P: “Its important to feel small sometimes” – is the Canadian Arctic where you felt that the most on your round the world trip? Anywhere else?
B: Apart from the Arctic Sea my views were often filled with endless stretches of hills and mountains and forests; it was relatively rare that I had vast expanses of snow/ice plateaus in front of me. Knowing that you are following a single track or trail and that, in all other directions, for hundreds of miles there is nobody else there, is a wonderfully humbling experience – it was one of the factors which drew me to cycle up there in the first place.
But being humbled by the landscape around me was not just limited to being up in the Canadian Arctic, it was something I often felt whenever I would set up my tent for the night, in and amongst some of the most beautiful places the world has to offer. It’s a powerful feeling to feel small and out of place, and when you’re carrying a bike through the mountains you certainly feel out of place! I’d love to go back to so many of those camp spots and bathe in the tranquillity of the surroundings again!
P: The big question - making a film in the Arctic, on your own. Did the camera kit all work out in the freezing cold? Battery Life? How many batteries? All strapped to your body?
B: Yeh it’s a pretty daft idea isn’t it! And especially since I had only picked a camera up for the first time when I began my ride in South America so I wasn’t particularly experienced…but I had plenty of practice of cycling backwards and forwards in front of the camera…
In order to have enough battery life up there I carried 8 camera batteries with me (2 ‘real’, 6 third-party) and a battery pack. These I kept in pockets next to my base layers so they never got too cold. I was able to charge them a few times throughout the month long ride when I passed through a village and slept in churches. The camera iced over a lot of times, and each time I would set up a night timelapse to capture the northern lights dancing overhead it was a risk. Each attempt would use two batteries up and would end up with ice all over the camera. I had a Panasonic GH4 which, supposedly, was weather sealed. Thankfully it never kicked up too much of a fuss, however did take a hell of a beating during a Saharan sandstorm later in the trip – I arrived back home with half of the desert in my camera!
P: Three days pushing, and yet you still wandered off-route to set up shots. Did you know you had the makings of a good film at the time, is that why you kept doing it? Was it a film for others, or just to document your own trip?
B: When I’d set off on this part of the ride I knew that it would make an interesting short film. Over the previous year of riding I’d been slowly teaching myself how to shoot and edit films, and so I saw The Frozen Road as a creative challenge as well as the shear physical and mental one too. The crux moment in the journey was when I was riding down the Peel River and got trapped after a heavy storm. For three days I pushed my bike and it was a really difficult few days, levels of fear and worry I’ve not experienced since. I was in perhaps the most dangerous situation of my life, -30C temperatures, rationing food and being followed by a pack of wolves hidden in the forest that stood on the banks of the frozen river. However, if you write all those elements down you know that they make the perfect ingredients for an ‘adventure’ film. So I had this competing mind which was saying “forget the camera, just get out of this situation safely” and conversely “if you want to make a film you have to document the times when things are hard”. In truth I actually shot very little during those few days, almost every shot I took made the final edit, but having survived it without a scratch I’m happy that I documented it and am able to share some of the experience with an audience.