We all enjoy looking at pictures of climbers attempting dangerous moves high up cliff faces, but do we ever think about the person who took the picture or filmed the movie? Who has shot the image and how did they get into the right position to capture the action?
Adventure cameraman Matt Sharman is sponsored by outdoor gear company Jack Wolfskin and is one of the authors on the Jack Wolfskin Blog. He is a keen climber and mountaineer which enables him to get into the positions required to film and photograph professional climbers on their ascents.
Matt Sharman Interview
We asked Matt to tell about his background and the challenges faced by an adventure cameraman…
CheapTents: What inspired you to get into Climbing?
Matt Sharman: Classic stuff really – a couple of keen teachers (I went to school in Keswick, Cumbria) offered to take a handful of over-energetic teenagers out on the crags. As a stereotypical teenage boy, and having learnt the basics, I no longer wanted teachers present – I wanted to do it with my mates.
CheapTents: Where are your favourite climbing locations?
Matt Sharman: Quite a way apart but the Borrowdale Valley, Cumbria and the Nepal Himalaya
CheapTents: What is you biggest weakness?
Matt Sharman: In Climbing? Over ambitious at the start of the season, having not spent enough time at the wall over winter, resulting in scaring myself stupid on the first trad route – happens every year.
CheapTents: What do you enjoy most about being an adventure cameraman?
Matt Sharman: The people you meet, the locations you work in. In the end it’s all communication – and hopefully some of that connects with folk…even inspires.
CheapTents: What are your main considerations when setting up a shot in a difficult or extreme environment?
Matt Sharman: SAFETY…seems obvious but you can get very excited about shot composition, light, movement, depth of field and all that stuff and neglect your critical safety measures. If there’s one thing that makes a shoot safer, and the results batter, it’s planning.
“Nice way to make a living” – A day in the life of an adventure cameraman.
CheapTents: What difficulties do you face as an adventure cameraman?
Matt Sharman: Particularly with adventure sports you can brief the athletes, scope the terrain, plan your shots but when the action starts NO ONE IS WAITING for the cameraman, and there are no second takes – so if you don’t get it first time, you don’t get it! The other key one is that often your intended subject matter is to be found after a long walk-in, on difficult terrain, in adverse weather and in failing light so by the time you actually start work you’re knackered!
CheapTents: Do you have any advice that you could give to someone who wishes to become an adventure cameraman?
Matt Sharman: Practical experience is the currency that counts in this work – theory, study etc is necessary but the best learning is doing.
The Trailer for “Odyssey – A Climbing Road Movie” for which Matt Sharman was one of the cameramen.
CheapTents: Are there any people, locations or expeditions that you would particularly like to film?
Matt Sharman: On the people side I have several good Sherpa friends – their culture, approach to mountaineering, friendship and almost superhuman endurance would make a fascinating documentary – although I think adventure film luminaries Sherpas Cinema are looking at that topic pretty hard with their latest material. New routes anywhere would be the other area – there’s nothing that crystalises all that is compelling in mountain sports more than new routing.
CheapTents: You are involved with aid and development projects in Sub Saharan Africa. Please can you tell us about this?
Matt Sharman: I’m an associate of a communication, knowledge and project management company – they work a lot with NGO’s, aid projects and humanitarian initiatives in parts of the world where people really need some help. Film is a really effective way of sharing knowledge, telling stories and bringing new and useful ideas and technologies to those that need them. It’s important to me to be involved in work that is socially conscious.
CheapTents: What are your favourite bits of outdoor gear, and why?
Matt Sharman: Trousers with lots of pockets …bit boring I know but you need a system that can accommodate the spare batteries, memory cards (those used, those unused separately), lens cloth, notebook and all the other bits that need to be in easy reach all the time. I also have a Leatherman ‘Squirt’ – tiny little thing – but I’ve fixed everything from crampons to generators, HD cameras to sunglasses, tripods to projectors with it. Also – comfy, waterproof, light, breathable and durable footwear – if you’re on your feet all day, in all sorts of conditions, you need to look after them.
CheapTents: Any people or sponsors that you’d like thank?
Matt Sharman: Jack Wolfskin are cool people to work with – they’re professional, ethically motivated and make a massive range of high quality kit. Not sure if you’re familiar with the phrase ‘serious play’ but it’s very appropriate to their approach.
CheapTents: Thank you, Matt, for sharing your experiences with us.
Out of the shaded valley now, and into the morning sun, beneath the buttressed wall of Great End, we paused to enjoy the light. Noticing the shadows we cast on the opposite side of the gully, dark shapes the size of giants, we spent a merry few minutes holding our best disco poses. In the end, I think, a day spent without incorporating at least a few disco moves, is disappointing in some important respects. Matt Sharman.
More Exciting Interviews with Outdoor Photographers
If you enjoyed this interview, why not read some of our interviews with other outdoor photographers and filmmakers?
- Phil Wickens – Polar explorer and Photographer
- Terry Abraham – Wild Camper and Videographer
- Leon McCarron – Explorer and Filmmaker
- Paul Bride – Adventurer and Photographer