Nature Filming

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    • #48294

      Dont know if this is the right place for this but I use a Canon XH-A1 to film wildlife in East Africa. Is there anywhere I can go for some free info on wildlife filming? I can go all over the web for info about lighting ect but shooting nature is much different. The actors seemingly never preform right and there are shadows on the main subject and a bush is in the way and the list could go on! I am on a really tight budget just trying to make a couple bucks thru stock footage sales. So far no go. Thanks, mfish

    • #198508


      Shooting wildlife with a video or still camera uses the same methodology as if you were using a rifle. Long hours of waiting in a hide at the likely place your target will show up. Patience, attentiveness, persistence and being in the right place at the right time are what will help you get the shots.

    • #198509

      Merle –

      In a prior life (before video, back in the days of Super-8) I was an aspiring nature photog (would have sold my soul for a job with Nat Geo). What Wolf has said is the rule – LONG hours, lots of shots – I used to shoot 20+ rolls of film in a day (400 shots) on a regular basis – and blind, dumb, luck was smiling on me if I got 20 top shots with another 40 usable shots (no hitting the delete button on Ektachrome).

      Same for video – watch some of the videos about the making of “Planet Earth” or “Blue Planet” – Their best shots came from the last three minutes of a multi-day shoot (specifically, look for the Great White getting his prey – a seal – they were just about to give up and call it a wrap when they got that almost by accident).

      PERSEVERANCE is the name of the game!

    • #198510

      One way to look at it, Merle, is that there ARE no hard and fast “rules” specific to what you are doing. Practice good basic lighting, framing and composition habits, talk to some old hunters who had to learn how to get up close without the critter in question taking notice, and take every failure as a lesson.

      Good luck, I envy you the opportunity!

    • #198511
      Jennifer O’Rourke

      Hi, Merle,

      Here at Videomaker we’ve published a few stories on Shooting in the Wild – [links below], and Nat GEO [National Geographic] also has a tips page. It’s mostly for still camera shooting, but they are good tips for anyone. And as stated above: patience is the name of the game!


      Wild Things: Tips for Shooting in the Wild” – and”Grizzlies in Yellowstone

      Also, if you’re working to “direct” tame animals to “act” on command: “How to Direct Animals and Stay Sane“.

      And here’s the National Geographic shooting tips site:

      NAT GEO:

      Good Luck!

    • #198512

      I’ve been a videographer for 18 years and recently did a little research on selling stock footage to the large stock footage houses. Here’s something I saw on istock:

      Scroll down to see how much you can make. Hope this helps.

    • #198513

      Thanks to all of you for your responses. I should mention that filming in Africa is easy compared to what composite1 said. Everything is filmed from a car. Since I am not a “big shot” I need to obey all park rules including “no offroading”. So basically I drive around until I find something to film. If what I am looking for is not along the road I need to find something different to film. I have already stayed with a predator for well over an hour in hopes to see a kill so yeah I understand the patience part! Thanks for those links Jennifer, I found the first 2 to be particularly helpful. I have learned alot thru pro photographers in ways of shooting. And thanks for that link Hamid, currently I am working on a contract with “Footage Search” but if the deal falls thru I will consider that page. I tried to upload one of my videos to youtube to link here but the web is to slow here and I havent got it done yet.

    • #198514
      Grinner Hester

      I haven’t filmed nature scenes since the early 90s but I still shoot em on video all the time. I don’t shoot from a car and I don’t shoot in parks. I like nature instead. Understanding the behavior of the animal you are shooting is key. Knowing where to be when action happens comes with experience… from each of those animals. (they all differ greatly) So, if I were wanting a preditor kill shot, I’d not followa preditor… just hang with the prey.

    • #198515

      I prefer to stay in my vehicle when around 500 pound killing machines :). And in Kenya they dont have wild animals outside of parks and reserves. The problem for filming kills, lions, hyenas, and leopards (the largest predators in Africa) hunt mostly at night. Still I have been lucky enough to see 4 lion hunts, 1 leopard hour long stalk, and a cheetah 70 mph dash but non resulted in a kill. How many nature films show a failed hunt? Very few, but its something I cant change. Im trying to understand your last statement tho. In the mara during the migration there are 1.7 million wildebeest there. All big cat filming crews I know of find the lions and stay with them. Might be a matter of preference but it seems to me you would have a better chance of seeing a kill if you stay with the predators because they are only a few and the prey is always many.

    • #198516
      Grinner Hester

      Well, if not willing to get the shot, please don’t ask hopw to do it.

      You already know you’ll have to place yourself in harm’s way to get anything of value… hance your being their “filming” with no filming.

      Dude, hop out of the truck and snag the shots you neeed or hand it over to the dude who will. Following a den from afar will naver get you shots that you need or want. Just shots your personality may be comfy with. This may not be the gig for you as there are many whey are willing to just hop in and get the tights as needed. What are you shooting? If it’s a doc, ytou need the shot. If it’s library fodder, dude, you need more than the shot. MORE. You will have to nest with the den to sell generic stuff. Otherwise, we’ve all seen the wise and tights of lions in all kinds of atmospheres.

    • #198517

      Yeah, I saw that in Kenya with hordes of European and American Tourists packed in those little white vans. Initially I went on one of those and it was fun for an hour. Next time we contracted with some locals and went out ‘into the country’ as they called it. First in a beat-up old pick up and then they took us out into the bush on foot. We spent the day out there but came back in the evening because we didn’t have any Night Vision Gear. Did a lot of shooting in the Outback of Australia, Jungles of Thailand, Panama and the wilds of the US. Each time, we lit out on foot and came back with the goods. Like Grinner said, ‘you’re not going to get anything good sitting in your truck.’ And you’re right, if you plan on getting sequences of your intended animal’s behavior, you’re going to have to stick with them for extended periods.

    • #198518

      How many nature films show a failed hunt?Very few, but its something I cant change.

      Being abig fan of nature films, I know those that do them have their work cut out for themselves.

      You haveno idea how many fails they follow, and record, to get that one success becausethey don’t show the fails for the most part. And not every success was captured well enough to show.

      If you’re up on statistics, formost predators, kills are about one in five attempts at best. Odds increase with the size of the hunting partybut is still not a guarantee of a kill every time. This comes from those BTS clips on the films and seems consistant from show to show.

      The USversion of Planet Earth Series had a section on the Siberian Snow Leopard, an extremelyrare cat. The guy with the camera was there two years in a row, the first yearhe got nothing. The second year he got the shot of how they actually hunted,and it was a fail. They felt at the time this was the first known recorded hunt of this type of cat. Hewas unable to capture a subsequent kill but got the cat taking its prize back
      to the den.

    • #198519

      Also in the Planet Earth series they showed a Cape Hunting Dog hunt. They followed the Dogs around for days and got bupkis. Sometimes the Dogs had left the den before the filmmakers got there early in the morning! When they finally did get them in action, the hunt ended with an impala avoiding certain death with the dogs by jumping into the water that had crocodiles in it! Just as exciting as it would have been to see them take it down.

      If you really want to know how maddening wildlife photography can be, look at the Diaries at the end of each Planet Earth show and watch the one where they were trying to shoot the Bird of Paradise.

    • #198520

      Yeah those tourist vans are a big problem over here! I have been over here for 2 years now and always drive myself. I have learned of areas in almost every reserve I visit that are pretty much void of those vans but have loads of animals (you need a 4X4 in most of those areas tho). Problem is I do this just for a hobby so I dont spend more than 20 days out of the year out there. Which is why I just offer stock footage instead of making my own film. I guess my original question was not so much how to get in position to get the shot, rather how to capture the moment when it presents itself. I know several pro African wildlife photographers that shoot 1/8000th shutter speed. It seems really high but I figure there is a reason for it. Do framing rules apply? What about F number? Any advantages to having it higher or lower?

      And grinner, point taken. In the case I need those special shots that would certainly be the best way to get them. I wouldnt consider myself a stranger to danger – I camp out whenever I go out because many of the areas I hit dont have lodges. I have had buffalo and lions in camp already and heard leopards down in the river bottom ect. I tried staying at a 4 star lodge already and besides robbing you of your money it just dont seem right.

    • #198521

      Another thing. A few weeks back I was chilling at camp in the heat of the day and a big fight broke out in camp between 2 rival troops. 50+ baboons all trying to beat each other up. I never saw anything like it in animals it was pretty much like gang warfare on our city streets! Anyway I got this video Im not sure how to label I thought you guys could help with it. On of the males tried to rape a female resulting in this video. Now, should I label it as “Baboon Fight” which is what it looks like to the casual observer or should I call it “Baboon attempt rape” which is obvious if you watch it several times?

      Baboon Fight from Merle Fisher on Vimeo.

    • #198522

      They can be pretty brutal towards rival clans, they will even kill and eat the babies if they can. Pretty nasty stuff, got to love the Discovery Channel.

    • #198523

      Merle, the faster the frame rate and higher the f-stop the better off you are. The faster frame rate will reduce motion blur and the higher the f-stop you will have more in focus if they are running towards you or away from you and as I am sure you know, focus is critical if filming anything.

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