Thursday, 26 June 2014

TV news cameraman tries wildlife filming... Or... New shorts please.

Ordinarily, as a TV news cameraman, there are not many chances to use the Macro ring on the lens. Most days find you performing the back step shuffle on a public road, mid shots and close ups on interviewees, or expansive wide shots of a business park in Basingstoke.

Your TV news cameraman bravely fights off the wildlife and rescues his journalist at the same time.

If you're lucky, a pull focus whilst panning to the journo is enough to excite the news producer out of a caffeine induced haze back at base, a reminder of what a cameraman is for, and a timely reminder that sometimes it takes two to film the news.

What I mean is, nobody wants to see the nose hairs of your local politician, the sweat stains on the running criminals shirt or the screw holding in a window frame. Wide shots, mid shots and close ups are the staple diet of your average news cameraman.

Today however, I was in the wilds of the Hampshire and Surrey borders filming a piece on the ever diminishing pockets of Heathland, and the wildlife that lives there.

Smooth snakes, sand lizards and the rare natterjack toad are in as much danger as the heathland itself, but were easy enough to film in the hands of a registered wildlife ranger using normal zoom and focus tactics.

Heathland also supports a wide variety of insect life, and so it was that I found myself filming a small ball of spiderlings neatly wrapped up in a silk web the size of a golf ball. The parent spider sat atop the ball no more than 1cm long so remembering that I actually have a macro ring, I sidled gently up to the ball and focussed in tight... Really tight.

I could actually see the joints on the legs, the hairs on the body and the sparkle in its eye. In the HD colour viewfinder, it filled the screen in terrifying glory. For 20 seconds or so I lost myself and was in its world. Tiny spiderlings played youthfully within the silk ball beneath, the parent sat there for a long time, quietly, unmoving, and very still...

Then it jumped...

So did your brave news cameraman...

In fact, it's fair to say that I almost shat myself there and then. So engrossed was your author in the viewfinder, displaying what to me looked like a 20 foot tall beast, that when it jumped towards the lens, I reacted like a small girly girl with big arachnophobic tendencies. So much so, that you could hear the squeal of yours truly when we played it back in the edit van. It was all a tad embarrassing if i'm honest.

You see, the threat of violence towards a TV news cameraman is never far from the surface in many jobs that we film but usually you can see it coming and prepare for it. But just for a moment, a small tiny spider no bigger than a penny, made my heart leap more than any confrontation on the court steps ever has.

From now on, I'm sticking to the news and leaving the Macro ring to the wildlife cameramen... They must be bloody nutters. Oh, and the footage will be safely buried... I have a reputation to uphold y'know.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter, and is off to change his shorts.