Canon Group
Close Close
Menu Menu Close Close Search

Three tips to improve your solo adventure filmmaking

Kia ora!

My name is Kaleb Anderson, and I’m a freelance photographer/videographer based in the South Island of New Zealand!

There’s no better time to create, than while on an incredible adventure! You can often find me (and my EOS R5 camera) climbing mountains, hiking and exploring some incredible landscapes on the hunt for those ethereal dreamlike scenes this country is famous for. It doesn’t stop here either! Travel is another passion of mine, and I am obsessed with exploring creative ways to capture and communicate the sights, sounds, and culture found in the various places I visit.

Adventure and lifestyle is the genre I work in professionally now, but I can remember when I first started switching my camera to video mode many years ago, how daunting it could be to not only capture the things I wanted to, but also capture them well! It can present some real pressure, and there is so much to learn!

If you’ve been in that same boat and want to progress from a point-and-shoot method of cinematography - then this article is for you! I’ve brainstormed three quick tips that with a little practice will help you dramatically improve the way you can capture the things you see happening around you on your next adventure!

Kaleb Anderson hiking on icy mountains

1. Use details to help tell the story

Have you ever watched a film, and felt like you were able to smell the street food on the screen in front of you? Maybe you could almost feel the warmth of a cracking fire, or the coldness of a frost or fresh snow. Odds are, a camera was capturing numerous smaller details to help bring all those sensory elements together to complete the scene.

Firstly let’s talk about equipment! Any lens can be used to capture details, but some lenses particularly excel at it! A couple of my favourites to use are an 85mm prime lens (so versatile!), or any true macro lens (Canon makes lenses like the RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM and RF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS USM lenses which are fantastic).

Where these lenses shine is their ability to separate small subjects like water droplets on an umbrella, from the background, and display them clearly enough for your audience to visualise. They also don’t always require holding a camera super close to the subject! You can step back and let the extended focal range punch in and capture those details.

Now for the practical application! Next time you want to capture a nice, wide-angle scene, pause and look around. Think of three or four small, but dynamic details that are helping give life to that landscape in front of you. If you’re at a beach, some examples of these might be:

- Bubbling foam from the waves getting washed up the sand.
- Any wildlife that might be visible - crabs, starfish, birds etc.
- Patterns in the sand, footprints, shells, etc.
- Long tussock grass in the dunes, blowing in the wind.
- Mix these in with some mid shots of waves crashing against some rocks and start to see your scene come to life in video form!

(Pro tip: overlay some sounds of these details in your final edit to create an interesting sound design. Remember audio is 50% of the visual experience!)

Image of hiking boots photographed by Kaleb Anderson

2. Mix up your focal length!

A good story can always be told with just one focal length, but there’s something to be said for using a mixture of wide angle and closer shots to capture your subject in multiple ways. Maybe you have just collected a bunch of different details using tip number one, and now you have to tie them all together! Start with some medium shots and work your way to capturing everything together nicely with something a bit wider to complete the context of your scene.

Another reason to use different focal lengths is the way they can change the look of your scene. Wide angle lenses, like a 16mm or 24mm will nearly always create some distortion, which may not be a flattering way of capturing subjects - especially people! Instead, you might consider using a RF 50mm f/1.8 STM or RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM, and taking a few steps forward or backward to capture your subject beautifully!

Image of icy mountains photographed by Kaleb Anderson

I’ve really learned to appreciate the versatility of a good zoom lens for on-the-go shooting, especially when I may not have the time or space to be fiddling around in my camera bag for a different prime lens. My favourite zoom lens currently is a RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM, and I find this is perfect for covering that middle ground between wide angle and telephoto. Lenses that capture a similar range, such as a RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM or RF 24-105mm f/2.8L IS USM Z can be excellent choices for daytime shooting too!

Experiment to see what a subject looks like captured with a variety of lenses and focal lengths on your camera, then select a focal length that best produces the aesthetic you are trying to create.

Image of a person fishing photographed by Kaleb Anderson

3. Include yourself!

A fun dynamic to consider, is finding creative ways to include yourself in your own story.

This can be super important for some solo projects, especially when a human element is needed for context, or to show scale within an epic landscape.

The easiest way to achieve a self-cameo is with a good quality tripod. Take the time to find the right framing and pre-set the focus if you need. Then press record! It may take one or two attempts to get everything looking right, but if time is on your side, be patient and adjust things like tripod height, and camera angle between takes if needed. You could also get creative mounting the camera to things like handlebars on a bicycle, or a ski pole if that’s a look you’re after. Be careful to keep your camera safe though! It’s your own responsibility to make sure your camera is mounted securely, and special mounting options are sure to exist for many of the ideas you can come up with.

Image of Kaleb Anderson hiking on icy mountains

Selfie mode (vlogging) has also become increasingly popular. While this may not be the most cinematic camera angle, don’t underestimate the power of a good vlog-mode selfie take to help tell a story. My top tip for this would be to look into the lens and use the flip-out screen to check your framing before hitting the record button!

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or someone else to film you, if you feel some human control is needed to capture the shot you are after!

And that’s it for now!

If you read this far, I hope you found some of my tips or ideas insightful. The best way forward in my opinion is to get out there and experiment with what shots and cinematic styles you like most, and practice with different lenses to understand how each works differently from the other. Next time you find a travel video you really enjoy, try to notice the difference between things like close up detail shots, and wide establishing shots, and where and when that creator uses them. Try to incorporate some of those techniques in your next project! You might be pleasantly surprised at the result!

Ka kite!