Wildlife camera operator Gavin Thurston shoots footage for all your favorite nature documentaries, including Planet Earth and Human Planet. A regular collaborator with the BBC and everyone's beloved Sir David Attenborough, Thurston has a hand in many of the best nature documentaries and series out there, and Thurston's Reddit AMA details exactly what it's like to be a wildlife camera operator. Unlike upsetting truths about nature documentaries, Thurston's stories about being a wildlife videographer make the job sound quite rewarding and fun, if admittedly a bit slow or stressful at times. But hey, 16-hour workdays and bizarre rashes are par for the course when capturing footage of animals doing anything; anyone who's ever tried to even get up close to a squirrel or hummingbird knows this to be true.
In spite of the long workdays, Thurston makes the life of a nature camera operator sound rather rewarding. You get to travel, shoot things for the BBC, and even discover new species, all of which sound more naturally stimulating than shooting a Hollywood film.
What's The Longest You've Had To Sit Still?
"I once sat for 12 hours a day for 17 days to try and film Lace Monitor females returning to dig their newly hatched young from a termite mound in southeast Australia!"
(Did he "get the shot?")
Do You Ever Feel Like Intervening On Something You're Filming?
"Generally we do not intervene in natural events. [It] is often harrowing to experience animal suffering. However, the ethos is that if there wasn't a human there then the event would still happen. I have intervened on two occasions though: I was filming green turtle hatchlings on the northwest coast of Australia — each nest produces around 80 hatchlings. However only a handful make it even to the sea before being eaten by gulls, etc. After six days of filming, myself and the producer both got up and ran down the beach scooping up the hatchlings in our t-shirts and took them down to the sea. Still, the gulls managed to get a few but at least that clutch got a head start in life. There will be people out there who will condemn us for for even doing that."
Have You Ever Seen Something Spectacular You Didn't Catch On Camera?
"The most amazing thing I witnessed looking through the camera viewfinder but didn't manage to capture was a gorilla female feeding. She stopped to catch a butterfly in her hand and held it up briefly to her eye to see what it was. She then almost seemed to raise her eyebrows in recognition before releasing it and watching it fly away. As a cameraman there are many things I witness but fail to capture on video. If you're impressed by what you see on TV there is way more out there to see and witness!"
What Is The Most Amazing Thing You've Ever Filmed?
"The film I have had the best response for is the 'Jungles' episode of the recent Human Planet series. However the most amazing experience I have had was filming the wading chimpanzees in Congo for David Attenborough's Life of Mammals. I could see so many human traits in their behavior."