Road trippin’ …

I got back from Hawaii 10 days ago, it was a really good trip, lots of variety and a huge amount fitted into a few filming days. The first three days were in the studio with the fantastic Steve Montgomery filming a couple of types of carnivorous caterpillars (one of which he discovered).

Beware of the caterpillars ...

It was tricky – the fly eating caterpillars where no more than 15mm long, and usually 7-8mm, so we were at the challenging end of macro filming especially as we were trying to film in slow motion which requires lots of light (and too much light cooks caterpillars!), but I think we got some good behaviour. It’s actually pretty surreal to see a caterpillar equipped with ‘bear-trap’ forelegs whip round and catch a fly and then chew it’s face off!

The snail eating caterpillars (a species of bagworm) were no less challenging – the snails they predate are really tiny, a big one would be no more than 1mm across, and they were pretty sensitive to light so we’d have to wait until the behaviour had begun before filming. But it was fascinating to see the caterpillar tie the snail down then burrow inside the shell and start eating. Having evolved a shell to live in you would have at least thought you might be safe from caterpillars, how annoying.

We then had a couple of days charging around the big island; filming the volcanoes then filming birdlife in a beautiful forest reserve in the south east of the island. I then headed off to O’ahu by myself to spend a couple of days filming Hawaiian Monk Seals, a species right on the brink of extinction with only 1400 or so left in the wild. The individuals who live on O’ahu are all known by name and there is a dedicated network of volunteers keeps an eye on them daily, setting up perimeter fences around them if they decide to haul up for the day on busy tourist beaches. I got some nice footage of one on my first day, doing what Monk Seals do best – sleeping in the sun – then on the second day I was really lucky to have two males playing in the surf in front of me for a couple of hours and got some really lovely material.


The night before I headed off to Hawaii Felix started being sick (not ideal if you need to get up at 2am to get to the airport), he was then ill for a few days, followed by Max, followed by Julie, the night I got back from Hawaii Max was sick again and was ill for a week. I finally succumbed on Friday, the day before our scheduled trip to LegoLand! A treat for the boys which we’d had planned for ages and they had been becoming increasingly excited about. We all went in the end, which was great fun, if slightly surreal. There were some incredible things made out of Lego, confirming that it is the greatest toy known to humanity, but there was also the slightly creepy feeling that after each themed ride you were funneled though and equally themed gift shop and that the wonder of this incredible invention was slightly tainted by the full-on retail drive that accompanied it, maybe I’m just cynical, we all had a great time.

We got home and Max and I were sick.

Anyway, Max is finally back at school, I feel like death warmed up but there’s no time for convalescing as tomorrow I head off on the Great Alaskan Road Trip. It’s the third shoot for the 2hr ‘Wild Alaska’ film I’m working on for Parthenon / Animal Planet. It’s a great trip; 10 days in a camper van in Denali National Park – wolves, bears, moose, then a couple of weeks in Anchorage filming more moose, black bears and the salmon run and then a week at Halo Bay filming brown bears. I’m really excited, it’s a great time of year in Alaska, with some really fantastic filming to be done. I’m looking forward to living in a camper van for 10 days. I’ve never lived in one before so it should all be very amusing, I’ve watched the 25minute ‘orientation video’ online, paying special attention to the part that dealt with the disposal of ‘solid waste’ (don’t want any mistakes there), and I feel ready to hit the open road.

As you can see, as befits a natural history film shoot, these camper vans are very unobtrusive and designed to blend perfectly with their environment, you’d almost never know it was there.

If this unfortunate camper had only parked in front of Mount Rushmore he would have melted seamlessly into the background, an easy mistake to make, but obviously not one I intend to replicate …