Review: The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend

cairngorm poster

Many of you I’ll be aware of Terry Abraham’s outdoor videos. Having turned a hobby into a business, his output has become markedly more ambitious. He’s just released a 96 minute film “The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend”. The project was funded through Kickstarter, including a modest contribution from my good self.

It’s difficult to review something that you have emotional stake in, so I’m not going to try to be objective. To say this film exceeded my expectations is the understatement of the century. To go from short promotional videos to full length film/documentary is amazing. To attempt this in the depths of a Cairngorm winter is nothing short of bonkers.

Quite frankly, this is the best outdoor film I’ve seen in a long while, possibly ever. It’s been made with a huge amount of care and love by both Terry and Chris. The cinematography is terrific. Terry has captured the full drama and majesty of the Cairngorms from the glens to the mountain tops. The time lapse photography is jaw dropping at times.

The snow and changeable weather give the scenery incredible contrast and vibrancy. Of course, this has to be captured on film, and Terry has done a great job. To do this in possibly one of the most hostile environments in the UK is incredible.

Ninety minutes of just looking at scenery on film, however magnificent, might get boring. Interlaced through the film is a very personal view of the Cairngorms from the one and only Chris Townsend. I thought Chris was brilliant. Talking from the heart, he explains his love of the Cairngorms and how it has related to his life.

It could have been a really dull monologue, but it wasn’t. Chris struck the right balance between personal reflection and being informative. He was fluent without being rushed. Some documentaries have too much commentary. I thought this film had the right mix, with the scenery being given time to breathe and speak for itself.

Special mention must be made of the music accompaniment. At first it sounds a bit like a Lord of the Rings out-take, but quickly settles to be an effective evocation of the landscape. As the film progresses, it becomes better and better.

Kickstarter supporters have been supplied with a 720HD downloadable version. I watched this first on my computer, which has a reasonable monitor. The second time, I watched it on my Sony TV through a Bluray player. It was good on PC, but fabulous on a HiDef TV.

I also pumped the sound through my Hifi (an expensive AVI active system). Terry was a bit concerned whether the sound was up to snuff, but through the Hifi, it was excellent with both words and music very clear.

As I said at the beginning, as a backer, I’m hardly the most objective judge, but I’m delighted at the final product. I think it stands comparison with the finest outdoor films. I congratulate Terry and Chris on the fruits of their labours and hope there will be further projects. They deserve enormous credit for producing a superb film on a shoestring in testing conditions.

The DVD should be available in June to buy from SteepEdge, where you can see a trailer of the film. It is also being premièred at George Fisher in Keswick on 18th May (sold out) and will be shown at the Rheged Centre near Penrith from July 22nd to 27th.

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