30 Years in the Field
A long long time ago I began a career as a wildlife cameraman. This was in the days of film and there were only about 30 of us in the world. Everywhere I went was new. Our filming locations were hard to get to and few people if anybody at all had ever visited them before. Certainly nobody had filmed there before. Because they took a long time to get to, there was a palpable sense of adventure and exploration. Most filming trips back then were expeditions in themselves with all the planning and logistics that that entailed. I was to film many of the animals and their behaviour for the first time.
Flying with 11 Million Straw-Coloured Fruit Bats in Zambia
The reason I got into this was because, when I was 12 years old I read a book my father had sitting on a shelf called 'Zoo Quest to Guyana' by a man called David Attenborough. From that moment on I wanted to either catch animals for zoos, (that soon became not really the thing to do) or make films about animals with David Attenborough. He was very much my childhood hero. I had one other ambition and that was to climb to the top of Mount Roraima, a high plateau called a Tepuis in Venezuela. David Attenborough had described this mysterious mountain in his book, but had never made it to the top. It was a mysterious place hidden in the clouds. The fabled mountain was the setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'Lost World' where it was inhabited by dinosaurs and also the setting for the brilliant animated feature 'Up'. Well, none of these ambitions seemed very viable at the time and even less so as I grew older and watched Jacques Cousteau documentaries on the first colour tv's. But one could dream.
Almost exactly 20 years later I fulfilled my first ambition and found myself sitting on a plane next to David. By sheer extraordinary coincidence I fulfilled my second ambition 3 days later when we flew together by helicopter to the top of Roraima. It turned out to be David's ambition too and so we did it together. We camped there for 10 days to film a sequence for 'The Private Life of Plants'.
That was in 1992. Now, 23 years later, an era has dawned where few places have not been visited. In fact they're visited by hundreds if not thousand of people every year. The world has shrunk and I can't help feeling that people like me and the films we made have significantly contributed to this shrinking accessable world. These days it's not unknown for a cameraman to be waiting in a queue of other cameramen to shoot a bear fishing for salmon. New stories are harder to come by, but on the plus side, old stories can always be filmed better or at least differently. But is this enough? I don't know. It's been an incredible 30+ years and I've seen many of the most extraordinary wild places and the greatest of nature's events. But a lifestyle like this is devastating on relationships. I missed my first two children growing up so now seems like the right time for a new different sort of adventure, this time with my family. I won't be giving up film making, I have my own film projects to work on and new ambitions in the world of stills photography. And I'll still shoot for others, but together Pip, Oliver and I have found Paradise and from now on that must take priority...
Fewer people have seen this cave than have walked in space! 'Cueva de los Cristalis', Mexico
Pip just sent me a song to listen to which so perfectly encapsulates where we are now and how we feel about the future. It's uncanny. It's called 'Counting Stars' by One Republic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
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