Thursday, 24 December 2015

The real #StickMan lives in New England

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The Stick Man premiers on BBC One on Christmas day.

"Stick Man lives in the family tree, with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three." 

But nature is often just as fantastic as fiction - did you know that in New England twigs come to life every spring?

Looper caterpillars are the real-life Mr Stick, and they awake with the warming weather to seek out the growing leaves. They are part of a magical cast that I have been filming all year - the film will be broadcast on BBC2 sometime in 2016. 

In the meantime here's a few pics of the real Mr Stick.








Thursday, 5 November 2015

My 'Desert Wrinkles' aerial images used as the branding for new beauty box

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I was excited when Melissa Wallis, director of Maslow & Co contacted me with interest in using some of my aerial images (taken through domestic plane windows). She wished to use them as the branding for the launch of their new world 'beauty exploration' package - beauty boxes containing high quality products from around the world. I am now pleased that the boxes are complete and the launch is underway. The main image being used is one that I took over the Western Desert of Australia while travelling from Perth to Broome. I call the image 'Desert Wrinkles' but I'm sure that the products inside the box will help keep wrinkles at bay!!

To find out more about the boxes visit their website
To find out more about how I take photographs through plane windows here's a quick guide.
Here's a piece that Mail Online did about my work.





Monday, 2 November 2015

Cockroaches on BBC Radio 4 - Natural Histories

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Love cockroaches? Tune in this weeks Natural Histories on BBC Radio 4 to hear Brett Westwood, myself and friends chat about the wonders of this incredible creature - an insect that I have shared many a hotel room with.

11am Tuesday 3rd November
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05w9lgh

(Photo: USGS CC2.0)

"For as long as humans have been around, we've had the cockroach as an uninvited house guest. No other creepy-crawly has the power to elicit such strong feelings: the horror of uncleanliness and the involuntary shudder that only a scuttling cockroach can bring, as it vanishes behind the bread bin.


But they've entered our imaginations as well as our living spaces. We may have given the cockroach its dark reputation, but this insect is a survivor. Disgusting and revolting are some of the more polite descriptions we use for cockroaches. Is that because we associate them with squalor and poor hygiene, or because they hold a mirror up to the less savoury side of human nature?

But there is a different side to this great survivor. Probably the most famous cockroach in literature is Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis. Films such as Men in Black use the cockroach as a metaphor for alien arrivals. The cockroach can feed our imagination in other ways too. Its reputation can also be turned inward to explore humanity, satirically described by Archy the cockroach early last Century. It's no wonder then that in Australia, attempts were made to bring the worlds biggest cockroach to the tourism trail." - BBC 

Friday, 25 September 2015

3 highlights in #Patagonia: Earth's Secret Paradise

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3 highlights to look forward to in the new BBC wildlife series - Patagonia: Earth's Secret Paradise
Starts tonight in the UK on BBC Two - Friday 25 September at 21:00 BST.

(Fans of Strictly Come Dancing  - which is on at the same time - you can always catch up with Patagonia on BBC Iplayer!)

This stunning series delves into a rarely seen South American wilderness, home to surprising creatures who survive from the mighty Andes Mountains to Cape Horn - here's just three of them...

1. Pumas - adorable cats that would eat you if they could

(Image: BBC / Rodrigo M)

Pumas are Patagonia’s top predators. But life is tough even for these sleek beasts: these sisters, pictured in Torres del Paine national park, must eventually break their sibling bond to go it alone in the wilderness, hunting prey such as guanacos, lesser rheas and small deer known as pudus to survive. (Descriptions from BBC Earth)

2. Rockhoppers - Funny looking Penguins with the wacky eye brows

(Image: BBC / Evie Wright)

Off the southernmost end of South America, Isla de Los Estados provides a sanctuary of sorts for almost 350,000 breeding rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) each year. Fathers stand guard over their chicks, braving batterings by storms, while mothers leave to find food for their babies. (Descriptions from BBC Earth)

3. Guanacos - Goofy high altitude Llamas

(Image: BBC / Tuppence Stone)

Guanacos, thought to be ancestors of domestic llamas, roam the mountains’ foothills. These hardy but graceful animals are found in arid and semi-arid land habitats, and can thrive at high altitudes of up to 4,000m above sea level (about 13,000ft) as their blood is highly efficient at absorbing oxygen. (Descriptions from BBC Earth)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The wonder in a rock.... Because fossils arn't just for boys

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Why would a little girl want to be a princess when they can be an explorer!

Today my little girl, Ammony, was a palaeontologist.









Monday, 31 August 2015

11 Tips for making a 1 minute #EdenShort - get your film on TV

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Eden Shorts is looking for your one minute films that display a wonder of the natural world – the judges will be looking for quality in filming technique and editing, thoughtful communication and relevant subject matter. The very best will be shown on Eden. Submissions will be accepted from now until 30th September - so get cracking!

For Eden Channel I've put together 
11 of my top tips for Wildlife Filmmaking

1. What’s the point? 

One minute isn’t long so keep it simple - what is the point of your film? Watch TV adverts to get an inspiration for style and how a story can be told in 60 seconds. Don’t get embroiled in a complex introduction. Grab the viewers attention from the start and quickly get into the action and the story. 

Think about who or what your character is. Whether it’s a tree, a badger or a mountain - why should we care? Maybe your film is a beautiful emotive piece reflecting on a natural spectacle or event - try and build to a climax. Maybe its an extraordinary moment in an animals life - a bird fledging? What will make people remember it? Lead with the pictures. Try telling the story without music and commentary, and then add these to help heighten emotion and add insight.


2. Animals don’t follow scripts

Be flexible - don’t get so caught up in your shot-list and storyboard that you ignore the magic happening in front of you. Always be prepared to grab your camera and start rolling in case something extraordinary happens. If your camera is out of reach use your mobile phone.


3. Know the location

When arriving at a location become familiar with the lay of the land and the possible vantage points. Where will the sun set and rise? I’ve found the following mobile apps particularly useful when planning a days filming : Photopills, Sun Seeker and Starwalk.

Ensuring that you have a full picture of the possibilities in your mind will allow you to respond to the unpredictabilities of filming wildlife, and will help you to think of backup plans. What can you do when it rains, what happens if your subject suddenly disappears - is there another?


4. Rise early and get the best light

In the summer the sun is high and light can be harsh by 9am. This may be the look that you want, but I like to be out on location well before sunrise and after sunset - when the glowing orange light creates a warmer, softer image and long shadows add interesting texture. Many animals follow a similar routine, they find the middle of the day a little too hot and don’t do very much. Usually early morning is the best time to see and film wildlife.


You may not have any control of lighting but think about how it impacts your image. Front lighting can bring out the colors and details, but it eliminates shadows making the scene appear flat. Backlighting is more dramatic and helps draw attention to features like a foxes ears or dust being kicked up by a bird. I prefer a subject to be side lit as this subtly brings out features, but makes the subject appear bolder, and the long shadows highlight texture within the subject and the landscape. Try to keep the lighting consistent within a sequence.

5. Wait and watch 

As a wildlife filmmaker the number one thing you need is patience. The truth is that most of the time wildlife is boring. Animals don’t do much and many hide away during the day. 


Research is key. Work with experts, people who follow and observe the animals on a regular basis. This will fast track you to a deeper understanding of your subject.

Animals have individual personalities and only by spending time observing them can you start to understand their behaviour. I have a fox family in my garden and by spending many hours in a hide I’m able to learn who the individual characters are and what they might do. Often an animal will have a tell tale sign that it’s about to do something, learn what that is and be ready to respond. In wildlife filmmaking, you increase your luck by putting in the time.

6. Get into the animals world

If filming a small animal like a frog or hedgehog get down at its level. The animal will look bigger, your film will be more immersive and by keeping low you will appear less threatening so the animal will behave more naturally. If you’re filming a bird try to get up into its world. I was filming falcon chicks recently and I used a 75ft tall cherry picker to get level with the nest. The platform was a little wobbly but it was the only way to film chicks in the nest and get a sense of their world.


7. ...but keep your distance

As wildlife filmmakers we are there to document natural behaviour and not to direct it. Keep a distance that’s safe for you but also non-intrusive to the animal. If you can keep quiet and out of sight you are more likely to see natural behaviour. Consider using remote cameras or camera traps - many of these have an infrared function for night filming.


For the series ‘Secrets of our Living Planet’ I wanted to film grizzly bears feeding on salmon within the enclosed confines of a forest. I was attaching a remote camera to a tree, when I heard a rustle behind me. I turned around to see a large female bear less than 10 metres away, she was certainly surprised. My training taught me that the best way to respond is to keep calm and talk to the bear. I said ‘Hey bear... sorry for trespassing on your forest’. Thankfully, the bear understood my British accent and headed back to the river. I switched the camera on and we got out of there returning several days later to retrieve footage that was dangerous to film any other way.


So long as you are ethical and considerate to wildlife, and true to nature, there are no rules in wildlife filmmaking. In Eden Shorts you have 60 seconds to capture the audiences attention. Experiment with style and technique but most of all be creative.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Spotlight Sumatra: Join Panut Hadisiswoyo and I as we talk about Saving Orangutan and conservation on TV

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On May 12th at Bristol Zoo I have the honour of joining this years recipient of the prestigious Whitley Award, Panut Hadisiswoyo of the Sumatran Orangutan Society, who was recognised for his remarkable contribution and leadership in orangutan conservation. Panut is an inspiration to anyone with a passion for conservation and this promises to be a fascinating insight into his work and achievements in Sumatra. I will be sharing my experiences of working with his team during one of my most memorable, and challenging shoots, to film the rescue of orang-utan from forest under imminent threat. 

For more information and to book tickets please visit the SOS website:
http://www.orangutans-sos.org/events/spotlight_sumatra_talks










Sunday, 19 April 2015

Tumultuous Arctic Cloudscapes, Svalbard #AmazingNorway #EarthCapture

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A few of Svalbard cloudscapes in response to BBC Earth's callout for images of #AmazingNorway
Taken from my camp during the filming of 'Life' #EarthOnLocation

To celebrate the launch of our Norwegian BBC Earth channel, the BBC Earth team are seeking your photos and short films of the wonderful world of Norway. "We will then help share your world, with the world, in front of a BBC Earth audience of millions." See the website for more information.








Thursday, 5 March 2015

10 foot tapeworm and the 3 bears #EarthOnLocation

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If you go down to the woods today you're sure of a big surprise!

Every autumn in British Columbia salmon migrate upstream to spawn. Arriving in their tens of thousands they are a vital source of fat and protein for the grizzly bears who need to stock up before the winter. Unfortunately the fish also carry tiny passengers that can't wait to get inside the warm body of a bear...

All was going well down on the river bank

Then one little cub noticed something strange...


"I'm sure we didn't have noodles with our salmon last night" he thought, noticing a long slimy thing trailing behind his mum.

He and his brother wondered what on earth it could be...

"Should we ask her" said one of them....

"I think I'm going to be sick" said the other...


"What!" asked Mum turning around a little self consciously. "Why do you keep staring?"...

"Err", said one of the cubs realising the sheer horror of the situation... 


"I think you have a giant tape worm hanging out of your backside Mum


Fortunately it didn't last long...

They lived happily every after... until one of the three bears got another monstrous tapeworm.


A small price to pay for the abundance of raw salmon that spawns in the forest streams, and helps the bears stock up their fat reserves for the winter.


... and if you think it's just a bear problem, think again! 
Make sure your salmon is well cooked!



Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Super Powered Owls - why you should watch this! #NaturalWorld

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Super Powered Owls - 8pm, BBC Two

With their charismatic faces and extraordinary head-turning ability, owls are one of our best-loved birds. And yet it's rare to catch more than a glimpse of one in the wild. These mysterious birds haunt our night, floating through the darkness with an eerie silence. But how do they see in the dark? And how do they fly so silently? Through the eyes of two special barn owl chicks and with the help of world leading scientists, Natural World reveals the magic behind owls' superpowers.

Please watch this... Why you ask?

1. My wife worked on it.

2. It's got owls.

3. It's Tuesday so what else are you going to do.

4. Narrated by Paul McGann (excusing his role as the Doctor in the film that everyone tries to forget... )

5. It's got owls.

Oh and check out this gorgeously gratuitous slo-mo. Arn't Owls simply magnificent!




Photo: BBC


Saturday, 14 February 2015

Borneo's Love Birds - The World's Tiniest Raptor - Black Thighed Falconet #EarthOnLocation

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A pair of 'Love Birds' - the black thighed falconet.


This is the worlds smallest bird of prey, the size of a sparrow. We filmed it for the very first time for the BBC series 'Wonders of The Monsoon'.

The black-thighed falconet is incredibly difficult to find amongst dense rainforest, and so it has been rarely studied.  Fortunately I was able to find a scientist who after many years of work had located a nest, by working with her we were able to get a high vantage point and into a position to film three chicks as the adults brought back food for them. 

The adults are pair bonded, and work together to feed their young. I'd often see them preening each other or taking a minute to 'snuggle' between visits to the nest. A third falconet, presumably an offspring from last year was also helping to feed the chicks. They raid other species nests to steal chicks, sometimes bringing back prey as big as themselves.

What we captured for the first time is how they also specialise in hunting butterflies. South East Asia is one of the richest places in the world for butterflies many of which are toxic, the falconet is believed to be picky about which ones they catch - only selecting the edible and tastiest ones. 

For the first few weeks it’s believed that butterflies are preferred by the chicks as they are softer and easier to eat but eventually they’ll switch to eating other birds and lizards. We saw them bringing back as many as 10 butterflies an hour – sometimes one of the chicks would throw one out of the nest, as if it was protesting against a particular flavour.

One of the conditions of being able to film this elusive species is that we agreed to keep the location, and the name of the scientist secret, for fears that the nest could be targeted by poachers.