Hides – old friends

Some kinds of wildlife filming have changed.  I can remember a time when I used to spend a huge percentage of my wildlife cameraman life in a hide. There are a few advantages to being quite small, and being able to cram into an uncomfortable photographic hide is one of them. But in the last couple of years I hardly seem to have used hides at all.  When I think about it most hide work was based on filming birds at nests.  Placing a hide near any kind of bird’s nest is not to be undertaken lightly, and frankly I find the whole business of working near nests quite stressful.

Technology has vastly improved the controllability of remote cameras, and crucially their size has reduced dramatically.  They can be used near nests discretely, and have the advantage of being ‘always on’ and thus capable of capturing behaviour that a cameraman in a hide is less likely to capture.

A hide for all seasons

A wildlife cameraperson (camera person) will probably not feel that they have cut their teeth until they have ‘bonded’ with hides… the intimate little enclosed world that you occupy alone; the musty smell; the small mammals and reptiles that unwittingly wander in under your feet and wander out again; and most of all, the privileged views of the wildlife behaviour that you set out to record.  On the downside: the back ache; twisted knees; cramped conditions; urge to use a civilised loo; and the struggle to stay awake when absolutely nothing is happening.  I forgot that I had this hide until I found it while rooting around for a pot of paint in the garage.  It’s not the greatest one I’ve ever had, and it looks like the mice have had a go at it, but it still had that musty old smell that I remember when it was last used for filming cuckoos for a Natural World a few years ago.  And another downside that every wildlife cameraman must have experienced when using a hide like this in the rain – the little lake that forms in the roof and eventually finds its way down your neck, no matter what devices you employ to prevent it!

This was one of my early wildlife cameraman hides, constructed from available dead beech trees, baling string and an old lorry tarpaulin that stank of engine oil.

What’s health and safety?