I am a wildlife cameraman UK. That might sound really odd, because it is. I’m only writing it that way because SEO tells me it is a good idea! Foreign trips have escaped me for a couple of years. Everyone asks, ‘Have you been anywhere nice lately?’ To which I usually answer, ‘Yes. The Brecon Beacons. Dungeness. The Cotswolds. A gravel pit next to the M6 in Lancashire.’ And so it goes on, depending on who is asking. If you’re interested in natural history you would find all of those places interesting for one reason or the other. There’s a link below that takes you to our latest Welsh series with Iolo Williams. It’s a six part series. Each episode is based on a different region in England. The programmes cover The Cotswolds, Dorset and the New Forest, Kent, Dartmoor, West Lancashire and The Yorkshire Dales. If I had to pick a favourite sighting is would be the otters at RSPB Leighton Moss. However, I was also fortunate enough to see and film large blue butterflies in the wild. In the late 1970s I actually remember it being announced that they were extinct in the UK! Reintroduction programmes are proving to be successful. Back to the otters. Visiting a place like Leighton Moss reminds me why I am a member of the RSPB. There is a new viewing tower that overlooks the largest area of open water, and I suspect that if you stay up there long enough on most days you will see otters. It was a little windy on the day we were there, so not favourable to long lens filming, but it was a nice hour or so.
You can watch ‘Natur Gwyllt Iolo’ on BBC iPlayer. The subtitles will help you to learn a bit of Welsh too. They’re quite a challenge to film. The schedule for each is 5 days, but when you take the travel into account it is more like four. The production team has a tricky job researching locations that will actually deliver filmable wildlife. It doesn’t always work out. I also film most of the pieces with Iolo and the contributors so there’s a lot of lens changing going on. The director constructs a ‘flavour’ of a place, which includes Iolo, people, landscape and natural history. It is always interesting to watch these programmes after some time has lapsed since the filming. My impression of Dartmoor, at the time, was that it was really hard work in terms of the natural history content. When I watched it the other day I thought the director and editor had made a programme about somewhere else. It was much better than I ever remembered. Hats off to them.
The first programme in ‘Iolo’s Brecon Beacons’ will be aired next Monday. Over the course of the year we had a couple of encounters with foxes. Hill foxes are wily creatures. They have to be as they are one of the most persecuted wild animals in Britain. I don’t think Beacon foxes are any less wily.
One day last winter turned out to be quite amusing. We were filming in the area around the Upper Neuadd Reservoir. A great grey shrike had been somewhere in the area, but it was proving to be quite elusive. That aside, reservoirs are an important and prominent feature of the Brecon Beacons. Our aim was to film a piece about a reservoir with the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons, Pen Y Fan, in the background. We approached the location along a track in a Landrover, assembled all of the equipment and walked the last few hundred yards.
When we rounded the dam wall the mist was so thick that there was no view of Pan y Fan at all: it was invisible. Add to that the fact that there was no water in the reservoir, and both essential ingredients of ‘reservoir with mountain behind’ had been removed. It’s enough to make the most mild mannered director explode. Weather is one thing, but not being informed that essential works on the dam had necessitated the draining of the reservoir is another.
We were quite close to a wasted few hours until one of the crew spotted something moving out in the snowy mess that was the bottom of the reservoir. There were three foxes out in the barren area of rocks and mud. One was a large dog fox with a lot of black in its pelt. Although a long way away we were able to film it checking us out and walking with great difficulty through the snow and boggy ground. Seeing a fox in broad daylight in winter was a treat, but eventually their natural suspicion got the better of them, and they drifted away.
Here’s the first promotional material for Iolo’s Beacons that I worked on last year. The actual title of the series is Iolo’s Brecon Beacons. Some people might not understand that the shortened version is about a National Park in Wales.
The first programme airs on January 11th at 7.30 p.m.
Filming the Series – Iolo’s Beacons
I will go through some of the more interesting filming assignments in future posts. The first will be about the clips on the BBC website. Wildlife filming for the series was varied and often challenging. We were not very successful in our attempts to film close shots of cuckoos calling. There are easier places to film cuckoos. On the other hand we had fantastic encounters with dotterel and foxes. Stalking red deer in the snow was very challenging. Again, we went in pursuit of great grey shrike.
The series is not just about wildlife. The Brecon Beacons is a fascinating National Park, and Iolo’s take on it is typically engaging. Apart from the landscape, which is evident wherever you drive in the Beacons, there are the people. It must be difficult for the contributors sometimes. There was one instance where we sat on a hillside for many hours. The information we had was that a ring ousel would feed on a pasture at some point during the day. Everyone knows that we might fail completely. The contributor had to leave before the ring ousel appeared. Just as we were about to give up the bird did appear, ate a couple of worms and flew off…and that was it. Such is wildlife filming most of the time, but we did film it! I can remember the sequence of events in great detail. Frustratingly I could hear the bird well before I saw it, which often means you will not see it, but we did.
Norfolk – Dros F Ffin Last week the last in the series of Iolo Williams in Dros Y Ffin was broadcast on S4C. You can see it on S4C’s Clic website or indeed on BBC iPlayer. Norfolk was typical of the series from a wildlife cameraman point of view. There were some notable high points… Continue Reading
Watch on the internet This is a link to the first episode of Dros y Ffin. From a wildlife cameraman point of view the Lake District was hard work, but I think that seeing the red squirrels was the highlight of a tricky filming trip. Continue Reading
Dros y Ffin Starting this week, I worked on this series last year. It’s in Welsh and follows Iolo Williams as he explores 6 locations around England. The first programme is based in The Lake District. To be honest, from a wildlife cameraman point of view it was hard work. We were there very early… Continue Reading
Pontypool Park us not that far from where I live, but I had never visited to see wildlife. I had a snowboarding lesson there once on the artificial slope, which was moderately successful. The slope itself was something that my Dad actually had a part in making some years ago. There were some great wildlife… Continue Reading
This clip is from the second programme of ‘Iolo’s Great Welsh Parks’. It reminds me of when my brothers and I were kids. Every Friday evening we used to go with Mum and Dad to visit our cousins in the Forest of Dean and run absolute riot. There was a large deer park next to… Continue Reading