Monday, 4 October 2010

Hiding in the Bush: On assignment for the BBC 'Africa' wildlife series

Filming in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, for a new BBC wildlife series about Africa - I have just spent two amazing mornings in my portable canvas hide positioned beside a waterhole teeming with birds - pelicans, yellow-billed storks, spoonbills, and more, all gorging themselves on fish trapped by the receding waters of the dry season.

In most places I film it's all about getting close to animals but in the African bush it's a bit different - much of the time I am trying to keep away from the dangerous ones. The riverbed where I have the hide is bordered on both sides by trees, thick bush and tall grass which poses a serious threat of lions - they like hiding in such places for animals to come to the water. Having reached the relative safety of the hide (escorted by an armed guard) I soon discover there is a crocodile in the waterhole. At the time, I thought it was a small one because all I saw was it's eye slowly appearing above the surface a few metres away and then vanishing without even a hint of a ripple on the water. Later that day I saw a huge crocodile sunning itself on a sand bank and could see exactly how small a large crocs eyes really are ! Apparently as long as it can't see me behind the thin canvas it won't think I am edible.

A week later a very rarely seen bit of crocodile behaviour unfolds by chance in front of the camera while we are watching a section of river. Thanks to the wonders of modern zoom lenses I was able to record the event at a safe distance of about 50 metres. You'll have to watch the series - due to be broadcast in late 2012 - to find out exactly what happened.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Roe Deer Rut

Dawn view on 6th July over my garden gate.
Usually I use a graduated neutral density filter to control the contrast in a scene like this but this morning was unusual because the gentle mist was catching light and creating some detail on the ground which would otherwise have come out entirely black.
It's a relief to know that the sun is rising later every day now as I'm trying to photograph the roe deer rut at the moment.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Brief Encounter

Got up at 4.30am this morning and photographed this fox just before I headed home around 9.00am. I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it perhaps 200 metres away across the field, which gave me a crucial advantage. With only a minute at most before it would reach me, it was a simple decision to quickly tuck myself into the hedge, set up the camera and hope.

In fact the fox took several minutes to arrive because it was pausing and 'mousing' as it came. That also meant it was distracted somewhat (less likely to spot me) and it also provided more time to take four shots at the right range before it went behind a patch of nettles and past into the hedge behind me.

I can't be sure if it's the same fox that appears in my film but it's the same field. Foxes and badgers breed in the same burrows year after year if they are not disturbed but they don't often live for long - mange is a very common and highly contagious disease that kills a lot of them.

I don't get the chance to take many stills so I don't bother with the latest and greatest stills equipment. This was taken with a Nikon D60 (used on Ebay £250) and a 25 year-old Canon 300/2.8L FD manual focus lens which has been adapted for use on 16mm and 35mm cine cameras.