Nature wise: readings on wildlife and filmmaking
Learning about nature and wildlife is almost as exciting and enjoyable as being in the wild capturing images. I find great pleasure in reading about the natural history of different animals, their behaviour and the functioning of the ecosystems they live in. I also enjoy reading about wildlife filmmaking history and techniques. Besides enriching my spirit, these readings allow me to get my eyes and my mind prepared for when I am working in the field and opens my imagination for new ideas and projects. In the hope of sharing with others some interesting publications on topics related to nature, wildlife and filmmaking, I have put together a brief list of books that I have found enlightening and, at the same time, entertaining. The list includes guides, studies, biographies, chronicles and books focused on wildlife filmmaking. As I find new and interesting publications I will continue to update and expand this list. All ideas and recommendations are more than welcome.
Game Ranger in your Backpack by Megan Emmett
A beautifully designed book with very good pictures and summarized information on African species. It contains chapters on mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, insect and other invertebrates, plants, and tracking and field signs. The book is quite concise (for you backpack) and therefore the information is not very thorough and leaves out many species. But as it doesn´t promise to be an encyclopedia it is an excellent reference book to have by your side when venturing into the bush.
Beat About the Bush-mammals by Trevor Carnaby
Trevor Carnaby shares his wealth of experience as a nature guide in a very entertaining and informative manner combinig scientific analysis with anecdotes of his encounters with wild animals. In a question and answer format he addresses a variety of issues on animal behaviour and demistifies many long-believed myths. The book contains two sections, one on general questions on mammals and another, more specific, on the different taxonomic orders. It focuses on South African mammals leaving out some important species ocurring in other parts of Africa.
Beat About the Bush-birds by Trevor Carnaby
One of my favourite books about birds. This is not a reference book with a list species but rather a very thorough book on the evolution, characteristics and amazing behaviour of birds. It uses an easy-to-read question and answer format which makes it very accessible for non-specialists. Every page is full with information about this omnipresent class of feathered, winged, two-legged, warm-blooded, egg-laying vertebrates.
The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon
First published in 1997, the Kingdon Field Guide is an obligated reference for all interested in African mammals. It contains concise descriptions of African mammals together with full-colour illustrations of most of them. Its aim is to outline the ecology and evolutionary history of mammals. The information on each species is divided into the following sections: name, measurement, recognition, subspecies, distribution, habitat, food, behaviour, adaptation and status. It also contains two sections on the African environment and its past. The last edition of the book is from 2012.
The Safari Companion: a guide to watching African mammals by Richard D. Estes
First published in 1993, this book is the smaller brother of The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals written by the same author and intended as a comprehensive reference work on mammal behaviour. Rather than a field guide for animal identification this book focuses on the behaviour of ungulates, carnivores, primates and other smaller mammals (rodents, rabbits, insectivores and bats are left out). It contains three interesting introductory chapters on social and mating systems, observing African mammals and understanding animal behaviour.
Birds of East Africa (Helm Field Guides) by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe
First published in 2002, this book covers 1,388 species of birds. Concise species accounts describing appearance, status, range, habits and voice are accompanied by detailed illustrations and colour distribution maps. It is one of the most comprehensive guides of its kind.
Pyramids of Life: patterns of life and dead in the ecosystem by Harvey Croze and John Reader
It is only possible to find used editions of this special book last published in 2000. Its purpose is to explain, in a systematic way, how the three main African ecosystems, namely, grasslands, lakes and rivers, and forests, work. The authors identify seven groups of patterns and processes (controlling factors, modifying factors, basic food sources, pursuit of food, social organisation, reproduction, avoiding predators) and apply them to each ecosystem´s structure (primary production, herbivores, carnivores, decomposers). The result is a unique and detailed description of the often invisible world of ecosystems.
Life on Air by David Attenborough
Autobiography of one of the most celebrated naturalist and broadcaster of all times. David Attenborough was a pioneer of natural history television programmes in the 50´s and is still today the most recognized voice in wildlife documentaries. He wrote and presented the BBC´s “Life” series and many other iconic television programmes. In his memoires, he tell the stories of his encounters with people and animals in the most remote places of the planet. In a humble and humorous tone, this book reminds us why there is no pleasure deeper than that which comes from contemplating the natural world and trying to understand it, as the author himself likes to say.
Ivory, Apes & Peacocks: animals, adventure and discovery in wild places of Africa by Allan Root
Memoires of a pioneering wildlife filmmaker whose adventurous life brought the natural world closer to people and, at the same time, helped wildlife films improve and develop. In his book Mr Root recounts his African explorations in a funny tone and reminds us that dealing with humans is sadly more risky and complicated than dealing with wild beasts.
Serengeti Story: life and science in the World’s greatest wildlife region by Anthony Sinclair
Published in 2012, this book narrates not only the ecological transformations that have shaped the Serengeti ecosystem but also the political, economic and social background against which these transformations have taken place. Doctor Sinclair has been conducting research in the Serengeti for almost 50 years. His first hand account of the struggle to conserve this natural treasure is, at the same time, fascinating and tragic.
Shooting in the Wild: an insider’s account of making movies in the animal kingdom by Chris Palmer
Chris Palmer is the Director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University, Washington, D.C. His book, published in 2010, offers an authoritative insight into the wildlife filmmaking industry, including its dark side. He advocates an ethical approach to filmmaking that respects nature, audiences and promotes conservation.
Wildlife Films by Derek Bousé
In his book, Derek Bousé, traces more than 100 years of wildlife filmmaking. He argues that this genre owes more to Hollywood feature films than to documentary films. He also argues that wildlife films have been underrated as an area of filming creativity and overrated as a tool for science education and nature conservation.
Reel Nature: America´s romance with wildlife on film by Gregg Mitman
This book shows how wildlife films have shaped the contemporary perception people have of wildlife, in a world that is increasingly detached from nature. The production of wildlife films very often makes use of staged action that is portrayed as being entirely natural, thereby deceiving and misleading audiences. The author´s views are provocative as he describes wildlife films as just another form of entertainment for the masses.
Go Wild with your Camcorder: how to make wildlife films by Piers Warren
This is, to my knowledge, the only book about practical aspects of wildlife filmmaking. It gives an overview of the different types of equipment, camera techniques, and the overall process of creating a film from planning to editing. The author is the founder of www.wildlife-film.com an independent website for wildlife filmmakers and www.wildeye.co.uk a prestigious wildlife filmmaking school based in the UK.
The Book of Animal Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson
A light and funny account of the curious characteristics and bizarre behaviours of animals. It illustrates how diverse and strange the natural world can be while showing, at the same time, its magnificent wisdom.