Hiking the Himalayas

By Jacques Crafford

In December of last year, I set out on an adventure to Nepal with some of my closest friends. I had dreamt of hiking the Himalayas for a long time and deemed the Annapurna Base Camp Trek to be the best option.

In December of last year, I set out on an adventure to Nepal with some of my closest friends. I had dreamt of hiking the Himalayas for a long time and deemed the Annapurna Base Camp Trek to be the best option. While doing research about the trail, I quickly discovered that there aren’t a lot of high quality videos about it and I immediately felt the urge to create my own video! The way the trek works is that you hike from village to village over a period of 7-10 days until you reach Base Camp at 4250m. That means, you have to carry everything on your back!With the drone laws being very strict, I had no choice but to leave mine at home freeing up some much needed extra space for clothing and snacks.

I had to decide which lenses I’m taking with me to pair with my Sony α7R-iii. Since the 35mm F/1.4 is my favourite lens, I only had space for 2 more and with all the vast landscapes -the wider16-35mm F/2.8 was a no-brainer. Last but not the least is the 70-200mm F/4 because of the amazing compression you get when shooting mountains at a tighter focal length and I simply love the shallow Depth of Field you get on the full frame. I left out my trusty 50mm purely because I often use my 35mm in crop mode which then acts like a 50mm. The Sony Alpha 7 Full Frame Series are all able to shoot Video in Crop mode (APS-C equivalent) without compromising on quality. I also took 2x NiSi filters, a 5-Stop Variable ND and a Polariser. The ND filter enables me to stick to the shutter rule and a Polariser is a must for landscapes!
Next up was support gear. I contemplated taking my Gimbal but last minute decided to leave it and I’m so happy I did. This meant I had to shoot everything handheld which would never be possible if not for the amazing technology that is “In-Body-Image-Stabilisation”, or as Sony calls it “Steady Shot”. Thanks to IBIS, my primes and non-stabilized lenses all function with 5-Axis Stabilisation! I’m a huge fan of shooting handheld and have done entire projects without touching any support gear. This has given me the confidence to shoot the entire trip like this although I decided to also take a photography tripod with for some time-lapse! I used the Gitzo GT1542 Carbon Mountaineer Tripod because it’s lightweight and robust. After arriving in the village of Tadapani, we checked in and then retraced our steps to come back to this beautiful forest scene for sunset.
I didn’t have a set plan for how I wanted to shoot the video except that I wanted to shoot in the best light possible. With most of the hiking days being a full day of walking, you don’t really have the luxury of shooting everything in good light and also can’t shoot every scene because you still have to make sure you get from point A to B on time. At some spots I had to compromise on getting shots for the sake of getting to the next village on time for Golden Hour which mostly worked out for the better.
As we came closer to the top, the temperatures started dropping immensely and nighttime was between -7 and -20 degrees! Our final walk up to base camp was done in a blizzard and I’m happy to say that my Sony killed it in the cold weather despite getting super wet from all the snow. The next morning before we started making our way down was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. The blizzard had passed and the mountains were in full view, everything covered in snow. Days of huffing and puffing finally leading up to this massive reward of epic proportions!
As we made our way down, I still kept shooting since you get a new perspective of everything when you look and walk in the opposite direction. By the end of the trip I knew the only thing lacking was aerial shots and that’s when I got the idea to jump into an Ultra-light and get some shots from the air, again just handheld with the Sony! I can truly say that this was a life changing experience and I’m so glad that I decided to document the trip in this fashion. I also learned a whole lot so here’s some of the highlights.

5 Things I learned from this trip:

1. You can never have too much B-Roll.

It’s not about getting copies of the same shot but about getting as many interesting angles as possible and this meant I head to switch lenses all the time. There was a few times on the trail where I didn’t feel it was necessary to take shots but ended up doing so anyway and only in post realized how valuable they were!

2. Less is more.

Not having to carry and operate the Gimbal enabled me to get way more shots “on the fly”, shots I would have missed otherwise (thank you IBIS). Sometimes the “money shots” happen within a few seconds before the opportunity passes. The same goes for the Drone! Not thinking about aerial shots enabled me to focus only on what I was doing on the ground and also forced me to be more creative!

3. Finding the balance between documenting and directing.

I’m a huge fan of documenting as much as possible without unnecessary interference. Although these moments are authentic, it still comes down to a bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time. Because of the pace we were moving at, I simply had to stop every now and then to direct a few shots. It’s easy to get caught up in this workflow and before you know it the whole video is just a series of staged sequences. It’s important to realize that often you have to “create the moment” but not get caught up in trying to direct everything.

4. The best shots usually happen in the worst conditions.

It’s either just before, after or during some kind of storm/blizzard where you get the most dramatic footage. This means bearing through the wind, rain and cold. At times I felt like my hands were going to freeze off but looking back that’s when my I captured my favorite shots!

5. Invest in your passion.

I did this project purely out of passion and the love for filmmaking. The freedom to do it exactly the way I wanted allowed me to fully enjoy it without any pressure to perform. This in turn led to a bunch of new work based on the way I did this project that means more creativity and less compromise!

About Jacques Crafford

Youtuber & Independent Filmmaker specializing in commercial, travel & adventure films. An educator at heart, Jacques finds great passion in teaching from practical experiences.

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