TV cameraman Keith Partridge on braving the great outdoors

Having filmed in some of the world’s most extreme environments, award-winning adventure cameraman Keith Partridge really does enjoy Touching the Void.

My favourite childhood memory is of cycling around the lanes of north Norfolk on a Saturday, on my own, with a camping stove and a pannier and – I’m not sure I should admit this – stopping at a field to dig up some potatoes so I’d have chips to fry. I loved that sense of freedom and independence, even at a very early age.

I kind of fell into the job I do now. While I was very studious in primary school, by the time I was at grammar school extracurricular activities got in the way. I was distracted by running a mobile disco and so failed all my exams. But, because we built all the equipment ourselves, it was the disco that got me my first job at the BBC.

I think my success is down to having an open, positive attitude, and being able to realise when an opportunity might be worth taking. Rather than thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that’, you go, ‘Yeah!’, then worry about it afterwards. Jump in and you’ll deal with it.

It’s very difficult to pin down a favourite assignment because every single one has had something about it that you bring home. But a definite highlight was the film Touching the Void.

Everyone was nervous about making it, because the book it was based on was so brilliant, and a film is never as good as the book. In this case, though, I think it probably was. It did so well. We were all blown away by people’s reaction to it. I remember sitting at the première with 850 people in the audience and you could have heard a pin drop from the first frame until long after the lights had come up at the end. Everyone just sat there, completely stunned. That was a very powerful moment.

The Human Planet series was another highlight. I loved being able to spend time with Berik and Silau in Mongolia as Silau guided his son on the rite of passage into manhood through the noble art of hunting with a golden eagle. That was very special. In terms of technical film work, I would go all the way back to 1998: we did a series called Wild Climbs, where we set off to do this ice-climbing fi lm in Colorado. I still think it’s some of the best sequences of climbing I have had the opportunity to film.

Adventure is more than a job to me: it’s a passion. It’s all-encompassing, it’s all-consuming, but it’s not adventure for adventure’s sake. For me, it’s about the story and the people. And, because there will always be stories and there will always be people, there is always subject matter.

But I know what this job has given me and it’s that opportunity to peer into other people’s lives in a very positive way, or peer round the corner into a world that is so mindblowingly beautiful or so incredibly challenging. And if you have the chance to encourage people to look round the corner to a different way of doing things or a different world, you should do it.

I’ve met some really wonderful people through my work. One man I really admire is Sir Chris Bonington. He has inspired so many people to get into mountaineering and climbing . He led some of Britain’s most challenging expeditions during the golden era of mountaineering in the 1970s and 1980s, and he’s still incredibly active. I filmed him climbing the Old Man of Hoy when he was 80. He is truly inspirational, and really nice to boot.

I was involved in two major filming projects this year and they couldn’t have been more different. One was to the Arctic with a group of novice expedition people. The Arctic is where I cut my expedition teeth, so it felt like a homecoming. We had many, many laughs, as it should be, and we achieved our objectives. It doesn’t get any better than that.

I went from the freezer into the frying pan, with a month in Venezuela with Steve Backshall. With John Arran and Ivan Calderon, two absolutely world-class rock climbers, we attempted the first ascent of this mountain face on a tepui. (A tepui is a mountain that rises vertically out of the rainforest and has a flat top – like a top hat, but think of the rim of the hat as impenetrable rain forest that goes on forever.) From there we went caving, and just for kicks at the end, we descended the left side of Angel Falls, the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall.

Keith Partridge’s book The Adventure Games is published by Sandstone Press, priced £24.99.

(This feature was originally published in 2015)