Planet Earth II

Planet Earth II

I know a lot of people on the other side of the world have already seen all of these, but here in the US we are making our way through this series for the first time.  This series is spectacular. I watch it and see shot after shot wondering how the hell did they manage to film that?????

I am just amazed when I see their botanical work.  Timelapse itself is something that takes quite a bit of time, research, trail, and effort to learn.  Botanical timelapse is an entirely different beast than landscape work. You go from being at the mercy of the environment, to being required to fully control the environment.  I have been filming plants for about 3 years now.  During this time I have had a lot of failures, a lot of wasted footage. Quite a few successes, but the stuff that they have on Planet Earth just blows my work out of the water. No comparison.

To be fair, I am completely out of my element when it comes to botanical timelapse, which may sound strange coming from somebody who spends so much time trying to do it.

I am not a photographer. I picked up my first SLR about 7 years ago. I have never taken a class, never had a photography business, never studied under anybody, never had an apprenticeship.  I have done maybe a dozen shoots for friends and such, but never been hired for a shoot. I am just a self taught amateur at best.

I don’t know shit about plants.  I really don’t. I am excellent at killing houseplants. I am somewhat decent at keeping carnivorous plants alive, but that is about it. I am no good at looking at a plant and understanding what its problem is.  I have been learning, but I dont really have any access to botanists to know much about them. Is this something I cut? should that be at an angle? is this too much light? too little light? is this soil ok? how often should I give plants food? Most of those questions are a mystery to me.

I have always had an artistic streak in me, but I wouldn’t consider myself an artist at all. More like a xerox machine.  I have spent time painting, airbrushing, carving, sculpting, sketching, etc. Enough that I can build some rudimentary sets but they all look pretty fake to me. 🙂

I have a very strong technical background, but I am not an engineer. If you want somebody to discuss the finer points of VoIP with SIP protocol, I’m your guy. If you want an understanding on how telecommunications work from user to carrier to user, I know how it all works. 8xx, CNAM, CID, SS7, 5ess, DMS, EWSD, CAS, ground start, loopstart, q931, all of it.  However the mechanical engineering stuff, building robots, programming micro-controllers, etc. That is all pretty far outside my wheelhouse professionally, and there is really no carryover from that technical world to robotics. It may as well be comparing a  catfish to a doorknob.

I suspect that is not the case with the people working for the BBC gathering that sort of footage. I would imagine they have real photographers, set designers, mechanical engineers, motion control experts, time lapse experts, and the sort working together as a team. I could be wrong, if they have a one person Op doing that work I would love to be able to talk them up.


I suppose the one thing I really have going for me is I am too dumb to know when I am out of my league. When I find something of interest I tend to achieve a laser focus and manage to push through until I accomplish what I am looking to accomplish. On the same token, that can also be a hindrance, as sometimes I don’t know when it is time to pull in additional resources. Maybe I need some help with this project.

I have several Biolapse projects I am working on. The thing is they are very slow going because I am trying to build living sets now, and it can take quite a bit of time for those sets to establish (if they don’t just outright die).  I feel like I am lacking a clear direction though. Building the robots, setting up the studio, all those had clear end goals.

I suppose this is sounding like I am being pretty down on myself, that is not the case though. I have only been filming plants for 3 years, and I have had to undertake every challenge on my own, and i have accomplished quite a bit.  It may not be the quality you see on the BBC.




2 thoughts on “Planet Earth II”

  1. …Chris…a couple of things…you are doing something terribly difficult, very well. The BBS has a HUGE budget with many specialists working. some of the shots literally take days to rig. And they have trial and error too, although perhaps on a different scale. LOL. I’ve been a professional photographer since 1979 and a time-lapse specialist since 2011. Your work is at a very high level. If anything, the lighting you’re using is a bit off to me but really that is subjective observation. And the wasted footage for me always has some info contained therein that I apply to the next shoot. It’s all good Chris, keep shooting, love the work you’re doing.

    PM me if you want to talk about lighting qualities and purpose for the work.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself man!

    1. Michael, thank you for the feedback. Maybe sometime you would be willing to give me a bit of a critique on the lighting? That is one area where to me it also seems a bit “off” but I am really having a hard time putting my finger on the reason. it just does not seem natural.

Leave a Reply