Timelapse photography makes the Himalayas come alive.
Timelapse photography makes the Himalayas come alive.
Dramatic aerials of Iguazu, the world's widest continuous waterfall.
Shot here in HD, Iguazu is the largest collection of cataracts in the world. There are 275 individual falls that run together to form this panorama. The heligimbal camera system's ability to twist and pan as it flies over the falls captures the magnitude of Iguazu and gives a new perspective to the familiar aerial flyover.
Male polar bears take on ever more deadly adversaries as their hunting fields diminish.
It took two years and three shoots to bag new perspectives on the obviously high-risk hunting strategies of polar bears. The effort paid off when this desperately hungry male polar bear, followed on his epic swim in search of food, was observed trying to predate fully grown adult walruses. Usually they would go after cubs, but increasingly desperate polar conditions are pushing them to ever more ambitious attacks.
Energy super-efficient hunters capitalise on the seasonal nutrient glut.
There's a short time window when baitfish come to the surface in such abundance, attracting predators from above and below. Sailfish have been filmed before, but not these extraordinary gatherings of over 100 feeding on a single shoal. They can travel at speeds of up over 90kph and there are plenty of casualties during the hunt, so diving to film them is not for the faint-hearted!
The clumsy descendant of one of the ocean's top predators 400 million years ago.
The nautilus usually hunts around 500m down, risking an ascent to the surface for the abundant scavenging opportunities only when the water becomes colder and during the darkness of a new moon. Filming opportunities are few and far between and, as specific behaviour is related to very particular environmental conditions, observation of reported discoveries can be hard.
Volcanic activity breathes life into a barren void deep underwater.
he crew was sceptical about reports of colourful communities on these sea mounts, but 1.5km down the combination of a rocky volcanic substrate with a nutrient-rich current leads to a profusion of life. Red is virtually invisible in deep sea, so these extraordinary gardens of red gorgonians and orange sponges are effectively camouflaged.
Unique communities of bacteria grazers live on isolated deep water vents.
These first ever HD pictures from 3km below the surface of the ocean were accomplished through a unique collaboration between Japanese broadcasters NHK and marine research institute, JAMSTEC. One of several trips using deep sea ROVs was to the Dragon Vent where the crew agreed that the population of crustaceans resembled bristling Samurai warriors.
Timelapse shows how a large tuna is stripped to the bone in under three hours.
Planet Earth spent two years testing and developing a timelapse camera system that could be operated remotely and withstand the immense pressure 2km underwater. Keen to use equipment that lies idle to participate in scientific projects, several oil rigs and drilling vessels pitched in to help get the camera in place, positioning it on the sea floor using a robotic vehicle.
A recently discovered octopus and a bioluminescent vampire of the deep.
The unique behaviour of the dumbo octopus was captured with the help of MBARI's underwater marine researchers and innovative film technology, developed with NHK in Japan. Even standard HD cameras can't operate in such low light conditions, but the New Super-HARP (High-gain Avalanche Rushing amorphous Photoconductor) equipment is ultra sensitive and particularly effective with slow-moving images.
Unique aerial shots of dolphins travelling at high speed towards their hunting target.
Dolphins travel at high speed, amidst a ball of spray, so it's hard to film them from the surface. For underwater animals, the sound of a helicopter passing overhead is like a military jet to us. At a critical angle the sudden boom distresses the dolphins and affects their behaviour. The heligimbal system avoids this by operating high above, but its powerful lens still captures sustained close-up action.
The world's largest fish survives on the smallest organism... or does it?
The crew seized an unexpected opportunity, when a perfect set of technical and animal circumstances converged, to film this behaviour for the first time. The diversion afforded by the tuna attack allows the unwieldy whale shark time to turn on the baitfish sheltering under its bulk. Interesting to the observers was that it didn't just ram feed but actively gulped deliberate great mouthfuls.
Penguins run the gauntlet of ferocious fur seals to reach their hungry chicks.
Cameraman Ian McCarthy hitched a three-week ride on a tuna trawler through the notorious Roaring Forties to reach the obscure island where this behaviour had been reported. He and his camera equipment had to be sterilised to avoid contaminating the island. For the next four weeks, he braved Antarctic gales and the highly aggressive bull fur seals to capture this unique behaviour.
New timelapse techniques capture the frenzied life of California's star gardens.
Using a flash strobe system linked to an in-built timer mechanism on his digital stills camera, cameraman Peter Kragh filmed timelapse in the wild for the first time. Previously, such sequences have been filmed in tanks. To the naked eye, these invertebrates seem inanimate, but at ultra-high speed their frenetic activity is revealed.
Aerials explain why the world's largest colony of socotra cormorants nests in the desert.
In a new angle on this bizarre spectacle, the heligimbal's powerful HJ40 lens pulls out ever further to a high wide shot that perfectly illustrates the seabirds' bleak isolation at the edge of the Arabian desert. The mystery of the apparently bizarre choice of nesting site is clarified by satellite imagery that reveals the beneficial effects of local weather patterns.
Dolphins in Western Australia learn an ingenious new fishing trick.
Only a small number of individuals practise this unusual behaviour, so it proved a very frustrating experience predicting which dolphin was about to put on a show. The crew spent many hours, loaded with full camera kit, running fruitlessly up and down the baking hot sand dunes. A large local shark population made even a cooling dip in the surf off limits.
Bizarre residents of the world's richest and most remote reefs.
The team scoured the most remote and untouched locations to find fresh spectacles and new weird critters. Newly discovered reefs off Raja Ampat afforded this opportunity and the super hi-tech underwater housing of an HD camera allowed cameraman Peter Scoones to film these previously unseen and bizarre life-forms in full technicolor glory.
Unique co-operative hunting behaviour is recorded on one of the world's remotest reefs.
The unique and only recently discovered communal hunting behaviour of this population of sea kraits has never been filmed before and HD brings pristine clarity to the underwater footage. The snakes proved very inquisitive, wrapping themselves round the cameraman's legs. As a result, it was extremely hard to film natural behaviour while being sure to avoid the snakes' potentially lethal bite.
First footage of the red crab's technique for surviving the deadly pitcher plant.
To film inside the pitcher, the cameraman replaced sections of the plant with glass plates. These retained the liquid and acted as windows through which the creatures inside could be filmed. Combined with a borscope - a periscope the size of an arm tapering to a fingernail - the HD camera enabled macro scale shots in fantastic clarity and detail.
Night-time footage shows the energy-efficient gliding skills of the colugo.
To capture the entire sequence of a colugo glide, the crew set up highly efficient HMI lights (hydrargyrum medium arc-length iodide). Concerns that the hot, bright lights might affect the colugo's behaviour were not borne out. The greatest difficulty was predicting the launch and landing sites, so the crew had to film all night every night to be in with a chance.
The parasitic cordyceps sends its victims mad before erupting from their bodies.
At a quick glance, the ants and other insects in this clip seem to be suffering from a science fiction affliction. Imagine a fungus which lodges itself inside you, compels you to climb as high as you can and then explodes out of your body, killing you in the process. But this is no alien encounter or April fool - there are literally thosands of different types of cordyceps fungus, each specialising on just one species. They are so virulent, this killer can wipe out whole colonies of ants!
Timelapse shows the extraordinary growth patterns of different fungi.
In these timelapse sequences, digital stills taken at set intervals are combined with movement around the subject, achieved by setting a rotational head on a tracking device. It took anything from a day to several months to complete the shots.
Timelapse illustrates the vigorous race for light, and life, set off by a tree fall.
It took four years to shoot this sequence. The cameraman set immoveable posts in place in the Borneo forest and returned each week to take a still, carefully aligning the frames. The resulting shots were then stitched together digitally to create a timelapse sequence.
Rare footage of the world's smallest primate.
These tiny and vulnerable nocturnal primates are rightly very wary of light. The HD camera's capacity to record in low light wasn't sufficient, so the crew rigged up a dimmer switch to habituate the lemurs to increasing levels gradually, over several weeks. A sophisticated rope access system enabled the crew to film high up in the baobab trees.
High up in the branches of the baobab a little-seen spectacle takes place.
Occurring high above ground, at night and for only a short time each year, the opening of the baobab's flowers is rarely observed. The crew used rope access and special climbers to reach the tree tops. Once there, they were able to avoid the usual grainy footage associated with night filming by using low light capable HD cameras.
Months of computerised timelapse reveal a woodland floor coming to life.
The broad-leafed forests are perhaps the most familiar, yet only with the help of timelapse photography can you appreciate the near miraculous transformation they undergo every spring. This technique is taken to new heights as cameras travel across the woodland floor, capturing the annual regeneration in a single, gently moving sequence.
The biggest insect emergence on the planet.
The timing of this extraordinary event is known to the week, so the crew was ready at the epicentre observing the most favoured trees, high in sugary sap. When the nymphs began to appear, the crew soon discovered the shoot's challenges. Every time the filming lights were turned on the nymphs scattered. Then, as the dead cicadas piled up, the stench from rotting bodies was appalling.
First footage of mandarin duck chicks leaving their perilous treetop nests.
Other species of duck have been filmed fledging from nests set high above the ground, but to record the amazing dive of the young mandarin was a first. The crew remained in hides throughout the shoot in Siberia, as the birds were extremely nervous.
A unique portrait of the world's rarest big cat.
Of the nine surviving subspecies of leopard, by far the most endangered is the Amur. When filmed for Planet Earth in 2006, 50 individuals remained in the wild. There may now, in 2010, be fewer than 20. Poaching is still a major threat: since 2002 alone, nine skins or corpses have been found in Russia and two more in China. Amur leopards suffer from habitat loss and with such a small population are likely to suffer problems of inbreeding. Fortunately, there are around 300 individuals in zoos now being used in a breeding programme with the hope of reintroducing them to the wild in the future.
Tracking time-lapse, elapsed time and satellite imagery capture seasonal change.
A motion control system (MOSYS) allowed simultaneous panning, tracking and time-lapse in the blossoming and leaf growth sequence. Autumn's temporal advance is illustrated here spatially, through an elapsed time technique. Images taken at different stages of the change are blended together to create a single continuous sequence of the colour sweeping across the forest.
Infra-red footage sheds light on the night-hunting techniques of lions.
The crew spent six weeks following one of Africa's largest prides. These night ambush and chase techniques had previously been little witnessed and never before filmed. A highly sensitive image intensifying camera - the only one of its kind in the world - uses the latest night-vision technology to capture images even in these near dark conditions.
Elephant grass towers over the world's tiniest and rarest wild pig.
There are only a few hundred pygmy hogs in the wild and finding them in these immensely tall grass jungles is fraught with difficulty and danger. This area has a relatively high concentration of tigers making tracking through the long grass nerve-racking. But it was the resident rhinos that gave most cause for concern as the crew faced charges on a daily basis.
First ever footage of this bizarre and remote animal as it hunts rabbit-like pikas.
The two years it took to get filming permits for the Tibetan plateau and four weeks searching for brown bears yielded an unexpected bonus - the elusive Tibetan fox. At 6,000m above sea level, conditions here are extreme, with temperatures under -20 degrees Celsius. The HD camera's long lens capability was indispensable in filming such a rare and shy animal.
Life in the extreme environment of the world's highest great plain.
At 6,000m above sea level, the Tibetan Plateau is both remote and hard to reach. As a result, the high altitude grazers here are hardly ever seen, let alone filmed. In many cases, they are also becoming ever more rare. Satellite images of the plateau reveal the reasons why conditions here are so extreme.
The world's most numerous bird forms a swarm of epic proportions.
1.5 billion of these fast-breeding birds swarm over Africa's savannah and this is the largest flock of birds ever caught on camera. Filming this spectacle from below put the cameraman in a vulnerable position and he and his equipment ended up covered in guano. The fast frame speed capability of Super16 captured the rapid movement of this intense throng.
Over half a million geese in one of the largest nesting wildfowl colonies ever filmed.
The team had to be airlifted to this remote tundra location for a 4-week, extreme camping expedition. This vast colony of geese, roughly 20km long and 5km wide, had never been filmed before. To capture slow motion effectively, the cameraman used Super16 which captures 150fps, rather than HD's 60fps, and is also a more robust option for Arctic conditions.
Time-lapse shows the dramatic changes brought about by spring's arrival.
Two different techniques manipulate the spectacle of change over time in this clip. Taken at intervals of several weeks, a short sequence of still satellite images is blended together to show change over a much larger timescale. Down at ground level, a sophisticated computer driven tracking system took regular shots in a specific location to create a time-lapse sequence of growth close up.
In a remote corner of outer Mongolia, a million calving gazelles are on the move.
It took three years to film one of the world's greatest, yet rarely witnessed, migrations. A microlight transported from South America was written off before a single image was captured. With little cover to hide from these intensely shy animals, the cameraman had to bury himself up to the neck, in 40 degree heat. The aerial shots were finally obtained from an ancient Russian military helicopter.
Filmed emerging from their den two years before, the cubs are now independent.
Situated in the middle of the highest density of polar bears anywhere, the crew's base hut was an unfortunate focus of attention for hungry males. At a more comfortable distance from the subject, the long lens capability of the HD heligimbal camera system allowed incredible scope for continuous transition between close up and wide shots without disturbing the bears.
Climate change forces hungry males to strike out ever further into the sea.
With no ground access for the camera crew on the breaking ice, the HD heligimbal aerial camera system really came into its own. The powerful HJ40 lens allows fantastic close ups from high above, pulling out to grand scale wide shots that illustrate the huge distances covered by the bear. Filming from so far above, the bear is wholly undisturbed.
Rare footage of the most elusive polar predator hunting a musk ox calf.
Rare footage of the most elusive polar predator hunting a musk ox calf.
Timelapse reveals how a colony is transformed into a single organism.
Braving the planet's most severe winter weather, the crew spent six months living alongside male emperor penguins. To film a top shot of the group dynamic changing over time, they set up a fixed post on top of a huge glacier overlooking the huddle to shoot timelapse. Their efforts were rewarded when the previously uncatalogued exhalation of heat, as occasional squabbles broke out, became clearly visible.
Elapsed time and satellite imagery show the Antarctic doubling in size.
Usually, elapsed time sequences dissolve between two images taken at a specific interval. In this instance, the cameraman returned every few months to a fixed post where he recorded moving images with a 35mm camera, creating the continuous dissolve as the sea ice grows. The combination with NASA satellite imagery from space gives context to the immense change that results from the winter ice growth.
The polar oases that are home to the most southerly bird colonies on the planet.
The south polar skuas' hunting strategy had never been filmed before - with good reason. The nesting sites of the petrel lie 300km inland from the edge of the ice, high up in the rarely visited nunataks. To reach them the crew flew in from Cape Town on a Norwegian Hercules, landing on a blue ice runway and wearing spiked soles just to get off the plane safely.
A plague of biblical proportions occurs as billions of voracious insects fill the air.
'An average sub-Saharan swarm of desert locusts may number 50 billion and they will consume four times as much food as the humans living in New York or London in a single day. Insect spectacles don't come much bigger than this and I'd love to see it first hand.' (George McGavin on his list of top wildlife spectacles still to see)
Death Valley bursts with life as the desert blooms in unprecedented abundance.
Elapsed time filming with a 35mm Aaton camera captures the breath-taking transformation of Death Valley as masses of flowers appear for the first time in decades. The crew used visual references and ground markers to pinpoint the exact spot for filming, then seamlessly blended before-and-after shots that were filmed four months apart.
The epic journey of these land giants is dwarfed by Namibia's vast, empty dunes.
Fantastic aerial footage with the heligimbal camera's powerful zoom offers a new perspective on the elephants' long march for food. In spite of constant radio contact with a ground-based camera crew, the wildlife proved elusive among the Namibian dunes and rocky escarpments. The helicopter crew spent 25 hours in the air to film this sequence alone.
The territorial display and hunting techniques of the world's densest lizard population.
To capture the lizards jumping, a Super-16mm camera ran at 6 times the normal speed (150fps). The already difficult balance between getting the action and using up expensive film stock was compounded by the treacherous location. The cameraman was secured by rope and a climbing harness to prevent him falling from the rocks into the river below.
An aerial journey through the sandstone pinnacles of the USA's wild west.
These classic American icons made perfect subjects for the extended pan and tilt capability of the heligimbal camera system. Capturing them in splendid isolation, however, was not so easy. Dawn and dusk, when long shadows and clear air present the best filming conditions, are also peak times for climbers to swarm up and down the vertiginous spires before the day's heat sets in.
Time-lapse reveals the life-giving power of these giant desert sentinels.
As seasonal rains transform the desert into a green oasis, the world's largest cactus puts on a spectacular nocturnal display. Long nights of patient waiting finally resulted in shots of the unfurling energy-rich flowers against a starry backdrop. Sequences were filmed at the exact location months apart, using specialist tracking time-lapse, to show the full extent of the swelling.