Filming on Hostile Planet for National Geographic

Roger Munns Blog

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Nat Geo’s Hostile Planet offers audiences an unflinching look at the volatility of Mother Nature and the resilient animals that have adapted to survive Earth’s most extreme environments. It’s a six-part series featuring episodes on Jungles, Mountains, Deserts, Oceans, the Poles and Grasslands.

I filmed a sequence focused on a female green turtle (Chelonia mydas). The story revolved around her quest to mate and the perils that come with that particular activity in the waters off Malaysia. The poor lady in question endured a torrid time while multiple adult males attacked, and tried to dislodge, her mating partner who was determined to hold on despite the onslaught. Green turtles are known as being, cute and a little dopey, but these males were using their razor sharp beaks to bite and pull at the mating male’s flippers and tail. Full chunks of leathery skin were being pulled off and (as you can see in the image below) often the 60kg+ attackers would be hanging on by their mouth to the mating male as the poor female had to drag both of them along.

Underwater Cameraman Roger Munns films mating green turtles (Chelonia mydas) for National Geographic’s Hostile Planet. Photo: Jason Isley/Scubazoo

It was extremely hard for me to follow the action due to the pace at which the female was moving, despite the weight of the cargo she was carrying. Most of the time I was at ‘cruising speed’, finning steadily to keep up. If I needed to creep ahead or move along the body of the turtles I would have to kick down a couple of gears and pump hard for a few minutes while trying to keep the camera steady. The mating went on for several hours which made it particularly exhausting for the stars of the shoot and the crew! Green turtles live most of their lives in the water but they do need to surface to breathe, and it’s that element which drives the narrative in this story as our poor heroine attempts to battle to the surface for a vital gasp.

I shot the story on my Gates Deep Weapon with my Red DSMC2 Helium inside. This amazing rig has served me well over the years and the ability to run through the frame rates, to pick up slomo detail, on the fly was great. I might go with a smaller setup for open ocean shoots in the future though. Just to keep things more streamlined. The series is narrated by Bear Grylls. It’s a pretty non-traditional choice of voice-over artist for an event series like this. Saying that, he certainly knows a thing or two about how hostile our planet is. You can watch the sequence below.

Hostile Planet was produced by Plimsoll productions Executive producers on the series are Emmy-nominated producer Martha Holmes, and Emmy award-winning Tom Hugh-Jones, Guillermo Navarro, Grant Mansfield, Andrew Jackson and Bear Grylls.

Check out my Blog for other adventures and updates.

Hostile Planet premiered Monday (April 1) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on National Geographic in 172 countries and 43 languages. Check out the very, very awesome trailer below.

 


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