A Shot In The Dark - Quick Q&A

by James Bennett & Clyde Vaughan

A Shot In The Dark - Quick Q&A

If you're into your outdoor photography and you've checked out our brand project 'A Shot In The Dark' then you'll know the complexities of pulling together an incredible outdoor photograph or film. We sat down with James Bennett and Clyde Vaughan, the producers of the documentary, to pick their brains about how they captured the shot, the challenges they faced and why they had their hearts so set on nailing this unique astro shot.

Question: So tell us about this unique shot? What made it such an exceptional thing to capture?

Clyde: It's a unique image because of how inaccessible the location is, particularly at night. A lot of astro and time-lapse photography focuses on wide vista or foreground elements, but from the first time James described the location to me, in my head all I could see was the Milky Way rising between the two sides of the canyon. It's exceptionally hard to orchestrate timing with weather, Milky Way location, moon phase and direction of the canyon.

James: Clyde's covered the general gist of what made this shot unique and exceptional. But a huge part of what made it what it is, is that it was my first attempt at predicting what the sky will be doing months ahead. In February 2022, at my desk while in Tasmania, I first picked the date. But later that night I couldn't sleep because I was stressing that the date wasn't right. I woke at 11pm and scrolled through charts checking the moon and Milky Way direction to ensure that the centre of the Milky Way would be visible from the gorge until I was satisfied with a few dates so we had backups. Eventually I got to bed at 4am! From that point it was a waiting game and we wouldn't know if I was right until it was dark, the clouds had lifted and the Milky Way rose.

(Video courtesy of James Bennett and Clyde Vaughan)

Q: Why did you want to make this film?

C: We made this film not only to document the experience behind such an awesome project, but more so to build a narrative that can add greater value to a singular image. Looking at a photo online isn't always very rewarding. Sometimes there's no context, no emotive journey that ties in with the image. This film allows a viewer to step into the process and enjoy the moments that we worked so hard to capture.

J: I couldn't have said it better. Another reason is inspiration. Growing up watching skate, surf and other outdoor films was incredible. As I got into the outdoors more I wanted to create my own version showcasing my own adventures but also highlight the beauty of the outdoors.

Q: Have you done much film-making before? Photography? What's your resume if you like…

C: I've been a photographer for the past seven years, dabbling in almost every genre, but with a passion for astro, landscape and film-making. So when the opportunity arose to work with an Aussie brand, and combine all three, I was in from the beginning.

J: Ah no. This was the first time I had tried getting people together and creating a film. Beyond that I've just been taking photos and occasionally creating reels for Instagram.

Clyde Behind The Camera
James In His Element

Clyde behind the camera (left), and James in his element with nature (right). (Images courtesy of James Bennett and Clyde Vaughan)

Q: What was the toughest part of creating the film?

C: The hardest challenge during production was juggling changes in weather, location access and making sure we were focused on the film.

J: Organising everything! From insurance and legalities, to people, to communicating my vision accurately to everyone involved, this was the toughest part.

Q: Any hilarious moments of the film-making process you can share?

C: There's whole days that we cut from the film due to weather, rising water in the river etc. I guess it's not hilarious but me pulling my hair out trying to craft a story from over 1TB of footage was notable.

J: I was so uncomfortable in front of the camera. So for me it was just a hilarious time trying to function with a camera pointed at me. It was a great icebreaker having Josh walk in front of the shot while trying to get my interview.

Q: The location - you can't reveal exactly where you adventured to out of respect to the wishes of the local parks department - but can you describe the region?

C: It's a beautiful area, strong and harsh wind, deep ravines and canyons, with scrub and rainforest at the base. It can get really steep and sketchy in a lot of places. This made for a unique and interesting trek.

J: Waterfalls, creeks, bush walks, hikes, the river, kayaking, climbing, abseiling and caving, this place has it all. It's somewhere I hold most dear out of all the places I've travelled within Australia.

Idyllic Landscapes to Mystic Gorges
Idyllic Landscapes to Mystic Gorges

From idyllic landscapes to mystic gorges, the location was one of sheer beauty. (Images courtesy of James Bennett and Clyde Vaughan)

Q: You're obviously passionate about the outdoors, nature and adventure - tell us about this.

Clyde: I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time outdoors, beneath amazing skies and great views of the Milky Way. I guess it translates into wanting to capture and share it with others.

J: I travel full time in my van. The outdoors is my home, I care deeply for my connection to the country I live in as well as sharing experiences with others outside in nature. It's where I feel the most alive, real and connected to the rest of the world.

Q: What inspires you to get outside?

C: Good light. I love that feeling of warm, yellow sunlight in the morning, or the blue glow just after sunset. It's always at that time of day when nature puts on a show.

J: Everything, I wake up and the first thing I do is see what it looks like outside. Which is generally a beautiful sunrise or it's still dark. Fresh air, the smell of the plants, the joy of watching animals play. It all inspires me to get amongst it.

Q: Do you have future plans for more of this type of thing?

C: I shoot full time as a photographer/content creator but we definitely have plans for further films and projects, hopefully telling more stories that are worth sharing.

J: Absolutely, I've always got multiple ideas running around in my head. Lately I've been stalking the Australian wildlife, getting as many photos as I can but I'm planning some bigger trips to tell some awesome stories in Tasmania.

Q: Gear plug time! MD kitted you out - was there a bit of gear that while out on location you thought 'thank goodness we have this!'?

C: We loved the jackets, because it was freezing. During the time lapse of over three hours of shooting, it dropped down to around 2°C or 3°C and we were all glad we had MD blankets, pants, thermals etc. As the film shows, it was a mixed bag weather wise, so it was great to be prepared.

J: I live in my Larapinta hiking pants, I'd have a drawer full of them if I could. My Cumulus GORE-TEX® rain jacket kept me dry while the combination of thermals and the lightweight Advance puffer jacket kept me so toasty down in the gorge while waiting in the rain for it to clear.

Advance 600 Down Jacket
GORE-TEX Rain Jackets

The Advance 600 down jacket was well worn by the crew (left), while the GORE-TEX® rain jackets (right) proved handy when the weather turned. (Images courtesy of James Bennett and Clyde Vaughan)

Q: What's your next adventure look like?

C: James and I are already planning some longer hikes, hopefully sharing some local knowledge and exploring indigenous connections with the land.

J: Life is always an adventure, currently I'm back in Tasmania filling my soul with its beautiful backyard. I really want to tell some stories down here.

Photo Credits

All images and video supplied by James Bennett & Clyde Vaughan




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