In children’s literature, wolves pretty much always get a bad rap. Think Little Red Riding Hood, the three poor pigs, and pretty much every cute, furry, unsuspecting critter in Richard Scarry’s entire opus.
In our house, we make a point of talking up wolves and pretty much all animals, wild or domesticated. Our girls are friends to dogs, seemingly fearless about snakes, and obsessed with lizards. For them, the biggest incentive to go hiking is the chance of seeing a bear—never mind that they’re both so loud they’ll likely never come within a mile of one, or that if they did, they’d be terrified. Once on a hike in town, my then-three-year-old spotted a lone coyote standing under a juniper tree on a far hill across the arroyo. A year later, she’s still talking about it. We're trying to instill in our girls an awe for wild animals and remind them that they are wild, and deserve our respect—and room to roam.
Photographer Chase Jarvis was sailing about an hour south of Cape Town, South Africa, when he first saw the fins. They broke the surface of the ocean dozens at a time. The fins belonged to common dolphins, and soon Jarvis noticed hundreds, and then thousands, of them, "...so thick you could have walked across their backs had they been game for it," he wrote on his blog. Instinctively, everyone on explorer Mike Horn's 110-foot boat, Pangaea, grabbed their cameras and started shooting photos and video. Then, Jarvis did something unexpected for someone in his line of work. He stopped taking pictures. Instead, he just took things in.
When filmmaker John Downer was in elementary school, he got
down in the dirt of his parents' garden so that he could film the insects,
frogs, and toads using a Super 8 camera.
“I think that kind of, as I look back now, inspired my way of filming,” says
the 59-year-old director. “Which is
to try and get in the animal world.”
He studied zoology in college and then went to work in radio
for the BBC before landing a job
making TV shows for children. One of those shows involved filming life in a
garden with miniaturized cameras that he built. “That was the first time I ever
married advancements in technology with the capturing of images,” says Downer.
From there he got a job on the nation’s top-rated animal
show, “Wildlife on One.” After making a show about snakes, he moved on to birds.
He raised a duck from birth so that it imprinted to him as a parent, and a year
later filmed it while flying in a parascender—a parachute pulled by a vehicle. He
also stripped a Super 8 camera down to a lens, a film cartridge, a motor, and a
battery so that he could put it on the back of a buzzard. The bird flew, and he got some grainy footage. “That was an
inspiration,” he says.
But he knew inspiration wasn’t going to cut it for the film he ultimately wanted to make. He imagined capturing a bird's eye view of the world from multiple species. To do that,
he needed to wait for smaller and more sophisticated technology. Twenty-five years later,
he used drones, POV cams, and ultralights to film the new Discovery Channel
show “Winged Planet” (October 6, 8 P.M. EST). I called him up to find out more about the making of the two-hour-long special.
The video doesn't show the spark, the inciting moment that led the impala herd to bolt across the road directly into the path of a leopard crouching in the tall grass. But it does show the climax, the predator exploding from the brush into an esophagus-targeted leap that lands with such force that it leaves an ungulate reeling hooves over head in mid-air. A leg-jolting suffocation and a pre-dinner drag through the dirt follow.
One of the benefits of so many people having cameras and access to YouTube is the ability to share such rarely witnessed wildlife moments. Here's the description of how MiPixWildife happened upon this clip during a safari:
On May 30, 2012, at 3:00 P.M. MST, a series of thunderstorms formed over central and south central Kansas. They dropped golf ball-sized hail before lining up into a dark vanguard that barraged the countryside ahead with 70 mile per hour winds. News of the derecho—a long-lived line of fast moving thunderstorms with winds of more than 58 mph—led Brian Johnson to grab his camera and venture out to an open field where he had photographed lightning the previous night.
The amateur photographer chases big storms for a series of local radio stations. He fell in love with the behemoths at the age of seven, after witnessing the fury of a tornado up close. "My father still regrets saying the words 'Look at that,'" said Johnson. "Remember, if
you take a frightened child out into a storm to show them how beautiful
nature’s fury can be, they may turn out like me."
"Storms Stitch 1," May 30, 2012; Kechi, Kansas Photo: Brian Johnson
“As a large squall line moved through the area. The National Weather
Service had warned about a large scale Derecho forming and moving
through. This spawned a couple brief severe thunderstorms that dumped
hail on rush hour traffic before the main line moved in. As the bigger
storm moved into the Wichita area, reports were coming in of 70 mph
winds and hail. There is an open farm field roughly two miles from my
house that I shot lightning on the previous night. I sat there for
about 20 minutes before this large squall line pushed through the
clouds. I was hit with a pretty good gust front as it got closer, but
as the winds increased, I decided to get to shelter. This photo was one
of the last ones I took. This story and others are available at www.ruminationofthunder.com and this specific story is at http://www.ruminationofthunder.com/2012_05_01_archive.html."
"Ormond Shelf," May 15, 2012; Ormon Beach, Florida Photo: Jason Weingart
“I'm a photography student at the University of Central Florida. I
began chasing storms a little over three years ago. This day started out
like many other days. I was out on a storm west of the coast,
photographing it even as the National Weather Service issued a severe
warning. The NWS lifted the warning, but I decided to stick with it as
it moved to the coast. Just as it started to move offshore to the east,
it made a turn to the south.
I have shot many storms from the same spot this photo was taken, and I
almost drove by to get a different vantage point, but something told me
to just stop at my spot. I jumped out of my car and ran down to the
beach. To my surprise, there were still several beach-goers taking in
the sight of this massive shelf cloud, as well as a few surfers in the
water, trying to catch one last wave. Of course, there was a Volusia
County lifeguard standing there watching over everyone. I walked down to
the water and took some shots, always keeping an eye on the lifeguard.
As the shelf cloud approached, I swung back behind the guard tower,
waited for him to climb up it and signal to the surfers to exit the
water. I took several shots, then hopped back in my car and tried to
stay south of the storm.
The storm actually pushed back on shore as it moved south, and then
became strong enough for tornado warnings on three separate occasions. I
saw a large wall cloud, another spectacular shelf cloud, and some very
tight rotation in the couple hours I stuck with the storm after I left
the beach in Ormond. Had I known what I already shot there, I probably
wouldn't have even bothered. Definitely my signature shot of the year."