Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fire Mountain

Marum, Vanuatu.
At times, sound recording can be downright uncomfortable. I've worked in everything from mosquito-infested rainforests to finger-numbing Siberian winters. 

Last summer, I spent 3 weeks on the idyllic South Pacific islands of Vanuatu for a new BBC series, Kate Humble: Into The Volcano. Part of the trip involved camping on the rim of an active volcano. Climbing up wasn’t too bad, but the real challenge came after we arrived at the summit. When we weren’t enveloped in clouds of sulphurous gas, or showered by acid rain, we were blasted with needle-sharp shards of volcanic glass called Pele’s hair. Our filming kit rapidly corroded in the harsh environment, and brand new climbing equipment deteriorated within days. And yet, despite all the obstacles the volcano threw at us, it remains one of the most mesmerizing places I’ve ever visited. At night, the glow of the active lava lake illuminated the gas cloud above and the constant roar of the lava boiling away was just spellbinding. 

This photo shows presenter Kate Humble & climbing expert Tim Fogg descending into the fiery cauldron, accompanied by the most terrifying sound; a deafening cacophony of jet-engine, waterfall, avalanche and thunderstorm. Truly out of this world.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Lost World

Htamanthi, Burma.

Many places I visit have already been well documented by previous natural-history filmmakers. Not Burma though. So little is understood about this corner of Asia, it's a daunting task knowing where to start looking.

This year I’ve been fortunate to spend 9 weeks exploring the remotest areas of this incredible country at a time in its history when it's only just becoming accessible again to the rest of the world.

From the leech-infested bamboo forests down south to the primeval jungles up north, we waded through rivers (as demonstrated here by series producer Sanna Handlsip in Htamanthi forest), climbed mountains and trekked for days, setting up camps in four different locations, before exploring the surrounding areas on foot. We were rewarded for our efforts with some pretty spectacular wildlife sightings, which will now be showcased in a new BBC documentary series.

As a sound recordist it was a particularly enriching experience. Being so cut-off from man-made interference I was able to gather some pretty special natural sounds. One of my favourites was my early-morning wake-up call – troupes of Hoolock gibbons calling to one another across the river near camp. Nothing gets you out of bed faster than the sound of gibbons duetting at dawn.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Iceland Rocks!

Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland.

Iceland has an enchanted atmosphere; a land of fairies, restless volcanoes, incomprehensible language and wacky pop-singers. So what better place to explain the origin of life.

I was filming there recently, for a new BBC documentary on the secrets of the human cell. This photo was taken early in the morning near the sleepy seaside village of Vík í Mýrdal, but it could have been taken at midnight, since the sun doesn’t really set in summer. Filming was rather challenging. When not being buffeted by coastal blasts of wind and rain, I was dive-bombed by angry arctic terns, which noisily swooped down, alerting me to the presence of their ground nests.

The beaches were surreal. Carpets of dusty-blue lupines fringed the coastline, black volcanic sand replaced golden shores, and towering columns of hexagonal rock jutted out of the ground.

I thoroughly enjoyed my short time there, and would love to explore the country more. The air was so clean, I felt healthier with every breath. The food was a real treat too; creamy mashed potato with smoked haddock – perfect comfort food, and it’s not everyday I get to taste smoked puffin.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunrise At Bedtime

The Pantanal, Brazil.
For the past 4 months, I've been working the night-shift on a new BBC natural history series called "The Dark". The project took us all over South & Central America, in search of never-before-filmed nocturnal animal behaviour. We explored rainforests, climbed deep into caves, waded through swamps, endured blood-sucking insects and spent long, bleary-eyed nights camped out in totally darkness, waiting for the right moment to film.

We discovered that creatures of the night have a whole range of techniques to help them survive in their secret world. I also learned that as an animal species, we're pretty useless at operating in the dark. Often I would put something down only to misplace it seconds later. On one occasion, whilst walking  in complete darkness through the Costa Rican rainforest, I fell into a hole. Nothing was broken, but it was a real shock!

I took this photo after a long night looking for giant anteaters. Howler monkeys announced the arrival of a new day and the sounds of night were replaced by a wonderful dawn chorus. A sight for sore eyes, and ears.

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