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Young Filmmaker Takes Sachtler Ace Into The Wild

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How did a fascination with bears, a thirst for adventure and a love of filmmaking combine to create a 16 minute wildlife film? Ask 2012 youth outdoor photographer of the year and zoology graduate, Bertie Gregory.

Bertie's first film West Coast Adventure was filmed on the west coast of Vancouver Island over the course of two summers. Narrated and presented by Bertie, the film was nominated for the Youth Award at the Wildscreen Panda Awards this year.

"When I finished school I knew that I wanted to spend the summer abroad completing a big, ambitious project," explained Bertie. "I chose the west coast of Canada and was lucky to find a tour guide who took me under his wing. In exchange for helping him with tours, I was able to use his 12 foot rubber inflatable boat during my free time to explore and document the wildlife."

What initially began as a stills photography project blossomed into a desire to film the region's black bear population. Armed with an SLR camera and a Sachtler Ace M tripod system Bertie returned the following summer to complete filming.

"I really struck gold there, quite by chance. The west coast of Canada is the most incredible place that has not yet been photographed properly. It features an amazing landscape where the rainforest-coated mountains drop straight down to a wave-battered shoreline and never-ending network of inlets."

The area is abundant with wildlife – whales, dolphins and sea birds. However, it was the terrestrial animals that took advantage of the rich coastal ecosystem that attracted Bertie, specifically the black bear. Not content to be forest dwellers living off of berries, these large mammals go down to the beaches during low tides every day. As the tide goes out, hundreds of rocks are left on the beach and when rolled over by the bears, yield a bounty of crabs. Having reliable, high performing equipment that allowed him to capture the best possible shots was essential.

"The Sachtler is brilliant for a lot of reasons, but for this project specifically it was the fact that it was so lightweight was really beneficial. A lot of the shooting saw me running down beaches and jumping in and out of the boat. The Sachtler is really sturdy considering how little it weighs."

The Sachtler Ace M tripod system weighs just over 10 pounds and features a ground spreader. The tripod is quick to assemble and pack up, and the fluid head offers guaranteed precise, controlled camera movement.

Most of the shooting was done from the boat and one of the biggest challenges for the young filmmaker was that any kind of wave, especially when using a telephoto lens, amplified camera wobble.

"With the Sachtler tripod, I could really dampen that wobble by moving the tripod with the bumps, and I made sure that I filmed in quiet shallow bays as much as possible," explained Bertie.

The Ace M features a 5-step counterbalance that enables quick and easy adjustment of the set-up. In addition, the patented Sachtler SA-draft damping allows smooth pan and tilt movement.

"Another great aspect of the shoot was the fact that I used the boat like a giant slider while filming the bears. I wish I could have used more of these shots because they are incredibly powerful."

As the boat drifted parallel to shore, Bertie used the Sachtler fluid head to stay focused on the bear as it remained still, while the background and foreground of the shot continued to move.

Once filming was complete Bertie returned to his native England where friend Paul Edwards assisted with the editing of the project.

"We thought it would take a few days, but because I was at university full time and Paul was working in his editing job, it took us six months to get the final product as we wanted it," he said.

Following the success of West Coast Adventure he is embarking on a new four month project on the west coast of Canada to film the elusive coastal grey wolf. The project is set to begin in mid 2015.

The article is also available to read in BFV online.

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