Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

Filming on Männlichen

Monday was officially A Good Day. The company where I work is currently producing a short, weekly cooking show for a leading Swiss television channel, and as this is the first major project that we have been involved with, we naturally want to do our best to promote it and prove our worth by making not just the shows, but also the supporting clips, trailers, website, online and offline advertising, and press promotional material.

I was asked at the end of last week by the director (the head of our company) to come along to Männlichen, above Grindelwald, and take stills from behind the camera. A cablecar ride to the top of the mountain, where the ski pistes start and where hundreds of tourists looked on, as colleagues filmed and directed our chef/presenter as he tromped around in the snow, took a helicopter ride up to the Jungfraujoch with a resident tourism professional, and talked about how best to prepare and cook mountain hare. It was a great experience in beautiful weather, not least because I got to ride along with the film cameraman in the open-sided helicopter at well over 10,000 ft, passing the massive cliffs of the Eiger and Mönch before being snow-blown as we took photographs and film of the helicopter landing on the Aletsch Glacier.

The set of photographs I took are fantastic. The best decisions I made on the day were to wear snowproof trousers, and to take my hammerhead Braun flashgun. I’d ummed and aahed about using flash, but results with off-camera flash from 2007 inspired me to give it a go. Shooting into bright sunshine on pure white snow, I used the flash gun for most shots, even ones like the photograph of the hovering helicopter above. By underexposing slightly, I retained detail in the sunlit snow, but managed to fill the shadows by switching the powerful handheld flash unit to full power and Through The Lens (TTL) metering.

The choice to use my Sigma 10-20mm lens was perfect, as it allowed me to get a lot of visual information into each image, whilst being in amongst the production crew. It also allowed me the very special experience of crouching and lying on the snow whilst the helicopter came into land at a range of about 20-30 feet, which was thrilling and, at the same time, just a little bit scary.

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