Seeing America’s greatest wonder through the eyes of a film-maker
In the Titan Through The Lens series, we ask the director of our Titan Travel films, Mark Hughes from Spellbound Pictures, to tell us what it is like to film in some of the world’s most astonishing places. As a bonus, Mark also passes on expert tips to give amateurs photographers some advice on taking better images.
This week, we’re talking about the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA.
Hi Mark, how have you found it going on tour with Titan so far?
We got so excited about making this project happen. Capturing travel on camera has so many layers to it, because people have very personal reasons as to why they travel. It’s not a case of, ‘we’ve got a few quid in our pocket, let’s go on holiday’. It could be somewhere they’ve dreamed about going to their entire life. They’ll have a particular reason as to why they want to see a certain place that’s quite close to their hearts.
That emotional side of travel, and how can it change people, has been amazing to witness. It is so transformative. We’ve tried to bring that into our films where possible.
What made filming the Grand Canyon the highlight of the California and the Golden West Tour for you?
It just took my breath away. The Grand Canyon’s a phenomenal place because there’s so much history in that rock. It’s hard to wrap your head around how long it’s been there. Filming it on a helicopter, too; that was a once in a lifetime thing.
The Grand Canyon is quite recognisable from a film point of view; I’ve seen views that look out over the edge in the cinema a few times before. How did you guys get that unique vantage point?
There are restrictions around filming the area, so that’s why you’ll see the same shots over and over in movies. I think there’s only two places you can shoot from, which was an extra challenge for us. Luckily, we could film from the helicopter, so that’s what got us those amazing shots that you can see in the film.
You managed to capture the vibrant colours that make up that vista: the blue skies and burnt reds. Do you have any photography tips for travellers trying to do the same?
It was a lot to with the light available. The best time to take photos is when the sun is coming up in the very early morning, when the sun is low in the sky, or just before; rather than midday when everything is quite flat and you don’t get those long shadows. When we get that flexibility, it’s great from a film-making point of view.
Obviously we’re following an itinerary, so we don’t get that luxury all the time. But because the Grand Canyon was so important for the film, we were able to stay there all day.
Was it as awe-inspiring as everyone says it is?
It really does makes an emotional impact on you. As a film-maker, you’re aware of what you need to do, which is tell the story of the place. But there is also an almost selfish, personal desire to step away from the camera for just a few seconds and just breath it in. You want to enjoy it for yourself and really feel it.
Doing that every so often helps me get a sense of what the people on tour see. Looking at something with two eyes is different than through the lens.
What would be your number one tip for those going on the California and the Golden West tour who want to get some great photos?
I definitely recommend going on the optional helicopter excursion over the Grand Canyon. Understandably, when you’re in a helicopter over a big crater, there is a certain trepidation. A few of the guys were quite nervous about it, but once they were up in the air, their worries went out the window. The majesty of what you’re seeing is all-consuming. You just need to focus on the experience and forget that you are in a helicopter at that altitude.
On behalf of Spellbound Pictures, we would like to extend our thanks to not only Titan, but also to Titan customers, for really embracing what we do and for being so charming and helpful.