Originally from a small town in the Florida Panhandle, Destyn Patera is a freelance filmmaker now based out of Jacksonville. He started making music videos as a hobby, but he has since quit his day job and upgraded his camera gear to pursue his loves of travel and filmmaking. After returning home recently from a trip to Central America, he realized that his films have a powerful ability to connect with people using images and emotions, rather than just words. We sat down with him to hear more about his trip and how he came to this revelation.
Why did you travel to Central America and how long were you there?
My girlfriend, Hayley, was actually traveling Central America for a few months studying Spanish. Shortly before we met she came home from living in Utila, Honduras to finish her Dive Master certification, so it was a place she always wanted to introduce me too. I had a break in work and decided I could spend about 3 weeks away so we made a plan and I met her in Utila. We dove for 3 days straight and then began our journey into Nicaragua.
Where specifically in Central America did you go?
We started in Utila, Honduras. Took a 15 hour bus to Leon, Nicaragua to go volcano boarding. From there we made our way to Rivas to stay at the Tuani Lodge, one of my favorite places on earth. Then to Ometepe. Then Granada, Masaya, and home.
What are some beautiful spots you’d recommend to visit in Central America?
Utila in Honduras is a magical place. The island is a beautiful little thing, but not without sacrifice. The island is like a little brother to Roatan, so it lacks the proper infrastructure and facilities to keep it clean. But it’s a gem, to say the least. The reef here is almost psychedelic. I spent 3 months in Hawaii diving with Hayley and while it was beautiful, it doesn’t compare to the live coral here. The Tuani Lodge near Playa Colorado in Nica is another favorite from the journey. Very peaceful place, with wonderful hosts.
In the video above, you show us some stunning moments, including breathtaking underwater clips, a volcano exploding, and overhead drone footage. How did you come upon these moments (were they random, or did you wait for hours with your camera set up, etc?)
I would say most of it is pretty random. A lot of the things we shot were totally in the moment. To be fair, I shot about 300gb of footage and you probably see 2% of that in the video. They key for me is selection. I didn’t have a focus for this film other than to capture the things that moved me. I do my best to not let the cameras hinder an experience so I just work within the time I have. For instance, the volcano time lapse was shot while Hayley read her book in the sunset just after we ate dinner.
Do you have a favorite moment you witnessed in Central America that really resonated with you?
Yes. We were in Granada for a few days near the end of our trip and had heard about this Volcano (Volcan Masaya) that you could look down into and see the lava. We went to the local tour guide and he told us that the park has been closed due to some studies that deemed it “dangerously active.” Neither of us had ever seen anything quite like this so we were adamant about making it happen. We kept bouncing around to tour guides and they each told us it wouldn’t be possible, until we met a guy who I will not name, being that what he did was not legal. He told us we could do it but he would have to hike us off the trail and around the guards. So there we were, on the side of a volcano in the dark with flashlights. At times he would suddenly motion for us to turn out our lights so we wouldn’t be seen. Then back to it, trying not to twist an ankle on the jagged rocks. As we approached the top, you could see this ominous reddish-orange light just billowing out from the peak. It was surreal to say the least. As we approached the cliff down into the lava, you could feel the fumes as you inhaled, but I think in the moment we weren’t concerned. Looking down into the lava was something I can’t really articulate. There’s truly no way to put into words the feelings that came over me. The next day we received all sorts of criticism from concerned friends and family about the risk we had just taken, but it’s moments like this that remind me that the world is too miraculous to live in fear. I’m super thankful to have had the chance to do that.
And speaking of these clips, what equipment did you shoot with on the trip? The video quality is amazing.
Thank you! When I approached this trip I wanted to make a point to travel lightly and not hinder the possibilities of things with carrying gear. I needed to be able to carry everything by myself. I came across these videos by Paul Beauchamp on Vimeo where he shoots everything from a trip on one camera and one lens so I was inspired to try it myself. I took a Sony A7S w/ a Canon 24-105, 6 64 gig cards, a DJI phantom 3, and a GoPro Hero 4. In Utila, Hayley’s friend was kind enough to loan me a Sony RX100 with a water-housing and that is what I shot most of the underwater shots with. I had no computer to load footage or review, I was just shooting and guarding my cards with my life.
What’s your editing workflow like and do you have any tips for travel video makers?
This trip was a sort of experiment for me gear wise. Our production grows everyday so it was tough to not take more with me. That being said, I think the secret to a good travel video is flexibility and presence. It’s vital to immerse yourself in the experience and the only way to truly do that is to travel lightly. Hayley would probably argue that I could be a little more in the moment, but you have to find a balance. The reality is, that it does take time to shoot. I’m just lucky to have someone who respects my connection with cameras. Editing a piece like this is fun for me, it’s easy for me to meticulously watch everything. Organization is the key to a good workflow in my personal opinion. I section out each place that we travel too and I make a timeline with selects of every location. The song is one I chose a long time ago and wanted to save for something personal. I was reluctant at first because it’s such a down-tempo song, but after a day in post it felt right. I honestly wish I had more time with editing on this.
In the description of the video, you mentioned how you recently discovered “your purpose in the pursuit of film is to communicate with people further.” How did you come to this realization and did it have to do with visiting Central America?
This realization is something I felt gradually. I wish I had a monumental moment I could tell you about that inspired me, but it was honestly in a chat with a friend of mine, Ben Cooper, that lead me to this final understanding. I actually just told him how I felt and realized it. Ben has been an inspiration for me from the beginning, just as someone who would listen and seemed to understand me. But also, he’s an artist who does this so well. Communicating with people effectively can be extremely difficult in today’s world and I often have a tough time articulating my feelings with words. The visual world really opened a door for me to express and share things that moved me. This project just put a staple in that for me, as I started receiving messages from people who were inspired to visit Central America and from native people giving thanks for providing a new perspective on their homeland.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Do something you love, and do it often. My hopes are that this video in some way encourages someone to travel or at least explore something around them. I’d like to thank PassionPassport for reaching out to me on this and to those who take the time to read. I would also like to thank Hayley, for making this trip possible for me and for being so understanding of my love for shooting.