After multiple life-threatening sports-related injuries suddenly derailed him from a future as a professional athlete, college student Ross Radcliffe turned to his interest entirely to his other love, cinematography. Born and raised on Vancouver Island in Canada, Radcliffe became motivated by the idea of seeking out remote corners of the world and capturing them on film. Turning the hours he would have spent training into hours submerged in film making, the revolutionary cinematographer quickly became recognized as among the top of the field.
When asked what it was about cinematography that captured his interest, Radcliffe answered without hesitation. “To be a cinematographer is to be a visual storyteller,” he said. “I get to craft images that effectively move the audience through a story, with all the twists and turns of emotions along the way.” And that he does.
Radcliffe began by shooting and editing his own projects, which quickly secured him a position with Susie Films, a full service, pitch to post production company. At Susie Films, Radcliffe’s love for the industry flourished, and before long, his insurmountable talents were recognized by major reality TV networks. National Geographic quickly hired him as a freelance cinematographer, followed quickly thereafter by both Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel.
With work pouring in, Radcliffe admits that his physical stamina and limitless capabilities are invaluable to networks filming shows revolving around high paced, action packed adventure. “I think a big responsibility of mine, due to the type of projects I shoot, is to stay on top of my physical conditioning,” says Radcliffe. He continues, “when I film a subject, I want to make sure their are no barriers between the story and the audience, so I have to be a pro at following along, no matter the conditions or situations might be. In my field, a good cinematographer blends into the situation to let it play out as naturally as possible.”
It is because of this physical endurance and artistically trained eye that audiences have the incredible adventure-based reality shows we see today. For example, Radcliffe worked as the Director of Photography on The Travel Channel’s Jackson Wild. The series revolves around the EJ Jackson, a 4-time world champion and adventure author and founder of Jackson Kayak, and his brave and fearless family. During this production, Radcliffe followed the family to Germany, Austria, South Africa, England and Zambia, where he faced what he calls a “crazy challenge” of keeping up with them physically. Radcliffe recalls of the experience, “I was able to capture mountain biking through Europe and waterfall jumping in Africa but, for the record, running around Africa with a 40 lb camera on your shoulder isn’t easy!”
Trekking through the freezing temperatures of an Alaskan winter was no easy task, either, though through his beautifully captured images used in National Geographic’s Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet, Radcliffe made it look graceful and effortless. As the Director of Photography, the tactful cinematographer followed Dr. Oakley day and night and captured irreplaceable footage of the veterinarian as she helped a weak cow deliver an over sized calf. Radcliffe recalls the experience fondly, adding “while this project was extremely demanding physically and sometimes entailed stepping in stinky animal droppings or running from an angry muskox, I was honored to be part of such a small, hand selected team.”
No longer a stranger to Alaska by any means, Radcliffe was hired next for his technological brilliance and insurmountable endurance by The Animal Planet and Discovery Channel to shoot The Last Alaskans. Ranked second in the network’s most watched shows, the program is internationally acclaimed for its genre-busting take on the people and families who reside in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, located just above the arctic circle. Radcliffe’s contribution to the series gained recognition in The New York Times and The Washington Post, hooking viewers with depictions of unimaginably challenging living conditions, matched only in magnitude by the stunning beauty of the terrain.
To the great advantage of audiences worldwide, Radcliffe’s deep desire to put himself into other people’s shoes through the magic of cinematography will never fade. He admits, “being a cinematographer is the only job I have ever had that doesn’t feel like work. Every day that I wake up on location, I truly cannot believe how lucky I am. I’m honored and humbled to be instrumental in telling stories about people and places that would have gone otherwise unnoticed.” With his rare and refined compounded talents in both technology and athleticism, Radcliffe is sure to bring us uniquely captivating and alluring images for years to come.