Thursday, 30 September 2010

Lily the Black Bear (from The Natural World Bearwalkers)

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Loving the ongoing saga of Lily and her family, who you may have seen on Natural World earlier this year.

You can keep up to date with her and join over 100k other fans of Lily and her daughter Hope on Facebook.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Getting started in Wildlife TV - Have you thought about Wildscreen?

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Originall posted in The Naturewatch 29th Sept 2010

'One thing for sure is that, whatever the path, it’s up to the individual and their dogged persistence combined with undying passion that will get them through the bumpy, muddy, arduous jungle road that is the path towards becoming a wildlife photographer or filmmaker.' - Sandesh Kadur Felis Blog

Other than being dogged and persistent, another top tip is to attend the Wildscreen international film festival.

What is Wildscreen?

This biannual festival is the Mecca for Wildlife Filmmakers, internationally acknowledged as the most influential and prestigious event of its kind in the world. The aim of Wildscreen is to celebrate, applaud and encourage excellence, and responsibility, in wildlife and environmental filmmaking - films which increase the global viewing public's understanding of the natural world, and the need to conserve it.

By attending wildscreen you'll get a real flavour for the wildlife filmmaking industry and see what's hot and what's not for those who are commissioning programmes or hiring new talent. You'll hear behind the scenes stories from producers and presenters, cameramen and editors and discover what it takes to make a top natural history film. Most importantly you'll meet people who can inspire and help you on your way. And as Sandesh says it will 'help fuel the passion and jump-start your career in wildlife TV' - it certainly did that for me when I was seeking my break in the industry almost 10 years ago and It's been a top event in my calendar ever since.

If you're fresh from university then you'll probably find the festival a bit on the expensive side - about 600pounds to register as a full delegate. The budget option is to become a festival volunteer, or apply for a reduced rate as a newcomer. If you've just produced your first wildlife film then enter it for the highly prized newcomers award - a real springboard to success.

The Workshops

The workshops are really worth attending as you'll get hands on with cutting edge technology and learn from the experts - everything from highspeed filming and 3D cameras to workshops about how to be a wildlife TV researcher. This year I'll be running one entitled 'Breaking out of the Box' about how to produce content for a web audience.

The Awards

The highlight of the festival for me is always the Gala Panda Awards Ceremony. Wildscreen is a competition as well as a Festival and this is the night when the award winners will be announced. The stakes are high as the awards have established themselves as the Green Oscars, and the posh black-tie do certainly has an air of hollywood glitz about it. This year it will be hosted by Kate Silverton and Benedict Allen.

I'll be there in anticipation of one of my series winning an accolade. 'Life' is up for a whole range of awards, and 'How Earth Made Us' is in the running for the Earth Science Award, as well as best series.

It was an honour at the 2008 Panda Awards, when we won the Golden Panda for 'Life in Cold Blood'.
For handy tips and advice on starting a career in wildlife television get your hands on a copy of the book by Piers Warren titled: Careers in Wildlife Filmmaking.

Good luck
- Paul 

Monday, 27 September 2010

Filming Tigers - a BBC Insight

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Tigers are a real hot topic for the BBC Natural History Unit, especially with the current success of 'Lost Land of the Tiger' a BBC expedition that discovered a lost population living in the remote Bhutan Mountains (Earth News). Having tracked Tigers myself to film (Poo, Pee & Pugmarks)  I know just how difficult it is to catch even a glimpse of this fascinating feline! But here is an exclusive insight into the BBC's perspective on the thrill and frustration of filming tigers in the wild. From BBC Wildlife Finder. 

- Paul

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Faking it? Wildlife filmmaker Chris Palmer publishes 'Shooting in the Wild' to reveal all

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The following is an edited excerpt from an article by Daniel de Vise published in the Washington Post, Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Read the full article here

Environmental Film Maker, Chris Palmer 63, has written a confessional for an entire industry. "Shooting in the Wild," published this year, exposes the unpleasant secrets of environmental filmmaking: manufactured sounds, staged fights, wild animals that aren't quite wild filmed in nature that isn't entirely natural. Nature documentaries "carry the promise of authenticity." Nature filmmakers profess to present animal life as it is lived, untouched by mankind. Yet human fingerprints are everywhere.

Nature is frequently boring. Wild animals prefer not to be seen

Palmer's book underscores the fundamental challenge of wildlife filmmaking: Nature is frequently boring. Wild animals prefer not to be seen."If you sit in the wild and watch wildlife, nothing happens for a very long time," said Maggie Burnette Stogner, an environmental filmmaker who works with Palmer on the American University faculty. "That's mostly what happens in wildlife."

Nature footage is hard-earned. A crew might spend six weeks in discomfort and tedium for a few moments of dramatic cinema. Certain shots -- animal births, or predators seizing prey -- are difficult to capture by chance. So some filmmakers set them up.

The lemmings that plunge to their deaths in the 1958 Disney documentary "White Wilderness" were hurled ingloriously to their doom by members of the crew, as a Canadian documentary revealed. Palmer writes that Marlin Perkins, host of television's "Wild Kingdom," was known to bait animals into combat and to film captive beasts deposited into the wild, and that the avian stars of the 2001 film "Winged Migration" were trained to fly around cameras.

"Sanctimonious smugness"

Erik Nelson, a prolific environmental filmmaker in Los Angeles, finds "a sort of sanctimonious smugness to his book that sets my teeth on edge." Nelson is a glancing target in Palmer's book; the author portrays Nelson's eight-part television series "The Grizzly Man Diaries" as "sensational" and lambastes the animal-attack genre that Nelson helped to create. Nelson, in turn, asserts that Palmer has seldom actually shot a nature film -- most of Palmer's credits have come in the comparatively detached role of executive producer. He terms Palmer's ethics crusade "a giant nothingburger of an issue." (Palmer says he has been "deeply involved" in all of his films.)

"If there is an ethical beacon that guides the wildlife channels, it is the quest for realism."

Programmers say they condone the use of captive animals as stand-ins for wildlife, and contrived meetings between species, as long as all involved are acting naturally and the viewer is seeing things that might actually happen in nature

Palmer disapproves. In his book, he proposes that every nature film might open with a disclaimer on the screen that says something like, "All the scenes in this film are real and not staged," or, more probably, "Some of the scenes depicted in this film were shot with tame, captive animals." Not likely, say industry colleagues. Who wants to watch a tame nature film?

Read the full article from the Washington Post here

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

After the ice age Black Balkan watervoles settled in Scottish bogland & Brown Iberian ones colonised English rivers.

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Lost Land of the Tiger

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This new BBC series follows a dramatic expedition searching for tigers hidden in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.With tigers heading for extinction, an international team of big cat experts and wildlife filmmakers are given unique access to the jungles and mountains of Bhutan for what could be the last chance to save this magnificent animal.

Explorer, Steve Backshall, is joined by sniffer dog, Bruiser; together they hunt for tigers through the dense forest undergrowth. High in the mountains, wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan drives himself to exhaustion tracking tigers that seem as elusive as the yeti. And in a jungle base camp, scientist George McGavin, organises a firefly disco whilst camerawoman, Justine Evans, is stuck at the top of a tree during a tropical lightning storm. For the final team member, big cat biologist Alan Rabinowitz, time to save the tiger is running out…he has incurable leukemia. Alan bugs the forest with remote cameras to capture whatever secretive creatures are lurking there, but ultimately he needs to find tigers if his ambitious plan to protect them across the Himalayas is to succeed.

We follow the expedition every emotional step of the way as they strive to find evidence that could help to bring wild tigers back from the brink of extinction and safeguard their future.

Read about the "lost" population of tigers that the BBC team discovered living high in the Bhutan Mountains. Earth News

Monday, 20 September 2010

Do I have a big head? My sister sent me this - she had to enrol under a giant pic of my cheesy grin. Sorry sis.

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Saturday, 18 September 2010

Black Fallow Deer of Epping - brought by monks as a gift for the Normans now kept in a hidden sanctuary safe from poachers & cars:

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More pics on my Flickr Photostream

Friday, 17 September 2010

Virgin Atlantic inflight mag - 'How Earth Made Us' described as Sexy - Not exactly what we we're going for ;-)

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

This Raven loves fingers - bit tricky getting them back from such a big & intelligent bird... a matter of waiting.

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Filming the Dragons of a Schwingmoor Bog

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By Paul Williams, Assistant Producer, Animals Guide to Britain
With thanks to Mel Brown of Natural England & Claire Install of the British Dragonfly Society.
One of the most enchanting emblems of the British summer is the dragonfly, and we are lucky to have 25 resident breeding species, and 9 who occasionally pop over from Europe when the weather is good. One of the top spots to see these is the peculiar landscape of a Shwingmoor bog, hidden deep in the heart of Staffordshire. Local mythology speaks of water beasts dragging people to their death, but the real reason this reserve is out of bounds for the casual visitor is hidden beneath a gentle carpet of carnivorous plants, cranberries, cowberries and bilberries. This is Chartley Moss, and what makes it a Shwingmoor is that you can literally walk on water - or more accurately on a 3 metre layer of saturated peat and Sphagnum which floats on top of a 15 metre deep lake. Here 23 species of dragonflies have been recorded including some of the rarest in Britain. I recently visited Chartley Moss to film dragonflies for 'Animals Guide to Britain'.

Chartly Moss, Staffordshire - A Shwingmoor Bog

Chartley Moss, a Shwingmoor Bog in Staffordshire

The Lost World Beneath

Laden with tripods and heavy cases, we cautiously stepped onto the bog, every step creating a ripple and a squelch. I stopped to rest and immediately my feet started to sink into the quagmire. As I began to move away my boot decided that it wanted to stay a little longer - it had been only five minutes and already my welly had succumbed to the beast. We were heading towards the centre, where the peat was at its thinnest and where two large pools puncture the spongey layer to offer a glimpse into the lost world beneath. It is here that we were most likely to find dragonflies as the watery underworld is their true domain. It is the dragonfly nymph who lives here, and this aquatic period of a dragonfly's life dictates when and where the adults are to be found. Nymphs of different species prefer different watery habitats, from sheltered woodland pools to slow flowing rivers and canals. Chartley Moss is particularly famous as the most southern site of the White-faced Darter. Its nymph is critically dependant on lowland acidic peat bogs - 95% of which have been lost in the past 40 years, leaving only a handful of sites for this dainty dragonfly to cling to.
The rare White-Faced Darter

The Creature Breaks Free

Lurking in the muddy bottom of a pond it can take nymphs up to five years to realise that there's more to life that sucking on tadpole juice, and they start to leave the comfort of the water. This is the moment that we had come to film. As we arrived, with soggy feet, a small army of nymphs of the Common Hawker were making the epic journey up the reeds which lined the pools. We watched as their spindly legs strenuously pulled them out of the water, driven by an urge that goes back 320 million years to the earliest dragonflies. We could see the determination as they fell off, only to repeat the climb in a bid to feel the warm morning sun. Then the intimate moment of transformation as they settled into position and froze. The skin cracked and opened. Two iridescent green eyes peered out from within as slowly the head of an adult pushed its way out of the nymph capsule. In just a few minutes the subaqua suit had been shed to reveal a new creature resplendent in dragonfly finery.

Common Hawker emerging from its Nymph

Sex Fuelled Crescendo

Under the boggy water they had propelled themselves by jet power, squirting water from their backsides, but as we filmed, their green wings slowly opened and inflated until eventually they took to the air as a squadron of dynamic highly agile flying machines. They had reached the sex-fuelled crescendo of a life lived under the water and now their airborne mission was to locate a mate and lay eggs back into the water. Live fast, die young, they would have only a few months in which to accomplish their mission. We had achieved ours in just a few hours.

Common Hawker preparing for its first flight

Chartley Moss is privately owned and leased to English Nature. It is a very fragile and extremely hazardous site. Access is by permit only.

For more information:  
Natural England
BBC Breathing Places

'Animals Guide to Britain' presented by Chris Packham will be broadcast on BBC2 in April 2011.

Get the flash player here:

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

1500 fungi in Epping. Many are picked before they can spore. Thousands were confiscated from Fungi thieves today.

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Just filmed a Muntjac road casualty - 1 of the 74,000 annual deer road deaths (image not for feint hearted)

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Henry VIII hunting lodge - used as a grandstand for shooting arrows at deer. Henry also had it painted pink!

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Henry VIII hunting lodge - used as a grandstand for shooting arrows at deer. Henry also had it painted pink!

Coppiced Beech woodland, Epping - enchanting start to the day. Once the hangout of Dick Turpin, the deer thief.

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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Meet Robo-deer. High tech surveillance camera system. 310 degree vision & 180 degree rotating parabolic ears!

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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ellie the Goshawk shows off her incredible hunting & flying skills

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Friday, 10 September 2010

Filming the awesome manoeuvrability of Ellie the Goshawk - as she 'hunts' us through the woods! Look at those eyes

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What a fabulous array of Turkey Tail Fungus - filming in Clevedon Woods, Bristol.

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Thursday, 9 September 2010

Just got the Phantom high speed camera to film the 'Phantom of the Forest' with - a magnificent Goshawk.

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Friday, 3 September 2010

Mountain Gorilla - Safe in Our Hands

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Sunday September 5th, 8pm, BBC2

Patrick Stewart narrates a three-part series on the world's last mountain gorillas.This edition follows the plight of some of the youngest and most vulnerable of the mountain gorilla population. Includes the two young orphans whose mothers were callously murdered in execution style killings, the young female battling with new emotions, and the new gorilla king struggling to keep hold of the group he fought so hard to win.
Discover how they cope in this exploration of what the future holds for the remaining last few hundred mountain gorillas. BBC

Can silverback Rano hold on to the group he fought so hard to win? This final programme looks to see what the future holds for the last remaining Mountain Gorillas.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Wildscreen 2010: Multiplatform workshop

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Back by popular demand? For Wildscreen 2010 we're updating the workshop that we did for Wildscreen 2008. If you're attending the Wildscreen Film Festival and you're interested in finding out about Multiplatform production and how to engage an audience through social networking, please sign up.
Find out about this and other workshops at the Wildscreen festival website.

Breaking out of the Box – Multiplatform

14-10-2010, 10:00 - 13:00pm,
Marriot Hotel.

Do you Tweet, Tag, Ping, Follow or Poke? Are you hooked on Flickr, Tumblr, Delicious, Facebook, YouTube or Vimeo...? This workshop will give you an insight into the world of multiplatform, a world where you can put anything anywhere at anytime to create a unique and individual web experience.

You will work in teams to develop and pitch a multiplatform idea. Get to grips with the basics, understand some of the key tools available on the web, create and share content. Learn the rules, tips and tricks to producing a successful online presence, building and holding onto an audience.

I will be accompanied by a panel of experts:
Paul Deane (Senior Content Producer BBC Multiplatform)
Jeremy Torrance (Content Producer BBC Multiplatform)
Rachel Tomlinson (Assistant Content Producer BBC Multiplatform)
Together, this team have been responsible for much of the BBCs Natural History online output, from Springwatch and Big Cat Live, to the BBC's online compendium of life on Earth, Wildlife Finder.