Tag Archives: video

Laos: Behind the Scenes

As Southeast Asia’s only landlocked country, Laos has a special relationship with the Mekong. Over the course of our journey through the sparsely populated nation, we learned how this great river has given rise to great empires, fostered religion and culture, supported huge varieties of plant and animal life, and provided food and livelihood for millions of people.

Starting in the south at the Khone waterfalls, we travelled more than 1000 km north into the mountainous jungle near the Chinese border. Along the way we met hundreds of Laos people, from emigre coffee barons to young elephant handlers (known as mahouts), and everyone in between.

We explored the country’s complex and often precarious relationship with hydropower dams as it seeks to transform itself into “the battery of Southeast Asia”, and learned about the human impacts of this rapid development.

Ultimately our experience in Laos left us with mixed sensations of happiness and dread. There are few other places on earth possessed of the pure kindness of the Laos people, and it’s natural beauty is spectacular. Yet we also witnessed a country plagued by poverty, and we can only hope that in its rush to develop economically that Laos will not damage itself ecologically beyond repair.

We hope you’ll enjoy this short behind the scenes look at some of our most memorable moments on this leg of A River’s Tail, and keep checking back for weekly multimedia stories from the Mekong.

Posted in A River's Tail, Blog, Laos, Photojournalism Tips, The Mekong River, Video Also tagged , , , , |

Behind the Scenes: The Mekong in Cambodia

All three members of our team have called Cambodia home for the past few years, and so following the Mekong and its tributaries through the southeast Asian kingdom was a return to the familiar in many ways. Over the course of more than a month we traced the river from the border of Vietnam, along the Tonle Sap to the region’s largest freshwater lake, and north to the controversial Sesan II dam and the Laos border.

This short film is a behind the scenes look at how we worked in the field while following the Mekong through the Kingdom of Cambodia. Enjoy!

A River’s Tail is a year long collaborative multimedia journey exploring the Mekong river from sea to source. The following article originally appeared on the project’s main page and the images shown here represent only my part of the project’s creative output. To view the project as it was intended, I encourage you to visit the project’s main page by clicking here to follow the full journey.

Posted in A River's Tail, Blog, Cambodia, Photojournalism Tips, The Mekong River, Video Also tagged , , , , , |

Vietnam: Behind the Scenes

Vietnam, the first country we visited for A River’s Tail, evoked many emotions in us, as powerful as they were often conflicting: happiness and inspiration at the kindness and resilience of those Vietnamese living in the delta, counterbalanced by sadness and concern over the multitude of environmental challenges facing them moving in to the future. A sense of awe at the region’s natural beauty, contrasted with the shock of witnessing the profound physical impacts the region’s rapid development has had on its ecological health. Hopefulness at the eagerness of many of the people we met to preserve and better their environment conflicting with the despair experienced by those whose lives had been forever changed by increased pollution and the corresponding loss of biodiversity.

Working in Vietnam was, on the whole, a wonderful experience. While in the planning stages of this journey we were worried that the country’s reputation as a tightly controlled socialist state would make interacting with its people difficult, for the most part we were welcomed everywhere we went with a smile and a cup of tea.

Over the course of three weeks we travelled from the Mekong’s terminus at the South China Sea to the Cambodian border, stopping in dozens of locations along the way to try and learn as much as possible about how this mighty river factored into the lives of delta residents. Though we could have easily spend twice as much time without coming close to fully grasping the complex relationship between the river and its people, we learned more in these few weeks than we thought possible.

We hope you’ll enjoy this short behind the scenes video that gives some insight into what happens behind the camera.

Posted in A River's Tail, Blog, Environmental, Photojournalism Tips, The Mekong River, Video, Vietnam Also tagged , , |

Video: A River’s Tail, A Year Spent on the Mekong

Firstly, apologies for the long period of silence. I’ve been more consumed, overwhelmed, and excited by my work in the last few months than possibly at any other time in my life, and that unfortunately placed my personal blog low on the priority list. That failing is something I promise to remedy.

The project that has effectively taken over my life is called A River’s Tail. I’ve already written extensively about the origins and my motivations for undertaking such an endeavour so I will keep the details simple: myself and fellow photographer Gareth Bright are traveling the entirety of the Mekong river for the next year. Our friend and professional videographer, Pablo Chavanel, is joining us for selected legs of the journey to produce short films about the environmental issues we come across, as well as to document the behind the scenes process of what is involved in a project like this.

As I write this, we’ve already finished the Vietnam and Cambodia sections of the trip, and are preparing to head to Laos next month. This is by far the most logistically and creatively demanding thing I’ve ever attempted, and I am learning a great deal about what it means to focus on one topic for an extended period of time. While I am aware that some of photography’s greatest long-term projects have spanned decades, or even lifetimes, this is a step in the right direction for me. I am seeing clearly, maybe for the first time since I started in photography, that in order to tell a story properly I need to slow down and spend more time.

Though my income has shrunk to virtually nothing (we made an executive decision to spend the entire project budget on travel over paying ourselves), and stepping back from the hustle for publication and recognition was initially a hard adjustment (it’s addictive seeing your pictures in major media outlets), I have never been more convinced that this project is the best thing that has ever happened to me creatively and professionally.

The most frustrating aspect of the process has been the necessity of delaying publishing our material – we needed to build up a stockpile of stories in order to make sure the flow of content continued uninterrupted once we launched. I’m not used to keeping my work under wraps, and not being able to share what I’m doing despite this being one of the most productive periods in my photographic career took some getting used to.

I’m happy to say that these days of secrecy are almost at an end. A River’s Tail will launch officially on June 8th, and from that day forward we will regularly release new content for the rest of the year. Until then, I hope you’ll enjoy the trailer video that explains our basic goals and hopes for the next year on the Mekong.

If you’re anywhere near as interested in this as I am, the easiest thing to do is head to ariverstail.com and enter your email address. We’re not going to spam people with hundreds of updates, but rather we’re going to curate the best content from each month in one place. If you’re like me and can’t keep up with the countless amount of information to be consumed online, this is probably the most convenient way to follow the journey.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this video. We are all learning what sort of material resonates with people and allows them to connect to a subject, so if you particularly enjoyed (or just as valuably, hated) something about the video, leave a comment below. As happy as A River’s Tail is making us, it is ultimately about creating an engaging experience for you, the audience. Your feedback is the best way we can keep telling stories that help you connect to the world, so don’t be shy!

Posted in A River's Tail, Blog, The Mekong River, Video Also tagged , , , , , , |