As a principal cinematographer on four episodes of the acclaimed National Geographic series, Great Migrations, Bob Poole, www.poolefilms.com, captured intimate close-ups of Malis desert elephants a remote and dangerous herd that were difficult to film. And in war-torn Southern Sudan, tense battles between male white-eared kob (antelopes) that often fight to the death for the right to breed. Great Migrations is the largest endeavor in National Geographics 122-year history, and Poole was provided the time and resources to capture images that otherwise would be impossible.
Poole used two Fujinon lenses to capture all of his Great Migrations footage a HA25X11.5BERD HD lightweight telephoto lens and a HA13x4.5BRD HD wide angle ENG-Style lens. When the winds were particularly heavy, Poole often employed his TS-P58 image stabilizer from Fujinon.
Great Migrations tells life and death stories about individual animals within the migrating herds, and proximity makes good pictures, explained Poole. Mali elephants are terrified of vehicles, so all my filming had to be done on foot and without them knowing I was there. I needed to get as close as possible, but it was too dangerous to use anything other than a long lens, except for wide shots and scenics. Between my two lenses, I had the full range covered.
When shooting wildlife you have to capture behavior as its happening. In the past I used a telephoto prime, and it was difficult to train the lens on the action in time. Now, with the 25x, I can zoom out to find the subject and quickly bring it back to a close- up. If Im set up, balanced and level, I dont miss important moments of behavior anymore.
According to Poole, the HA25x11.5BERD telephoto lens compresses distance in a way that provides greater impact to the visuals. The lens has a close focus and works nicely for macro shots. I can fill the frame with an ant, or with the head of a poisonous snake without getting dangerously close.
Poole appreciates the durability of the Fujinon lenses when working in the far corners of the world in less than ideal weather conditions. While in Mali, Poole and his colleague, John Mans, found themselves in the middle a massive sandstorm. (To see video of the event, click on: http://www.poolefilms.com/great_migrations/gm.html.)
The environmental conditions in Mali were the most challenging of Pooles career. He experienced extreme temperatures of 125F in the shade, and wind blowing sand and dust. However, the most extreme condition was the sandstorm. The HA13.4.5 wide-angle lens was able to capture the incredible size of the oncoming sandstorm against the landscape, while the HA25x11.5BERD telephoto lens showed the speed that it was moving. My camera covers saved the equipment, even though sand and dust were in everything the lenses lived to shoot another day. Thats why you buy a professional lens, said Poole. Its designed and made so well that it can handle the most extreme situations.
The lenses were paired with a Sony HDW-F900 HDCAM camcorder for the first half of the two-and-a-half year project, and Poole later changed to a Sony PDW-700 XDCAM.
Pooles work can be seen in the first episode of Great Migrations, titled Need to Feed; which features the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania, in the second episode, Need to Breed which follows white-eared kob in Sudan, and in the fourth episode, Feast of Famine about the Mali elephant migration. He shot principal cinematography on the special segment The Science of Migrations and was featured in The Making of Great Migrations.
Great Migrations premiered on the National Geographic Channel on November 7, 2010.