Behind the Scenes

Filming Square Tailed Kites in Central Victoria, Australia from my scaffold “filming platform”.

Capturing footage of Square Tailed Kites around the nest is not a particularly difficult task – as the birds are so comfortable with human intrusion. However, to capture footage of a very high quality, I knew I had to try and film the birds from an elevated position. This is where my filming platform could help.

Me_Filming_Platform

Tower_01

I always like to try and elevate my filming position, preferring a single exposure scene, as opposed to a scene with more than one exposure. In most instances, I prefer to film the birds against a background other than the sky. The platform above allowed me to get a around 10 metres above the ground.

The nest height was around 14 metres.

You can see from the image above that I did not film from an enclosed hide in this instance (I normally film from an enclosed hide). Instead, the “hide” on top of the platform comprised a canvas roof and some camouflage netting for the rear wall.

This is the first time I have filmed from an open platform however, with very gentle movements combined with such placid birds, this approach worked well.

Here are some video frames of the birds by the nest.

Frame_02

Frame_01

The Square Tailed Kite is without doubt the most passive bird of prey I have filmed, and will allow humans to get very close to them before taking flight (often as close as ten feet). Nonetheless, I wanted to ensure the birds were comfortable with my presence and erected my platform around 80 metres from the nest site. I was comforted to see the birds feeding the chicks on the nest whilst I erected the scaffold. Placing the platform some distance from the nest would hopefully lead to the capture of some nice flight footage, and ensure the birds behavior was natural.

I also got the opportunity to use my stills camera – which I rarely use. However, my wife had been suggesting I get a nice flight photograph to hang on the wall (rather than come home with video – as is usually the case). So I decided not to film one morning and thoroughly enjoyed myself trying to photograph the birds in flight – with my best attempt shown below. It wasn’t the best light, but I’m quite happy with the end result.

In this image, the bird has built up some speed as it approaches the nest from below. This image was taken just before it “flared up” to the nest.

For those interested, the image was captured with a Canon 1DC and 300mm lens. Setting used; aperture f4, ISO 2000, shutter speed 1000.

STK

Square Tailed Kites fly over and through the forest canopy quite slowly, which helped in terms of capturing them in flight. Having said this, it certainly wasn’t easy.

The video frame below shows one of the parents in flight, as it approaches the nest with prey. The new video I am putting together has lots of slow motion flight shots of the birds around the nest.

STK_Flight_Image

Erecting the filming platform takes around two hours, which I prefer to do over a couple of days or more, as this helps the birds get comfortable with my presence. Before I erect the platform, I will have spent some time watching the birds from a distance to get some idea of their preferred flight paths, behaviour, etc. This time is always invaluable in determining the best position for the filming platform (as always, the light direction is a primary consideration), and how I might approach the overall project.

Tower_02

Where possible, I tend to erect these platforms on private property, or in extremely remote areas.

The finished video of the Square Tailed Kites will be uploaded to my “Video Footage” page when complete. I hope you enjoy watching it!

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