Rising Star Captures the Shot and his First Solo Assignment for National Geographic
Special to Markee
From braving the dense jungles of Sri Lanka to capturing images of a city-dwelling leopard in the dusty streets of Mumbai, professional wildlife photographer and filmmaker Bertie Gregory has seen his fair share of challenges since being recruited by National Geographic back in 2014.
The man with the camera and the project of a lifetime
Before National Geographic came around, Gregory already had a few accomplishments under his belt. Back in 2012, he was named “Youth Outdoor Photographer of the Year” while his first film West Coast Adventure earned him a nomination for the Youth Award at the 2014 Wildscreen Panda Awards.
Then the day after graduating with from the University of Bristol (UK) in 2014, the 22-year-old hopped on a plane to spend six months in South Africa and Sri Lanka assisting legendary photojournalist Steve Winter for National Geographic Magazine. The project ended up evolving into a one-hour television special that premiered in January 2016, where Gregory filmed their travels as they captured amazing images of the local wildlife, including elusive jungle cats.
So not only did he get to explore with and learn from one of his personal photographic heroes and BBC’s Wildlife Photographer and Photojournalist of the Year, but he also impressed those at the National Geographic Society enough to earn his first solo assignment, which debuts in Spring 2016.
The assignment—a 24-part series shot in 4K with the Sony FS7 using Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x lenses, all supported by the Sachtler Video 18—follows Gregory on a three-month wildlife adventure where he tracks down the elusive coastal wolf on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada.
“When people think of wolves, they think of animals in snowy mountains, hunting for deer and elk. These wolves are different; they live on the beach and get 90 percent of their diet from the ocean, scavenging washed up whales and eating salmon and mussels,” said Gregory.
With his background and degree in Zoology, the 2015 Scientific Exploration Society Zenith Explorer was able to maneuver comfortably around the natural habits of multiple coastal predators and capture those rare occasions on camera.
“One of the first things we wanted to do was produce a ‘Man with Nature’ series, rather than a ‘Man versus Nature’ series, based on this idea that nature is meant to be revered rather than conquered,” Gregory explained.
Great gear for the great outdoors
Gregory and his camera operator spent three weeks living off the land on a remote island accessible only by floatplane. With unpredictable tides, harsh landscape, and extreme weather conditions in this uninhabited, temperate rainforest, Gregory was very selective about both his survival equipment and shooting gear. To get cinematic shots, he relied on the Canon 200-400mm and Sachtler Video 18 fluid head to provide all of the lightweight, robust functionality he needed.
“I like the Canon Lens—it’s pretty light and small for what it can do,” said Gregory. “And for the last year and a half, I’ve been using the Sachtler Video 18. I’ve taken it pretty much everywhere with me, whether I’m traveling in little boats or big boats. I’ve put it in salt water and sand to get water level shots, had it in rivers and carried it 30 kilometers a day for ten days straight. In the past, I’ve had tripods where you take it on a mildly windy beach, and the whole thing just fills up with sand. Once that happens, I’d have to take the time to disassemble it so I can clean it. I don’t know what Sachtler’s done with their gear, but whatever it is, it’s genius because I never have to worry about doing that. I mean, I would be out in a torrential downpour, and I didn’t even have to think about if the gear was going to be okay. It just was.”
For Gregory, it’s also important to get close shots of his subjects and move quickly with equipment he can trust in extreme environments and weather conditions. In this case, the Canon lenses and Sachtler Video 18 fluid head fit the bill perfectly.
“The lenses are great because you actually have a range from 200mil to 560mil. Most of the time, I was shooting from the video tripod, so the V18 was fundamental to getting those silky smooth wildlife shots. It works because you can follow the action in the frame while keeping it nice and steady. The moment you have a wobble in your shot, it breaks the magic.”
The wildlife professional also utilized the tripod’s quick SpeedLock clamping system, which allowed him to telescope conveniently all three parts with only one release. It worked great for when he needed to assemble his gear as fast as possible to catch that perfect yet fleeting shot.
“The SpeedLock legs are wonderful because with wildlife photography it’s all about that one moment. It’s so much easier, and the fact that Sachtler has something like that is a game changer; it’s the difference between capturing a moment and missing it.”
This year at NAB, attendees are getting to hear from Bertie Gregory himself at the Vitec Videocom booth and are getting their hands on the classic Video 18 along with Sachtler’s new upgrade of this model, the Video 18 S2. With the S2, users get 4 kg more payload than the Video 18 S1 at the same price point, making it the only head in its class to operate at -40 to +60 degrees centigrade without any influence on its smooth operation.
For his current project, you can find Gregory in Holland shooting a new wildlife film titled De Wilde Stad, which translates to The Wild City. Produced by EMF films, this project is very much in line with his fascination of urban wildlife.
“Lots of people think you have to go to the farthest corners of the planet to have great wildlife experiences,” he said. “This film will prove you can have awesome wildlife experiences no matter where you live.”
Through his work and as one of the 2020VISION Young Champions, Gregory hopes to highlight the bond between human wellbeing and habitat restoration and to be seen as an ambassador for natural reverence. For more information about Bertie Gregory and his projects, visit http://www.bertiegregory.com or visit http://www.sachter.com.