wildlife cameraman - Graham Horder
I am lucky enough to be a wildlife cameraman. I have worked for the BBC, ITV, National Geographic, Terra Mater, NHK and other major international television channels. Most of the time I work on wildlife documentaries with natural history as the subject matter, but I also film sport, music videos, drama and other types of television documentary. Ever since I left college I have worked in television: I've been an editor for the BBC, an independent producer, and for a time the head of the RSPB Film Unit. I've seen programme making from all sides. Being a wildlife cameraman is my favourite part, but film making is a team game and I enjoy all parts of the process. As a wildlife cameraman I consider myself to be very good, not just technically, but artistically and scientifically. Having an editor's head is immensely helpful - and that's about as far as I can take self acclaim without feeling embarrassed.
wildlife cameraman - website
This site is about being a wildlife cameraman and anything to do with being one. I hope that you find it, in some small way, useful and informative. Alternatively you might be entertained, and that works for me too!
Anyone who knows me will understand that many of my blog posts are tongue in cheek; I can't help it. Life's too short to be serious all the time. However, you will also find some quite detailed posts about equipment and working practice, and many will consider those to be geeky. My wildlife cameraman anecdotes might actually put off prospective camera people, but I'm a realist. Yes, I have stood on the back of a broken down truck in a scrap yard in Bethesda trying to film rats. Living the dream. I've written some of my experiences into a series of three novels - and all I need to do now is get them published!
There are examples of my own work throughout this site, and I am fully aware that many people will look at them and say, "I could have done that better." Well, good for you, but have you? Not only that, but accessing clips of your best footage is not always straightforward.
changes in wildlife film making
Wildlife film making has gone through immense changes in the last few decades and this has had quite an impact on the life of the wildlife cameraman. But things never stand still, do they.
The top camera manufacturers are making cameras that deliver superb images. Technology and techniques have improved tremendously, with some companies driving innovation. Low light and no light filming is possible with both pro-consumer cameras and units developed for military usage. Incredible computer driven tracking time lapses are the norm. Lenses have improved beyond measure, but they haven't become much lighter! Tripods have hardly changed at all. We all seem to use drones now, and many operators have trained to fly them. I think we use Movs and Ronins pretty much as a matter of course now. Other methods of moving large camera rigs around quickly and in a stable manner have been developed too, such as Cineflex. All equipment is a means to telling a story. Story and content are still king.
Wildlife programmes have truly become big business and some of the players are huge, wealthy corporations. The BBC is there of course, as well as Terra Mater, Disney and Netflix and others. Budgets seem to range from immense to miserly, with not much in between. Sometimes for worldwide mega series a number of companies have to come together to co-finance, and making this happen has turned commissioning into a nightmare for production companies. The traditional terrestrial distribution model has been turned on its head by video on demand.
The wildlife cameraman has had to move with the times. There was a time when it was normal to spend months in the field trying to film a particular wild behaviour. That still happens, but less so I believe. Don't worry about it, because it's still the best job in the world.
wildlife cameraman as a career
Most people who find themselves on this page will be looking for experience, a way into the industry. They'll know by now that there is no well trodden route in. I can only pass on my own experiences and suggest other places to look.
Being a wildlife cameraman is an attractive career to many people, but only the most determined will succeed. The job doesn't suit everyone, even those who think it will, and there is a lot of hard work involved. If you think you've suffered rejection already, you probably haven't seen anything yet so be prepared to grow a thick skin. Get advice from someone who is working as a wildlife cameraman and ask them if you can assist them in any way. Even the logistics of doing that are not easy, but persevere.
There are several good courses, (UWE) for example, in the UK for potential wildlife camera people. The BBC still offers a wildlife cameraman bursary from time to time too. If you're looking for work you need to make friends with producers and assistant producers.
Having a scientific degree is not essential, but it might open doors for you. As far as I know you cannot obtain a degree in field craft; that is something that you will qualify in by spending plenty of time in the countryside. You can't get a degree in common sense either, or good manners. Spend time with knowledgeable people. There are plenty of wildlife conservation organisations that organise field trips in everyone's locality. Subject matter will range from birds and mammals to algae and plankton. There is something for everyone and you will be contributing to the conservation cause.
points of reference
Throughout my blog I will refer to a number of organisations time and again, and some of them are here. People who want to become a wildlife cameraman will find many of them relevant, but some are to do with nature conservation.
If you have filmed any wildlife apply to join the IAWF. The IAWF is affiliated to the GTC. Networking is also essential for anyone involved in our industry and I suggest everyone has a look at NHN. I recommend this post for new camera people and I also recommend delving into the articles on the IAWF site.
For me nature conservation is a passion, and for anyone living in the UK you just have to be a member of one of the following organisations, and there are many many more that I haven't listed:-
I love filming wildlife and I can't imagine not loving it. 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. I make conservation videos in my spare time, often for free; it's like paying a little back. The natural world is under immense pressure and it's nice to think that our work helps in some way. We have to keep putting the conservation message out there.