RSPB celebrates 130 Years (1889 - 2019)

The RSPB was formed in 1889 to counter the trade of bird feathers for women's hats in the late Victorian era - 130 years on, the organisation is still working tirelessly through research, partnerships, landscape conservation and policy work to help species recovery.

Read more about RSPB’s history here

Read more about RSPB’s mission here

Formed in 1953, the RSPB Film Unit is the oldest professional wildlife filmmaking organisation in the UK. Since this time the unit has collaborated with many well known camera operators including Hugh Miles, Mike Richards, Ian McCarthy and John Aitchison.

Mark got his first wildlife camera break with the Film Unit based at RSPB HQ in Sandy, Bedfordshire - he shares more details below:

Question: What is your connection to the RSPB Film Unit?

I worked for the RSPB on a couple of placements pre-2000 during my university holidays. The Film Unit were extremely welcoming and I was lucky enough to assist the in-house cameraman at the time on some projects on the Isle of Coll and the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides where we were filming white-tailed sea eagles.

RSPB are still tracking white-tailed sea eagles in Scotland - click here to read more

Question: How did RSPB’s emphasis on conservation help shape your attitude towards the environment and wildlife?

Whilst at university, The Blue Planet (2001) was broadcast and it formed the backbone case study to my dissertation: Why do environmental issues tend to be avoided in BBC blue chip wildlife documentaries? I’m so pleased that 16 years later the Blue Planet II team focused on conservation of the oceans leading to the well documented Blue Planet effect. At last a positive response born out of the bravery to expose issues such as plastic pollution head on. The call to action has got peoples attention and I feel like we are more engaged than ever before - hopefully it is not too little too late, and there is still time to turn things around for our beautiful blue planet.

Question: Which RSPB reserves do you feel especially passionate about and why?

I now live in Selsey, West Sussex - a little fishing village right on the coast sandwiched between RSPB Pagham Harbour and RSPB Medmerry. Up until 2011 Medmerry was low-lying farmland and hundreds of nearby houses (mine included) were under constant threat of flooding. The Environment Agency’s solution was to create the largest flood risk management scheme of its kind ever undertaken in Britain - what they have achieved alongside RSPB is incredible

Read more about RSPB Medmerry here

Read more about RSPB Pagham Harbour here

Mark filming with wildlife presenter and RSPB President Miranda Krestovnikoff.

Mirander.jpg

Marine Wildlife Summer Filming Trip, Pembrokeshire

  • One car full of kit: underwater FS7, tripod and topside set up, drone and slider.

  • Two dives with a colony of seals and one particularly pretty, playful one.

  • Three 04:30 starts to catch sunrise.

  • Four months talking about this trip….one day to plan logistics and prepare.

  • Five glorious boat trips.

  • Six beautiful west coast sunsets.

  • Seven Phantom4Pro explorations early in the morning and at last light.

  • Eight nights at Castle Ely Mill, Whitland.

  • Nine filming days – meeting scientists, making friends, moving gear around and laughing.

What a trip!

  • Zero Otters spotted (despite our best efforts).

  • 1,200 miles on the road.

  • 31,000 gorgeous puffins thriving on Skomer.

  • Thousands of Manx Shearwaters returning to Skomer under the cover of darkness.

  • Too many drinks enjoying sunset over the Atlantic Ocean at Druidstone.

Pea Soup 'Rocket' - Quick Dispersing Smoke Machine FOR SALE

I bought this smoke machine back in 2013 for some automotive work I was doing at the time. This is a great little machine for special effects - in fact, it was used at the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony!  

Standard Features:
* Compact and robust
* Off power capability
* Water based, non-toxic smoke
* Quick dispersing smoke, ideal for special effects
* Controllable smoke, from a small wisp to a large plume
* Sale comes with a remote lead and a selection of smoke fluid aerosols

Specification:
* Product code: PS21R
* Size (cm) (L x W x H):  36cm x 14cm x 20cm
* Weight: 6kg
* Heat exchanger wattage: 1,100W
* Power Supply: 230v, 50/60Hz
* Warm up time from cold: 5 mins
* Duration of aerosol at maximum output: 15 mins approx.
* Smoke output: 0 – 180 m3/min. (6,350 ft3/min.) 
* Operation off the mains power supply: Yes

Image credit: © Mark Sharman (showing the 'Rocket' in use)

Image credit: © Mark Sharman (showing the 'Rocket' in use)

The ROCKET QD which looks and works in the same way as the ROCKET machines produces an even thicker, whiter smoke but which dissipates within a couple of minutes. This machine is mainly used for special effects for smoke that needs to disperse quickly. It's also ideal for photo shoots. By using it with a fan, a superb steam / CO2 blast effect can be created.

I am looking to sell this smoke machine for £350 plus VAT (a VAT invoice will be provided with the sale). The goods are located in West Sussex, so can either be picked up in person or sent in the post at cost. If posting, Quick Dispersing smoke fluid aerosols can be brought directly from Pea Soup (smoke machine specialists).

Please contact myself or Emily directly if you would like to purchase this item or have any questions. 

Best wishes, Mark

Mark | Emark@sharmancam.co.uk

Emily | T: +44 (0)7876 694477 | Eemily@sharmancam.co.uk

Mark tells us more about his experience with the new Fujinon Lenses

Question: What shoot have you recently taken the Fujinon lenses on?

I’m just back from the Bahamas where I was working on a Shark Week shoot for Discovery. I was filming topside and drone from a boat for the duration, so camera and lens choice was key. My pair of E mount Fujinon lenses (MK18-55mm and MK50-135mm) were the natural choice together with my Sony FS7 as they are the perfect match especially for this type of job

Question: Tell us more about why the Fujinon lenses were a great fit for this shoot?

The production wanted to achieve a cinematic look and feel using a shallow depth of field throughout. So, shooting wide open at T2.9 I was able to achieve some very pleasing results with the actuality. We filmed a large portion of the footage into the night (under the boats minimal lighting) so, in this environment with these lenses I was still able to expose the contributors effectively

Question: What USPs specific to the Fujinon lenses do you find most impressive?

As well as ‘the look’ I wanted to achieve an additional consideration for the on-the-shoulder sync filming is the overall weight of the camera. So, with each lens weighing in at 0.9kg (which is incredibly light weight for such a lens) it makes for a much more comfortable set up; a hugely important factor when you’re working across the length and breadth of a boat for long hours, into the evening

Question: How did you utilise the full range of the two Fujinon lenses whilst on location?

The 18-55 is great for general sync shots and actuality; wide enough to get establishes and two shots and tight enough for pushing in for close ups and details. When it comes to shooting with another member of the camera team the 50-135 is perfect for close up reactions
Fuji Lenses.PNG

"Animals with Cameras" with Gordon Buchanan

Final Episode on BBC One: Thursday 15 February 8pm
Devil Rays in the Azores

In this three-part series, wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan collaborates with scientists in the field to attach cameras onto animals in the wild. On their journey, which takes them to all corners of the globe, they uncover unexpected findings about the lives of some of the planet's most captivating species.

Presenter Gordon Buchanan and Devil Ray researcher Jorge Fontes

Presenter Gordon Buchanan and Devil Ray researcher Jorge Fontes

Mark spent one week filming for the Devil Ray sequence (Episode 3/3) on the Princess Alice Sea Bank in the Azores during August 2017.

Gordon, Mark and the Crew in the Azores.

Gordon, Mark and the Crew in the Azores.

The team set out to discover why vast numbers of Devil Ray gather every summer near the Azores archipelago in the mid-Atlantic. The team successfully deployed specially designed cameras which towed behind the rays, these in turn witnessed wildlife spectacles seen for the first time including 'sun-bathing' ray at the surface reheating after a cold dive and unborn ray pups kicking inside their giant, four-meter-wide mothers; a sign that this congregation might be a breeding ground for these majestic ocean giants.

Devil Rays are fascinating creatures – they are some of the fastest and deepest divers in the ocean, and swim with such elegance. When they are not feeding, their cephalic fins are curled and point forward and down, giving the appearance of devil horns; hence their name.
— Mark Sharman, Cameraman
Mark's topside camera set up in the Marina da Horta, on the island of Faial, Azores.  Panasonic Varicam LT,  Canon CN-7 17-120mm lens.

Mark's topside camera set up in the Marina da Horta, on the island of Faial, Azores.  Panasonic Varicam LT,  Canon CN-7 17-120mm lens.

Devil Rays are under threat from fishing, boat traffic, habitat decline and pollution and are currently listed as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List. Although not usually targeted by fisheries, Devil Rays often become victims as bycatch. The good news is that Project AWARE have already made a positive impact to help protect Devil Rays.

Legendary Azorean Captain, Norberto Serpa was the expedition leader.

Legendary Azorean Captain, Norberto Serpa was the expedition leader.

Other wildlife events captured within this three-part series include fascinating insights into penguins catching their prey 200 miles off the coast of Argentina and fur seals avoiding attacks from great white shark off Australia. Further details and clips are available at BBC online.

Reviews:

The Telegraph 'Culture' Review 4/5 Stars

The Express

Sunset Azores.jpg

Episodes 1, 2 and 3 are available on BBC iPlayer until February 2018.

The crew Mark worked with on the shoot:

Matthew Andrews, Field Director; Mark Roberts, Sound Recordist; Nuno Sá, Underwater Cameraman.