If your looking at filming or photographing Otters, you could find this article very useful.
When I set out to film otters I reached out to professionals in the industry known for Otter filming. This was to no avail, and I decided to learn by doing. I love filming wildlife and think that everybody should have access to filming animals as long as it's done responsibly - e.g not getting too close, putting the shot before the welfare of the animal, not scaring the animal etc.
These are the films I have made about Otters:
Other useful films to watch for inspiration.
A Ring of Bright Water
A Man, (Graham) buys an Otter who he names Mitch. Graham tries to raise the otter in the city, attempting to live with the otter in his house, which gets quite comical. Graham decides to leave his home and live in Scotland. Once in Scotland, he lets Mitch live in the wild and develops a love for nature. After witnessing a mother of 4 ducklings being killed, Graham takes them in to live with him and claims they are part of his family now. He goes to the local doctor, Mary for a check up of sorts and a love relationship develops.
Mitch at one point, leaves the safety of home and does not return for some time. Graham searches an island and to no avail, later he finds Mitch washed up on shore who appears dead. During the time Mitch was missing, the otter was spending the time with a another female otter.
Towards the end of the film Graham starts to sketch his Otter ‘Mitch’ on land, but soon realises how magical and perfect the otter looks when underwater. He build a water tank for Mitch to sketch him underwater. After leaving for a business trip, and returning, he finds his otter has been killed by a local farmer. Graham goes for a walk along the beach with his new female freind and come across otter puppies being looked after by their mother. It is soon apparent that these pups were Mitch’s. A quaint film of it's time.
When to FiLM
Otters are most active at dawn and dusk.
They spot movement quite well on the horizon. If an Otter raises it's head from the water, I would freeze until it dives back down. This is where smaller crews benefit, as it's less of a risk of being spotted by the Otter. Some Otters can be brazen and used to a human presence and you can get away with more mistakes than the more wild and elusive Otters.
Dawn and Dusk works out well for beauty shots (golden hour). If the sun is rising, you should be out ready to film them. When the sun is setting they will also be active.
Otters when teaching their young remain in the same location longer than if hunting .
Where to find otters is the hardest part.
The locations I have found otters are along the north west coast of Scotland. Just north of Oban along the coast. Coastal otters like the mix of fresh water and sea water. They get a good source of fish, although prefer to live around fresh water. I have also seen a family of three otters in Dorset along the Stour river. I am planning to return with a photographer friend and get some footage of them throughout 2017 (time allowing).
Get a long lens that's above 200mm (minimum), a solid tripod with a nice fluid head and a 4k camera if possible. I use a Sony FS7 4k camera, Sachter Tripod with FSB8T head, 100-400mm lens. I film in 3840x2160 (UHD) and then edit the footage in a 1080p sequence. This allows me to zoom in by x2 if I need to for closer shots.
To supplement the footage you could always invest in timelapse kit, a camera slider and aerial drone technology.
I would suggest staying somewhere with a mains power supply to charge up batteries and get a good nights sleep. It's always nice to cook food in a well equipped kitchen and store your camera kit in a safe place.
Think about how much kit you are taking, and the amount of people going with you. Then factor in if you will need a 4x4 vehicle if your going to remote locations with difficult access, or if you can get away with a normal car.
Food and Drink
Make sure you take a thermos for hot drinks to help those early morning starts and evening finishes. Snacks are always a good idea to keep you fuelled whilst your waiting patiently for those elusive animals.
Good ankle support boots, thick jumper, tough trousers, waterproof jacket and trousers, midge nets, thick socks, gloves and a warm hat.
Exclusive or Archive
There are different trains of thought on what to do with you footage once you have filmed it.
You can either keep it and make a video for yourself and keep the rights exclusive.
Some cameramen sell the footage on archive sites like; Shutterstock, Getty and Video Hive.
It doesn't really matter what editing software you use. I have FCP7, FCPX and Adobe Premiere Pro CC. I tend to use Adobe Premiere Pro as I prefer the quality of the exports.
I hope you found this information useful and I will add to this when time allows.
Aaron is a cameraman. He uses a personalised approach when making films.