Crew, Gear Put to the Test in Discovery’s ‘Alaska: The Last Frontier’

Conditions are harsh for the Kilcher clan, homesteaders in the Alaska wilderness. They survive without plumbing and modern heating, subsist by hunting, and spend the short summers preparing for the long winters.

So imagine what it’s like for the camera crew that shoots them for Discovery’s “Alaska: The Last Frontier.”

“There’s lots of rain and mud,” says d.p. Leif Johnson. “The challenge of bringing electronic equipment into this environment is never boring.”

Nonetheless, that equipment, including Canon digital cameras, held up well.

To prepare for lugging camera gear and generators across the rugged landscape, crew members go through vigorous workouts and steel themselves for the worst. “You’re holding a camera, monitoring audio, and you’ve got mosquitoes buzzing in your ear,” says camera operator David Short. “I suck it up and forget my fears.”

Debris on lenses adds authenticity. For hunting scenes, the crew uses creative angles and long shots.

The camera team drew an Emmy nom for cinematography last year. Staff is awaiting word on whether the show will return for season five.

“It’s an adventure you can’t find anywhere else,” says d.p. Eric Billman.

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