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Behind the Scenes of our Algonquin Adventure

June 17, 2016

Winter in Canada can make you feel the need to escape, the trick to enjoying the snow and cold is by making the best of it.  Earlier this year I was in the midst of trying to sort out a winter adventure when Simo (our cinematographer and editor) came across some photos from a fellow cinematographer who had shot some dog sledding footage for Ontario Tourism.  After a very brief discussion Simo and I quickly decided that dog sledding would be an amazing photographic journey and the perfect winter adventure.

 

I immediately got online and began contacting local outfitters.  After a few misses I connected with Craig from Snow Forest Adventures.  It seemed to be a perfect fit, a kind of right place, right time scenario. Craig had everything we were looking for and he was even able to fulfill our request of a badass dog sledding adventure on very little notice.  Then came the fun part, which was figuring out our camera/film gear.  Simo and I talked at length about what we would need for this adventure, which typically leads to a discussion based around what gear we don’t have but wish we did! We decided that this time was different and there were certain things we required for a shoot of this nature.  Sure enough, just as quickly as we were locked in to our dog sledding adventure, we had purchased a drone, a new lens, a new audio recorder, and a bunch of other miscellaneous bells and whistles.

 

We had two teams - 6 dogs per sled and 2 people on each sled.  This means that in theory each person gets a single runner or 'ski' to stand on.  This doesn't leave a lot of room, especially when you have to keep in mind you have steer the sled while balancing and simultaneously taking photos and filming.  It was a logistical challenge but we found solutions.  For example, both Simo and James actually rode inside of the sled.  Simo sat in the sled to film while James had to literally curled up and hide just so we could get the shot.

Upon arrival it became immediately clear that we were there to get the full experience, including learning how to harness the dogs, command the dogs, and of course, steer and control the sleds. Everything was very hands on which made for a truly authentic and informative experience.

We had two teams - 6 dogs per sled and 2 people on each sled.  This means that in theory each person gets a single runner or 'ski' to stand on.  This doesn't leave a lot of room, especially when you have to keep in mind you have steer the sled while balancing and simultaneously taking photos and filming.  It was a logistical challenge but we found solutions.  For example, both Simo and James actually rode inside of the sled.  Simo sat in the sled to film while James had to literally curled up and hide just so we could get the shot.

 

After a day out in the bush we realized this shoot was going to be a lot more challenging than expected.  The biggest challenge of all was the subjects themselves, the dogs.  These highly trained dogs have one job and one job only, to run.  Once they are on the line they have one thing on their mind, it's a constant state of go, go, go!  This 'lack of patience' doesn't pair well with what we were there to achieve!  It was very difficult to stop the dogs, set up a shot, dredge through the deep snow, and repeat.  Some of the most stressful moments where setting up the drone and gimbal between 12 howling dogs who were desperately trying to pull forward, sometimes getting so impatient they resorted to chewing through the line.

One saviour was the snowmobile.  It was paramount in allowing us to capture great footage, but sure enough, the elements still found a way to trump technology.  While filming from the snowmobile, Simo and the owner Craig, went off the trail while crossing a frozen lake and hit a large pool of water, resulting in a stuck snowmobile and quick end to the outing.  It was another realization that when shooting in conditions like this you need to expect the unexpected and be prepared for the worst.

In the end, the journey was everything I could've hoped for.  It was a challenge, a learning experience, but most of all it was adventure.  Getting out into nature, getting pulled by dogs, and capturing it all was awesome!  If you haven't seen the episode be sure to check it out here.  Now onto the next adventure...

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