Norman Todd - Breaking The Ice To Wild Swim As Seen On BBC

Norman Todd - Breaking The Ice To Wild Swim As Seen On BBC

Norman Todd is a friend of mine who asked if i would like to get some footage of him swimming in a loch as he is training for his biggest challenge yet, swimming the Minch.

Video Link

We checked the weather forecasts and agreed that Saturday was looking the most suitable for the drone to be flying and picked two possible locations for doing the swim, Loch Droma or Loch Glascarnoch, so i got down to doing the necessary paper work (risk assessments etc). 

Friday Norman went to do a recce of the Lochs to see if they were going to be accessible, we had a large snow fall throughout the week and even getting access to the Lochs could be challenging, let alone swimming in them.  Norman advised that Loch Droma had a large volume of snow on top of the ice making it too dangerous so Loch Glascarnoch it would be.  My Friday night was spent updating the firmware, charging the batteries and packing everything ready for Saturday. 

Norman Ice Swim
It was a lovely drive out to Loch Glascarnoch, getting into the layby was rather intersting, Normans lovely Audi A4 was wheel spinning all over the place, the trusty VW T5 campervan was great in the snow, touch wood i have never been stuck.    

Norman Todd Ice Swim 2
We headed down to the Loch and you could see it was frozen over, a little unexpected, we knew Loch Droma would be frozen but did not think that Loch Glascarnoch would be completely frozen.  

For the video i wanted it too look and feel like Norman was on his own in a complete snow covered wilderness and this would mean that i would have to be taking off and landing a distance away from Norman.  We used two way radios to communicate and once the drone was setup and check lists complete and batteries warmed up i took the drone up and carried out a few manoeuvres, the sun was starting to drop at this point and i had a ND filter that was borderline not strong enough to deal with the light.  Decision time, do i bring the drone back and change the filter or do i just try and catch a bit of the sun before it goes. 

I gave Norman the signal to go and started a roll shot as he entered the ice, breaking it with his hands and then recording him swimming from different angles.  I then asked Norman to go in again :-) so i could get a different view from directly above and shoot his entry into the ice so we would have more angels when it came to the edit.  The light had dropped at this point making it a much flatter contrast.  I shoot in Apple Pro Res at 4k in DLOG which gives me room for post processing, not always the easiest in the field to tell exposure need to rely on the histogram reading. 

One set of batteries, shoot took less then 20mins in total and about the same time with the edit in Adobe Premier Pro, took the video down to under 2 mins, sort and sweet. 

Uploaded to Vimeo and that's where things started going a bit mental. 

BBC contacted me wanting to use the video, i expected it to only be put onto BBC Scotland website but i was wrong it went much further than there news papers / online media companies, live interview with Norman Todd and video went out on BBC Global to 50million people.  BBC Earth shared the video on their facebook page and got more than 1.2m views.  


Norman Todd Ice Swim BBC

BBC Scotland Website / Twitter  
BBC Scotland - Reporting Scotland TV News 
BBC News (Most Watched Online Video)
BBC Earth
BBC Global (Live Broadcast Interview and Video) Even tho they called me Steve Courlay.... 50m people 
Travel & Leisure Magazine


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