David Dworkind is a Montreal-based videographer/photographer and architect who spent 10 weeks in Nepal and India last year, inspired by Wes Anderson’s film “Darjeeling Limited.” While on his journey, he shot beautiful, moving footage, ultimately creating a 4-minute video that tells the story of his time in India. In the following Q&A, David recounts his experience and provides tips on how to create moving travel videos of your own.
Tell us about your trip: how long did you spend in each country and what did your itinerary look like?
The trip was 10 weeks long; we spent 4 weeks in Nepal and 6 weeks in India. We were actually in Lumbini Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha, when the earthquake hit in April 2015. Luckily, it was far enough away from the epicenter that we could escape to western Nepal and eventually into Delhi overland.
Our plan was to get to the northwest state of Sikkim, which was supposed to be clear in May. We took a 36 hour train across the border followed by an 8 hour shared jeep trip from Delhi into the mountains of Sikkim. From there, we headed south to Darjeeling, the British-influenced hill station famous for its tea plantations. We sampled Darjeeling’s finest teas at a homestay, then headed out of the mountains and into the extreme heat of the country just before the monsoon. An overnight train took us to the holy city of Varanasi and then Agra to see the Taj Mahal. By that point, we reached our limit of 50-degree days, and headed back into the mountains of Himachal Pradesh.
The video you created of your time in India is beautiful and really captures the essence of daily life. In your opinion, what makes a great travel video?
I think a great travel video immerses the viewer into the journey and makes them feel the country. It gives them a sense of the people, places, smells, and tastes of a place and inspires them to venture there themselves. Strong narratives help keep the viewers’ attention; I often find myself turning away from videos that have a random mix of footage even if the clips are really beautiful. And good music is crucial.
When on location, do you have a specific narrative in mind that you try to capture or do you just go with the flow?
My narrative in travel videos is usually quite literally my chronological journey through the country. I just go the flow and shoot as much as possible.
What tips can you share about the video-making process?
The best camera is the one that’s on you! It can be annoying to carry around a bunch of heavy gear but when the Sadhu starts to lose himself in chant, for example, you’re going to want your camera with you. Shooting people definitely takes some guts but the more you do it, the less intimidating it becomes. In foreign countries, your subject will often not speak the same language as you so you will need to get their consent non-verbally. I usually approach the individual or group with my camera up, make eye contact and smile. The body language for “I don’t want my photo taken” is universal so it will be clear if they’re not comfortable. And lastly, wake up early! The early morning light is well worth it.
What type of gear do you use to shoot your films?
I shot this particular video on a Canon 60D and used both the Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens and the Canon 50mm f1.8. The audio is a mix between samples taken from an online sound effect bank and recordings taken directly from the camera. I wish I had bought an intervalometer before the trip which would have made timelapses much easier, but instead I sat by my camera clicking my wired shutter remote every 6 seconds for an hour or so.
After coming back from a trip with tons of footage, how do you piece it all together to tell your story?
It all starts with the music. The song is the driving force behind my videos and I’ll almost always cut to the beat. Once it’s locked down, I go through all my footage and select a first round of good clips. I try to come up with certain sequences and think of an intro and an ending; from there it goes quite quickly as it’s mostly putting the chosen clips into the sequence chronologically while cutting to the beat. The video usually comes out too long, so I then go through a second round of trimming until it’s at a length that will keep viewers’ attention. From there, I color correct the clips one by one and find sound effects to give them more depth.
In terms of editing, this video was specifically edited and color graded in Adobe Premiere CS, and the time-lapse footage went through LRTimelapse and Adobe After Effects.
What was one of the most memorable moments you captured?
While enjoying a soak in the hot springs in Vashisht Himachal Pradesh, an old Sadhu – holy man – came into the hot spring and started to chant himself into a meditative trance. The moment was so beautiful and I quickly ran to grab my camera. The pool was lined with slippery marble tile and as I was rushing back into the pool I tripped with my camera in hand! Luckily, I was able to keep my arm in the air and out of the water, but the whole situation was very amusing to the surrounding Indian onlookers. The chanting Sadhu was un-phased by all the action and kept chanting, though. ultimately letting me approach him and capture it all on film.
TIMESTAMP 4:01 in video