We all record. We record the majority of the significant moments of our lives. The simulacrum is all around us. It appears in our Facebook and our Twitter feeds. We turn the camera on the world.
Professional broadcasters too, record the world around us. The wonder of planet Earth through the professional’s lens and the soothing voice of Sir David Attenburgh is a unique pleasure for the wildlife enthusiast. We are privileged to witness the great wildlife experiences from the comfort of our sofas. Recorded and edited.
The wildlife recording/filming has undergone significant progress, in particular, BBC Springwatch has added a new live dimension. The programmes are broadcast live from locations in a primetime evening slot on the BBC. They require a crew of 100 and over 50 cameras, making them the BBC's largest British outside broadcast events. Many of the cameras are hidden and operated remotely to record natural behaviour, for example, of birds in their nests and badgers outside their set. It attempts to record the fledging of chicks, the mischief of the cuckoo and the turn of the natural cycle all live. The BBC has a huge team of producers and technicians to experts and storytellers. They do a remarkable job of it in a small corner of the world be it Minsmere or the Scottish highlands. They capture the macro and the micro worlds of nature as well as the intricate web of species interrelationships. We witness the great wildlife experiences from the comfort of our sofas
With the advent of social media.-Twitter to tumblr- amateurs, like me, are given the ability to log and record. Recently, I used the new app, Periscope for the first time. This allows the user to live stream video from their phone. The first views from irishwildlife.ie on Periscope were of the river Nore in Kilkenny. 20 people saw it from all over the world. A river live. Raw and unedited. I was looking for otters or at least signs of otters. Viewers immediately wanted to see the otters. Had I tricked the audience? Had I announced the Loch Ness monster?. Well at least I had focused the minds of my meagre audience. Eyes clued to the scene of a river. Live.
There is another aspect of recording. Citizen science presents big data. A real time recording of wildlife events. The public gets involved. We record. This year the BBC has the British public recording the signs of spring through five signatory signs. These testament signs include the leafing oak and the return of the swallow.
Here in Ireland, we record the first sighting of basking sharks off our waters indicating the upwelling of plankton. Camera traps have allowed us to leave and to record the behaviour of animal both during the day and at night. Badgers are recorded using GPS tags to prove they avoid farmyards and amazingly fields of grazing cattle. Satellite GPS tags also track golden eagles in Donegal as well as other Eagles as they travel across county boundaries.
However, Nature is always live. People have their own expectations. People turn up and want to see an otter or dolphin in high definition detail live. We can watch Attenborough and a snow leopard. But to get that shot, one man took 6 weeks in Afghanistan to capture a fleeting glance of a snow leopard. He spent Christmas Day in a hide attempting to capture some fleeting moments of the elusive creative.
Anyone who has ever tried to photograph and otter or a kingfisher in the wild, will surely testify that the reality is unpredictable. Everyone who watches wildlife knows the hours of patient and intelligent scouting that takes place.
I saw a kingfisher today. It streaked past me on the banks of the Nore. If I had stayed still I would have set my camera and seen the perch it was on. I reacted enthusiastically and the kingfisher moved out of shot. I waited 25 minutes. I tried to get ahead of the bird. It started to rain as I squatted in the mud under the cover of a tree. I waited. Natural behaviour recording requires knowledge and planning, patience and most of all luck.
The wonder of nature is that it is always live. The surprise and the revelation is the wonder. The unpredictability expresses its complexity. Nature is always on.
About Stephen Mc Ardle
I am a wildlife photographer based in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, who has an affinity for Ireland's landscape and wildlife. The magic of Ireland truely descibes the marriage of landscape and light.
All images © Stephen Mc Ardle