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-   -   Filming Seals - advice (http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/under-water-over-land/108365-filming-seals-advice.html)

Russ Holland November 20th, 2007 04:11 AM

Filming Seals - advice
Hi all, thank you in advance for your help.

I am off to film seals at donna nook bay lincolshire next Monday, I am taking my vx2100 and was wondering if any of you fine uwol posters could give me some advice.

Things like camera settings, filters to use (screw on only I don't have a matte box) I've got a rain cover just in case, obviously I'll take my tripod.

I think the seals will be on rocks by the sea coastline, what should I be looking out for, keep my eye on, things i could potentially fall down with (not off the rocks though!!) anything really to help me make a good video.

Thanks once again, I appreciate it.



Chris Soucy November 20th, 2007 05:37 AM

Hi Russ.................
Hey, I'm not a UWOL poster (yet) but thought I'd give you the benefit of my limited experience anyway.

Without having a clue of the circumstances you're going to find yourself in "on the day" it's impossible to give any real tips apart from the bleeding obvious:-

Make sure you have the tripod/ head setup from hell at your fingertips. Given what I've seen the North Sea/ Irish Sea throw up in Nov/ Dec, if whatever you have can't stand a force 8 Gale, it's not worth having.

This will, beyond doubt, colour everything and anything you shoot, far beyond settings, pre - sets or anything else. Keep the camera still and all else will fall into place.

If you don't have a decent tripod/ head setup, well, it's going to look rubbish if the weather does it's usual thing up there.


Mat Thompson November 20th, 2007 06:04 AM

Hi Russ

Well I can say from experience Chris has hit the nail on the head as to the most important factor. You will be lucky to get much in the way of cover unless you take it with you.....which I advise if you can! I filmed Greys and Commons up in Norfolk over 2 weeks and the wind took about 70% of the footage.

Also you'll need that splash cover for your camera, sand and salt will be blowing around and will make mince meat of your kit unless its covered. I had to strip down my tripod and oil/rebuild after my filming too.

As far as the seals go. They are fantastic, if your close to the water edge they feel safe and will come right up to you. I had one young chap that started playing peek a boo with me from 10 feet away every time I looked around from the view finder. They really are a treat ! They won't do this on land though of course but in the water you can just see they feel safe.

Tides ! Get used to checking your tide tables, where I was filming you had to get there at low tide to get relatively close. This is of course when the seals will pull up onto shore and take it easy. It can be tricky to get low tides to coincide with good shooting conditions at the right time of day.

I'm sure you with really enjoy the experience, they are fantastic, be sure to post your results but beware of that wind or you'll come away with lots of bumpy footage.

Oh and check out some of my footage here >>> http://www.uwolchallenge.com/challen...ewildpoint.mov

Per Johan Naesje November 20th, 2007 06:05 AM

Hi Russ,
I'v never been in "seal-land" but I might have som experience to share from my filming in hars winter conditions in Norway.

Second what Chris is telling.

Being on the shore with a camcorder force you to take a lot of precautions. First of all protect it from the salt which are in the air even if you can't feel it. A raincover is a must, not in case... Wrap your camcorder into the raincover before you hit the beach. Always attach a UV-filter in front of your lens or another filter (pola). Keep a dry cloth and/or a lens pen in a pocket on your jacket. Before every shoot, keep an eye of glass in front of your lens. Even if you can't view it in the viewfiner you will most often get tiny salt points on the glass, which you will discover at home when watching the footage afterwards (too late to a retake!). Wipe this off your lens before shooting.

In my taste a low viewpoint is essential for good footage of the seal. Try to get some from the seals eyepoint.

A good and sturdy tripod is also important, spred the leg as much as you can, this will help stabilize it from the wind.

Last but very important. Protect yourself from the wind and cold. A cold DP will in most cases don't do any good. Even if it not feel cold in the start, after some hours at the shore, you will be lucky that you wear a thick sweather, windproof jacket, thick gloves and a warm wool cap. You should also wear waterproof trousers or have something to put your knee on when shooting at low levels.

Dave Robinson November 20th, 2007 06:52 AM

If you want to entice the seals into "acting" for you. Take a shed load of Mackerel. Go to you local fishing tackle shop, think you can get two for about 1.50. Just start chucking them in and the seals will spot it.

Also to combat (to a certain extent) any water reflections take a decent polarizer.

Mat Thompson November 20th, 2007 07:00 AM

Dave - Generally reserve wardens won't be very chuffed if you do this because they don't want the seals to start thinking human=food. I struck up a good relationship with the wardens in Norfolk and heard thier frustrations directly. They were really helpful gave me loads of info and didn't mind me breaking a few distance rules because I was respectful. Russ if you can do the same it will be another big plus!

To be honest the best footage is when they are being natural and not looking at you anyway.

Russ Holland November 20th, 2007 10:01 AM

Thanks....Great stuff
Hi all who have replied with most excellent advice. I hope my tripod is strong enough, it does open very wide and it is heavy, it's a Velbon D7000 - will that help, I hope it will. Now you mention it, my rain cover really isn't a 'just in case' with all that sand blowing about, i'll bag my camera at the car regardless. It's a good job I asked, because silly as it sounds I never even thought about myself, I'll dig my waterproofs out!

Another question though, my camera doesn't fit a poloriser filter when my lens hood is fitted. I want to use my polar but will I be ok without my lens hood? Also, what about sound? I have a Rode VideoMic with dead cat, will that be ok? If it's under my rain cover, which has mic sleeve too, will it distort sound too much? I want to capture as much of the seal "noises" that I can.

That film was great Mat, if my footage turns out like that then I'll be proud. I really can't wait to go, I'm sure I'll be fine but it's the first wildlife i've shot besides squirrels in the local woods, and I'd love to get it right.

Once again thanks. I do hope my comment here doesn't close the thread, I'd love more suggestions/advice/help if anymore can be given.

Great stuff,

Thank you all. I'll post my film next week. Roll on 26th!!


Peter McMurdie November 23rd, 2007 05:10 AM

Hi Russ.

The Velbon DV7000 should be ok, but it all depends on the weather - a driving wind can make any tripod unstable. It sounds like you have a Kata rain cape for the VX2100 - I would try and keep the videomic outside the cape if that's possible - or record the sound separately with the mic - outside the cape and dub it on later - the combination of deadcat and rain cape will probably wreck the sound.

Just be prepared for all eventualities - that coastline always seems to be windy, but you never know you might have a calm sunny winters day.

If you're using the Kata rain cape - you will have to have the lens hood on or it won't fit at the front.

Whatever the weather - enjoy yourself - should be great, we get seals down here in Cornwall but they are very difficult to get close to as they normally choose coves with vertical cliffs.

Mat - I enjoyed your Blakeney Point film - some lovely shots in there.




Russ Holland November 23rd, 2007 04:03 PM

Thanks Peter, your advice is appreciated.

It's getting near time now, getting ready, I really can't wait!

Chris Soucy November 23rd, 2007 07:26 PM

Hi again...........
Just an update on the tripod/ head comment I made the other day, Russ.

I took my new Vinten FibreTechs and Vision 3 head out to play at the notorious Shag Point Conservation Reserve, about 60 clicks North of Dunedin, yesterday.

Notorious? It rates as one of the windiest places in NZ most of the time, then it gets even worse. It is, however, an excellent place to get seal footage.

As per usual, it was blowing a howling Northerly (actual air temp was supposedly 18 C, it felt positively arctic!). As per usual, the camera, top mount shotgun, head and tripod (and I) took quite a hammering, and as usual, despite the FibreTechs being about the closest you can get to having the camera bolted to a block of concrete, the camera developed a wobble.

Wasn't the legs, wasn't the head, it was the stupid 1/4" machine screw on the mounting plate and surrounding rubber interface on the camera base warping under the pressure.

I had gone prepared! One "Trangia" strap, looped completely around the Canon XH A1's carrying handle, then both ends of the strap passed under the head block/ mounting plate assembly, then the tongue on one end of the strap passed through the locking jaws of the other end and a bloody good pull applied

Voila! End or "Rock and Roll". Footage looks like it was, indeed, shot from a block of concrete, despite 40 - 60 knot winds.

What's a "Trangia" strap, I hear the assembled holler in unison?

Well, if you go seriously camping, a company called Trangia makes cooking pan sets for campers - light weight, nested sets. Held together when not in use, by a "Trangia" strap. Similar material to a seat belt (tho' much narrower), won't stretch, shrink, rot or, once passed through the jaws of the alligator clamp fitted to one end, let go either.

Think they're possibly over engineered for their original purpose - believe it or not, many years ago when I was a "Cable Guy" I used just two of these amazing gizmo's to hold my Double 13' ladder onto the roof racks of the car - never let go even once despite some pretty hairy "emergency stops".

So, possibly a bit late for your major outing, but handy to know - when the going get tough, get a Trangia strap!


Russ Holland November 26th, 2007 02:18 PM

I've just got back and...
Thought I'd just post a little message thanking you all for your advice, and to let you know how my day went.

Got there pretty early, as we got to the beach we were told that it was fence restricted today due to the RAF testing bomb dropping on the beach! Great! a protected seal colony living on a bombing range! So we only had one section of the beach to shoot on, and it was fenced.

So, I couldn't get as low as I wanted to so the closest seals were all high shots. However, there was some dune banks where they fought, played, shouted at each other, gave birth, and the seaguls picked at the dead.

The footage I got was pretty good, the sun was fairly bright, there was a slight wind blowing, but it was rather chilly. I managed to get about 2 hours of footage shot in my six hours there, so all in all a good day and a great experience. I'm really into nature filming now!

I'll post my film here shortly.


Peter McMurdie November 26th, 2007 02:46 PM

Hi Russ,

Sounds like you had a great day - 2 hours of footage, brilliant. A bit of drama as as well with the birth and seagulls. Shame about the limited access - but the seals do have to come first.

What a great experience - looks like you're hooked Russ!

All the best



Russ Holland November 30th, 2007 02:18 PM

Update (and question)
The edit is coming along, but I'm finding that alot of my footage is essentially the same, I've got some quite nice sequences, not sure if my final film will exceed 5 mins or not, but as long as it stays interesting I don't think it matters.

By the way, where's a good source to get royalty free music suitable for wildlife films from?



Chris Barcellos November 30th, 2007 02:45 PM


Originally Posted by Russ Holland (Post 784926)
By the way, where's a good source to get royalty free music suitable for wildlife films from?



Sonicfire Pro, Cinescore. www.magnatune.com

Russ Holland November 30th, 2007 04:28 PM

Back soon with more updates!

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