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How to Shoot a Jeepin’ Adventure

Cinematographer and documentary filmmaker shares best practices for capturing your memories on the trail.
By: Brian Dery

How to Shoot a Jeepin’ Adventure

You bought the Jeep. You did a few upgrades, maybe a lift and new tires. You’ve planned an adventure with a Jeep club. Now it’s time to hit the trail.

How do you capture all the great memories? Really, the options are endless. Whether you have a traditional camera, a smartphone or tablet or a GoPro, you are ready to acquire unlimited breathtaking photos and films.

Before you embark on documenting your trail ride, I hope you’ll allow me to share a few proven tips for amazing still shots and videos. They are the building blocks that will help you create lasting memories for yourself and your community of Jeep enthusiasts. Fully charged batteries and empty memory cards are just the beginning.

A great photo or video tells a story. Your story will have all the usual components — an opening, a storyline and an end — and your camerawork becomes the writing on the page.

Using a GoPro

Creative camera angles are a great way to advance your videos. Attach it to a fender to get those wild shots of the mud spinning off the tires or from a sideview mirror to see the branches coming into frame. Mounting your GoPro in the cabin to record the driver or passenger adds to the storyline of the documented ride.

You will need to find different types of mounts to fit different attachment points. Mounts can range from suction cup mounts that can go on the hood or door panels to the types that can wrap around your side steps.

For photography, the same principle for angles will work. Get those low-angle shots of Jeeps crawling to the top of a hill or coming down a slope.

Using a Camera, Smartphone or Tablet 

The first step that is vital to the success of the video or photo is a solid mount. You must position yourself so the equipment is steady. That may seem obvious, yet even a minor movement or shaking may require you to edit out what could have been the best captured moments of the day.

The next and one of the best tips for mobile device users is to turn the camera of your smartphone or tablet to record in the horizontal position. When it comes time to edit, what you captured fills the frame completely. If you record in the vertical position, you will have the black bars on each side of your video frame, which results in limited viewing and editing options.

Nuts and Bolts

Brian K. Dery is the CEO of Cool Cat Digital Inc. in Tampa, Fla., an experienced video producer and documentary filmmaker, and an avid off-roader. He advises Jeepers who wish to document their adventures to experiment with equipment and camera angles, shoot more footage than you think you’ll need, and attempt to capture the spirit of the ride.

Now that you are properly oriented, here are some helpful tips for the trail:

1. Movement: Follow the action with your device. Avoid any radical zooms or turning of the camera. If you move the camera left or right, that is called a “pan.” Moving a camera up and down is referred to as a “tilt.” Make smooth movements and just follow the action.

For video editing purposes, it is always nice to let the subject leave your field of view, or “frame.” When taking photos, get up close and personal. Get tight with that zoom and capture the thrill and excitement the driver and passenger are experiencing.

Never forget that safety comes first. Be aware of your surroundings whenever you are shooting.

2. Lighting: Lighting can be a huge issue in Florida. It can serve you well, or it can limit the quality of your video or photo. As you are deciding on the best position to shoot or record, avoid any shots that are directly toward the sun.

That said, I once broke that rule while capturing a trail ride. The way the sun was shining through the trees created an effect that normally I would not want. But in this case, with the angle of the camera and the action I was recording, it made for a perfect scene.

3. Footage: If your end result is to make a video of your adventure, you may think you shot enough footage during a trail ride. Chances are, you probably didn’t. You can never get enough video, or as we call it, “B-roll.” Just because you may have gotten three hours of footage, that doesn’t mean you have three editable hours of footage. Always shoot more than you think you will need so your story will be complete.

4. Editing: Editing is always an exciting part of the process. On a Jeep ride with my group, I get a feel for everyone’s mood and the energy level that is out there. On the trails, everyone is out riding their Jeeps, pushing their limits. Their friends or other members of the Jeep club are rooting for them to take that hill or plow through that mud pit.

The energy and excitement from the ride helps me pick out a suitable song. So what makes a great soundtrack? Something upbeat that fits the mood. You want something that will keep the viewer excited as they watch the incredible footage that documents that amazing trail ride.

If you plan correctly and take your time with your shots, you can easily turn a full day of trail riding into a great memory to share with others. And who knows? After a few tries, you may be the next YouTube sensation!

The views expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Jeepin' Central Florida or any employee thereof.

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