How to Digitally Capture Your Wilderness Adventures

Be a YouTube Star: Learn how to shoot, edit, and post your next wilderness adventure.

Think your hikes are Hollywood material? Whether you want to launch a career in reality TV or simply preserve your favorite places, videos are a great way to capture and share a digital record of your outdoor experiences. And today's lightweight cameras, easy-to-learn editing software, and DIY websites like YouTube make it easier than ever to star on the small screen. Follow our script–with its trail-tested tips for lighting, sound, and special effects–and they'll be calling you Spielberg.

Pre-Production

  • Opt for hard disk, flash card, or mini-DV cameras over those that record directly to DVDs if you want to edit scenes or add special effects and music.
  • Most internal batteries last only 60-80 minutes. Extend your shoot time by recharging it with a solar array. Or just buy a second battery.
  • Protect against dust and moisture by carrying the camera in a zip-top bag in your pocket. In wet conditions, long-trail hiker and filmmaker Michael Daniel uses a kayak dry bag.

On The Set

Let the camera roll a few seconds before and after each shot to create a buffer for splicing together scenes.

(a) Mix up shots to include close-ups, panoramas, still photos, interviews, and self-portraits. Include scenes with movement by filming rivers, swaying trees, and passing hikers.

(b) Reduce wind noise by placing a Band-Aid over the camera's mic.

(c) Use the zoom button sparingly–too much of it degrades image quality and distracts viewers.

(d) Add depth to vistas and mountains by including trees or rocks in the foreground, or put a person in the shot.

(e) Shoot early or late in the day when the sunlight is softer and colors stand out.

  • To film himself, Daniel scopes a great view, places his camera on a rock, hikes past it, and then checks to ensure he got the right shot.
  • Forget scripts. Catch the trailside banter at rest breaks and meals. Never rush interviews. "Just stand there and let them talk," says Daniel.

Post-Production

  • Pre-installed software like Movie Maker 2.1 (PC) or iMovie (Mac) is adequate for basic editing like cutting scenes and adding music. For expanded options, upgrade to Final Cut Express (Mac, $300) or Pinnacle Studio v.11 (PC, $50-$130).
  • Add motion to still photos with the "Ken Burns" zoom effect, available on most editing software, including SlideRoll (slideroll.com) and iMovie.
  • Avoid copyright hassles by sampling free, copyright-cleared songs on YouTube's AudioSwap (youtube.com/audioswap_about), or get permission from independent artists on myspace.com.
  • Burn DVDs on PCs with Ashampoo Burning Studio 7.1 (download.com). Mac users can exploit the preinstalled iDVD.