This is my all time favourite shot. It would not have been possible without the help of an expert, here, Oxford cuckoo guru Mike Bayliss. The aim was to film a cuckoo laying in a reed warbler's nest, and several times we had come very close. After many hours in the hide I heard this female land heavily in the reeds to the right of the nest - I can still hardly believe it happened.
This type of filming has been about 80% of my work these last couple of years...presenter led programmes with a good percentage of wildlife filming. Gavin Thurston was on RInca Island 2 weeks before the rest of the crew getting the 'meatier' sequences.
There were two of us working on this one, the other cameraman being Keith Brust. Filming often brings with it privileged access, and this was one of those times. I spent many days on my own on the Vermejo Ranch in New Mexico, ticking off shots from the list. Other times I was with a crew and a team of scientists trying to unravel the mysterious language of prairie dogs.
Autumn and the Wye Valley makes for a wondrous combination. The locations here are just a few miles up the road from our house. We can't take the credit for nice light and conditions, but you can make your own luck by being out there early as often as you can in the best locations.
Not being very big can be a massive advantage sometimes. Imagine a small rowing boat with a wooden hide on board and a small slit to poke the lens through. Then knock out the bottom of the stern of the boat. Cram yourself inside with a tripod and start walking slowly towards the flamingos whilst occasionally vanishing into holes in the bottom of the lagoon. I love this job.
Over the years I have done quite a lot of set filming. In all honesty I find it quite stressful, as the priority has to be the well-being of the animals. In any case, if they're not relaxed they're not going to behave naturally. These little chaps were on loan from a research project. We were always hoping that they would breed while in our care, but they never did.
I had an unusual grey heron encounter the other day. Ask any wildlife cameraman and they will have an unusual wildlife story to tell. This one took the whole crew by surprise.
I am part of a team filming a series about wildlife in towns and cities. It really is surprising what you come across. One night we found ourselves in a suburban street in mid Wales listening to midwife Toads. One resident thought that the battery in someone’s car alarm was on the blink. She was delighted to learn that it was in fact the sound of a midwife toad.
Back to the heron. Lots of people feed birds in their gardens. It’s a great thing to do for all sorts of reasons, and if you’re interested in that take a look here for advice from the RSPB.
While I was filming swallows one day the director met a chap walking his dog. They started chatting about the series and the gentleman said, ‘Ah, you should meet the chap in the village with the heron.’ One thing led to another. So it was the whole crew knocked on the door of a nice little semi in Llanberis one day last week. A very nice, elderly Welsh speaking gentleman led us through his house. He cautioned that his Heron was wild and very shy, so we should proceed with caution. I had the camera all ready on the tripod to plonk down and grab what I could in the few moments that I’m sure we would have. The director was behind me with another camera to cover the interview while I grabbed shots of the bird.
He opened the back door carefully, and there standing on his doorstep was a grey heron. It was a little jumpy, but already we were in the depths of an unusual grey heron encounter. We all edged out onto the back lawn and took up positions. The heron flapped up onto a low wall, keen and eager. The gentleman took out a pack of sausages, chopped them up and proceeded to feed the heron, which gulped them down with relish. I mean eagerly – it didn’t want tomato relish. After having scoffed half a packet of finest Lincolnshire sausages it flew off.
From a wildlife cameraman point of view it was a tad bizarre. I can’t wait to see the cut sequence, as in this country it would be difficult to surpass for being unusual. Does anyone feed otters in their garden, or eagles perhaps?
Wildlife in the garden Wildlife in the garden can bring a lot of pleasure to anyone. You can even watch it through the window if getting around is a problem. Once again I’ve been messing about with lenses. Testing them on wildlife in the garden is an easy option, but can turn up some interesting… Continue Reading
The humble on-off switch The humble on-off switch is one of the human interfaces with the camera. For the wildlife cameraman it is a very important one. Most of us prefer to have a switch on the tripod handle. There is a simple reason for this. The right hand will be glued to the tripod… Continue Reading
I'm a freelance documentary and wildlifecameraman, wildlife photographer with a track record for filming blue-chip natural history and presenter and contributor led documentaries for the BBC, ITV and other major television channels. Most of the time I film TV programmes with natural history as the subject matter, but I happily film sport, music videos, drama and other types of television documentary.
It is slightly inaccurate to say 'wildlife photography' as a description for 'wildlife filming', but all wildlife cinematographers become used to the alternative title. Being a wildlife cameraman is very different to taking still photographs, though the principles of getting close to wild behaviour and respecting the subject are exactly the same.
From the outside a career as a wildlife cameraman looks like a very attractive way to live. It is, but it doesn't suit everyone. For young people, take advice from someone who is doing it, then see if you can assist them in any way. You will have to persevere... and persevere.
Filming wildlife is something that I love. Like many colleagues I'd happily do it for nothing... and sometimes I do. Many of us would continue to film wildlife as a hobby if it were not our profession.
This article by Matt Hamilton is a really great description of a part of a filming trip we went on last year.