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How to Film a Documentary in Remote South America with Xpeditions TV

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Meet Jerry and Kathy Willis, the photography/videography masterminds behind Xpeditions TV. They’ve spent years traveling throughout South America, documenting their exploration of amazing, infrequently-visited sites. They share their adventures on their site Xpeditions TV in the form of short documentary films. Because their work takes them to the most remote places, lightweight and adaptable gear is essential. On their last expedition they ditched their full-height tripod in favor of our GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X. Here’s more about their travels, their work and their new favorite tripod! 

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First, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into photography/videography?

We started our tour company in 1992 specializing in trips to Peru. The trips were always between the Amazon jungle to the Andes mountains. At every stop we were surrounded by a vast wild landscape. It was during the first trip I realized how important a camera would be if I was going to share these adventures with others. By the time our second trip was scheduled I had bought a Canon A1 film camera for still photos, and a consumer level Canon 8mm video camera to capture the action. Our early documentaries were a record of the people we escorted through Peru, and events from the journey.

Since then we have expended our interests beyond tours. My wife Kathy and I now trek into remote areas looking for places few have traveled to. There are lost cities forgotten to time, people and their customs whose lives remain much the same as they were a hundred years ago, and fantastically beautiful places few will ever see.

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Can you tell us about the project these photos/videos are from?

The photos were taken during our most recent shoot in Peru and Bolivia. We called this “The Tocache Expedition”, though we actually shot in two countries and multiple locations in each country. As usual, we were determined to document several ancient sites relating to research Kathy was conducting. For more about this best to check in at Xpeditions TV.

How has the GorillaPod changed the way you shoot?

The GorillaPod Focus and Ballhead X have changed everything, and I really mean EVERYTHING. I’ll explain; For years we have carried a tripod with us. You have to if you want a steady shot for a stand-up narration, or if you film at night or while recording a time-lapse clip. We have several tripods to choose from, but even the best one we have is bulky. Most are heavy enough that you wish you didn’t have to have one along. Believe me, moving through the dense foliage of the Amazon or climbing past 14,000′ elevation on the steep slopes of an Andes mountain is challenging enough. Add a tripod and it becomes exhausting. We’ve done it, but were always looking for something more portable and more easily managed.

When we saw the GorillaPod and Ballhead X Kathy and I became very excited. We already knew JOBY made an exceptional product line. We had purchased a JOBY flashlight several years ago that attached to a small magnetic tripod. We still have it, and it was used during this last trip. It will be along with us wherever we go because it is so dependable. That thing saved our life one night while stranded on the Amazon river… but that’s another story. Needless to say, we have complete confidence in JOBY products. Because it is a JOBY we already knew the GorillaPod and Ballhead X is a well made, dependable high quality product. We quickly ordered one and it arrived two days ahead of leaving for our expedition. Without even considering, we left our expensive carbon fiber tripod at home. Good choice!

During the trip it was obvious this is the best tripod and camera mount we had ever used. Maybe the best addition to shooting that has EVER be invented! Sure, it doesn’t have extendable legs to get the height, but no problem. We were able to mount the GorillaPod and Ballhead X in trees, on fence posts, rocks.. anything we chose! We ended up with extraordinary shots that we would never have gotten otherwise! Adding the GorillaPod and Ballhead X to our kit improved our filmmaking by increasing the level of creativity always available, but never approached because of the limitations a normal tripod allows. We will use our old tripods in the future for studio work. But once we head out into the wild places we will not be without our GorillaPod and Ballhead X.

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What is your best tip for using the GorillaPod?

Avoid trees covered by ants! Haha… During one shot at “The Doomsday Stone” I decided to mount the GorillaPod in a tree for a stand-up shot where Kathy and I were discussing the archeological site. We were on location deep into the Andes mountain up the Rio Tocache. This region of the Amazon is where the jungle meets (and flows upon to) the Andes mountains. Because I was hurrying I hadn’t noticed there was a line of leaf cutter ants working this particular tree. They were busy cutting leaves and transporting them to their nest somewhere else in the nearby jungle. I quickly mounted the GorillaPod and camera in a high place, and set the shot. Once finished, I went to remove the camera. I was alarmed to see the GorillaPod and camera was covered with curious ants wondering what this thing was!

Aside from this, I suggest you take some time to become familiar with the GorillaPod and Ballhead X. Play with it, mount it, dis-mount it… Try it out in as many settings as you can. The GorillaPod and Ballhead X are easy items to understand and use. Experimentation is the key to using it. Don’t wait until you need to capture a shot to get familiar with it.

One last thing; You might want more than one size. We have the larger one, but there are smaller ones more specific to less bulky cameras. If your camera is big like ours, the GorillaPod Focus and Ballhead X is perfect. But if you have a smaller camera you might find consider one of the other GorillaPod models more specific for your camera size. You can be sure of one thing about any of these… Anything JOBY makes is the highest quality and will last for decades.

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 Can you share a story of a time that your GorillaPod really came in handy from your past trip?

That’s a tough question! It came in handy for almost every shot we took! But there is one shot I could not have gotten without it.

I already mentioned the tree shot in the Amazon with leaf cutter ants. That was one shot that would not have ever happened if not for the GorillaPod. There is another instance I felt we were able to be very creative.

While hiking back through the jungle to camp Kathy decided it would be interesting if we could get an overhead shot as we passed by. As we were leaving the Doomsday Stone area she found an ideal place to shoot from high in a tree along the path. We always had talked about to do this but never had because there was really no way to secure the camera. I climbed a tree (no ants in this one!) and mounted the GorillaPod and camera about twenty feet above the path. The results are incredible… Had it not been for the GorillaPod and Ballhead X I would never have felt comfortable mounting our expensive camera like this. The GorillaPod gripped the branch like a vice and held it securely in place. It would probably still be there had it been left in place. It was really locked onto that limb! We shot it, and it looks fantastic. That shot was only possible because of the JOBY GorillaPod and Ballhead X.

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What is your best advice for aspiring photographers/videographers?

Anyone can shoot footage. The greatest issue many have is when you think you are not “qualified”, or good enough to produce something others will enjoy. Our advice is, don’t compare yourself to others. You are not them, and never will be, haha… You might think your idea or footage isn’t as good as. Don’t think this way. Instead, be yourself. Shoot what is interesting to, and inspires you. Compose a story, imagine how you can make it look like what you see in your minds-eye. Don’t worry about it – try it out. Sure, you’ll have disappointments. We all do! Use your mistakes to make the next shot better. If you’re unsure or stuck not knowing how to do something, ask for help. I know for sure someone has encountered your issue already and most are happy to pass on helpful information.

Finally, if you ask for an opinion and receive constructive (or otherwise) criticism, learn from it. Don’t be bummed out just because one person has something to say that disheartens you. We have had a lot of that! You might also face this. If you do, think about what was said and go forward. If you really believe you are right their opinion doesn’t matter. If you see their rational, improve from the experience. Don’t be afraid to ask, and expect judgement. Place judgement where it belongs…. in your intellect, not your heart.

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Where can we find more of your stuff!

All our short documentaries are available at no cost at http://Xpeditions.TV.  We have been shooting for eight years. We have tried various cameras, editing techniques, and shooting styles. If you watch each episode you can easily see how our abilities have improved over the years.  We invite you to drop by, spend a few hours, and learn from what we have done. Have questions: how did we shoot  that, etc…?  Feel free to ask. We are always happy to share our knowledge and techniques. Maybe we can help you solve a shooting or editing issue : )

Thanks Jerry and Kathy for sharing your great tips and experience with us! 

 

What’s YOUR Angle? New GoPro Mounts & Tripods from JOBY!

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We’ve seen our customers do some pretty wild things with their GoPro cameras and our GorillaPod line from the humble GorillaPod Original to the mighty GorillaPod Focus. But we thought that ,you know, we really should be creating products specifically for the action video crowd. I mean, there are only a trillion of them being sold every day.

So, we thought about where our products do well with GoPro users and where they don’t do as well so we could create a proper GoPro family (don’t worry Contour and Sony ActionCam fans, these products equally well with those too!)

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To see the whole family in its blazing glory and soak in an awesome skate video, check out the Action Series family in action!

First up is our GorillaPod Action Tripod. With a quick-release clip (our Tripod Mount for GoPro) designed specifically for GoPro Cameras, plus our standard 1/4″-20 quick-release clip, you can use your Action Tripod to capture epic off-body footage with any action camera and compact system camera up to 2.2 lbs / 1 kg. We know we’re preaching to the choir when we talk about how awesome GorillaPod’s flexible legs are for getting footage in tricky environments, but those flexible legs and grippy rings are even more helpful in the wild places you take your GoPro.  Another awesome feature of the GorillaPod Action Tripod is it’s integrated ballhead. It’s 360° of pan and ±90° tilt knob makes it easy to fine tune your compositions, plus it has a bubble level to help you get a level shot. No LCD screen to preview, no problem! Plus, GorillaPod Action Tripod is durable and lightweight.

 

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But if you already have a GorillaPod or a tripod, no worries!  You can buy the Tripod Mount for GoPro as a standalone piece and you can use it with whatever GorillaPod you already have (or any other tripod with a 1/4″-20 screw) The mount is built to also instantly slide into the GorillaPod SLR-Zoom, GorillaPod Hybrid, and GorillaPod Action Tripod so you don’t even have to remove the mount from your GoPro! In fact, for a totally different take on tripods for action video cameras, combine our Tripod Mount for GoPro with our Gpod Mini Magnetic. Check out the little guy defiantly gripping on to this metal platform!

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Next up is our Action Clamp series. Our GorillaPods can adapt to almost everything, but one thing they’re not as good at are staying clamped securely to the edge of surfaces like the edge of a door, a car window, etc., especially where the surface might be moving a lot. Maybe you want to make sure that your GoPro can’t be knocked over while filming. For that, what you really need is a clamp, not a flexible tripod.

But a lot of clamps out there are annoying to use. Some are hard to use (ie, you need the hand strength of a professional rock climber to work its jaws open enough), and some are just slow (screw the top….screw the bottom…and then repeat when you move it.) So, we created this awesome clamp that has a moveable locking arm that automatically locks in place as pressure is put on it. By closing the majority of clamp gap with the sliding locking arm, you only have to tighten the other arm just enough to secure a firm grip as opposed to screwing to just close space.  This lets you resize your clamp super fast from something as thin as a stop sign head to a table ledge up to 2 inches / 5 cm in a flash. Each side has two 1/4″-20 screw openings which lets you place your attachments on either end (or use both at the same time!)

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So, we created two Action Clamps. The first is the Action Clamp with GorillaPod Arm. This has a 5 balls and sockets arm of GorillaPod goodness. Use the Action Clamp with GorillaPod Arm when you think you’re making a lot of quick tweaks, and you just want to bend the arm to get the position you want quickly.

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But we also created the Action Clamp with Locking Arm which has this terrific locking arm that has two pivot points where each one can rotate 360 degrees as well as pivot 180 degrees to the left and right. Not only can you get even more crazy angles than the GorillaPod Arm, but the locking arm that locks the pivot balls in place helps give you a much more vibration-resistant, longer lasting hold for your GoPro cameras in case you want some alternative platforms like…

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We’d love to hear what you think of the new Action Series line, and how’d you use them. Tag your photos and videos on Twitter and Instagram with #whatsyourangle or #gorillapod so we can check out your shots! Who knows some lucky winners might be the beneficiaries of some cool gear in the near future (*ahem*).

 

“GorillaQuad” Quadcopter Creates Awesome Aerial Photography

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Petr Jan Juračka is a professional science photographer, based at Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague in the Czech Republic. Every day, he takes on the challenge of taking shots of various objects, from really small microorganisms to aerial shots of large areas. In the latter case, he decided to build an amazing tool—a quadcopter. Petr is much more  a photographer than engineer, so he improvised in the creation of his quadcopter. Still, he’s been really satisfied with his unique “GorillaQuad”. Using his invention he can capture very professional (and strikingly beautiful!) aerial images on very low budget. Check it out and get inspired!

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Quadcopters are becoming really popular these days. Their prices are falling strongly down and you can see them flying over almost every big sports events. The bird’s eye view is an attractive perspective, showing simply more. Although it looks easy, flying with these drones for shooting is very demanding activity and requires a lot of training.

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“I decided to buy a quad and supposed it will be another accessory, just easy way how take shots from above…” Petr says. “However, it was much more challenging than I ever thought. I got injured during the first fly, the quad fall down and broke many times. Moreover, I was disappointed with the image I got from the small sport camera on the board. For the stills, I wanted to rebuild my quad into something bigger holding advanced compact camera shooting in RAW. Gorillapods were my choice, as I was used to using them for other types of photography before. GorillaPods make really easy to rotate my camera as I wish, and it is easy  to fold up my quad for traveling. Other professional photographers might might make fun of how it looks, but they have to admit it works.”

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Petr’s GorrilaQuad consists of the quad (Czech DIY frame, cheap Chinese electronics, propellers from US) and two gorillapods – one serves as quad foots, second holds a camera. Their weight is 270 & 30 grams, what is just acceptable for flying – GorillaQuad can still fly about 5 minutes per battery, which is enough time to take breathtaking stills from the air.

“It is quite new solution for me, we constructed that in my favorite camera shop last week. So these images are really first shots I took using gorillas on my quad, but hopefully not last. I really, really like it!”, Petr adds.

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Do not forget to visit Petr website, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter to see more amazing photography! Thanks Petr for taking the time to chat with us today!

 

GripTight Winners from Instameet #IgersJAX in Jacksonville, FL

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Last weekend, our friends @igersjax hosted an Instameet in Jacksonville, FL. Instagrammers showed up to hang out, meet new friends and make awesome photos. We chose three of our favorite photos taken during the Instameet to win a GripTight tripod for their phone. Now, without further ado, our winners from #Igersjax_instawalk_2ab!

By @cosmicyaina

By @cosmicyaina

By @corinnahoffman

By @corinnahoffman

By @whyte_wash

By @whyte_wash

 

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GripTight Winners from #InstameetCFL in Florida

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Last weekend, our friends @fltall and @nickline  hosted an Instameet all over central Florida. Instagrammers showed up to hang out, meet new friends and make awesome photos. We chose three of our favorite photos taken during the Instameet to win a GripTight tripod for their phone. Now, without further ado, our winners from #InstameetCFL!

By @druablank

By @druablank

By @oneram69

By @oneram69

By @figarocatj

By @figarocatj

 

Hosting an Instameet in your area? We want to be a part of it! Sign up here!

GripTight Winners from #IGLAMeet_GrandPark Instameet!

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Last weekend, our friends @igla hosted an Instameet at Grand Park in LA. Instagrammers showed up to hang out, meet new friends and make awesome photos. We chose three of our favorite photos taken during the Instameet to win a GripTight tripod for their phone. Now, without further ado, our winners from #IGLAMeet_GrandPark!

By @ki_ography

By @ki_ography

By @tigroc

By @tigroc

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By @joeyprentiss

 

 

Hosting an Instameet in your area? We want to be a part of it! Sign up here!

GripTight Winners from #HAE_JOBY in San Diego!

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Last weekend, our friends @igerssandiego hosted the world’s largest instameet in San Diego, CA. Over 450(!!!) Instagrammers showed up to hang out, meet new friends and make awesome photos. We chose three of our favorite #jumpstagram photos taken during the Instameet to win a GripTight tripod for their phone. Now, without further ado, our winners from  #HAE_JOBY!

By @irvsgotit

By @irvsgotit

 

By @juan_f_uribe

By @juan_f_uribe

 

By @steelergrl_79

By @steelergrl_79

 

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GripTight Winners from #InstaPDXtheDeck!

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Last Monday, our friend @dlsoanphoto hosted an Instameet in Portland, OR.  Instagrammers showed up to hang out, meet new friends and make awesome photos. We chose three of our favorite photos taken during the Instameet to win a GripTight tripod for their phone. Now, without further ado, our winners from #InstaPDXtheDeck!

By @skyemcneill

By @skyemcneill

By @runningdrew

By @runningdrew

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By @mimi_monochrome

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GripTight Winners from #HauteAsEver13 in San Diego!

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Last weekend, our friends @igerssandiego hosted the world’s largest instameet in San Diego, CA. Over 450(!!!) Instagrammers showed up to hang out, meet new friends and make awesome photos. We chose three of our favorite photos taken during the Instameet to win a GripTight tripod for their phone. Now, without further ado, our winners from #HauteAsEver13!

By @johntorres

By @johntorres

By @chucka95

By @chucka95

By @pixelmama

By @pixelmama

 

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GripTight Winners from #MtScottInstameet!

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Last weekend, our friends @darrenisreal and @i_like_boring_things hosted an Instameet in Mt Scott, Oklahoma. Instagrammers showed up to hang out, meet new friends and make awesome photos. We chose three of our favorite photos taken during the Instameet to win a GripTight tripod for their phone. Now, without further ado, our winners from #MtScottInstameet!

By @benandphotos

By @benandphotos

By @nathanwinfrey

By @nathanwinfrey

By @carsynabrams

By @carsynabrams

We loved the photos so much from this tag, we recommend you check them all out! Here are two great shots from the hosts!

By @darrenisreal

By @darrenisreal

By @i_like_boring_things

By @i_like_boring_things

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