“I miss everyone” (“The broom of the system”, by David Foster Wallace). For David, award-winning filmmaker and photographer, those who stay back at home while he’s away on his expeditions are always with him: Maine, his wife and chef MiMi, and Rosie, “a golden retriever trapped in a poodle’s body” (from Rosie’s fan page, curated by David). His hearty, warm laugh says it all about his personality. Generous, shy and sociable at the same time, he’s the ideal travel companion. A soul that can’t stop getting amazed and sharing his enthusiasm even after years spent travelling all over the world. A curriculum that is difficult to contain within a globe. He knows how to keep a positive attitude even when facing misfortunes and moments of tiredness. We’ve walked with him in the tundra of the Russian Far East. A man so knowledgeable about countries, men and animals, which doesn’t stop being impressed by how much beauty is there still to be found in the world around us. expeditionworkshops.com - Twitter @LunaSeaFilms - Instagram @planetearthpictures
If you could close your eyes and be somewhere else, where would you want to be?
Am I allowed to time travel? If you give me an option like this, I may as well make full use of the opportunity. My choice would be at the table of some good friends that lived in the wine producing district of Victoria, Australia. They ran a small vineyard and farm where my wife and I spent many happy nights eating some of the best food and drinking some of the best wine I have ever tasted. This region, just north of Melbourne, is blessed with some of the best ingredients a chef could want. Combine this with great friends and you have a perfect meal, and times I will always remember. I would recommend a visit to Melbourne and the surrounding wine country to anyone. Sorry Sydney, but in my opinion the restaurants in Melbourne are some of the best in the world. The city is also so ethnically diverse that you can also order just about anything you can imagine.
The restaurant where you feel at home
This is a hard question as my wife is a very talented chef and her cooking is hard to beat. Although we both love food, we also try to eat in an ethical way to minimize our impact on the planet, so eat primarily a plant based diet. That makes restaurant choices challenging. I love food from both SE Asia and India, so gravitate to restaurants serving that kind of food. But to be quite honest, they can be hard to find in the US, so I tend to make the most of these options when traveling…. I might have to disappoint you on this question and say eating with family and friends at either our own home or one of theirs would be my choice, but if I was going to recommend a restaurant, it would be Tasca in the town of Ponta Delgada in the Azores. Strangely enough they cooked me a fabulous Indian dinner, the atmosphere and location were great and our group had a wonderful time. This place felt like eating out at a friend’s home…
A hotel room that makes you nostalgic
I have traveled a lot, but making documentaries often means staying in not the most fancy of hotels or where the average traveller might choose. This can definitely have its benefits, but has also meant staying in some pretty challenging locations as well. One of the most memorable hotels was Mario’s in the town of Broken Hill, Australia (Now The Palace). A Victorian miners hotel, it was kept dark so as not to upset the vision of the men that had been underground all day, but the owner spent years painting the interior to look like the Sistine Chapel. It was used in the classic Australian film Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I still remember waking up to angels on the ceiling in this Outback town also known as the location for the movie Mad Max. But as far as nostalgic, I would have to say a room at the Inn on Little St Simons Island, Georgia in the US. This is where I met my wife, when she was the chef. We spent some very happy years living there before heading to New England. We have gone back to stay at this gem an many occasions and still love the place.
A travel you could do over and over again without getting bored
I love India and have been lucky enough to travel extensively in the southern part of the country. It is a place of extremes and contrasts, the best and the worst, from absolute beauty to the most unimaginable horrors that a person can endure. As a traveller, you see it all, although luckily only have to observe the dark side of the continent. And the good certainly far out weighs the bad! so don’t let my reaction put you off from visiting. I could go back again and again to experience the natural wonders, the kindness and grace of the people, as well as the food, which is always a highlight of any visit! Plus India is also a visual feast, which makes it a photographer’s paradise.
A dish that recently surprised you
I mentioned Tasca in Ponta Delgada. Going to a Portuguese restaurant is not where you would immediately go to find good Indian food but they had it on the menu. I enjoyed a wonderful lentil curry, accompanied by fresh vegetables and great local wine. The place also had classic local dishes that were enjoyed by the group I was working with, which numbered eight. Everyone had some different and were all delighted with their selections. I think the key was that the ingredients were all fresh, good quality and well prepared in a healthy way…. No processed ingredients, just fresh.
A holiday place from your childhood
It’s funny looking back on childhood vacations. For many years my parents packed caravan and took us to the same campsite again and again in North Wales. You would have thought preparations were in place for a journey to some exotic far off land, but in fact we drove to a location that would normally be three or four hours away, but my poor Dad was so scared of towing that he took back roads and made the drive last an entire day, in fact making his experience much worse than it needed to be. Still, there are many happy memories of hiking, fishing and spending time with my Dad and beginning to learn how to use a camera, which has led to a wonderful career. Thankfully more exotic travels have followed, but strangely enough, I would love to tour Wales one more time.
If a kid asked you to take him/her on a trip, where would that be?
I have been lucky enough to see Australia from one side to the other and it is a lucky country thanks to its grandeur, unique and spectacular wildlife and, the great welcome you always receive. The space of the Outback gives you the feel of stepping back in time and that would be a wonderful experience for a child to see a world less impacted by people. (Although as a side note, go see it soon as the Australia I knew is changing due to the lack of support from the Government for environmental concerns such as climate change).
If you could choose a dream place to celebrate, what would that be?
Over the years my wife MiMi has been able to travel with me to many of the locations where we have shot. Sadly the television business has changed a lot and we rarely get to spend the time we used to in the field. For the last few yeas, this has made it hard to bring her along. I know on the occasions she travels and leaves me at home, it is hard to be the one that is left behind, so I greatly value her patience when I return after working in an far off place and regale her with stories of adventures she only gets to share infrequently. So if you asked me to choose a dream place to celebrate, it would be taking her to a place I have been lucky enough to see but not had the chance to share with her. I think I will choose a champagne birthday breakfast overlooking the falls on the King George River in the Kimberley region of Australia. The energy from the cascading water and the endless view make you feel so alive.
A view you will never forget
I have been lucky enough to work in over 50 countries and see some of the great wonders of the world on all seven continents. It’s hard to choose a view from the spectacular waterfalls of the Guyana to dawn over a waterhole in Sri Lanka with herds of elephants taking their morning bath, but if pushed, I think the beaches of South Georgia (and as great as they are, not the South Georgia beaches of the US) like Gold Harbor or Salisbury Plain. To see, hear and smell hundreds of thousands of king penguins, accompanied by elephant seals, fur seals and well as all kinds of other birds is quite incredible. The surrounding mountains frame a scene that is hard to describe. The enormity of the experience and place can perhaps only be understood by people that have been lucky enough to visit.
A place you wish it was just round the corner
While I love South Georgia and wish I could go back to photograph the wildlife and landscape, the place I wish was closer is Australia. I love the land, the wildlife, the forests but most of all have made friendships there that I know will be the most important of my life. As much as the wildlife draws me back as a photographer and filmmaker, these bonds are more important and connections like this make traveling so worthwhile. My wife MiMi and I feel we have a whole other family in Australia, many of who are sadly no longer with us, but that connection never seems to weaken.