Monday, 17 October 2011

Okovango Ele's

My first Animal Einstein’s shoot.
We ventured to the Okavango delta to film elephants. I hadn’t been back here for 15 yrs.
A small team of myself Rich, Giles and Liz landed in Maun and was met my Mike holding and TJ - wonderful people. Local filmmakers of prodigious talent and kindness.
It was their camp we went to. Set up on the shores of the Okavango floodwaters.
Little tents with bucket showers and gin and tonics by candlelight…perfect.
Days were spent filming from mikes Cessna or on foot.
I had never been to this part of the delta and was blown away by its beauty. Huge bodies of water surrounded by game of all descriptions, it felt we had stumbled on eden at times.
The Botswana elephant haven’t been slaughtered or abused like most of the continents gentle giants, so they were very calm and came to within 6 ft of me, a situation I just wouldn’t have allowed in Kenya. But I was under the watchful eye of ele expert Mike, so never felt in danger. It was so wonderful to experience and be so close to these, my favorite of animals.
Mike and TJ had such good guys working with them, who helped with the kit, made amazing food and provided cold beer at appropriate times. A truly luxurious shoot.
One evening I was taking a bush shower, my glass of wine in hand, when a shout went out that lions were in camp. I turned and saw a male lion amble past at about ten feet… magical.
Liz and mike did some wonderful pieces and we were able to get one very special piece where we guessed the water hole the ele’s were heading to and managed to have them sat quietly on one side with the family of ele’s playing and drinking right in front of them. The knowledge of people like Mike and mike is invaluable and yielded amazing intimate opportunities.
The week disappeared far too quickly with none of us wanting to leave.
Hopefully a lovely piece due to an amazing location, my favorite subjects, great presenting and incomparable local knowledge.


This was my second shoot for the animal Einstein’s series.
only a week but what a glorious one.
We were based in South Africa up on the Botswana border at a long term Meerkat research project.

clear rippled dunes rose from bleached grass and scrub.
Here the little guys were completely habituated and ignored us completely, which I found a delight.
Rich was again doing sound, Jo the wonderful series producer was here. Sophie was directing and liz was ‘da talent’.

Soph had worked at the project for a couple of years which ment she knew the ‘wee folk’ inside out. Coupled with ‘Jof’, our man who knew and could, we were in capable hands.
The first morning we were gathered outside their Den before sunrise, all speaking in hushed tones and keeping our respectful distance. We didn’t have to worry, the merkats were bomb proof  and within 5 minutes of the first little sentinal scurrying out and standing ramrod straight in the early Kalahari light I was lieing next to him at a distance of about 30 cms!
Surely alongside cheetah cubs they are designed to be filmed back lit. They’re soft fire lighting up like angelic auras.
The pups were the size of a healthy samosa and too cute for words. They bundled along like balls of fur blown by the wind, continually demanding food in a most undignified fashion.when the unit of about 30 moved off, they did so at a surprising speed and you can suddenly find yourself lieing prone with a camera, with nothing to film but the remains of a scorpion they’ve just demolished.

There skill with the dispatch of scorpions is astonishing to behold. They must have an immunity, as I really can’t believe their wee black noses don’t get hammered. When they’ve pulled them from their holes they dance around the deadly insects and nip off they’re stings, before carrying them to the pups. The pups then learn how to tackle the scorpions and get a scrummy lunch as well.

One evening we followed the group home to their den and before they all descended below ground, they had a mass hug/groom/love in. A huge puddle of meerkats all creening in pleasure tangled in a delicious knot.
Lieing next to them, the familer feeling of honour and privilidge at witnessing something magical pouring through me.

On another evening we were able to capture a world first.
Right outside the den, a subordinate mother gave birth. Few have witnessed this and none have filmed it.  It felt somehow sacrosanct to witness the arrival of the minute pink beastie. Sadly its chances are slim at best. but I wish it well.

our last evening was spent around the fire with steaks on the bar b and lovely chilled wine. The dazzling Kalahari stars wheeling overhead.
Stunning place, stunning animals, stunning crew.