Wildlife Cameraman Training

Today I was scratching my head in the attic: it’s a scratchy sort of place. The main aim was to find the growing pile of Christmas decorations, but I found it almost impossible to avoid getting sidetracked.  In a crate containing a collection of rusty world cup coins and a soon to be junked fax machine I found a tankard.

this fax machine was the height of technology – the tankard is still useful!

The tankard was presented to me about 30 years ago by the Gwent Badger Group.  I was a member of the group then and I still am.

At the time I was studying at Gwent College, the Documentary Film Making course.  A fellow student, Stephen Carter and I, made the bulk of a film about badgers and the Gwent Badger Group in the time we spent there together.  The course was the nearest you could get to a wildlife film making course at the time.  Its strength lay in the ‘Film Making’ part of the title, though the cost of film and processing really made you think about filming anything.  That’s the beauty of digital media… it costs nowt.  On the other hand, there was a discipline imposed by the cost.

The point of this is how to advise people about becoming a wildlife cameraman, and as always my number one piece of advice is ‘film something’.  If you can’t get inspired about filming something close to home you’re probably kidding yourself about being a wildlife cameraman.

‘The Badgers of Gwent’ did a good job for the Gwent Badger Group, though it was hardly a masterpiece.  Many people helped to complete it, including The League Against Cruel Sports, Eric Ashby (the great New Forest wildlife cameraman), Gwent Constabulary, local farmers, The Welsh Arts Council, Angela Rippon and the BBC, who turned the film into a BBC 2 ‘Open Space’ episode.  A 16mm film copy also resides somewhere in our attic, but the last time I found it the lid was sealed on the can with rust.

The tankard just reminded me of the early days, just getting out there filming.  This Christmas I think I  might actually fill it with beer for the first time, and those memories will taken on an even more nostalgic glow.