Cultural Exchange: Born to Explore places a large focus on the people and cultures encountered on their travels. Here, in a Himba village in Namibia, the director/cinematographer says he communicated with this child in high fives and looks.
“The gorillas were close to us. Huge, scary, and curious, they would stare and try to figure us out,” says Barnhardt. “And we were surrounded by five guys carrying AK-47s to protect us from getting kidnapped by the other kind of guerrillas in the forest. It was intense to say the least.”
On the Brink: Barnhardt and crew went deep into the jungles of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to document the endangered mountain gorillas and the vanishing Batwa pygmies.
Winning Shots: The Emmy nod for cinematography was for the episode titled “Morocco: Mysteries of the Nomads.” An alley in Marrakech.
A young boy from a nomadic Berber family who the crew filmed in the Sahara desert.
Inside the cave where the Berber family cooks and sometimes sleeps. “The energy in Morocco was wild and raw,” says Barnhardt. “Your senses are oversaturated with the sights, sounds, and smells—some good, some bad—but every second was worth it.”
Rough & Ready: The Emmy winner near his Park Circle home; “Park Circle is rough and rugged and working class,” he says, “and the old, old Navy base has been a background for a lot of my movies and projects. I feel like its where I grew as a filmmaker.”
Close Encounters: For the episode “Bears Across America,” they filmed polar bears in the Canadian tundra near the western shore of Hudson Bay. “We were on the ground with the bears, meaning no safety fence between us,” says Barnhardt. “It was intense, awesome, and very cold.”
High Excitement: Barnhardt has travelled by helicopter, kayak, and horseback—among other unique transport—to get his shot. Here, he flies above Uluru, or Ayers Rock, in Australia’s Northern Territory.
To get the needed shots for another episode in Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona, the crew hiked the south rim—in, down, around, and back up—for three days.
On location in Scotland’s Shetland Islands with crew and host Richard Wiese
Dye pots in the leather tanneries of Fez.
One Cool Cat: Barnhardt looks a bit trepidatious within yards of his wild subject at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, Africa. “People often think of a cheetah as a smaller animal, but they are twice as big as you think, and their ‘purrs’ are thunderous,” he says. “Being that close to something that could kill you is soul-shaking.”
The Atacama Desert in Chile.
“The desert was so large and vast, it could be the most peaceful place I’ve ever been,” says Barnhardt.
Dry Spell: The crew visited the Atacama Desert of Chile, considered the driest place on Earth, and met the native Atacameño people, who have survived in this harsh environment for thousands of years.
The Life Exotic: Filming Born to Explore host Richard Wiese in the streets of Delhi: “It was insane. There were people everywhere,” says Barnhardt, “the biggest cultural shock, for me, ever.”
Polar bear in the Canadian tundra of Arviat.
And the Emmy Goes To: The Born to Explore team (from left to right) Andy Ames, Mercedes Velgot, Richard Wiese, John Barnhardt, Greg Harriott, Laura Cunningham, and Jay Katz at the Daytime Emmys in June; The trophy was bestowed upon Barnhardt and B-camera operator Harriott for Outstanding Achievement in Single Camera Photography.
Walkin’ the Walk: Barnhardt (second from the left) in a spoof trailer for faux movie Les Cinéastes (The Filmmakers) made with local film buds and the one and only Bill Murray.
A stunning sunset.
A rhino in South Africa.
Still Life: Visiting a blue clay artisan in Jaipur, India, who, Barnhardt says, never said a word but took the time to pose for pictures: “He sat like that all day and worked nonstop, creating hundreds of cups, pots, and other items. I admired his work ethic.”