September 05, 2012 - Jim Wedlake said he "felt like a speck on the ice."
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"The airplane dropped us off about 70 miles from the North Pole," said Wedlake. "I never felt so alone or so isolated. There's no land under us—it's like an ice conveyor belt moving all the time. You go to sleep at night and wake up a kilometer away from your destination. Add to that it's 40 degrees below zero. We made it to the pole—I stood on it. Few people have done that."
Whether on the frozen top of the world or in a scorching desert, Wedlake has not only traveled the planet, he has video to prove it.
"I grew up about five minutes from Mt. Holly," said Wedlake, 44, a 1986 Brandon High School graduate and former Groveland Township resident who attended Michigan State University where he received a bachelor of arts degree in television production in 1990.
"I just always loved to ski. After college, my game plan was to move to Colorado and be a ski bum—at least I went out there with that in mind."
Wedlake returned to Michigan for a job opportunity in television.
"The job fell through and I ended up doing videos for General Motors and other segments of the auto industry. I did that for about a year—it was boring work. About that time Michigan hit a minor recession. I had a lot of my work go away from the state, so I became a ski and snowboard instructor. Soon after, I moved to Vail (Colorado) and became a skiing cameraman," he said. "We'd ski with clients for a day and videotape their time on the slopes in Vail. And so I fell in love with Colorado and Vail, for that matter. We all loved snowboarding— that sport was new at the time in the 1990s."
While making snowboard movies and through new contacts, Wedlake ended up shooting adventures all over the world.
"Over the last 20 years I've been on a rafting trip in Costa Rica, been to the North Pole and Antarctica—I've worked on every continent. We work on jobs in deserts or mountains—we have clients that needed a cameraman that can work in all types of conditions."
Wedlake also worked on video segments of "Racing The Planet," rough country footraces that take place in remote locations around the world including the four deserts, an annual series of 250-kilometer footraces in the Atacama Desert of Chile, the Gobi Desert of China, the Sahara Desert of Egypt and Antarctica.
His work in broadcast also included video of the X-Games and Little League World Series. Earlier this year, Wedlake was nominated for two Emmys for segments on ESPN. In April he was awarded an Emmy for his work as a freelance television cameraman and editor.
The winning segment, broadcast on ESPN's "Outside the Lines," was about Colorado resident and long distance runner Diane Van Deren, who had suffered from epilepsy. When she was 28-years-old, doctors removed a plum-sized portion of her brain to help stop the seizures associated with epilepsy. While the surgery was a success in stopping the uncontrollable seizures, she also lost her ability to track time. The segment follows the now 51-year-old Van Deren's life as a mother and her experiences as she competes in marathons and ultra marathons of 100 miles.
"The Emmy is a validation—I've reached the highest mark in my profession. I have the greatest job ever," said Wedlake. "However, there are down sides. I work in extreme weather conditions. Sometimes we work 10-hour days and even 16-hour days are not uncommon. The travel gets old, too. Still, I love what I do and it makes me happy. There's always a new adventure."
"I attribute my success to growing up in Michigan—Mt. Holly gave me the love of skiing. Without that exposure, I would never have ended up here in Vail. In the midwest there's a great work ethic—a lot of the 'grin and bear it.' Sometimes you suffer through tough times and kind of do the job with a smile on your face."
Wedlake is the son of Jim and Mary Ann Wedlake, long-time residents of Groveland Township.