Mike Dewey and Jay Mantri, friends and roommates, are well-known filmmakers and photographers in Los Angeles, California who have spent the last couple of years exploring the world with their cameras and inspiring the community with their adventures.
They spent years taking weekend trips with their photography gear, documenting all the fun and adventure they were experiencing. Then one day Mike started putting together their videos and uploading them on YouTube as a hobby, and since then Mike & Jay Explore has grown into an outlet showcasing the synthesis of their two favorite things: adventure and storytelling.
We caught up with Mike & Jay to ask them a few questions about the merging of travel and getting out of their comfort zones, while taking full photographic advantage of their explorations.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got started in photography and filmmaking?
Jay & I have both spent the last decade doing graphic design professionally. About 3-4 years ago, Jay got his first film camera and really found his passion for photography. Around the same time, I started using my Canon DSLR and really got into filmmaking.
What compelled you to launch Mike & Jay Explore beyond the initial video?
I’ve always loved traveling and learning about new places, food & people. Putting together the videos and watching them later sparked nostalgia on our great travels together. It was also a way to give others a first hand look at what it is like to travel the world, which fueled our goal to inspire others to travel on their own.
Where does your passion for exploring and capturing moments stem from?
Jay and I are both constantly amazed to find such similarities in such different cultures. We go into trips with preconceived notions, but are always taken back at how similar each place is and how small the world really is. It never ceases to amaze Jay and I how our explorations of different cultures and countries draw so much similarity, which is always striking.
There’s that anticipation about what it looks like when you get back home. Do you find it hard to stay put after seeing such incredible sights?
It can be difficult to come back to reality after our amazing trips, but that’s only half the journey. The process of editing enables me to go back and re-live our travels in which I get to then share with our audience.
Greatest adventure to date?
We spent about 6 weeks traveling throughout India this year. It was one of the craziest adventures we have done to date. The country is so diverse from region to region and we were constantly on sensory overload. It was almost overwhelming to capture because there was so much to take in. Language, religion, climate, etc. It’s one of our longer series on our YouTube channel yet it still doesn’t showcase the depth of our trip.
Let’s talk about gear. What are your essentials when you travel?
Jay started with a $50 vintage camera and I started with a $200 point and shoot. We have worked our way up with experience and I now like to shoot with the A7Sii, 16-35mm Lens, GoPro 4 Black, and Phantom 3 Professional. Jay typically shoots with a Sony A7Rii and either a 28mm or 50mm prime lens.
What are some key things to consider while on location shooting video and capturing photos?
The hardest thing I’ve had to learn over the years is to remember to shoot in sequences. After going through footage, I would notice gaps in sequences or realize I wouldn’t have footage from certain days. For instance footage would go directly from lunch time to the next morning of a trip. My biggest challenge during travelling is trying to live in the moment, yet capture the trip on video. It’s all about balance during travelling, so I make sure to be diligent about filming on certain days, but then give myself a day or two to leave my gear behind and soak in those days without having to capture footage.
Thoughts on Instagram?
I believe that Instagram is a content creator’s best friend. It’s a platform that gives me the ability to share my work as a photographer and it enables me to build a solid portfolio, which yields awesome jobs and sponsorships. The cool part is that Instagram is simple enough that you don’t have to be a photographer to use it. At the same time it enables me to stay in touch and connected with my family. I can watch my nephews grow up from hundreds of miles away!
How do you build your visual vocabulary? Are there any other artists who inspire you?
We’ve learned so much in the past few years and each of our aesthetics continue to change as we grow. To throw out some names of filmmakers I follow – Brandon Li, Francisco Fuentes, Tim Kellner and Peter Bragiel are all creating some great stuff. For photographers, Jay’s inspirations are – Derek Wood, Benjamin Heath, and Bret Lemke.
Best moment you got yourselves into for a shot?
In our very first longer series on YouTube we went to Iceland. We had a rough itinerary, a crappy rental car, a film camera and a basic DSLR. On our last day, we found an extinct volcano and were able to go inside of it via a small 4 person elevator. We stepped foot into the elevator and when we got to the bottom looked at one another thinking, are we really in a volcano right now? That moment was by far one of the more surreal experiences we have been lucky enough to both see and film.
Where do you want to take your filmmaking/photography career?
I’m really loving how things are going right now. Our audience continues to grow each day on both YouTube & Instagram and it’s been such a cool experience having people join us along the way. We’ve got so many ideas floating around and plan on working hard to keep producing great content that hopefully people will continue to love.
Do you have any advice for other photographers or explorers starting up?
The biggest piece of advice I would share would be to not overthink things or get wrapped up in the gear. It’s about creating a story and using the tools that you have. Just get out and shoot. As far as exploring, I’d say many people haven’t even explored the city they live in to it’s fullest. There’s adventures all around us. If you don’t have a lot of time off, start small, find something locally to explore on a weekend. It’s all about breaking routine, exploring the unknown, and trying new things.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently editing together a 3 part series of a tuk tuk race across India that Jay and I travelled through. It was the adventure of a lifetime. We travelled over 700 miles in a tuk tuk through India to bring awareness and raise money for funding children’s education in India. We met some amazing people along the way, shared a handful of chai teas with locals as they fixed our broken tuk tuks, and are excited about the release of the 3 part series on our Youtube Channel. After that we’ll see what the future holds, we’re thinking about a road trip through eastern Europe later this year, but who knows!
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