Shooting video above the Arctic Circle is not for the faint of heart.
It all started with an e-mail from Charlie Moore of "360": Would Neil Hallsworth and I like to spend six months filming around the world ... without being shot at? Hell yes!
We had both spent the better half of the previous year covering regions of the world where the bullet was favored over the ballot. Of course, there was one small catch with this new venture. It was to be CNN's first big foray into the world of high-definition video, which meant I would have to figure out how to use this new equipment on the fly.
Not to worry, with cameras and support gear I got onto a plane (on my birthday), armed with the camera manual as my reading matter, and headed for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to meet up with "Lord" Hallsworth, and then into the Amazon. It was wet, very wet.
Hallsworth and I both went on the journey so we would have two cameras gathering pictures from two photographers with polar opposite ideas. We would work in the same space filming -- one wide lens and one tight -- to provide some varied and interesting views and images.
The Amazon left a lasting impression on me. So much so, in fact, that I still have a little worm crawling around in my leg.
From Brazil it was on to Southeast Asia -- Thailand, Cambodia and Burma. Here we used a "hidden cam" -- a camera the size of a shirt button -- to catch vendors selling endangered species.
The small cameras took a little getting used to. The first time out, in a small border town in Burma, with Charlie (one of the producers) looking to acquire illegal tiger skins, we wound up with some very fine video of the ceiling. Ever intrepid, we returned and got what we needed.
Yes, that's me hugging a baby polar bear.
As we were leaving Burma, I was told the last photographer who had gone undercover in that country was still in jail. Hmmm, perhaps I should have been told this beforehand. Well, that is where the warm tropical weather ended for a while.
We were off to film some polar bears in Alaska. I have selectively forgotten the name of the town, as it is a Dry Town. We found, darted and tagged the bears and I even got to hug a baby polar bear, the first time in my life I put my camera down and picked up my subject for a photo-op.
We then visited Greenland, within the Artic Circle. The landscape is so stark, when you look around you have the feeling of standing on top of a great white ball. Now I have pottied in many places and varied conditions, but never had I been to a "shiggloo", which is a toilet seat on top of an ice hole with a few blocks of ice to stop the whistling wind.
Here we also did the first live transmission from the Artic via broadband (or any means). The picture was so good that Anderson was able to open that night's "360". Yes it was cold, very, very cold.
Finally, warm weather again, as we went into Africa and a vanishing lake in Chad. It was extremely hot and dusty, with long rides through never-ending soft white sand. The sun never ever set; it simply faded away at the end of each day.
Chad was the first place I had ever had to help jump start a plane. A small four-seater was supposed to take us over Lake Chad to film. It arrived, so in we went.
"Merda," the pilot said. With my limited French, I knew that was not good. "We jump start," the pilot said. We got the battery from our vehicle and did what was required.
The next stop in our journey was Madagascar. Here we participated in a RAP (Rapid Assessment Program -- scientists gather a lot of information very quickly) or as Neil and I would come to say -- Rapidly Acquiring Pictures.
Then we went back to the USofA and Yellowstone and the wolves. Finally off to China to see where all the wildlife we had been filming thus far was being consumed.
The amusing moment here was when a plate of penis from many kinds of animals was placed on the restaurant table for consumption. And here I leave you to imagine the comments that filled the air. I do not need another trip to human resources.
From there, Hallsworth went to the South Pacific and I went to India. Interesting filming. Let's put it this way -- getting a fairly long shot of a beach or river scene in Mumbai without someone going to the toilet is challenging.
Enough said about all this. I, like you, await the final documentary. From what I am hearing, it should be epic. All I ask for now is another war to go cover.
-- By Philip Littleton, CNN Photographer