Given that I write a blog about photographing things I should probably take the time to write a post about cameras. The trouble is I really don't care about cameras. This is probably not something I should admit to on a public forum, and if any potential employers are reading this I want to stress that just because I don't care about cameras, doesn't mean that I don't know how to use them! It also doesn't mean that I don't get excited about new filming techniques. More on this below.
I worked in retail for years selling cameras. Being surrounded with consumer electronics everyday taught me this: All cameras are essentially the same. It's just a box with a sensor inside and a lens that focuses light on the sensor. That’s it. You can go ahead and sink however many tens of thousands of pounds on an Arri Alexa Studio camera, but it's still just a box with a sensor inside. People get way too excited about cameras in my opinion. Probably because they are gadgets, and people love to get excited about their gadgets. Albert Watson sums it up nicely in the first three minutes of this clip:
What I'm all about is results. Cameras are a means to an end, and it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Richard, the Team Candiru technical director, was recently commissioned by the BBC to produce some time lapse footage of apple blossoms opening. I don't want to give away any trade secrets, but I can assure you that his set up mostly consists of tired second-hand entry level SLR's, cable ties, gaffa tape and MDF. I personally have always strived to find cheap effective ways of achieving good results. It is possible. My reversing ring cost around £5 and lets me shoot stuff like this:
So yes - I don't give a damn about kit. But what I do get really excited about is lighting, and cinematography and filming wildlife. Like this jewel wasp tagging and laying eggs on a cockroach:
"Mercy is for the weak" - Ampulex compressa
Or this footage of a raft spider spinning an egg cup and laying eggs:
Filming this stuff is the greatest feeling in the world. Picture it: you've been waiting for days, watching an animal sitting in a tank motionless. And then something changes. At some unseen microscopic level the balance of ions in it's tiny brain shifts and it begins moving. It's on. Instinctively you check the camera. Then you check it again. Then you check it again. It's been five days and you may never see this ever again. You're sweating, your heart is pounding. And in that time and place, in that moment you have never felt more alive. As you can tell I get really excited about filming!
I also get excited about new filming techniques. And by this I mean using cameras in new and intersting ways to give the audience a different perspective. And as we all know throughout history, wildlife filming has always pushed this boundary. There are a number of people out there who are really pushing the boundaries. Virtual Reality is a brand new field which we are very keen to get into. I recently did some camera assisting for Immersivly, a company that specialises in 360 video, at the South West Virtual Reality conference. This is very cool. Not the camera's that they use for it, but rather the results that they get. We are also looking to build a deep focus macro system, which is demonstrated here by camera man Steve Downer. Again not too fussed about the camera. Very excited about the footage.