Arnold preparing for an embed with US Marines in Afghanistan
I just finished shooting part of
a long term documentary for
Boo Films, a company based
in Malaysia, based on conflict
photography. I shoot video fairly
regularly for the Wall Street
Journal in Thailand, most of
which focuses on the ongoing
I have a number of
assignments lined up
with the UN in Asia.
Have you been busy?
Yes. But I would like
to be busier with
video. I still produce
some photo and text magazine
features but a majority of my
work over the last year has
been video. I still like telling a
good print feature story, but the
money and opportunities keep
Primarily shooting video in
Thailand and Myanmar. I’ve been
on the verge of returning to
Afghanistan for several projects
but none of them have come
through yet. I’m likely headed to
the Philippines and
Bangladesh for my
What types of
you mostly shot?
that I have worked
on most usually
involve conflict and going to
remote and difficult to reach
places. In some cases it was
because the media company
preferred that I assume the risks
instead of putting one of their
correspondents in danger.
In one case we were trying to
link up with a rebel group that was on the run being shelled,
which required a lot of time
and patience. Another required
traveling deep into Myanmar to
a remote area controlled by the
United WA State Army.
What are the challenges
of shooting for new online
With some of the new online
entrants, one of the biggest
challenges is they sometimes
don’t know what they want.
One time I had an editor in Asia
telling me my camera wasn’t
good enough, even though it
was far superior to the unit they
had requested the week before.
Some of their correspondents
were using Flip cameras that
were of much lower quality,
which left me really frustrated.
Malalai Joya, who spoke in the
Afghan Parliament against
warlords and alleged criminals
in the government
The chief editor in Europe
thought my camera was more
than good enough and was only
concerned with making sure the
video story properly supported
the text. I think some, perhaps
a lot, of the online sites are still
deciding what they want to be
technically and content-wise.
One problem is the print
people are usually in charge, so
video often ends up being the
stepchild in what should be an
integrated online story.
What were your experiences in
All of my published work
there has been photo and text
magazine features and work for
several NGOs and UN agencies.
I have one proposal out at the
moment that may take me back
there later this year.
How do you find getting
It all varies from country to
country and what you are trying
to do. It has become more
difficult to travel to Myanmar
legally, but the policy at different
embassies fluctuates. The Thais
are generally very good to work
with and you can work on most
subjects without any hassles.
With the convergence of DSLRs shooting
HD video (aka Canon 5D MkII), are you
heading this way, gear-wise?
I’ve shot a lot with the Canon 5D. I’m hoping
its replacement will address a lot of its
deficiencies in controlling and monitoring
sound as well as auto focus. Two LCD screens
would be a huge improvement too; one as a
flip-out screen the second as a fixed screen
where an eye cup could be
What was your first ever
My first real video assignment
came from the Wall Street Journal
last year during the Red Shirt
protests that paralyzed central Bangkok. The
protests lasted two months and I made about
20 videos during that time. One ended up
winning The Rory Peck Award for News.
The editors at the Wall Street Journal were
great. They let me go out and shoot whatever
I thought the story was that day. They knew I
understood the story since the protest camp
was right next to my apartment and I had
been there every day for two months.
Most recent, interesting assignments?
I shot a video interview with Thailand’s
current Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva,
the second time in less than a year. He
didn’t reveal anything major, but I think it’s
interesting any time you gain access to a
world leader and the people that make his
government work, especially at what could
be a pivotal moment in Thai history.
The most interesting story I’ve done was in
Laos in 2006 called Still A Secret War.
You can see a short multimedia piece about
it on my website
Current equipment you use?
A young Hmong boy stands guard in the jungle while his group rests, near Vang Vieng, Laos.
I use a Canon 5D, Rode VideoMic,
Sony UWP-V1 wireless Lavalier,
Sony PCM D50 field recorder for
backup audio, and a Manfrotto
tripod. I also have a small
Panasonic HDC-TM700 camcorder
that, for its size, does a lot of things pretty
well. It is good in environments where you
don’t want to attract too much attention.
Other gear you have access to?
Equipment “wish list”?
Some of the smaller Sonys are on my list, like
the HDR-AX2000 AVCHD camcorder, which is
light and low in price. I’m really waiting to see
what Canon releases as the successor to the
5D before making a decision.
What piece of gear do you wish someone
Something like the Sony HVR-A1E with a
chip that captures video with the quality of
the Canon 5D and records to Flash memory,
along with a few more pro features like ND
filters and externally accessible controls.
Best thing about your job?
The best thing is flexibility and being able to
do unusual stories on fascinating subjects.
Worst thing about your job?
Looking for new work, keeping a balance,
and juggling the demands of being freelance.
Dullest assignments and why?
I find the pressure to do a good job puts me
on edge and gives me a nervous energy that
fortunately I’m able to channel in a good
way, even if the topic might sound dull. The
only thing that can be dull is not having an
Hairiest/scariest assignments and why?
Last year’s Red Shirt protests in Bangkok
were difficult. I had seven journalist friends
or acquaintances who were shot or hit by
grenades during that time. Unfortunately,
one I’d known only for a few weeks was killed.
I’d rather talk about an inspiring Australian
cameraman named Neil Davis who really
did amazing work during the Vietnam war
before he was killed here in Bangkok in 1985.
Everyone should see David Bradbury’s film
on Davis called Frontline. Many regard Davis
as the finest cameraman from the war.
How much 16:9 do you shoot?
A lot with my Panasonic.
What country would you most like to
Afghanistan. It’s such an amazing, beautiful
and difficult place.
What’s your taste in music?
Anything but jazz. The Doors and The Rolling
Stones are favorites. I’m not from that
generation but the music that came out of
the 60s and early 70s is still the best.
Sushi or a hamburger, though I rarely eat
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