A short story about an adventure of a nature photographer being filmed for a documentary. Following James Doyle nature photographer for a day.
As regular readers of the James Doyle Photography blog posts and tweets might know, I was asked if I would like to be involved in a documentary to be aired nationally in early 2014.
How could I refuse? Although, I did have some apprehension at first. Like many people, I am a little self-conscious about the way I sound and my appearance, particularly in public. But I also saw the experience as a great opportunity to hopefully show the general public that nature photography is more than taking a grab shot of a subject. That in fact, a lot of planning and effort goes into regularly making great photos of nature.
Even though the documentary will only be a snapshot of a day in the life of James Doyle, Australian nature photographer and being out photographing our beautiful wild areas. It also shows you have to go a little further than the usual lookouts to make some new and exciting photos. In some ways, the uniqueness of your images will be determined by the amount of effort you put into your photography.
It was planned that during the filming, we would try and show a typical day out shooting with a nature photographer and what was involved to shoot nature subjects. We didn’t want to stage anything to make it look more “impressive”, we just wanted to show a realistic day of shooting nature.
Now, this wasn’t going to be an easy task really. Because of the dry weather south east Queensland and other parts of Australia has be experiencing over the past months, many of the regular locations I would visit, were bone dry and lacked any of the usual subjects I would be out photographing. We therefore decided to head further a field to a location where I visit to photograph cascades. Because of its location, on the NSW, Queensland border, it sits in the catchment of the Condamine River and has some water flowing all year round.
The day started early as we drove for an hour and a half, before stopping to set-up a Gopro camera in the vehicle to get some “action” shots of me driving to the location. Even though I am no stranger to the processes of documentary filmmaking, I have to admit I found the whole experience rather “scary” and quite hard to look “natural”. But it didn’t take long before the crew had me feeling more comfortable with all the attention. You see, in reality most nature photographers are somewhat introverted and don’t like being the centre of attention. By the time we had reached our location, I had all but forgotten about the camera and was going about my business as usual.
After a quick coffee break and a discussion about how we would proceed, we started filming the required sequences that were needed and headed up the creek towards the cascades and waterfall. When we reached our first creek crossing, there were some gasps due to the chilliness of the mountain water but we all took it in our stride and helped each other over the slippery rocks. As we continued up the stream, stopping and starting to film various sequences I realised how hard this was for everyone involved. You have to constantly be mindful of the light, the angles and how you carried your equipment, which path you took. You do this so when changing from wide establishing shots to close-up shots, there is continuity. I think the crew and I worked well in this regards because having been a natural history cinematographer myself I was all too aware of these things. As a result we were moving along at a steady pace, telling the story as we went along.
At the first real cascade, we decided I would “work” the cascade and the crew would film me going about my business. I had thought that because I had photographed this same cascade in the past I needed to try something new. I decided I would wear my waders and venture into the creek itself, move in close at the base of the cascade directly in front of the falling water. The reason for the waders? Well that was twofold; firstly the water was freezing and secondly to keep any leeches at bay. We stayed at this cascade for possibly an hour, as we filmed the sequences that were required before moving further up the creek towards the main waterfall. When we reached the main waterfall I think that we were all exhausted from the scramble over rocks, fallen trees and creek crossings. You have to remember we were all carrying heavy equipment, not just a stroll to look at the falls.
After a short break, we discussed how we would proceed and I indicated that I had always wanted to make my way around behind the waterfall to photograph the water falling from a different angle and perspective as opposed to the usual front on view. What I wasn’t prepared for was how slippery the rocks were and muddy the ground was. I almost went for a spill on several occasions and on one occasion I started to slip and ended up stabbing myself in the leg with the really sharp Really Right Stuff “Rock Claws”, I have on the end of my tripod legs ( I call them my bear protection as they are so dangerous but very useful). I will admit it was rather painful and the blood started to flow quite freely. But I continued on to arrive behind the waterfall.
After we had filmed what we needed for this part of the story, I returned to were the crew was safely waiting and to be honest I was glad I got back to relatively dry land with only a minor injury.
We headed back down the creek to where we parked the vehicles and had a delightful BBQ lunch before heading onto the next location and home.
The documentary crew were fabulous, very professional and we worked very well together, I thought. And after my initial embarrassment of being filmed for television, I found myself quickly forgetting the camera was there and became comfortable with the whole process.
So would I say things went well? Most definitely except for these uncontrollable elements like weather and light, which I would have liked to have been more favourable.
Stay tuned for part two! We have another day of filming to be done as the crew follow me doing bird photography and star trails in the coming weeks.
(Images were shot on a point and shoot camera)
If you enjoyed this story, feel free to checkout my other stories from the field which give an account of other adventures. Or leave your comments below.