Just as we were building up for the Grand Opening of our Wildlife Art Gallery in the Crowsnest Pass, we were contacted by a film production company about a short film project they were working on with Nikon focused on Josiah and his wildlife and conservation photography! The production schedule piggy-backed on top of our gallery opening, but as we learned more about the project we knew we had to make it happen. [UPDATE 12/20/16 – the primary film and behind-the-scenes “Making Of” feature have now been released and have already climbed to over 1 million views and counting…you can view them below!]
Read on for the story of Josiah’s trip to Thailand, but now that the film is out we wanted to share that with you without further delay! Here’s our 11-yr old wildlife and conservation photographer Josiah Launstein in “More Than You Expect” by Nikon (it’s just 2mins in length)…
We’re equally excited about the behind-the-scenes feature where Josiah speaks candidly about his passion for wildlife and photography, along with some commentary from the Director and even a few sound bytes from your’s truly (Josiah’s Dad). It’s just under 3mins and well worth the watch! Here’s the “Making Of” Nikon: Neighbours – I am More Than You Expect…
If you’d like to learn more about Josiah’s trip, we put together the following “scrapbook” to share with our friends and followers. There’s just candid pictures and highlights from the trip itself for now, with the nature and wildlife images Josiah captured coming in the New Year. Most of the following pictures are just snapshots from my cell phone, but you can be sure there’s some new epic images coming from Josiah very soon!
Josiah and I (John) traveled to Thailand at the end of July for two weeks of intensive filming on location, and we had an absolutely incredible experience! In the enduring words of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, there was a real sense of “I’m going on an adventure!” as we turned out of our driveway on July 21 and headed south toward the Great Falls, Montana airport.
The “adventure” part started early when our outbound plane from Great Falls was not able to land because of high winds and diverted to a nearby airport. By the time we eventually departed, our connecting flight had already left Salt Lake City! Delta was unable to come up with any connections, and because of several travel issues that left numerous passengers stranded that day, all area hotels were full. So Day 1 of our Thailand adventure ended with a 12 hour “sleep” (not) in a terminal in Salt Lake.
It was a bit of a rough night, with a maintenance worker polishing the floor in our concourse for 4hrs followed by another worker vacuuming for 2hrs around us. I woke up at one point to see her pushing the carry-on Josiah was using as a pillow with her vacuum trying to get as close as possible! :(
I always tell my kids, “what’s life without adventure?!” Sometimes we wouldn’t mind a little LESS adventure ;) but even though we were sore and tired, we greeted Day 2 with much anticipation.
We eventually made it to Seattle (not our originally-planned route) and prepared to make our connection to Seoul, South Korea and then onto Chiang Mai, Thailand. That’s when we learned that despite the 12hr layover in Salt Lake City, Delta apparently didn’t have enough time to get our bags to Seattle to accompany us the rest of the way. :( Good grief. This was a bit of a blow to both of us, especially Josiah, who had spent two weeks choosing outfits for his film premiere and for hiking in the brutal heat and humidity of Thailand. We bought some deodorant and other odds and ends in the Seattle airport and boarded the plane for the 11hr flight to Korea.
Unfortunately we battled a headwind most of the way across the Pacific, so we landed an hour late with another tight connection. While the airport in Seoul is very nice, a busy travel day meant they were boarding our plane to Chiang Mai out of a non-air-conditioned basement room onto buses and out onto the tarmac. We were pretty sure we were going to melt into puddles on the floor before departure, but eventually we made it, and Josiah even managed to smile for a picture as we boarded…
The final leg of our journey to Thailand was pretty non-eventful, although neither of our tummies were very happy with the anti-malaria pills we had to start taking en route. Forty-two hours after boarding our flight in Great Falls, we left Thai customs to a surprise: my luggage had found its way across the Pacific and was waiting for me in baggage claim. Josiah’s luggage, however, left Salt Lake and went to Atlanta (serious Olympic theme going on here…Salt Lake City, Seoul, Atlanta…) before then going to Detroit for some inexplicable reason.
We met our wonderful host and assistant for the week, Debbie (from Reservoir Productions, the company producing the film on Josiah), as we left customs and were off to a very comfortable hotel and a dead-to-the-world sleep.
We had a relaxing start to the day, strolling around the hotel looking for birds and butterflies to photograph before heading out to buy Josiah some new clothes for the film and get briefed on the shoot schedule and logistics of the days ahead.
Our first day of filming started at 4am, which sadly was also a sign of things to come, as most days involved a lengthy drive into the mountains or jungle for the scene locations and of course we wanted to be there and set up for the best light. We were treated to a truly beautiful introduction to Thailand with the first day’s filming happening in the stunning Doi Inthanon National Park. We saw more species of birds in the first two hours than we normally see in an entire summer in Alberta!
The first day of filming went fantastically, and Josiah took to his new role as movie star like he was born for it. ;) It didn’t hurt that his “acting” job was just doing what he does every day: hiking around in nature looking for photo opps and photographing animals!
Debbie managed to navigate the multiple-carriers issues between Detroit and Chiang Mai, and Josiah was delighted to have his luggage show up just as we crashed at the end of the day.
The next day turned out to be one of Josiah’s favourites of the entire trip given the subject matter he was photographing, and it was followed by another: a day climbing waterfalls and photographing more exciting new fauna!
After enduring the first few days of Thailand summertime heat and humidity, Josiah and I decided we would be OK with the entire remainder of the film being shot while playing in the water!
The next day we relocated to a lodge high in the Thailand mountains, and confirmed what we anticipated before our trip: Thailand has AMAZING moths and butterflies!
The next day we ended up climbing and summitting two of Thailand’s tallest mountains, and while the weather wasn’t as sunny as the director was hoping for, we were blown away by the beauty of the mountains in the mist.
As a dad, there was constant tension between photographing the stunning natural beauty around us and capturing some killer memories of Josiah hiking in Thailand…
While we were waiting for the film crew of nearly 30 to get set up for the scene, Josiah and I explored the mountain around us and found this approach to the summit.
The summit itself was a bit anticlimactic due to dense clouds, but it was cool to stand on top of another mountain halfway around the world from our mountains back home in the Canadian Rockies.
The clouds never broke for us, so after an interview segment we hiked back down to the base of the trail and found this spectacular Luna moth.
After a short rest we made the drive over to our next hike and summit opportunity, this one in one of the most enchanting, magical looking settings I’ve ever photographed in. Here’s Josiah plying his trade on the border of Laos.
After filming all afternoon, we returned to the lodge and Josiah found some caterpillars to photograph in the rain. The resulting pictures include a few that are simply fantastic, so I promise I’ll include them in an upcoming post after the film is released.
After yet another INCREDIBLE meal of delicious Thai food, we turned in for the night, expecting to sleep like proverbial logs. Around 3am, however, I woke up to what will go down as the wildest thunderstorm I’ve ever experienced, and I thought I had that covered many times over from my years in Arizona and Alberta. This was simply astonishing, with numerous blinding lightning strikes accompanied by SIMULTANEOUS explosive thunder. We were simply under attack with lightning striking all around us. After summitting two mountains in one day, Josiah never even rolled over in his sleep, and half the crew, who had to carry an entire production worth of gear up the same trails, didn’t even believe my report in the morning. I wish Josiah had woke up to experience the wonder and power of nature in all its fury, but I knew we had another full day ahead of us so I let him miraculously sleep through the greatest thunderstorm of my life.
Because of lingering storms, our film plans for the day were cut short and we made the trek to the Chiang Rai airport to fly to Bangkok for the remaining locations for the film. Upon arrival, Josiah spotted this bit of great news:
Everything came together perfectly for the scenes being filmed in the rainforests outside Bangkok, and before we knew it the filming was done and Josiah was asked to declare the project “a wrap.” Well, not quite EVERYTHING was wrapped just yet, and the next day found Josiah with another new experience as he spent time in a recording studio laying down narration and soundbites for various versions of the film, including the Director’s Cut and Making Of features.
We spent the evening exploring the night markets of Bangkok with our local host, followed by a day to unwind and take care of some final bits of business before our long journey home.
I’m happy to report the return trip went MUCH more smoothly than our 42hr marathon to get to Thailand, and just 25hrs after boarding our plane in Bangkok we touched down in Great Falls.
We arrived in Great Falls to discover our baggage followed us all the way this time, and we loaded it into the truck and headed north to our home and waiting family. We were so excited to be back in Alberta, but both of us knew we would miss the incredible places, incredible animals, and incredible people that made the past two weeks full of lifelong memories.
Thanks for letting us share the candid background story to Josiah’s Thailand adventure for the Nikon film about him and his wildlife photography! We’ll be sharing the Director’s Cut as soon as it’s released! And if you’ve just discovered Josiah through this film, his work is on display in our Wildlife Art Gallery in the Crowsnest Pass (Alberta) as well as throughout our online galleries here on our website, and has been exhibited in museums in more than 70 countries around the world! You can learn more about Josiah here.