Tuesday, 14 December 2010

up and coming 

Theres a few of my efforts coming up soon to a Television near you.
Tuesday 14th December

Decade of Discovery - 8pm BBC2  ( This is where i got to swim with sloths)
Mon/Tue/Wed 3rd,4th, and 5th of Jan 

The Bear family and Me - Wandering the woods of North America with Gordon Buchanan and a load of Black Bears

Tuesdays from 13th Jan for eight weeks.

Human Planet - This is the big one. Three years work. Should look great.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

antarctic portraits

Our Team










antarctica prt 3

To try and bring it to life I used tracks and Steadicam. 
Ben's passion was wonderful. To hear him read diary extracts of Christmas day 100 years ago as we stood at the same table was haunting. Tim the director had tracked own the most wonderful diary entries from all the old house mates.
One evening a penguin turned up from nowhere. He handled the adoration quite well and just lay there looking slightly bemused. A week later a seal pitched up from the Icy horizon. He was a bit more bolshy and shouted a bit before heading off to only he knew where.
Life in camp fell into a pattern and we all found our place. Nick pretty much gave up sound recording and went off hitting bits of metal with John.
Ben told us where he would like his picture taken that day and Tim and I discussed light any time something needed lifting or tamping.
We had a few forays out onto the ice. the first was to see the work of Dr Tim Haskell. His camp was on the ice beyond the trapped iceberg at the end of our promontory. We all trooped towards an unpromising poli tunnel ( the sort of thing we grow tomatoes and marijuana in in Devon). We walked inside and were first hit by the heat from the stove , then we saw a vast seal lying in the dining table sized hole in the ice. I grabbed a shot before he snorted and disappeared.
The hole had been cut to allow the teams ROV access to the magical world beneath.  As Ben chatted to the guys they released the robot sub with camera down Into the hole. As it sunk our friendly seal ascended and lay possessively in the hole. I hope it will be a nice sequence with Ben watching the seal from above and the robot sub filming the seal from below.
A really really lovely experience.

We finished at Scott's hut and headed back to Base.
On the last night i had walked out onto the frozen sea. There was complete silence and complete clarity. I could see forever.
i will  never forget being given this opportunity.

Back in 'civilisation' we showered, ate salad, and drank frothy coffee. we even sat on a normal loo , although Nick seemed incapable of letting go of his pee bottle and called it his 'noo noo'.

Our last foray was special. we had a helicopter for the day and we headed out to 'cape Crozier'.
This is the destination for 'the worst journey in the world' , often sited as the best travel book ever written.
Three of Scott's party before their dash to the pole headed East.
As opposed to Amundsen , whose sole purpose was 'pole bagging' , Scott's expedition was also a major scientific undertaking.
There was a believe that Emperor penguins provided a vital link in the evolutionary story and by collecting penguin eggs and studying their embryos, it could be proven. 
So in complete darkness, mid winter, Bowers, Garrard and Wilson headed East. It was a journey of indescribable hardship ( quite well described in the book).
It was so cold they had to get there bodies into sledge pulling position, before they froze like that for the day.
I wont go into it, but we landed on this desolate volcanic ridge, with the wind howling. It was the coldest we had seen. 
Ben and Nigel did their best to tell the story and Nick and i did our best to stand upright and keep our digits.
From here we headed onto the Ross ice shelf. A vast slab of ice the size of France. Under which somewhere lay the bodies of Scott's party.
We filmed a very emotive piece then had Ben walk across the snow and ice as we thundered overhead in the Helli. I got to hang out on a harness with my excitement only tempered by the loss of feeling in my face!

We flew back over the most impossible cracks and crevasses with the wind rising.
I asked the pilot to fly over a promontory to reveal the sea beyond. He tried and admitted he couldn't go higher and  was losing power ( in fact the tail rotor had stopped earlier!), when a pilot says such words you listen and go home for tea and biscuits. we went home for tea and biscuits.
We packed our kit, handed in our pee bottles, cleaned out our lockers and thanked our New Zealand hosts.
It had been remarkable.
The journey home was very very long, broken by Nicks birthday and a shopping frenzy in Christchurch. 
On arriving home the colours of the trees and grass looked ridiculous, everything was too colourful and too loud.
but i guess all hardened Polar explorers say that.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Antarctica prt 2

We were hosted in the New Zealand 'Scott Base', which sat on the shore looking out over the frozen sea. With pressure ridges throwing up spectacular ice formations.
The base consisted of about 70 people during the summer and during the 7 months of continual darkness it dropped to 14.
It was surprisingly well equipped. the food was excellent, coffee marvelous, there was a gym, bar and fancy dress room ( with a fine line in dresses).
Before we could do anything we had to go through our Antarctic field training. So we headed out in the articulated Haglans about 5 miles from base out into the white.
Here we learnt to fill and use stoves, layer up our clothing, avoid frost bite, how to pee in a bottle and keep it in your sleeping bag to stop it freezing and other dark arts of the seventh continent.
We built a snow shelter - great fun. sadly ran out of time before we could construct doric columns and graceful arches!
We erected our Scott tents, basicaly unchanged since.....Scott.
We were then left to have our first night in the snow. We had a little snifter and then it hit us.. We knew the sun wasnt going to set, but nobody really believed it! its true it doesnt! very strange and it took a good week to get used to .
I managed to sleep though with the help of pills and eye pads.
Awoke to furious wind (climatic) it was an interesting morning, derigging tents and practicing search techniques.
A debrief later and an emptying of pee bottles and we were fully qualified arctic explorers.
We now prepared to head off to the wild white yonder.
We met the 'conservators ' we were to be living with and filming. ' lizzy, cricket, diana, john and nigel', all lovely people who couldnt have been kinder or more accomadating.

We filmed the loading of 2000 artifacts into crates and suppervisied the loading of a similar quantity of survignan blanc into our luggage.
Then we set off. It was a few hrs away by hagland and it was wonderful to shoot the low light over the glacier and ice bergs as the wind whipped snow around our feet and our norwegian transport trundled through the epic landscape.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

antarctica prt 1

What an amazing trip.
Antarctica is one of those places I had always wanted to go and never thought i'd get the chance.
Our four man team headed off for the long haul south in October.
30 hrs later, a couple of bottles of white and only the wonderful air crew to entertain us, we found ourselves in Christchurch, the main jumping off point for expeditions South to the ice.
We had a day here to blearily film in the local museum packed with Scott and Amundsen items.
Our film was to look at Scott's hut on Ross island and the efforts to preserve it, also we wanted to look at Scott's dash South from the point of view of those left behind.

We were to be hosted by the New Zealand Antarctic guys and so we found ourselves in a room full of thermals and coats trimmed with rabbit.
We were issued 6 pairs of gloves and -100 degree boots!
all very exciting, I've never been anywhere that requires such preparation and specialist equipment.We flew out very early in the morning with a bunch of Americans, suited in vast boots and coats in case of an unscheduled plunge into icy wastes!

Our team consisted of Ben Fogle, veteran antarctic traveller and lovely fellow, Nick the sound man and Tim the producer. both were friends with whom I'd filmed with before.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Escudo and san fran

What an amazing place. Escudos is a 2km long island off the coast of panama.
Its surrounded by sandstone stacks topped with palm trees. A coral reef encircles the island. White beaches are over hung with palm trees and the interior is mangroves.
This little island is home to at least four endemic species. Orchid, frog, humming bird and sloth. It was the last one we were here to film.
There's only a hundred left in the world and they are all here.
Getting to them meant driving as far as we could by boat then wading into the mangroves. Not easy at all. One slip and the camera goes underwater and it's all over.
We got really lucky and were able to film a mother and baby only a couple of feet away and unlike there larger main land cousins these guys are super chilled. They can even be handled and they just sit there looking like a cross between yoda, ET and a bean bag. Very cute.
The highlight for me was filming one swimming, which they do well. I was able to dive beneath him and film looking up as we swam overhead.
We stayed in an idyllic bay. We swung our hammocks in thatched huts on stilts , at snapper and lobster and the day always started with a swim out to the reef.
The down side to the trip is that the island is supposed to be protected and uninhabited.... We saw mangroves being chainsawed and taken away. We saw permanent dwellings and the fish around the island have been decimated.

Bryson our scientist gives the Pygmy sloth five years before it goes the way of the dodo.

San Francisco

I skipped merrily from Panama to the west coast and hooked up with my friend Tuppence for a few days in San Francisco.
What a wonderful place. I had time to explore Haighte and the mission and all the bars between. loved it.

We were filming a Madagascan environmentalist for a Natural world. Out of the forest for the first time, receiving an award in  the city.
Typically i think San Francisco was more eye opening for us than it was for him!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bocas del toro

Sat on a little jetty looking over the carribean. Were in a Small town called bocas del toro.
Were here to pick up food, a generator and dive gear, before we head off to our island.
Its a lovely place with a very laid back atmosphere.
A great if long drive yesterday from panama city. We crossed the canal and was stunned by the size of the ships plying up and down. We crossed the mountains, with the mist lifting to afford astounding views down to both the atlantic and pacific.
The next few days promises to be full on, but with your own coral reef, deserted island and cold beer, you cant really complain!

Monday, 20 September 2010

panama and pole

Off today to a wee island off the coast of Panama.
We're there to film some of the last hundred remaining pygmy sloths.
These most rare of beasts apparently swim in the Caribbean ! i cant wait.
it also looks like I'm off to the south pole in November!


Had a great couple of days working with the composer and musician Nitin Sawhney, in his Brixton Studio.
I was filming him as he worked on the score for Human Planet. I was in awe watching and listening to him playing, a real honour.
on the Thursday evening i got to hang out with him and James Taylor at the Royal Albert Hall as they jammed on the vast organ there.
very very cool to have the place to ourselves!

Friday, 10 September 2010

New York and New Orleans

Now home.
A busy three weeks in America.
I've finished on bears and this trip was somewhat different. First stop was New York to film two stories for Human Planets urban
programme. Bee keepers on top of Skyscrapers and Rat Catchers
in Manhattans less salubrious restaurants.

It was a full on week. The days spent up high getting stung and the nights down low trying not to get bitten.
We visited a wonderful, surprising market where our bee keepers sold their wares and everything on sale came from the city. There where stunning veggies, flowers, pickles and preserves.

We were lucky enough to visit one vast roof top of 50,000 m2 that was one huge allotment ( well it was really a field in the sky). I did a crane shot starting on a fellow pulling up carrots and then start to move as a wheel barrow trundles past, slowly rising to reveal the Manhattan skyline behind us and the streets down below. quite fun.

Our rat catchers were great characters. We couldn't get into the restaurants until they shut at oneish, then we sneaked in with torches. QUITE QUITE disgusting. NEVER eat Chinese in New York. We were all unable to eat for a good 48 hrs after this.

Then onto New Orleans.

This was a one hr special with Stephen Fry and Mark Carwadine looking at the oil slick off the Louisiana coast.
5 star hotel and blueberries for breakfast! my kind of shoot.

Stephen and Mark were charming. Due to Stephens schedule we had a really tight timetable to get our film. we had to try and get ten minutes of broadcast television every day.....tricky.
It was fascinating to see the vast slick BP pr machine in action. and the story defiantly isn't one sided. I went thinking BP was the bad guy, but realised we're the ones that demand the oil and they just provide it. A very complicated problem with the solution being fairly unpalatable for almost all of us.

I do know I had a lot of fun and laughs on air boats, speed boats, helicopters, green peace boats, BP boats and fishing boats.
We also nearly got sucked up by a water spout ( well not that nearly!)
New Orleans is amazing, when you get away from the tourist street its little lanes of wonderful architecture, great food, stunning music and dancing. doesn't feel like America at all.

All in all a full on, challenging three weeks, but fascinating and fun.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Deer fawn pt 3

And today not only did we have Juliette catching and eating a deer fawn but her three tiny cubs were getting in on the act as well!

Deer fawn prt 2

Ok so two days ago I was sat with a deer fawn nuzzling on my lap.
Yesterday we were walking along a lane, tracking juliette, a mother of three as she walked parallel to us in the woods. Suddenly we hear a child like scream, we ran in to find the bear ripping a dear fawn to pieces.
This was a different image to the gentle lumbering vegetarian earth mothers i had been following
I took one step to close and BWAARR. A 250 lb killing machine with blood dripping jaws charges.
Ooooookkk fine by me, your the boss. I'll back off.
She then trundles off and feeds her cubs at the base of a ceder tree.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

June in the north woods

I know, I know,
Things were busy I didn't write.
It's early June and I'm back with the bears. Young mum lily has abandoned her cub hope who is being kept alive out in the forest with food supplements.
We went out last night in torrential rain and filmed the little sodden ball of fur being hand fed blueberries by Sue. poor little thing. It's stirring up massive controversy across the state betwen the ' intervene' and ' and let nature take it's course ' camps.
I'm a fan of the nut cases, one of whom things 'hope' Is the Jesus Christ of bears !
Driving along this morning we spotted a White tailed deer and two fawns, we stopped to film and the mum disappeared and the two tiny fawns dropped into the grass and became instantly invisible. I moved closer and crouched with the camera. One of the fawns rose and shakily stepped over to me and settled next to me as I stroked It! A wonderful wonderful experience.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

April 1st

Currently sat with Juliette - a 7 year old mum- and her three new cubs.
Spring has arrived. It was yesterday ! Yep all the ice vanished in about 48 hrs. It's now warm, barmy and the first midge has been seen.
Juliette's cubs have changed noticeable in the last couple of days. One is particularly adventuress and is clambering up any available branch, although Lilly's cub Hope seems way ahead of them, clambering 6 ft up a pine tree yesterday. She also got me in trouble.
I was quietly sat there with little docile hope off to my left and Lilly wandering off right. I turned to try and film a silhouette of Lilly in front of the lake. I turn and see that hope has spotted me and is stumbling toward me! I try and put her off with hand waving. Any second Lilly will turn and see me with her cub!
Hope gets to within a foot and shows no sign of stopping so I have to leap over a fallen tree. Hope screams, Lilly turns, bellows and come charging, I shriek and ruin another pair of trousers.
Don't trust cubs.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

First days filming

Clambering down a steep slope through aspen and pine, a frozen lake is groaning and cracking as it starts to melt next to us. The sun is low, throwing a beautiful northern warm soft light over everything.
As we descend we call out ' hey bear, it's us bear'. Bears are petrified of other bears and reassured that were only humans.
This is Lilly, a 3 yr old, first time mum with a new cub. Today was the first day she had brought her new infant 'hope' out of the den and my first day trying to film bears.
We found them lieing under a fallen tree, hope was asleep and Lilly was keeping a very close eye on her and us.
I was down first, so took some pecans ( i tried to remember my lessons and tried to control my fear) i went to make peace. I approached cautiously as no one had seen Lilly for a year and she had a young cub, I kept talking to her and threw some nuts. Her long long Tongue snaked out and Hoovered them up. I threw some more and moved closer.
Continuing to chat away and let her know what I was doing I gradually eased myself to within about 3 metres and settled down with the camera.
It felt extraordinary to be that close to a large wild carnivore with young ! She soon decided I wasn't really a threat and turned her attention to hope who was now suckling and lieing on Lilly's tummy.
We managed to get some lovely shots of these two together, suckling grooming and playing . I gadualy eased myself nearer and nearer until I was under a metre away and could smell hopes ' spaniel puppy aroma'.
Although hope had been brought out of the den worryingly early, she was a fighter, letting her mum know in very strident, loud terms that it was milk she wanted and milk she was going to get.
After an hour or so, with the sun about to dip behind the lake, lilly moved away with hope. I followed at a distance and filmed hope struggling over a branch as lilly walked off out of my vision ..... BWAAARRR lilly mock charges me from my blind side, I fill my trousers and retreat.
Lesson learnt
Bears are very very gentle, trusting animals, but don't push

Friday, 26 March 2010

Welcome to America

I flew out to Minneapolis yesterday with Max (another cameraman) and twenty pieces of luggage.
I arrived in the U S of A with Max and one piece of luggage.
so rather than head up to the great wilderness this morning were
off to the ' biggest shopping mall in America' -which weirdly
also houses the biggest jellyfish collection in America-.
Whilst the worlds great superpower looks for our bags.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Just back from an amazing trip to the northern territories,
We were following the story of Ben and his team who round up thousands of cattle on horseback, quad and helicopter.

These guys are extraordinary, flying below tree level, nudging cattle with the skids.
massive adrenaline rush, flying with them.

I think we got some great footage, with the low sun, massive amounts of dust, cattle, horses and helicopters.
We also had a cineflex system with us, giving stunning aerials.

Great shoot, great bunch of people.