Library of Inspiration

Taking Aim – An adventure through Bhutan with the Nikon D4s

A story of tradition and legacy sparking modern day success, “Taking Aim” was shot exclusively on the D4s by Nikon Ambassador Scott Woodward. The story follows a young Bhutanese girl, travelling the roads of her ancestors to deliver traditional yak butter tea to her father.

When Nikon first contacted Scott about test-driving the new D4s, he recounts knowing instantly where he wanted to take it. Coining his style as “Choose Your Own Adventure Photography”, he knew Bhutan’s rolling hills are a mecca of inspiration, begging to be tapped into. “Creatively, I and my team- consisting of my long-time partners Mike Rogers, Meghan Shea and Annette Fausboll - were given a very long leash. The only thing Nikon insisted was that we take the D4s on an extreme adventure. We knew immediately where we wanted to go: the enigmatic Kingdom of Bhutan.”

Working within the broad creative framework of "I Am Perfected By Pros", we had three specific content deliverables: a Camera Test demonstrating the camera's new features and innovative technology; a Behind the Scenes video giving viewers a glimpse into the shoot production and logistics; and a short, scripted Narrative film shot entirely on the D4S.

“We had only one small problem: none of us had any experience with this type of adventure. So we reached out to Ian Mangiardi, the high altitude trekking specialist from The King's Challenge. With Ian's help, we planned a route that would take our team beyond 4,000m (nearly 14,000 feet), pushing the limits of both the camera and ourselves.”

Bhutanese culture has long celebrated the sport of archery, with communities gathering to observe, sing, dance and drink as men dressed in traditional “ghos” send arrows flying. This inspired Scott and his team instantly – “We thought that there was nice synergy between them through the legacy of archery in Bhutan. We wanted to create a story that took inspiration from both the history of traditional archery while including Bhutan’s contemporary female athletes.”

Traversing the vast landscapes of the Himalayas is challenging in itself, being rich in vast mountain planes and a lively Bhutanese culture. It’s not a journey for the fainthearted, considering the 4000 meter trek, with the added task of transporting production equipment onto location. With the help of Ian Mangiardi, a trekking specialist, the team was left in good hands. Battling the heat, cold and unfamiliar grounds they began their journey into the Himalayas.

“ A team of 10 Bhutanese guides led our crew of eight people, while their 21 pack horses carried all of our supplies and gear (and there was A LOT of gear) on an unforgettable adventure. With the local insight and assistance, we were privileged to witness and document the rugged beauty and friendly people of Bhutan: filming an early morning archery competition at sunrise, visiting a monastery on a mountain with a single monk living inside, experiencing an unexpected overnight storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on our campsite, singing traditional Bhutanese songs by campfire with an elderly yak herder and sharing breathtaking views of Jomolhari, Bhutan’s highest mountain.”

Using the latest features of the D4s, they were able to capture luminescent lighting in dark interiors, all without losing the brilliant colours adorning people and places. Much of the cast in the narrative film were locals from the countryside eager to join in. “People watching our crew work were very supportive and kind. We had some serious production equipment, like a 35-foot jib that was pretty unusual to see out in the Bhutanese countryside, so that certainly caused some head scratching and curiosity amongst our observers.”

The short film shares the importance of home, the people that make it your sanctuary, the traditions we uphold and our duty to keep it alive. Mixed in with sweeping scenes of Bhutan, you get the sense of Bhutanese lifestyle existing in harmony with nature. The journey takes us from the country side, riverbeds and bustling market stalls, before we see the metaphorical passing of the torch and sharing of legacy.

Affection for Bhutan & the Bhutanese heritage is not only alive in the “Taking Aim” story, but was ever present in the people they underwent the journey with. One of the oldest Bhutanese guides that they lovingly referred to as “Yak Man” was quick in forming a friendship with Scott and the crew, showing them his herding techniques whilst sporting traditional Yak hair sunglasses – a patch of hair wrapped around the eyes of the wearer.

“Additionally, our Production Assistant and Fixer in Bhutan, Sonam Tshering (ST), is also Bhutan’s national mountain biking champion. He tutors young riders on the weekends and we required four young boys for our bridge scene in ‘Taking Aim’; they are ST’s mountain biking protégés.”

These are the people that inspired a story of love and culture, old and new adventures. We can only hope to see more of what makes Bhutan such a captivating place.

“As I say in "A Journey To Perfection", never in my career have I taken a camera straight out of the box and onto assignment. But having taken the D4S above 4,000m and through more than 5,000 frames, I can confidently say...I Am Impressed.”

Credits

Client: Nikon Asia
Executive Producer: Annette Fausboll
Director / DoP: Mike Rogers
Writers & Producers: Meghan Shea & Elizabeth Jensen
Editors: David Flood & Mark Chua
Assistant Cameras: Sangay, Rinchen & David Flood
Trekking Specialist: Ian Mangiardi
Production Assistant / Fixer: Sonam Tshering

About SCOTT A. WOODWARD
Singapore-based, Canadian photographer Scott A. Woodward calls his photography style “Choose Your Own Adventure Photography”, after the books he used to read as a young boy. Literally and creatively, Scott can go one direction and discover a remarkable photographic opportunity, or he can go another direction and find something entirely different; it is this adventure that is the beauty of photography for him.

Scott’s unique narrative photographic style has resulted in him being honoured by Luerzer’s Archive as one of the “200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide” and chosen by Nikon as “One of Asia’s Finest Photographers”. Scott’s reportage and lifestyle photography features regularly in international publications such as National Geographic Magazine, GEO, Condé Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure, Monocle, VOGUE, GQ, Esquire and The New York Times. He has photographed international advertising campaigns for many celebrated global brands including Google, Adidas, MasterCard, Nokia, Bacardi, Diageo, Nestle, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson.

Scott is a Getty Images Global Assignments photographer. He is also a Nikon Professional Photographer, an ambassador for Nikon Singapore and a SanDisk Extreme Team member.

Visit http://www.scottawoodward.com for more information and to browse Scott’s portfolio of work.


About MICHAEL K. ROGERS
Michael K. Rogers is a founder and director at Persistent Productions. Mike has broad international experience working as a director and cinematographer with numerous production companies including National Geographic Television, Discovery Networks, Dog Eat Dog Films and The Smithsonian Network.

Mike began his career at National Geographic Television headquarters in Washington DC and has contributed to series such as ‘Hunter and Hunted’, ‘Is it Real’ and specials such as ‘The Secrets of Machu Picchu’ and ‘The Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan’. Most recently Mike filmed and directed the hit series ‘Life’s a Beach’ with Angela Khan for TLC.

As an American raised in Asia, Mike has deep production and lived experience in the region. In addition to working with major broadcasters, Mike has been the cinematographer on a number of independent films like Up the Mountain Down to River, a character led retrospective of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, HBO’s Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, Moxie Firecracker’s Thank You Mr. President and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911. Mike is able to seamlessly pair his on-set and directorial experience with his ability to create beautiful images.

Visit http://persistentproductions.com for more information and to browse Mike’s portfolio of work.

© Scott Woodward