippines on a Surf trip. He said "It's cheap as chips mate We will spend less there then we will at home" and I was sold. I checked the dairy and had nothing on so I thought why not.

There are many surf spots to go in the Philippines but they are becoming incredible popular due to the high quality of waves and as I stated earlier, cheap Island life. So we picked Baler, a lesser known spot where we were hoping for less crowds. Baler delivered. Not only were we among the few few foreigners but the lineups were generally small and in some spots we were the only ones there. The locals there were super friendly and happy to show us around to the best spots and give us pointers along the way. Being only a year into surfing myself this was awesome!

The surfers include myself (but only a couple shots), my friend Andrew and our surf guide Mike. It also includes surfing from Leo a friend we met whist we were there and several locals who welcomed us from day one!

 

 This was my first time filming surfing and I knew that it was going to be very different from any other filming I had done. Unlike a lot of sports surfing has the potential for the surfer to be very far away from the camera depending on each break.  I had my trusted 70-200mm lens with me but knew that it probably would not be enough - even on a 1.6x crop body camera (7D) - so I bought a 1.4x extender. A cheaper alternative then buying a whole new lens just for a single trip, but something I knew I would use again for sports such as rugby and skiing. This gave me a max focal length of 448mm. Plenty.

Another way you could get really close would be to get in the water itself with a waterproof housing for you camera. This again adds more cost to the project so this time I didn't want to purchase any more equipment but found myself really wanting one when we were there. I did have a GoPro that we could use but we only used that for B-Roll and some simple fun stuff.

Hope you enjoy and below are a few of my favourite snaps from the trip.

 

 

Stunning backdrop to our favourite surf sport on the trip, Cemento Reef or locally known as Cobra Reef.

Have to trek 15 mins over a shallow and sharp reef to get there first though. Don't try go barefoot, took us 15 mins extra and caused several cut feet.

Paddle out to Cemento Reef

The lonely surfer. Secret spot. 

Our surf guide Mike. Took us all round Baler not just the surf spots. Legend.

When the boat breaks down there is only one thing to do. Pull it.

Our mode of transport for the two weeks. Saw a maximum of 7 people on one of these while we were there... no wonder it broke down so much. 

Our man Mike's rad tricycle paint job!

Misty waters. Long exposure, Cemento. 

Cemento rock! Checking out the surf before the paddle out.  

One last long exposure from Cemento with the famous rock behind. 

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