Monday, 29 September 2008

Big Cat Live: Jonathan Scott Introduces the show

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Radio 4's A Guide to Garden Birds with Brett Westwood

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Having just moved house and not yet installed my TV, I have been getting my wildlife fix from the BBC iPlayer and my usual radio programmes.

Fortunately (unlike for TV) much radio content is available to us online indefinitely, so long as you have the right software to download and play it.

I am a particular fan of Radio 4's content: Radio 4 replaced the BBC Home Service in the 60s and today broadcasts a very wide variety of programmes from various genres including science and nature. It can be found around 92-95 FM and is the BBC's most expensive network. It's also one of its most successful, winning the Sony Radio Academy Award's "UK Station of the year" this year.

For wildlife programmes Radio 4 is your one-stop shop! Amongst my favourites are Scars of Evolution presented by David Attenborough, World on The Move following worldwide animal migrations, and A Year in the Life of Ants which was partly presented by my current postgrad tutor, the brilliant Nigel Franks. All of these are available to listen to by download and take barely any time to obtain.

"A Guide to Garden Birds" aired in conjunction with Springwatch 2008 and was, in my opinion, one of the most complete and well-presented programmes I have ever heard. Now this may have been achieved through its simplicity as a programme: Brett Westwood and his sound recordist Chris Watson enter Stephen Moss' garden where they sit and chat with him and listen to the birds.
Episodes alternate between bird groups, covering the Titmice, Thrushes, Finches and many more; and Brett and Stephen (pictured) lead the listener through each song and bird including clever anecdotes to help you learn to identify the species. As if this wasn't enough, they also throw in some handy hints on how to identify the birds by sight in your garden, and indicate how each species behaves and how this will affect your birdwatching.

I will attempt to describe some of the best (and my favourite) anecdotes that this lovely programme uses, but to truly appreciate it, I would urge you to get online and download a few for yourself. They're all of 20 minutes long and make very easy listening.

Episode one sees Brett and Stephen discussing the Song Thrush (picture by Bob Glover) and Stephen recalls how his grandfather Snowy, used to be followed home by the call of a bird that nagged him singing "Snowy, Snowy, Snowy. Pay the rent, pay the rent, pay the rent!" Ever since hearing this I have yet to fail to recognise the Song Thrush by ear.

In episode two we hear how the Blue Tit is a bold little bird that literally puts "all his eggs in one nest". The Blue Tit, it appears, lays up to 12 eggs only once in the nesting season whereas most other birds will lay 3 or 4 a few times. The Blue Tits have to work hard to keep 12 hatchlings fed and a breeding pair will bring around ten thousand caterpillars to the nest per day!

Did you know?: The Long-tailed Tit has the shortest body of any British bird (that is of course once we've excluded the tail)!

The blackbird, we are told, has a "fruity" song which we may hear at the first signs of spring. As a woodland bird, it has a particularly loud call which would have been necessary to attract a mate through the dense forest; of course now we find their song carries so well through our streets and gardens that when we expect it to be very close we may find they are halfway down the end of the street.

For amateur twitchers A Guide to Garden Birds is a godsend. Discover more anecdotes for yourself at A Guide to Garden Birds' website.

As mentionned above, A Guide to Garden Birds is just one of the many fantastic radio outputs of the BBC's Natural History Unit. At the moment you can follow worldwide animal migrations with Radio 4's "World on the Move" on Tuesday mornings.

For the truly keen you can revise what you have discovered at Brett's birdsong library, also a useful tool for identifying songs you've heard recently without having to go through the programme.

(N.B. You may need the RealPlayer to play your downloaded radio programmes. You can download RealAlternative for free here).

by Samantha Dixon from Giants Orbitting

Calling Budding Natural History Presenters

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The NatureWatch showcase is a place for budding natural history presenters to get noticed. If you have a showreel or film that you would like to share with the world then please get in touch. Whatever your style or subject we would love to hear from you. Either send us your video, upload to our page on facebook or send us the embed code and we'll do the rest.

- The NatureWatch Team

See our friends at Ecogeeks for some inspiration

Be part of The NatureWatch

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If you would like to write, record or film something for The NatureWatch then we would love to hear from you. Whether it is a review of a TV programme, a link to your favourite Nature website or a film then please get in touch.

Join us now and let's spread a love and interest of the natural world.

- The NatureWatch Team

Advertise your Wildlife Film or Website (for free)

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Whether it's on the Web or on TV Click here to automatically submit a post to TheNatureWatch, Earth_News Twitter, our Facebook page & all associated sites.

Best wishes and thanks for visiting,
Paul Williams
The NatureWatch

A compilation of Nature Bloggers from across the UK as compiled by Katie

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Nature Bloggers across the UK

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A compilation of Nature Bloggers from across the UK as compiled by Katie

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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Big Cat Live Update

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As the BBC gears up to Big Cat Live the crew out in the Masaii Mara are working hard to set up camp and find their screen stars.

Chris Howard tell us how things are going in the second camp report.

See my previous post at Giants Orbitting to find out all about this upcoming project.

by Samantha Dixon

Friday, 26 September 2008

Timewatch - Stonehenge

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"You've heard the news've read the press coverage...and millions of you watched the dig live on-line. Now Timewatch reveals the results of the dig that has changed the way we see Stonehenge...."

Around two years ago Timewatch set out to investigate a radical new theory that Stonehenge, far from being a place of burial as is commonly assumed, was in fact a place of healing - a Bronze Age Lourdes. Two of Britain's world-renowned experts on Stonehenge - Professors Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright believe they have finally unlocked the mystery of the monument.

“When we look back over the results, it’s hard to imagine that we could have got so much out of such a small area,” says Professor Darvill. “We’ve actually managed to re-write whole sections of Stonehenge’s history from those very small excavations.”

The journey took in forensic testing of bones excavated over the past decades, and hard-won permission for the first dig in 50 years at the Henge. So - does the theory of the healing stones bear up to modern day forensic science?

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Ecogeeks - Cool Nature by Cool Guys

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Watch Ecogeeks at the Wildclassroom
Here is a trailer...

Big Cat Live Trailer

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Big Cat Live  - coming soon!

Gorillas: An intimate portrait. Coming in 2010

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The BBC Natural History Unit has been granted unprecedented access to the world of the critically endangered mountain gorilla for a landmark documentary series for BBC Two. Set to be the most intimate and revealing portrait of gorilla life to date, the series will chart the plight of a species in "intensive care".

Just a handful of families cling to existence on the forested peaks of three isolated volcanoes in a small corner of Africa, surrounded on all sides by a growing human population.

Over three 60-minute programmes, cameras will enter this fragile world and follow the life of one gorilla family as they go about their day-to-day existence. From the joy and happiness of a new birth and worry for a sick infant, to the tenderness of relationships built over decades and the horror of a violent death, the films will explore the real emotion entwined in the various aspects of life for one of the most charismatic species on the planet.

The series will meet the team of experts dedicated to caring for them – "the gorilla doctors" – a group of vets, conservationists and local rangers who work tirelessly to care for the species.

It will also explore the fascinating history of the mountain gorilla, from their discovery only a century ago, through their ongoing struggle to survive to the bleak future they face today.

Executive Producer, Sara Ford, says: "We will have privileged access to one of the planet's most emotionally engaging animal characters.

"This will be the definitive series on the endangered mountain gorilla as well as an intimate family portrait set against a backdrop of human conflict and passionate endeavour."

Neil Nightingale, Head of BBC NHU, adds: "Mountain gorillas are some of our closest relatives and yet, as a species, they have been reduced to no more than a few hundred individuals in a small corner of Africa.

"The fascination of their current lives, their turbulent past and the uncertainty of their future, makes for one of the most dramatic and emotional wildlife stories of all."

Gorillas is being made by BBC Vision Productions and was commissioned by Emma Swain, Head of In-house Commissioning, Knowledge. Executive Producer is Sara Ford.

The three-part series will go out in 2010 on BBC Two.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Wildscreen 2008 Coming Soon

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Pocari Sweat (ポカリスエット) - what is a Pocari?

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I have no idea what a "Pocari" is, or how they make it sweat, but it sure tastes great on a hot and humid day! This stuff is found absolutely everywhere in Japan, in the millions of vending machines that you find on every street, in every city, town and village.

Apparently the first part of the name, Pocari, means "like a cloud floating in the sky" in Japanese, and is meant to suggest lightness, buoyancy, and ease. "Sweat" is supposed to suggest diligence. All together the name suggests that this is a drink that will make you feel fresh and relaxed. Mind you I'm always fresh ;-)

A Pocari isn't a big hairy behemoth in a sauna!

Big Cat Live: Scouting for hyenas

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VIDEO: A big squeeze at Todai-Ji 東大寺, Great Temple in Nara

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Apparently you can earn 10 years good luck and a place secured in paradise for passing through a hole in one of the pillars that hold up the great temple of Todai-Ji. After seeing endless numbers of children secure their fortune I decided that it was my turn. It also happened to be my Birthday, so what's the worst that could happen?

The Great Eastern Temple, Todai-Ji, the largest wooden building in the world.

The Big Buddha, built of copper and towering 15 metres high.
The hole in the pillar is said to be the same size as one of the Daibutsu's (Giant Buddhas) nostrils.

Tōdai-ji (東大寺, Tōdai-ji?, meaning the Eastern Great Temple), is a Buddhist temple complex located in the city of Nara, Japan. Its Great Buddha Hall (大仏殿 Daibutsuden), reputedly the largest wooden building in the world, houses a colossal bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as the Daibutsu (大仏). The temple is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site as "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara," together with seven other sites including temples, shrines and places in the city of Nara. Sika deer, regarded as messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion, roam the grounds freely. Wiki

Monday, 22 September 2008

VIDEO: Spectacle in the forest, Mount Kōya 高野山

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Mount Kōya (高野山, Kōya-san) is a mountain in Wakayama prefecture to the south of Osaka. First settled in 819 by the monk Kūkai, Mt. Koya is primarily known as the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. Located in an 800 m high valley amid the eight peaks of the mountain, the original monastery has grown into the town of Koya, featuring a university dedicated to religious studies and 120 temples, many of which offer lodging to pilgrims. The mountain is home to Okunoin (奥の院), the mausoleum of Kūkai, surrounded by the largest graveyard in Japan. Wiki

The shingon sect believe that Kukai is not dead but rather meditating. They bring him food every day and change his clothes. No-one except the highest monks are allowed to see him.

In 2004, UNESCO designated Mt. Koya, along with two other locations on the Kii Peninsula, as World Heritage Sites.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

TONIGHT: Earth – The Climate Wars: New Challenges Ep 3/3

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Don't miss the last episode in this thought provoking, and controversial series: Earth – The Climate Wars: New Challenges Ep 3/3

Sunday 21 September
9.00-10.00pm BBC TWO

Today the scientific debate over whether global warming is happening is all but over. Even many die-hard sceptics now concede that the planet is getting warmer, and humans are largely to blame. But there are still many unanswered questions, as Dr Iain Stewart (Earth – The Power Of The Planet) discovers as he concludes his definitive guide to the history of climate change.

Iain investigates why there is so much confusion over what changes global warming is going to bring, and why this has led to uncertainty over what should be done about it.

Understanding how the climate works, and predicting how it will change in the future, is one of science's greatest challenges. Iain discovers how, 60 years ago, scientists began their experiments with little more than a dishpan, a Bunsen burner and a turntable. Today they rely on massive super-computers to model the effects of greenhouse gases on the climate. But still they struggle to understand the complexity of the climate system.

Iain journeys to Greenland to meet scientists who are trying to fill in the gaps in the climate models. He also discovers how scientists are becoming increasingly concerned that their models are underestimating the speed of changes already under way.

Friday, 19 September 2008

VIDEO: Yonezawa (米沢市; -shi) Eagle Painting

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One of the many cultural activities that we engaged in when we left the tourist trail to visit our friends in the small town of Yonezawa.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Big Cat Live 2008: Coming Soon

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Let the lions into your living room as Big Cat goes live for the first time!

Follow Africa's biggest predators and their prey with 24-hour webcams, daily videos and field reports - beamed from the heart of Kenya's Masai Mara. This year, Kate Silverton and local Masai guide Jackson Looseyia will join Simon King and Jonathan Scott at their camp next to the Mara River.

With a supporting cast of hyenas, hippos, crocs and wildebeest - and of course the cats - anything can happen day or night.

Join Big Cat Live Now for an exclusive behind the scenes Twitter of this years extravagansa from the Masai Mara.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Amazon: The Adventures of Bruce Parry

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My friend Sam Dixon wrote this lovely review of Bruce Parry's Amazon on her blog GiantsOrbitting

My favourite Pub Quiz is run every Monday at 9pm at the Jersey Lily pub here in Bristol but last night I was just too ill to go, so I turned to my television. I watched the very posh Valentine Warner emphasize that he's never been more at home than with the most Welsh sheep farmer I've ever seen, before demonstrating how best to shoot a rabbit for the pot and how to cook the perfect pork chop. What to Eat Now kept me very entertained and left me wondering where the divide is drawn between cookery documentary and natural history programme.
I pondered away through the BBC2 ads and then was awoken from my trance by the opening scenes from "AMAZON with Bruce Parry". I remembered vaguely hearing of such a programme being on the cards and settled further into the settee...
AMAZON is to be a 6 part series following explorer Bruce Parry (best known for hosting Tribe) from the official source of the Amazon at Nevado Mismi in the Andes of Peru to its end at the Atlantic coast of Brazil.
Episode 1 was simply fantastic!
Bruce started out at the source and then trekked the 6hours to the nearest settlement of Quechua llama herders. We then follow him as he learns their way of life from llama shearing to their deep connection to Pacha Mama the "mother earth". His hosts, the family headed by Rodolfo are a generous and selfless people who despite their harsh way of life seem so content. My favourite scene shows their youngest, the boy Icka (above) spontaneously hugging Bruce before performing a little dance around the workers.
So overwhelmingly caring are these people that after only a few days they are visibly shaken to see him go and send him off with tears and prayers for him on his journey.
Bruce then takes on the treacherous upper waters of the Amazon with a group of daredevil white water rafters before heading downstream for a more relaxing break with the Coca farmers who can't afford not to sell their produce to the cocaine refiners. He sees the conflict between those who must make cocaine to survive and those who enforce the law from both sides, and actually takes part in the refining process before jumping in the back of a machine-gun-bearing truck to try to track down others doing the same. He meets villages that fight the cocaine makers and some who embrace them as desperate survivors. Some portray teenagers wondering around with guns protecting their land with their families.
During this episode the director Matt Brandon falls ill demonstrating how isolated the filmmakers actually are as they desperately attempt to get him to hospital. Fortunately he later made a full recovery but I found myself interested to see exactly how alone and in danger the crew are. It’s clear that many a big series such as Life in Cold Blood has filmmakers working in harsh and desolate conditions but more committed are those who must leave a village for fear of bringing war on their hosts.
It’s not often that I find myself completely engaged by a programme and interested enough to stay focussed through story after story. Frequently with programmes such as Pacific Abyss, in-filler shots and scenes seem to be used to make up the episode’s running time, causing the eye to wander or the viewer to amble off to put a brew on; AMAZON is no such programme. Get onto the iPlayer and watch the the first episode because it’ll be gone by next Monday’s pub quiz!
(AMAZON is co-produced by BBC Wales and Discovery Channel, and first aired on BBC2 on the 15th Sept '08; Producers: Steve Robinson and Matt Brandon.)

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Nature Shock: The Polar Bear that wasn't

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13th September 2008
Channel 5

The documentary series examining freak occurrences in the natural world returns. Using testimony from scientific experts, interviews with the key players and dramatic reconstructions, the series tells the stories of unique discoveries that have shocked naturalists and led to a broader understanding of the animal kingdom. This first episode examines the discovery of a mysterious animal in a remote part of the Arctic Circle.

In April 2006, hunter Jim Martell set out on an expedition to track down one of the most fearsome creatures on Earth – the polar bear. As the world’s largest land predator, the polar bear has been known to target humans. For Jim, his journey to the remote Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic Circle to confront these beasts was the trip of a lifetime. Accompanied by his Inuit guide, Roger Kuptana, Jim set off in the early hours of the morning, not expecting the drama that would soon follow.

The pair began their quest under dog-sled power, skimming across miles of three-foot-thick frozen sea. Then, after tracking on foot for nearly two hours towards the south-east of the island, they spotted their prize. Jim fired a single bullet, which was enough to fell the beast. But as the men approached the magnificent creature, they were in for a shock.

Roger, a skilled huntsman, realised that this was no ordinary polar bear. In fact, it looked nothing like it should. It had dark rings circling its eyes and, most frightening of all, an unusual hump rising from its back. Roger had never seen anything like it before on the island. The pair alerted the Canadian authorities and made their way back to the mainland with the monstrous body in tow.

When experts viewed the remains, they were unsure what to make of them. In addition, officials claimed that Jim had violated the rights of his hunting permit by shooting an animal that was not a polar bear. Jim faced conviction for a crime he did not commit, despite the having purchased a permit for $40,000. It was now up to scientists to identify this unknown animal and solve a most baffling mystery.

Friday, 12 September 2008

GARDENERS’ WORLD BBC 2 tonight @ 8.30pm

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New presenter TOBY BUCKLAND steps into the shoes of Monty Don as he takes over at the helm of Gardeners’ World. A professional gardener for 20 years, Toby is going back to basics with some no frills, hands on gardening tackling some of the September maintenance jobs brought on by the wet summer weather.

Be sure to take a look at to find out more about Toby and read the behind the scenes blogs from: Joe Swift on his new allotment; Berryfields head gardener Alys Fowler and the Gardeners’ World production team.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

PBS Interviews its top Wildlife camera operators

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Nature films allow us, as viewers, to witness marvels of nature that we might not ordinarily see -- or even know of. But achieving that is no simple task. A nature producer's work can be arduous. Working in remote, unforgiving environments, contending with weather that doesn't often cooperate, filming subjects that are shy and elusive, nature filmmakers are put to the task to share their privileged viewpoint with audiences.

PBS Nature asked some of its top filmmakers to reveal how they manage to get the shot -- in a field in which there are no retakes.

What specialized equipment is necessary for natural history filmmaking?

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
What you need depends hugely on the subject matter: filming small creatures requires macro lenses and perhaps even more specialized probe lenses; filming distant subjects requires long lenses; filming light-sensitive animals at night needs infra red lighting and IR sensitive cameras or starlight cameras; filming arctic wildlife requires cold adapted equipment (special oils in film cameras, extra batteries etc); underwater subjects need underwater cameras or at least a pole cam (a camera in housing on one end of pole, monitored from above the water). The equipment needed also reflects the "look" required (if you want lots of cinematic moves, you may need to take a jib of some kind -- usually a 33lb portable minijib mountable on a tripod for wildlife), or a dolly (maybe a little trolley that can run on a ladder for wildlife) or even a rope dolly to run between trees. The camera you use and the shooting format depends on what the commissioners require technically.

Can a new filmmaker with a miniDV camera shoot wildlife? What are the absolute essentials in terms of equipment?

DAVE ALLEN, Deep Jungle
Mini DV has changed all documentary filmmaking -- what was once the preserve of well-funded professionals is now open to anyone with a video (and a great deal of time and dedication). Observational documentaries on people are particularly open to an amateur who can often provide access to a subject that professionals could not get to. Wildlife can be the same, and I have seen some ingenious back garden amateur wildlife films that use remote cameras, infrared lights and all kinds of clever ideas to capture nature in and around someone's home. But obviously some of our more far-flung projects provide more of a challenge. Often the animals are in out of the way places. And then distant subjects can involve very long lenses, these can be ten times the power of any handy cam. As soon as you get to this kind of magnification, you need a very large tripod to smooth out the wobble.

What makes a good wildlife cameraperson?

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
They need to be able to get close enough (but not so close that they or the animal are endangered), to be aware what is about to happen, to have the patience of a saint when nothing happens for days, to react fast -- and in the right way -- to get editable footage when things do kick off, to be in position ready to film as the sun is rising, to still be there when it sets, to put up with heat, cold, dust, rain, snow, mosquitoes, bat droppings, whatever it might be to get the shots.

In most types of filmmaking, storyboarding is often used to preplan a shoot. Can you "plan" shoots and stories with these films?

MITCHELL KELLY, Searching for the Snow Leopard
You can storyboard as precisely as you like and then you get out and you throw away 50% of what you shot. With every film that I've done, I've had a plan, but that doesn't mean we stuck to it. There was one film I started about how animals adapt to living in a rainforest -- how they cope with the amount of rainfall. But there was a terrible drought when I was there so my film turned into a great film on drought in the rainforest and how organisms cope with drought conditions.

ALLISON ARGO, Wisdom of the Wild, The Urban Elephant
You try to pick your moments but most often the moments pick you. I was in the middle of a different show when Carol from The Elephant Sanctuary called and said she had a good story for me but I would have to come out next week. I went to The Elephant Sanctuary website and read about Shirley and I realized that she was the perfect elephant for the story -- she had lived in a zoo, been part of a circus, she had an injured leg. I knew I had to get a crew together and get out there. When we got out to the zoo, I met Solomon (Shirley's keeper at the zoo). He was so shy I wondered if he would ever feel comfortable on camera. But he ended up being so articulate and such an incredible character. And then Solomon came out with the line about Shirley's chains, and we all started to cry. I just felt the gods conspired for that scene. It became the ending scene of the show -- and it was the first thing we shot.

Do you always get the shot you came for? What are some of the best unexpected shots you've captured?

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
No -- and anyone who claims they do is lying! It's a real bonus when you're there to film one thing and something else happens unexpectedly. (We were) on the Galapagos Islands once, filming marine iguanas fighting and courting on a small rocky sea cliff. A sea lion suddenly surfaced about 50 feet away with a huge green parrotfish in its jaws that he started shaking and tearing chunks off. Then about 20 frigate birds started swooping down right over our heads to collect scraps. We spun the camera around, changed lenses and shot some fabulous high-speed material, which appeared in the closing scenes for Triumph of Life. We could have waited weeks for that shot and never seen it -- but we just happened to be there. Mind you, we never really got the mating shots we wanted as the iguana mating season was running late after a recent El Nino event -- so the good luck/bad luck equation often seems to balance out.

Do you often have to condense natural events or streamline what you shot over several days or months and make it seem as if it happened at one time?

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
Yes, many wildlife sequences that last two to three minutes when edited and appear as if it all is happening in real time are actually shot over a few days to a few weeks or, exceptionally, months. Quite often, the main action did happen within a concentrated period of a few minutes, but the extra shots that allow the story to be set up and some cutaways (shots used to cover up edits) are often shot at another time. Some would say that makes the scenes less authentic, but I'd argue that if done well it allows a genuine story (the main action is real!) to be told more clearly and more entertainingly -- and everyone wins. Of course it could be done badly. Shots can be taken at different times of day, or in different seasons etc, but some viewers would notice and others might lose the sense of continuity that a well shot and edited sequence brings. I've always tried to achieve the latter!

Have you ever felt compelled to intervene on behalf of a suffering creature?

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
I once rescued a large toad from an advancing army of safari ants, removed all the ants whose jaws were clamped onto it (I knew from personal experience what that can fee like) and released it well away from the raid. Admittedly, we took a few shots of it first to document what we saw and how the ants attack anything in their path. So I did the professional thing first, then the humane thing. Otherwise, no, there is usually nothing one can realistically do. And even if you could, by helping one animal you could be depriving another and upsetting the natural order you are there to document -- not to change. That doesn't mean it isn't distressing at times. The nastiest thing I ever saw was a group of Galapagos mockingbirds pecking at a seabird chick to drink its blood. We filmed the behavior for Triumph of Life. But l've never felt so much like shooing away a creature that we were trying to film. If I had, though, (the mockingbirds) would have been back again and again until the chick died.

Is it hard to remain neutral when representing a controversial topic?

ALLISON ARGO, Wisdom of the Wild, The Urban Elephant
It's very hard. You try to achieve the highest degree of objectivity as you can but, ultimately, filming is not an objective endeavor. You are deciding when to turn the camera on and off, or which characters to include. I try to let the creatures be the leading characters, to let them lead the story. I don't comment on them. When you hear of Shirley's story, the details of her life are enough to let you draw your own conclusions about the treatment of elephants.

How much do you learn about a species, habitat, place before you set out to film it?

MITCHELL KELLY, Searching for the Snow Leopard
I research pretty heavily before I start a film. The more you know about an animal's behavior, the more you can interpret what you're seeing in the wild. The flick of the ears. The behavior of the animals in the surrounding. You can use all of this to see how your animal is communicating.

How much does the environment you're filming in affect how and what you shoot?

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
Enormously, for all the obvious logistical reasons such as: How do you reach the place the animals are with the equipment you need to film them (they might be out in a desert, deep in a rainforest, out on an ice floe, on a remote island etc)? Where can you stay nearby for the duration of the shoot? Do you need to camp? Is there a field station somewhere close? Can you walk to the filming location or do you need a 4WD, a skidoo, a boat, cross-country skis, a local guide so you don't get lost, a GPS? If you can't get the logistics right, you can't even attempt to film the wildlife you want to. And even if you can be there, is there enough light to film with (maybe not if in a dense rainforest....) or will the camera still operate at -40°C or after a violent dust storm?

What are some of the most challenging environments you've filmed in?

DAVE ALLEN, Deep Jungle
They are all very tough except the African Savannah, that's all done from a car. And is an absolute breeze.

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
Far more challenging was shooting in Peruvian Amazonia, where we slept in mosquito net tents on open platforms under thatched roofs. It rained torrentially from noon to 4pm every day and was so humid that our lenses kept steaming up and took the first 2 hours of sunlight from 8-10 am every day to dry out, leaving about 2 hours filming time before the rain came again. All of my clothes developed a white fungal growth on them and most became so rotten that I had to junk them later in the trip. Rainforests generally are tough places. They are hot and sweaty for carrying equipment around in. There are usually masses of biting insects, risk of poisonous snakes, various tropical diseases etc... and they're not called "rain" forests for nothing. But they're so stacked with wildlife that I keep getting drawn back to them.

I've done a lot of cave work also, mostly filming bats. (Caves) can be tough environments -- very dirty, smelly and disease-ridden with a risk of rock-falls, or of falling down shafts. Working at altitude can be hard work. I've done some shoots above 13,000 feet in the Andes and many at almost that height in Taiwan. With such thin air, simply walking up hills carrying equipment is twice as hard as at lower altitudes - but you get used to it after a while.

Cameraman Neil Rettig

Has your life ever been in danger due to shooting?

DAVE ALLEN, Deep Jungle
Yes, from a great white shark. A truck full of pygmies on a hill with no brakes. An angry elephant in a desert. A small plane with a broken GPS and not much fuel.

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
My worst affliction was a fly grub that tried to bore into my skull. But I managed to convince a surgeon to remove it (no-one believed I had what I knew I had!) before it got through. Other than that I've NEARLY trodden on a number of dangerous snakes such as rattlesnakes in Arizona and bushmasters in South America (but I might have got anti-venom in time). I nearly got washed off some rocks in violent surf in the Galapagos (but I might have swum to safety). Nearly got crushed by a rock fall in a Trinidadian bat cave and once slipped down a small waterfall in a Trinidadian mountain stream. It wasn't far. I managed not to bang my head, and it was quite funny at the time. But it could have ended badly. Generally, though, the risks are far less than people imagine, especially from animals. We take a lot of care to work safely around them and to avoid upsetting them!

Why do you enjoy filming wildlife and nature?

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
I guess I have a genuine passion for watching wildlife and seeing amazing behavior unfold. I started out as a scientist and back then I could only share my findings through talks and papers (which I only expected a few hundred people would ever read!). Working on nature documentaries allowed me to share what I managed to witness with millions. I've also had the chance to travel to all kinds of amazing places and work with some great people.

MITCHELL KELLY, Searching for the Snow Leopard
It's good when you can bring a place or an animal to people- especially one that they never heard about. People tend to act if they know about the problem. I think the best way to get people to care about something is to get them to love it.

Share your best wildlife filmmaking moment.

MITCHELL KELLY, Searching for the Snow Leopard
I took my first film on wolves back to the village where they had been persecuting wolves pretty heavily. The villagers watched the whole film. And when I asked them what they liked the most in the film they said they loved the wolves because of their family relationships. The film showed a wolf and its den- the mother was teaching the pup how to live. Since the villagers were very family oriented, seeing the wolves bringing up their young appealed to them. They had never thought of the wolves as having needs. It was one of the more fulfilling moments.

Share your worst wildlife filmmaking moment.

NICK UPTON, Triumph of Life
The worst moments have usually come at airports trying to get past difficult customs or immigration officials even when you have the right documents. Or when equipment or worse still exposed film stick goes astray in transit. The very worst moment was maybe arriving back in the UK after a tough trip to Kenya and a box with 50 rolls of exposed footage failed to arrive. Or when all our equipment was stuck in a cargo warehouse in Taiwan for 10 days as the customs documents were lost in transit by the cargo firm and copies were not accepted.