Unveiling the Spirit of Exploration: An exclusive interview with Adventurer and Cinematographer, Steve Wall
In this chat, we're diving deep into Steve's incredible journey, his most thrilling expeditions, and his passionate views on nature conservation. Plus, Steve spills the beans on his upcoming adventures, including his current Iceland escapade.
Before we delve into your adventures and explorations, could you share a bit about yourself and your journey as an adventurer and cinematographer? What sparked your passion for the great outdoors and capturing its essence on film?
I’m a film director and cinematographer based between Australia & Iceland, I specialise in underwater camera work and shoot in a lot of challenging environments. It all started for me growing up in Sydney, chasing waves up and down the coast. I love the thrill of discovery that surfing in more remote places can give you, it’s motivated a lot of epic adventures over the years and countless experiences that define who I am today. I love to ski, hike, climb and camp, basically anything that gets me outside and active. I’d say that nature has been my greatest teacher personally, so working on films in the outdoor has always been so much more than just work.
You've embarked on numerous extraordinary journeys. Could you share some of your most memorable expeditions and how it impacted your outlook on life? (if there are a few, perhaps one Australian based one and another overseas)
Close to home, I love going backcountry skiing in the Australian Alps. There is a lifetime of different spots, a really rad community and it’s one of those beautiful things in life where there is no shortcut to success. You have to put in the time and trust the process and be ready to go with the flow. There is just far too much variability in snow conditions and weather to show up knowing exactly what you’re going to get that day. Sure, the conditions in Australia can be pretty ordinary, but it just makes you appreciate the good days even more. I guess it’s a good reminder that sometimes you have to let go of chasing an outcome, and just learn to enjoy the process.
I was looking at some old photos the other day, from one of the first times I went out snow camping with a great mate from home. We had so much more enthusiasm than experience at that point, but that’s what makes it memorable. We had waiting for the storm to clear, touring through the trees in the morning, knowing the coming days would be glorious in the alpine. Unexpectedly, the storm cleared ahead of schedule, so we bolted back to the car in record time, packed up our overnight snow camping gear and begun the four hour approach to a mountain we’d never skied before, that we thought might just be holding soft snow.
In Australia, you have to get to the fresh snow before the sun does, which means there is no time to waste the minute the clouds clear. With four hours of light left in the day, we pushed hard to camp, set up our tent for later and rushed over to the adjacent peak right on sunset, with some serious froth. We hoped there would be soft snow in the chute, but in the shade and ice. We skied it to the bottom, scraping edges echoing throughout the valley, but it didn’t matter. The naive enthusiasm had paid off and put us deep in the alpine wilderness at sunset with nobody for miles.
Climbing the sheet ice ridge out in the pitch darkness and getting lost in a whiteout before tripping over the rime-iced tent all just added to the experience. After 16 hours in ski boots, crawling into my alpine sleeping bag has never felt so good.
Your adventures take you from the depths of the sea to the summit of mountains. What is it that you love most about these vastly different experiences?
I just love being immersed in the wild elements. Whether it be up in the mountains, ocean or anything in between, I think wild places are good for the mind, body and soul. Adventures have taught me so much about problem-solving, resilience, lots of good stuff that has shaped who I am as a person today.
The environments you explore can be both challenging and unpredictable. How do you prepare mentally and physically for these demanding expeditions? Can you offer any tips on how you prepare for such challenges? (Can you share one particularly challenging expedition/work project?)
I think it all comes down to the authenticity of your motivations and intentions in anything you do.
I recently had the privilege of directing/shooting a sequence for the upcoming BBC Planet Earth III series, where we needed a certain set of ocean conditions to come together for a certain location in southern Australia. We had over a year to shoot it, and of course, the ocean decided it wasn’t going to give us what we were hoping for. With a deadline looming, we just had to travel to the location camp out for a few weeks and do the best we could with it, one way or another. I guess on any expedition or filming trip, you’ve just taken to the challenges with a positive outlook to keep things moving forward. Every minute of getting that done was enjoyable, because contributing to a project that captures the imagination of a global audience in the way that Sir David’s shows do, is one of the great honours for a filmmaker.
Gear plays a crucial role in any adventurer's toolkit. What are some must-have items you rely on to overcome obstacles and capture inspiring footage during your explorations?
It does take time to figure out what works, and what doesn’t, and I don’t think the process of refining equipment ever really ends. I love equipment that can provide cutting-edge function without sacrificing durability - so for me, that is my Red Raptor camera and Salty underwater housings, my four-wheel drive and a whole lot of key outdoor gear like my Sea to Summit sleeping systems. Being able to travel comfortably and live remotely out of the back of the car is the foundation for so much of my work, and doing weeks or months on the road is just not sustainable if you haven’t really got your equipment figured out.
As an adventurer and world traveller, you've explored numerous breathtaking destinations. Amongst them all, we're curious to know—what sets Australia apart from all the other places you've travelled to?
Australia is special for the immense diversity of natural wonders within and the carefree nature of our people. You can truly spend a lifetime of holidays exploring within our borders, and not even come close to seeing it all, so it’s really easy to get your nature fix close to home in pretty much any corner of the country. If you go live in Scandinavia for just a little while you’ll realise just how special Australian wildlife is, too.
We share a deep commitment to environmental conservation and the protection of our planet. How do your experiences in the wild influence your perspective on conservation?
My experiences in the wild have made me a keen observer of the challenges we face in moving to a more sustainable future. Governments that serve certain industries ahead of our social and environmental needs, rising inequality, and media outlets unable or unwilling to talk about what really matters. It’s the same old story happening all over the world, and all of these things combine to undermine protection of the natural world. Honestly, I wish we didn’t have to think about stuff like this - it’s not fun, it’s complicated and it’s depressing at times. It’s a lot to take on board as an individual, but I think being in the loop and aware of what’s going on is one of the most powerful things we can do. Exploring the myriad complexities of society's interaction with the natural world is something I could happily study, ponder and discuss for the rest of my days - and I hope to contribute to this discussion with a film someday.
Lastly, we're eager to hear about your future projects. What upcoming adventures are you excited about? (Can talk about Iceland etc.)
I’m writing this from Iceland, where I’ll be based for the next little while. I’m working on some nature and adventure film projects in Europe whilst trying to get more time in the mountains this upcoming winter. I’ve just spent two months camped out along the Nullarbor coast, chasing Southern Ocean storms, beginning a project I feel like I’ve been building up to since I started with a camera. I can’t reveal too much just yet, but after one trip there and back across Australia, I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface of what’s possible.