Being a wildlife cameraman doesn’t make me sick

Being a wildlife cameraman doesn’t make me sick

Being a wildlife cameraman doesn’t make me sick. It’s official.  At least, so far it hasn’t made me sick.

I’m not talking about medical sickness caused by gastroenteritis or other afflictions.  I’m talking about sickness caused by motion.  It is an interesting subject and you can read more about it on the NHS site here. If your prone to the condition don’t read it while in a rowing boat.

Years ago I remember a close call. I was a young assistant cameraman travelling in the back of a Volvo Estate.  Volvo Estates were the cameraman’s bees’ knees in those days. I was wedged into a tiny space surrounded by piles of kit and cases.  We were travelling at some speed down a French country road. I had both hands in a black changing bag as we were shooting loads of film and there was hardly any time to change film stock.  All of a sudden the typical sweaty symptoms came on and I feared that I’d have to ask the rally driver in charge of the car to stop.  Luckily it passed.

Over the years as a wildlife cameraman I’ve been in many nausea inducing situations. Most people will agree that filming from boats and aircraft can be challenging. I once filmed from a crop spraying helicopter over the south of France, and that was quite unpleasant: it was very hot and cramped; the little thing was victim to the slightest wind so we were bouncing around all over the place.  Those were the days when you had to peer into a small viewfinder: there was no separate monitor that you could sit back and watch.  The combination of the movement of the aircraft and staring at a view that is unrelated to your actual movement is challenging.

Test the theory

The picture above shows a recent shoot off the Great Orme, North Wales.  We were on a relatively small boat to film seabirds on the cliffs. The captain couldn’t approach the cliffs too closely, and to avoid getting too close he kept the diesel running.  The problem with this is vibration.  So we backed off a bit and killed the engine for short periods.  The problem then is that the boat is under no control and is at the whim of the sea.  Within a few seconds the boat starts to go with the swell.  Looking through the viewfinder I found the cliffs going up and down so much that it was impossible to achieve any usable shots.  You can compensate for this by tilting up and down, trying to keep a spot on the cliff as centre frame as possible.  I had some success with that.  Over cranking also gives you a fighting chance.

Just as a test I played back some random footage in the camera, watching it while the boat lurched out of sync with the shots in the viewfinder.  What this does to the brain I can only speculate. It must be very confused.  I found it mildly nausea inducing but was happy to say I could think of bacon sandwiches without any negative effects.

Being a wildlife cameraman doesn’t make me sick, thankfully.