Develop a Career in TV News

Crikey - Auntie Beeb was not like this when I started!  The BBC Academy is a useful resource for anyone wanting to develop television related skills.  Since leaving the corporation I've used their online courses to update my self-shooting technique.  This video seems aimed more at international journalists but the advice, particularly about the SWOT analysis, is applicable to everyone hoping to work for BBC News.  The advice about talking to people already doing the job is spot on.  The full page is here.

Learning to Shoot DSLR Video

Five weeks ago yesterday I underwent open surgery to repair two hernias.  Recovery, I was told, would take at least six weeks.

During that time I could not carry heavy rucksacks of video kit and tripods.

I've always considered working in television to be be a binary condition: you were either fit enough to work fourteen hour days and cope with whatever the shoot threw at you, or you were not.

If you couldn't handle any and everything, stay home.

In the freelance game there's no such thing as an easy booking.  So I've kept the bookings diary on my website clear until well into November.

To use my time productively I decided to learn how to shoot video on a DSLR camera, specifically a new Canon 5d mark 3.

Until now I've always shot on cameras with small sensors.  Good cameras, you understand, like my much loved Canon XF305 on which we shot Volume 3 - Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown and which I use regularly on shoots for the BBC.

For a long time now I have wanted to learn how to use a full frame sensor camera to get that much valued shallow depth of field.

My ideal video camera in this category is the Canon C300.  Once fully tricked out, it's out of my price range for now and I'm not good enough to make the most of it.

I know, I've tried.

The Canon 5D mk3 is a much cheaper compromise, especially if you buy a grey import here as I did.

The EF lenses it uses will fit the C300 and frankly, it's much harder to use for video.  After all, it's a stills camera.  If I can make this thing work for video then the C300 ought to be easier.

I could have bought a cheaper, more modern 'starter' DSLR video camera, but I'm thinking long term.  And an unexpected by-product is that I'm rekindling my love of stills photography.

I'll write more about the kit I've bought, the tutorials I've used, how it's working and hopefully post some video.  Once I've produced something which you might want to see.

One Year With Maggie


When a tiny border terrier came to live with us twelve months ago today I promised this would not become a dog-blog.

This anniversary is an exception.

We don't have kids so we laughingly refer to Maggie as our "fur-baby.  Actually, that's not far from the truth!

I've made a few videos of her in the past year which you can find on her YouTube channel.


I am self-aware enough to know how sad this sounds.  My younger self would scoff and sneer mercilessly.  But she is endlessly entertaining, as you can see below.

Sunart Community Hydro Electric Project

Photo: Iain Ferguson for Scottish Water
Our community is raising money to build a 100kw run of river hydro electric scheme.  

We're ahead of many communities trying to do the same because we already have a dam.

Earlier this week Scottish Water formally handed over their old dam which was previously the water supply for our village of Strontian.  

Archie Macgregor handed it to Sunart Community Company Chairman John Tyldsley, one of our near neighbours.  I took along my video camera and you can see the results below

I'll write more about the Sunart Community Renewables scheme in coming weeks.

I've made a promotional video for the project and I'm helping the team with their publicity.

What's more, I shall invest in the project.  As well as being an ethical, environmentally sound project which will deliver returns to our local community, it also offers a good financial return - equivalent to 10% over five years.  More on that in coming weeks.



Do You Want That In A Bag?


From Monday (20th Oct 2014) stores in Scotland must charge 5p for plastic and paper single-use bags.


The official guidance is here.  This is the result of a law passed by the Scottish Government to protect the environment by reducing the use of all bags which then reduces the resources used.  

A jolly good thing it is too.

The leaflet I picked up while buying a coffee in McDonald's makes it clear this applies to their take-away food.  

Want a burger and fries?  Expect to pay 5p extra for the tiny paper sack.  But here's where it's slightly odd.

Want just fries?  Then you don't pay 5p.  There's an exemption  for part-packaged food provided it is the only item in the bag.

What if the server hands you the fries in the bag and the burger in your hand - then once you have them you put in the burger in the bag bag yourself?  

Er, I don't know.  It's already in force in Wales, so perhaps someone can advise me.  Or I could just read the official guidance.  Nah - I don't eat burgers.

Register Your Phone To Make 999 Emergency Texts - Kayakers & Hill Walkers


If you head into wild places, whether on the sea or land, then you really ought to do this.  It takes less than 45 seconds. 


In an emergency situation, where you might not have a strong enough mobile phone signal for a voice call but a text might get through, you can use that text to alert the emergency services.

If your phone is registered.

Send a text to 999 with the word REGISTER.  Read the reply.  If you're happy, follow the instructions and reply with the word YES.

If you're in any doubt, I suggest you read this.  Honestly, why would anyone in the UK not do this?

Online Safety Course for Cyclists and Drivers

Initially I thought this a bit naff - kind of obvious stuff.  I was wrong.  


If you ride a bike or drive a vehicle this is genuinely worth watching.

Shot in Glasgow and produced by the city council's Go Safe Glasgow campaign it's applicable anywhere in the UK.  

I first did the cyclists course and to begin with found it all too simplistic.  The answers were obvious - most of us know what we should do even if we don't do it.  Then I got one wrong.  And I could see why.  So I learnt.  

Whether this works in the real world, I'm not so sure.  Cyclists are being taught to "control the road" which I totally get - but I'm not sure the nutter in the white van behind me has done the same course.

If you like it, also check out their Interactive Game and Go Safe Quiz.