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Wildlife filming & photography - Neil Bromhall behind the lens

Sharks - wildlife filming behind the lens

Category: Wildlife filming behind the lens | Posted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:40 am

I was recently watching a TV documentary about sharks and was reminded of the time when I went to the Bahamas in the attempt to film Lemon sharks giving birth to live pups with shark expert Dr Sam Gruber in Bimini.
Lemon shark gives birth to live pups in shallow water close to the mangroves where the pups can swim & feed in relative safety away from predators like Bull sharks and Tiger sharks. After birth the female play no further parental role and will eat small sharks of the opportunity arises
The pubs will remain in the mangroves for a year or two before venturing out into deeper water.
It was a fantastic experience filming these wonderful top predators.
The research station is based on a sandy island and I was scheduled to be there for three weeks. Within a week I managed to knock out one of my front teeth when the battery under the video camera hit a coral bommy and my face hit in to the back of the camera and shattered a front incisor. 2 hrs flight away from the nearest dentist, we decided to cover the open nerve with some rubber sealant used for making aquariums. It worked like a treat.
Not only did I want to film the young pups swimming and feeding in the fish rich mangroves but also to film the large predators.
I remember one day in particular. Bimini is where Dr Gruber does his research on sharks. Baited lines with hooks are put out to catch the large sharks which they measure and attach a tag. The hooks are removed from the mouths using an oar and the sharks are let go unharmed. On this day an angry 8 ft bull shark who had earlier had his meal removed swam towards me. He swam with his fins down and arched back which I knew this was a threat pose and that he was angry. just feet away his protective eyelid closed and I knew he was about to attack. With nothing else to protect me I put the underwater camera out in front of me to fend him off and the shark took a bite. It wasn't a frenzied attack more an agitated bite to see if I was edible. He didn't think so and swam off out into deeper water.
Back on the inflatable I checked the camera housing to see if it had been damaged and could see deep jagged cuts in the plastic which shows the power of the bite. A few minutes later Sam's voice came on the walkie-talkie asking "Does Neil want a Tiger Shark? We've got on for him is he does"
We sped off towards Sam's boat. It was like a scene from Jaws. Sam's boat was being pulled through the water sideways with water coming in over the sides and three guys pulling on a rope and a big tail thrashed and splashing in the water.
I watched for about five minutes whilst they managed to get the shark tired enough to remove the hook from its mouth, measure and tag it.
They let the shark go and Sam said "OK Neil. You can go in now" I asked if it was safe and Sam chuckled and said "Yes this one's a pussy cat"
Tentatively I lowered myself in to the water. I immediately scanned the water looking for the shark knowing it would be close, tired and angry.
It was unnerving getting gin the sea knowing that the shark was in the water but I couldn't see it. Then I realised that the dark shadow under the boat wasn't a shadow but was the 12ft Tiger shark hovering motionless directly underneath their boat.

Still quite docile after its efforts I managed to get some useable close up shots of this majestic shark and even managed to get a shot as it swam off slowly below me and you see the tail just brushing the camera before it swam off in to the deeper water. A magical experience,

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Human skeleton found in the woods? Was it murder?

Category: Wildlife filming behind the lens | Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 4:44 pm

Human skeleton found in the woods? Was it murder?

How plants can help forensic scientists to determine if its murder.
No, this is one of wildlife cameraman Neil Bromhall time-lapse sequences for a sequence on Nature's Detectives series to demonstrate how forensic scientists can tell if it's murder or death by natural causes plus how long a body has been lying in a wood by looking at the amount of plant growth.

Time-lapse is a filming technique used to speed up time. I used this technique a to good effect whilst working on David Attenborough's "The Private Life of Plants" series.

The filming is done in a studio where I can control the light, humidity, temperature, moisture plus day length.
I dress the set to look like a natural wood with the human skeleton laying on the ground. The sequence was to demonstrate how a forensic scientist could study the plants and tell if a body found in the wood was murder or not.
This CSI style forensic research provided vital information to the Police by revealing how long the body had been laying in the wood. The forensic scientist took samples of the plants growing through the bones, sliced through samples of roots and stems then counted the annual rings to determine that the body had laid there for a precise number of years.
This vital information could help the Police to eliminate suspects. For example any suspects that were either in prison or living abroad could be eliminated from the enquiry.
This sequence was filmed over a twelve week period.
By using three cameras I could get a number of wide and close up shots for the Editor to cut into a 45 second sequence.

So what skeletons have you got in your closet?

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Wildlife filming behind the lens 17 yr Cicada

Category: Wildlife filming behind the lens | Posted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:13 am

Wildlife filming. Behind the lens 17 year Cicada.
By Neil Bromhall
17 year Cicada. Homoptera: Cicadidae

After 17 years underground the Cicada nymph will build a turret and wait for just the right conditions - usually a calm evening with a full moon then emerge en mass with millions of other 17 year Cicadas.
Their strategy is to overwhelm the predators by sheer numbers so that enough of their species will survive to mate and lay eggs for the next generation.
There are the 13year as well as the 17 year Cicadas. Cicadas use the 13 & 17 primary number years so that no animal will time their breeding with their emergence.
An almost perfect strategy except for the fungus that lives on the exoskeleton of the nymph which times its fruiting in time with the emergence.
I filmed the 17 year Cicadas emerging in Chicago.
After emerging from the ground the nymphs will climb a post or tree where it emerges as an adult.
The males will call to attract a female. They mate after which he dies and the female goes off to find a suitable tree and lay her eggs in the branch by using her ovipositor. After laying her eggs she dies.
In a couple of weeks the tiny nymphs emerge from the bark and then fall to the ground.
The mother has had to choose a healthy tree that she knows will still be alive and healthy in 17yrs time, long enough to sustain the next generation.
The tiny nymph the size of a pin head burrows underground where it will latch on to the root and suck away for the next 17 years before it too will dig it's way to the surface to retreat the cycle again for the next generation.

Last edited: Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:52 am

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