Johnny Kingdom's stories from the moor
Guest blog post: camera assistant Hector Skevington-Postles reports on filming with Johnny Kingdom, the man of the moor, for Autumnwatch.
The task for the Autumnwatch Adventure team on Exmoor was to capture a piece of this beautiful countryside, the deer and the special relationship that one man, Johnny Kingdom, shares with both.
Inside Johnny's office the intoxicating mix of camouflage, taxidermy and camera equipment gave a clear idea of the man we were here to film. Then the stories began. Surrounded by hundreds of tapes of his own footage, Johnny began to regale us with tales of the moor. This would be the tone for the week.
The first morning's filming was to interview him, to start condensing his knowledge and structuring the shoot ahead. As well as that, it was a chance for the crew to begin navigating their way through Johnny's linguistic maze of "innums", "see heres" and "dun theys".
Director/cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones knows Johnny of old. The well-established rapport between the pair not only eased us into filming but allowed us to get the best from our presenter.
Johnny always becomes charged with emotion when talking about Exmoor, the ponies and its wildlife. The emotion becomes even more charged when he's discussing red deer. The rut has become an integral part of his life and Autumnwatch couldn't have come at a better time to witness it.
We spent the third morning in a treehouse watching over 70 individuals. The large stag approached soon after we arrived, spreading the prickets and hinds coming up, cutting through the mist. You could tell the feeling at this point stretched beyond the excitable character you sometimes see on TV. Although it's an event he's witnessed many times over the years, the anticipation of this year's rut is evident in everything he says.
The fortuitously warm weather and plentiful mist allowed for two other great mornings filming. This has then hopefully culminated in as true and as honest a portrayal as possible: of this wilderness, of the deer on Exmoor and of the man on the moor.
Watch Johnny Kingdom on the trail of the red deer rut on Autumnwatch, 8.30pm Friday 21 October on BBC Two.