Wildscreen returns with a focus on photography

September 30 2016

The world’s biggest celebration of natural history storytelling - the Wildscreen Festival - returns to Bristol in October with a programme of public and industry events.


The world’s biggest celebration of natural history storytelling - the Wildscreen Festival - returns to Bristol in October with a programme of public and industry events.

Stills photography is being added to what is already the world’s biggest celebration of wildlife film, TV and online content as the Bristol-based Wildscreen Festival steps up its commitment to unite and support natural history’s best visual storytellers.  

Additions to the industry programme for Wildscreen 2016, in Bristol, from October 10 to 14, include a photography day on Friday 14 October, during which world-class photographers and leading image commissioners and publishers will share their knowledge of how to improve craft skills, get funded, make money, and tell stories that deliver conservation awareness and action. 

The multiple award-winning line-up of speakers includes undercover photojournalist Britta Jaschinski; underwater specialist Tony Wu; National Geographic Magazine contributor Ronan Donovan and optical wizard and award-winning filmmaker, Martin Dohrn. 

Martin is the owner of Ammonite, an independent production company based in Redland for more than 20 years, which specialise in making innovative natural history programmes. As well as being a stellar photographer and award-winning filmmaker, Martin is the man who invented the clever low light/no light kit used in David Attenborough’s recent LIGHT ON EARTH, which is a nominee for a Wildscreen Panda Award this year. 

Martin said: “Shortly after the company formed we were able to build our own starlight camera, which is an image intensified camera. We used it to make a big sequence, filmed things that people had never seen before and from there we’ve developed that. We’ve just finished making LIFE THAT GLOWS and that was using the 10th iteration of the starlight camera.

“We’ve spent 20 years working out how to film at night. It’s often down to working out what people want to see, what do people understand and it’s really difficult because so often it’s that new and fresh that people don’t know what they are looking at. When we know of something that that no one’s filmed before, we try to work out how can we do it.”

Some jobs are trickier than others: “One of the films we made was in the ocean, HUNT FOR THE GIANT SQUID, where we had to get a two-colour starlight camera in an underwater housing and drop it on a cable 500 metres into the sea and get it back again.”

Ammonite have also specialised in optics, developing lenses that borescope, miniaturising everything including the lenses, so that insects can be filmed in detail in their natural environment. These cameras are fitted with an extending tube so that you can get close to the creatures without disturbing them or damaging the area. 

Martin explained: “The problem with these cameras is that they are almost impossible to use so I then had to devise a motion control system, called a Frankencam. It completely changes the scale of the pictures and was used in SMALL TALK DIARIES for CBBC, which won a bunch of awards. 

“What makes our company special is that it’s not just about equipment, it’s about the will to get the image in the end. People have this idea that camera is something that does the work for you but we are questioning about whether there is a way of bringing the story out. As a small independent company we have to do something to attract attention to ourselves to keep getting new work commissioned.”

The festival will also provide a rare chance for British audiences to hear the renowned US photojournalist, field biologist, filmmaker and National Geographic Magazine favourite Tim Laman talk about the intimate and unique pictures of rainforest wildlife, including orangutans and birds-of-paradise, he has captured during 30 years of exploring  the rainforest canopy.  

Tickets for the Tim Laman event - Rainforest Exposures - at St George’s, Bristol, on Friday 14 October (8pm) are included in the price of Wildscreen Festival passes. To book, visit: http://www.wildscreen.org/festival/. Pllaces can be booked at the talk for £13/£10 (concessions), via www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk; telephone 0845 402 4001.

Lucie Muir, CEO of Wildscreen, said: “There have been huge changes in recent times to how people find, view and use imagery to tell stories about the natural world, especially via online channels. We want to reflect this by expanding the Wildscreen Festival remit to take in the ever-more varied forms of visual storytelling – both to add power to conservation messages and open up new income streams for those who are able to capture and share inspirational moments from biodiversity’s frontlines.  From now on, photography is part of the Festival’s DNA.”

Around 850 industry delegates from more than 40 countries are expected to be in Bristol for this year’s Wildscreen Festival. The Headline Sponsor of Wildscreen 2016’s photography programme is National Geographic and the principal sponsors of the Wildscreen Festival 2016 overall are BBC Earth, BBC Worldwide and Disneynature.