Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Friday, 14 January 2011

"Mount Doom", a helicopter and a live volcano up close.

Friday 14th

Today was going to be the big day of the trip to New Zealand.

There was a lot to get done and it would be a long day, kicking off at around 4 am.

I dragged myself out of bed and packed the kit that I had been too tired to pack last night.

With the others equally happy about the early rise we set out to get the first of two flights.

At Dunedin airport things went smoothly and we were soon drinking down flat whites in the coffee bar after getting the gear checked in with minimum excess baggage stress.

We ended up having to gulp it down when the flight to Wellington was called.

Our excitement about the day began to grow and wake us up on the flight north.

The views were to day the least spectacular.

Snowcapped mountains in the early morning sun.

A hint of what was to come.

There was a very short wait when we got to the capital along with a very short walk to the gate for the next flight further north to Rotorua.

The highlight being the view of the volcano made famous as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies.

"Mount Doom"

It is actually called Mount Ngauruhoe.

At Rotorua’s small airport we got our first sight of the Kiwi sun, picked up a couple of hire cars and headed off in convoy to our first adventure of the day.

We had already been on the go for six hours and work had not started work yet.

Rotorua is New Zealand’s first resort area and is still one of the places to go to have fun.

Our filming fun began at the Skyline Luge.

We would be shooting Dan coming down the track on one of the things that is a cross between a sledge and a bike.

On the way there, without really knowing what it was all about we discussed how we thought we would get the best shots with perhaps a little camera and or me going down with my big camera.

When we got out if the cable car at the top and met Natasha it was clear that it would not be a problem.

They were all geared up for filming. There was even a purpose built camera luge.

Nigel sat in the driving position and I had a nice comfortable seat behind and above him.

On the faster bends in the track it was not the most stable vehicle I have been on .

I was glad we only went down the slower and wider of the tracks, the scenic one.

Other that not falling off my main concern was exposure.

The track went through patches of bright sunlight and deep dark shade very quickly.

It was a bit of a nightmare but I think that I just got away with it.

Off down the Luge following Dan.

We had to work quickly because we were running to a tight schedule for the day.

The next time deadline was one we could not be late for otherwise it would be expensive.

We were sitting in the chairlift on the way back up to the top of the track for the rendezvous when we heard the signature noise of a helicopter.

Through the trees we caught a glimpse of it.

The bright red twin squirrel broke over the tree line and wheeled over and came in to land on the hilltop between the trees.

This would be our flash transport on the second adventure of the day.

Apart from our flat whites at the airport we had not had anything to eat, even breakfast so we were getting pretty hungry.

Natasha from the Skyline Luge had not only been so efficient with the shooting she came up with bags of sandwiches, juice and muffins for us.

Eating the much needed lunch.

After our picnic Nick the pilot got us strapped in and we were off to over the water.

Sadly there was no room for Fraser so he had to get his excitement by going down the advanced Luge track.

Out over the blue sea Dan got his first taste of excitement as did the rest of us when we saw a large pod of dolphins a few hundred feet below us.

Nigel loving his first trip in a helicopter.

Directly in front of us through the cloudy haze I could see the dark shape of an island emerging.

We were approaching New Zealand’s most active volcano, White Island.

Getting close the the island.

Landing on the island was one of the coolest thing I have ever done.

The helicopter on the surface of layers of chiropractic volcanic rock.

We got off and did some shots and pieces to camera on the strange lunar landscape. The sulphur smell was strong.

There was white steam and smoke jetting out of gas vents and bubbling pools of grey mud.

Large areas of yellow showed where the sulphur solidified and there were streaks of rusty red where iron had settled out of the hot streams of water.

Smoke and steam over the main crater filled with almost pure sulphuric acid.

The last eruption had been in 2000 but there is always the possibility that it could go at any time.

So I am not sure if the hard hats we had to wear were going to help if the island decided to go up.

However, what was useful were the gas masks NIck had given us.

Posers with masks.

When the wind wafted the gasses firing out of the vents in our direction it did not take long for us to start coughing and spluttering. So we would quickly shove them over our mouths and noses.

Shooting a bubbling pool of boiling mud.

The time on the ground was limited by the cost of the helicopter. Once we had done all we needed to do I needed to get arial shots of the island.

Nick took the left hand door off the helicopter. I strapped a harness on and tied a lanyard on o the camera.

Nick secured the ends of the harness and lanyard to a hard point on the helicopter and after a quick shat about what type of shots we could do we were off.

Nick had done this type of filming many times before. All that I needed to do was point the camera and try to hold it steady as Nick did his stuff swooping, climbing and spinning around the outside of the island and then up and into the main crater.

Off to get the shots from the air.

On the ground Nigel, Dan and Stuart were planning their escape route should the volcano get angry.

Nick doing all the work. I was just pointing the camera.

Getting close up and personal with a gas jet!

When Nick had finished showing me what the chopper could do we landed and picked the others up for the trip back to the mainland.

Stu and Dan head back to the chopper. I'm tidying up and Nick' bringing the door back.

Nigel and Stuart enjoyed the trip....

...looks like Dan did too.

The next adventure in the itinerary was the one that Dan was not looking forward to.

He was s going to be learning the famous All Blacks war dance, The Hakka.

The reason he was not looking forward to it was because we had been told that it should be done in the full Maori kit which consisted of war paint, a grass skirt and a feather cape.

In the event Dan got well into it under the guidance of Tikki, the larger than life instructor and did not actually have to do the dressing up.

Although he did don the classic Maori war paint.

Cheeky Tikki.

With the fourteenth hour since leaving the hotel approaching we had one last adventure to keep us going.

It was a relatively short drive to the land of the Zorb, a huge plastic ball that has a smaller plastic ball inside that you go into and then roll down a hill.

There's someone in there........

Nigel had brought along a little camera with a very wide lens called a Gopro which he rigged to Dan’s wrist so that we could get shots from inside the ball.

Fraser might not have been up in the helicopter but he would get a ride in the bouncing ball.

Dan was keen to have company on this one because up until now he had been doing everything on his own.

I filmed the ball rolling down the hill from the outside and we hoped that the Gopro would pick up the shots of the pair giggling and tumbling inside.

We had arrived at the Zorb place not long before it was due to shut up shop for the day.

By the time we had finished our filming it was well past closing time.

However, the patient and helpful staff offered Nigel and I a go before we left.

.....Ah it's Nigel.

So the long exciting working day ended on a high.

At the quirky slightly camp boutique hotel we were to spend the night at we had a quick look at the shots from Nigel’s camera.

They certainly captured the fun of the ride.

It had been one of the best days and to top it off I had a special meal at dinner,

Volcano Chicken!

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