Crazy, scary and ridiculous are all words I'd use to describe what has to be the most exciting shoot I've ever been on. From high speed rickshaw chases to all night leopard stakeouts, this one hour TV special for Nat Geo WILD coming out January 2016 is going to be a epic! Pictured is my boss, guru and mentor, Steve Winter, during one of the opening scenes to the film- showing what was our rather unconventional commute to work in search of big cats!
Towards the end of hour month in Mumbai, the monsoon rains hit in dramatic fashion. I've never seen rain like it! It made filming a little challenging (big understatement!) but we soon took it in our stride. Pictured is Raj, our fixer, desperately trying to hold down our umbrella whilst I attempted to timelapse one of the biggest slums in the world- Dharavi. As you can see from the video below, I wasn't particularly successful...
Steve's main method for filming the leopards was to setup his legendary remote camera traps. Crazy complicated cameras, lights and invisible motion sensor beams were setup on trails frequented by the leopards. We focussed our efforts on one particular trail, a huge old stone bridge which ran right past a huge set of apartment blocks giving a shot which left nothing to the imagination- these were urban leopards. Pictured is Steve and I atop a 30ft bamboo platform built from scratch to hold one the camera traps.
Whilst Steve focussed on camera trapping, I took a more direct approach using both a long lens setup and a 360 degree panning remote setup (pictured). Both these systems required in person operation meaning I had to sit in a little hide from 8pm-6am waiting for the leopards to cross trail just 50ft (15m) away.
One of the highlights of the shoot was spending time in the slums visited by the leopards at night. Whilst human leopard conflict is incredible rare in these areas, livestock is regularly taken. The real eye opener was discovering that these people who have next to nothing were some of the happiest and most generous people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. The only issue with making friends with the locals was that everytime we came to film, we'd be overrun by 10s of giggling kids screaming the local phrase for 'white man'!