GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Nick Isenberg was on a mission to shoot some new footage of now-102-year-old skier Julian Vogt for his latest video project last spring, when a misplaced dog paw disrupted things.
Blind in his right eye since early in his life, and suffering from deteriorating vision in his left eye in recent years, the longtime video, print and radio journalist had arranged to shoot Vogt on the cross country ski trails at Sunlight Mountain Resort before the end of the ski season.
“I had put off doing videos for a time because of my eye,” Isenberg said of his condition, which he was told would get better with a new contact lens that he was still waiting to receive at the time.
“But I had to get this project done before the snow melted,” he said.
While Isenberg was lying in bed one morning about a week before the shoot, though, his 40-pound pug/Shar-Pei mix, Ajax, accidentally stepped on his face, further damaging his good eye.
Not only did he have to go back to getting around town using his white walking cane, Isenberg became even more sensitive to bright light as a result of the latest injury.
That became an even bigger problem when trying to shoot video, or do anything for that matter, on the snow. Isenberg, at age 71, is an avid skier himself, and would need to be on his skis in order to shoot video of Vogt.
So he was forced to improvise.
To get the footage he wanted, Isenberg would need to use his smaller, hand-held Canon video camera, which has a video display rather than a covered viewfinder that would otherwise block out the bright light.
At first, he crafted a makeshift hood using the black plastic piece from the bottom of a canvas shopping bag.
But that didn’t quite do the trick, as he came away with a lot of out-of-focus, off-frame shots of Vogt and some close-ups of the snow when he thought the camera was off but was still recording.
He then made a new hood using a larger black nylon bag that he was able to see through more easily so he could frame his shots.
“The other stuff was good, but I have my own standards that I like to meet, and this gave me what I was looking for,” Isenberg said.
He documented his efforts to complete the shoot in a 15-minute video titled “Blind Photographer Shoots Video of 102-year-old Skier,” which he posted on YouTube last summer. The video can also be found on Isenberg’s website, www.nickisenberg.com.
One goal of the video was to show amateur videographers how they can adjust for the glare that can often be a problem with common hand-held video camera display screens.
“It’s pretty simple, if you watch the video you can learn how to make one,” Isenberg said.
Helping with the video shoot was young Shane Burr, who was 10 at the time and who occasionally helps as a blind ski guide for Isenberg.
The video also serves as a preview of Isenberg’s upcoming documentary piece, “Giving People Permission Not to be Old,” in which he will chronicle the active lifestyles of people in their 80s, 90s and in Vogt’s case, 100s.
Isenberg first began shooting video of Vogt in 2007 when he was a mere 96 years old for a project called “Killing our Parents with Kindness.” At that time, Vogt was still an avid snowboarder in addition to his alpine and cross country skiing, ice skating, roller blading, swimming and other activities.
At 102, as of April 20, 2013, he still does most of those activities.
“People say I should act my age,” Vogt comments in the “Blind Photographer” video clip. “But I tell them people can ski at any age. I know people who can ski better than they can walk.”
Vogt told the Post Independent on Thursday that he’s been up cross country skiing a few times this season already, and hopes to get out on the slopes again soon. But he’s pretty busy with his regular exercise classes and learning to ice skate.
“I haven’t had one fall so far,” he said. “As much as I have time, I’m usually out there doing something.”