In "A Line In The Sand" Chris Burkard joins arborist and adventurer Eric Batty, professional mountain biker Emily Batty, and marketing specialist Adam Morka, to traverse the rugged Iceland landscape by bike. The film was shot using a trio of small Sony cameras, the new Sony Alpha α7S III, the ultra-compact ZV-1 and the Xperia 1 II smartphone.
"Like most of the projects I do, this was a personal project where I wanted to bike back through the Iceland interior," explains Burkard I had traveled to Iceland 43 times at this point and my interest in the country has expanded over the years – from surfing to human interest stories, to cycling around the country. I had set a course record on this fun bike race that circumnavigates the country, and the whole time I kept thinking there had to be a more intimate and unique way to experience this landscape. We came up with this more rugged and remote route that would bring us closer to the landscape in some passes. It was so many months of planning and organizing to figure out what would work."
The team used a combination of cameras to visually tell the story of the adventure. "We were so limited with space, we couldn't just tie a bunch of camera equipment to our bags," says Burkard. "We needed all of our main supplies first and then we could start exploring what space was left over. We shot a lot with the ZV-1 which is such a cool little camera, especially for video. Then we also shot with an α7S III. For some scenes that needed something a little more beefy we used that camera. The α7S III is just in such a workhorse."
With the need to stay super light being paramount on this Icelandic transect, the team also relied on an unexpected third camera, the Xperia II smartphone. Chris Burkard explains, "The hero of the trip for me was the Xperia 1 II. You're able to shoot 120, slow-motion 4K and more. It has really intuitive camera features and the functionality of it makes it not feel like a phone at all. That was huge for me. To be able to pull it out of my pocket and hold it like a camera with a designated shutter button. It's a great tool and was a critical piece of the project. It was so important to be able to capture those moments that happened really quickly. It allowed us to capture those important elements of storytelling while we were in the act of doing it."
Crossing Iceland by bicycle had its own unique challenges for Chris Burkard and the team. River crossings were particularly daunting because of the way the water volume changed during the day. "It was just stressful and it created a lot of anxiety. We crossed them safely," says Burkard, "but we felt like we were always on the verge of something catastrophic happening, like getting your foot stuck in a rock and breaking your ankle or falling over and having your whole bike get soaked and all your food gone. I mean, that would be the end of the trip or worse."
On a map Iceland seems like a relatively small island compared to other places where people attempt these sorts of coast-to-coast journeys, but it's full of unique challenges. "The biggest challenge for sure were the river crossings," says Burkard. "They were big swollen rivers that we'd have to cross and it was challenging because we had to wake up at the crack of dawn and try and cross these things when it was freezing cold. We had to do that because when it's cold, they're lower. If you were to cross it during the middle of the day, they could swell up to three to four times the size. It's crazy."
He continues, "You have these huge riverbeds that are just almost dry as a bone. And then the glaciers crack open in the midday sun after freezing overnight and the almost dry riverbeds from dawn become torrents. We were lifting 80 pound bikes over our backs and we're trying to move across these rivers. It was just stressful and it created a lot of anxiety. We crossed them safely, but we felt like we were always on the verge of something catastrophic happening, like getting your foot stuck in a rock and breaking your ankle or falling over and having your whole bike get soaked and all your food gone. I mean, that would be the end of the trip or worse."
Treks like this one are hardwired into Chris Burkard's DNA. But it's not just another mountain to climb, the drive to go to these unique places and show these adventures to his millions of social-media followers doesn't come from ego, it comes from a genuine desire to inspire others enable them to share the experience. Burkard explains, "The reason I was so driven to make this trip happen was really twofold. First, there's the inspiration, drive and desire to go and do something and see what you're capable of and push yourself. But the other component I always think about for a project is whether or not the trip is going to, in some capacity, inspire others to want to go and experience it for themselves. I felt like within this film and this project, I was able to find and thread a line that allowed people to realize through our experience, that if you really want to experience a place like this, then the idea of self-induced hardship is a really important aspect of it."
For some the goal of a trek is getting to the top, getting to the other side...finishing. For Burkard, the rewards aren't so much in the finish line, they're elsewhere. "I think the most rewarding moment was waking up in the middle of nowhere on the edge of a glacier. And I remember realizing that we had just crossed 30 miles of sand and we were in one of the most seismically active places on the planet and realizing that the only way to get out of here was to ride ourselves out. That was a daunting feeling, but it was like also a very cool feeling. I remember waking up on the edge of that glacier with snow everywhere with a huge grin on my face because we got ourselves there with own two feet. It's a different kind of feeling of validation. The world is so focused on external validation from all these sources like social media and there's something really special about being in a place like that and experiencing it, knowing that there's an internal validation that comes from being there."