Monday 22 December 2014

New look

I've switched to a calmer look to this blog, mainly because the old white-text-on-black-background made my eyes go funny. Hope you like it, but do let me know either way. It's a simple matter to apply a different theme if readers prefer it.

That parakeet video

Good grief, the tabloids had a field day with my short video on AirHeads, about decoying a parakeet that was shredding my apple trees. I was labelled "deranged" by the Evening Standard, and "super posh" by the Mirror.

In fact this destructive alien invader has been on the General Licence for a while, for the specific purpose of allowing people to protect things like... well, fruit trees. That didn't stop the RSPB, Animal Aid, PETA and other loonies making misleading statements to the press, giving the impression that shooting parakeets was probably illegal and I would most likely be banged up.

The video attracted some classic "hate" comments - the usual threats to kill or maim me (you gotta love these animal lovers), including one from a chap so incompetent that his mobile phone number is still just two clicks away from his threat to "put me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life". My favourite was the one that said I deserved to "be sodomised by a large African man". Tautology, racism and homophobia in one short phrase - that's got to be some sort of record!

Anyway, enjoy the video!

Shooting rabbits off a quad bike

Just go and film Geoff, they said. He's shooting rabbits off his quad bike, they said. Sure, no problem. Filming off a quad bike zipping across rough ground - I can handle that. Oh, and it's in the pitch dark...

Actually it came out not half bad, with the aid of some cunning lighting rigs powered by the fabulous Deben lithium lamping batteries (how does the film industry cope without these things?).

Mind you, my thighs took a week to recover from all that clinging on. I don't ride horses, but I imagine the problems are similar - at least, they would be if you were riding a horse and trying to hold a camera steady at the same time.

Filming foxshooting through a thermal imager

The second half of this episode of the Shooting Show is a piece I filmed with foxshooter Robert Bucknell and his friend Nigel Fulton - we were trying out some night vision gear, including a thermal imager. I managed to rig up a recorder to the thermal viewer, which gave a unique view of the night's events. Scroll to 11:32 for my bit.

Monday 3 November 2014

Foxing Irish style

Filming this one was a real challenge - not just the fact that we were going round on foot in the pitch dark, but busting through a herd of cattle in the dark is a little unnerving! My piece starts at 10 min 44 secs into the show.

It was an exciting night's shooting though, and interesting to see how different laws mean that Irish foxshooters go about things slightly differently to how we do it in England.

Pigeon shooting in Ireland with Jason Doyle

Here's a film I made for The Shooting Show with Jason Doyle in Ireland.

A foray into corporate video

Most of my videos are filmed as part of a regular programme or series, and usually tell a story such as a foxshooting outing, or a day's game shooting.

Recently I tackled a different sort of project - a couple of 'corporate' videos for accountants Saffery Champness.

These present a very different challenge, not least that the poor 'expert' is on-screen throughout, making it hard to edit so everything flows well. And of course you have to trust that the audience is sufficiently interested in the subject matter, and hold back on the distracting bells and whistles so they can really listen and understand.

The results are on Saffery's website - click on the images below to see them.

Monday 22 September 2014

My sheep video is famous!

Well it's not Fenton, but my little clip of a sheep tiptoeing across a cattle grid made it to the Huffington Post's animal funnies page.

Friday 19 September 2014

Driven grouse - wow!

Here's a sight to stir the blood. I had the opportunity to film driven grouse shooting near the Cumbria-Northumberland border - and what a day it was! The birds had grouped up in packs earlier than usual, and came over the butts in a tremendous flurry. It was a struggle to remember I was supposed to be filming, rather than just stand and stare.

This is a still from a slow-motion sequence. There are plans afoot to do something with the footage, but I'm sworn to secrecy. Watch this space!

Airgun hunting on Skye

AirHeads - shooting ginger rabbits on Skye

Postscript: My Mum found this one on YouTube and I got a right telling off, cos she doesn't like us to shoot the ginger rabbits!

Driven grouse and partridges at Farndale

Crow shooting in Ireland with Jason Doyle

Pigeon shooting with a young shot

Fox control with Geoff Garrod

Good heavens, it's more than two months since I posted here! Not because I've done nothing, but because I've been so busy!

Here's a piece I did for The Shooting Show, waiting with gamekeeper Geoff Garrod for some fox cubs he'd spotted and wanted to clear off the shoot before they did any real damage.

Next up I'll post a few other items that have appeared recently, on The Shooting Show and on Fieldsportschannel's AirHeads series.

Thursday 10 July 2014

An interview with gamekeeper Geoff Garrod

The latest episode of The Shooting Show features an interview I filmed with gamekeeper Geoff Garrod. He's a lovely chap, conscientious about his job but with a deep love of the wider countryside and wildlife generally - exactly what the antis find impossible to understand. But then people like that could never get their heads round the idea that a livestock farmer loves his animals then sends them to slaughter.

Filming was a challenge; it was a very bright day, and windy too, and I was desperately short of time. I wished I could spend a whole day just filming him going about his work - or even a year, chronicling the life of a keeper. Still, in the real world who's going to pay for that?

As always, back in front of the computer I kept wishing I'd done things differently; it's always a learning experience. Overall, though, I think the real Geoff comes through reasonably well, and by the tone of the comments it seems viewers like this slightly different style. I'll be trying to improve and refine it in future work.

Barnaby the bully

I've been experimenting with video settings on my Canon 550D, and I recently got an adaptor so I can use it with an old Olympus 300mm f/4.5 lens that was sitting around gathering dust. Here is a little clip I shot from the bedroom window. The chicken house is 40 yards away, but with the crop factor of the APS-C sensor I'm getting the equivalent of a lens of 450mm or so.

I'm pleased with the result - the colours look natural even after I've boosted the saturation and added a bit of S-curve in Hawaiki Autograde.

As for Barnaby, he's a complete hooligan. I'm going to try putting up a few short sections of low fence in the hope of keeping them apart, or at very least giving the chickens a head start when he gets a mood on.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

England's shooting team prepare for the Commonwealth Games

I made a short video for the CPSA about the England shooting team's preparations for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. It's up on their website - click the pic below to visit the page and view the video there.

CPSA website will open in a new window

In the Fox Box with Gary Green

Here's my latest film with Gary Green; unusually this one appeared on Fieldsports Channel, as part of their Fieldsports Britain programme. It was a good night, and I was pleased with the way my infra-red filming gear worked. If you were there, the view out across the field was pitch black, but the camera makes it look like broad daylight.

Slow-mo squirrel shooting

Here's my latest piece on AirHeads. They're uploading the show as a playlist instead of a single video - apparently it's the future, but I just find it confusing.

Continuing my earlier experiments with placing a camera near the bait point, I've improved the slow-mo settings for the camera and worked on getting better lighting. This squirrel happened to show up at the right moment for some strong backlighting from the sun, which shows up every detail of the dust and what-have-you thrown up when it was hit.

I notice there have been some negative comments on Facebook recently about slow-mo kill shots, and I agree they can be over-done. What I like about this one is that it shows a totally clean kill, with the squirrel dead within a couple of frames, or less than 1/25th of a second.

Does this sort of thing 'encourage' the wrong attitude to pest control? I'm not sure. People are what they are, and if someone has a responsible attitude to killing pests this video isn't going to turn them bad. Likewise a hooligan is a hooligan, he doesn't need to watch this to help him become one. Maybe you disagree? I'd be interested to hear your views.

Oxford Gun Company's open day on Schools Challenge TV

Squirrel shooting on AirHeads

Filming shooting is always complicated; filming yourself shooting can be downright impossible! I've been experimenting with ways of leaving a camera running near the spot where I expect the quarry to appear. This one worked rather well, almost too well in fact. The full footage is gory and horrible, and needed to be cut for inclusion in the show.

My bit starts at 10:45 but as always the whole show is worth a watch.

Big pigeon day with Geoff Garrod

Schools Challenge TV - the Browning Open 2014

Pigeonshooting again with Geoff Garrod

Schools Challenge - Bredon Festival Sporting shoot

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Girls with guns

Here's the latest episode of Schools Challenge TV, this one featuring an interview with Amber Hill and several others that I've filmed over the past few weeks. It's a good episode I think, and certainly gets the message across that shooting is as much for women as for men.

Charlie comes sniffing round

Living in deepest suburbia, we don't get to see the wildlife you'd encounter in the countryside, although it's surprising what we do see, either in the garden or when we're out walking the dogs in the local woods. One of the nice things about Surrey is that there are acres of public commons where you're free to walk, cycle, ride, etc; paradoxically in the countryside you tend to be more restricted where you can go, as so much of the land is owned and farmed by someone.

When I moved here, around 20 years ago, it was rare to see a fox. Nowadays you can almost guarantee to spot a few if you're driving late at night, and we often come across signs of them in the garden and in the road outside the house. They're still quite shy, mostly, unlike some places where they are becoming very bold.

I caught this one on a trailcam, sniffing round the duck pen at the end of the garden. I knew we had a fox visiting, but I'm glad I didn't bother sitting up for it as the trailcam didn't snap it until 3.35am. This one looks less keen on the ducks and more interested in sniffing where the labs have been.

I'm reasonably confident that the duck pen is as foxproof as it can be, but I'll keep a close eye on the situation!

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Not so much of the 'late' if you please

Had a call from an old contact today, pointing out that I'm billed as "the late James Marchington" on this account of the development of the Parry survival knife.

Much as I admire Mel Parry and his long association with 'The Regiment', it's misleading in a couple of ways. First, to the best of my knowledge I'm not dead yet. And second, the knife was developed largely by Steve Collins of PS5, although I don't doubt Mel had some input at the time.

Still, I'm flattered by all the nice things he says about my book, and it is a good looking knife. At the time I wrote the book there was no production model available for testing or photography so we illustrated it with Steve's drawings.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Amber Hill, Clayshooter of the Year

Here's an interview that I filmed with Amber Hill at the CPSA's 2014 Awards, after she won the Clayshooter of the Year 2014 - well done to the CPSA for getting it posted on their website early the following morning.

Shooting in the dark

This foxshooting tale was quite literally filmed in the dark; fortunately I had some powerful IR lamps and an IR camera which makes it all possible - and Robert and Nigel had night vision spotters and riflescopes so they could do their thing without any need for visible light either. But if you'd been driving by at the time and looked straight at us, you'd have seen nothing at all. Spooky.

Pigeonshooting for The Shooting Show

This episode of The Shooting Show includes an outing after pigeons that I filmed with gamekeeper Geoff Garrod in Essex. It was a frustrating day as you'll see, but that made for an interesting tale and we made a decent bag in the end. I'm pleased they chose a frame from my slow-mo sequence for the title frame of the video - it took a lot of effort to get that shot right.

Test driving the new Range Rover Sport

Here's a programme I filmed for Schools Challenge TV, in which we do a SCTV-style Top Gear test of the new Range Rover. It's a fabulous car, and I could have done with lots more time to film it zipping through the Oxfordshire countryside. But the best fun was watching Tom and Heather explore the car - their irreverent, jokey style is the antidote to all those pompous car reviews.

Baiting crows and magpies for AirHeads

This one was an interesting challenge - I set out to film crows and magpies eating some eggs that I put out as bait. It took a few attempts, but with patience and some cunning camera placement I got some good footage in the end - I particularly like the bit where the crow smashes into the egg, and if you turn up the sound you can even hear him swallow! I was amazed to see that I'm berated in some of the comments for wasting opportunities to shoot. Some people are never satisfied!

Friday 14 February 2014

Foxshooting with Robert Bucknell

Here's the tale of a recent outing with Robert Bucknell, after some foxes that are taking rather too much interest in a flock of sheep about to lamb. It's the first item in this episode of The Shooting Show, coming just after the intro sequence.

As usual, Robert and Nigel tested my camera skills to the limit - they have shot together for years and seem to read each other's minds. They certainly don't give me much clue what they've seen and what they're about to do next. It's all done in almost complete darkness, and total silence. I'm filming with night vision, which helps but it's hard to see much in the viewfinder.

If you're not careful, the camera is pointing one way when, bang, it's all over and you never saw a thing! Quite a result, then, that I managed to catch both kills on camera - just!

Rat shooting with an air rifle

Here's the latest episode of AirHeads, in which I visit some friends who are somewhat over-run with rats. They're running about the place in broad daylight, which gave me the opportunity to get some unusual daylight rat footage. My bit starts around 16:35.

Schools Challenge TV goes to buy a gun

Here's a piece I filmed on a dreadful wet day at Oxford Gun Co for Schools Challenge TV. I thought Doug Florent came across very well, and had some good advice for people buying a first gun. He makes a very good point about people thinking they've a master eye problem when really their gun doesn't fit - a trap that a lot of more experienced shooters fall into.

Squirrel assassin

Fieldsports Channel have put up my garden squirrel shooting video as a standalone item - and it seems to be proving popular with close to 5000 views in the first four days.

Friday 31 January 2014

AirHeads: a mooch down memory lane

In the latest episode of AirHeads, I'm out in the woods with an old springer, a BSA Meteor, just like the one I had from the age of 11. My bit's at 18:35, but watch it all!

Driven pheasants and partridges

It was a challenge to film the item on Paul Childerley's Bedfordshire driven shoot for this episode of The Shooting Show. It's never easy filming any type of shotgun shooting, and live birds are much less predictable than clays. I've developed a technique of holding the camera to my right eye and zooming until it matches the picture from my left eye, then keeping both eyes open while locking head/camera/neck so they move together. Well, it helps me!

I cheated a bit, if you want to call it that, by setting up a Sony AS15 behind the gun and leaving it running throughout the drive. In the edit, I always had the fallback of a wide shot to cover what I'd missed with the hand-held camera - and I needed it quite a bit!

It's hard to convey the reality of a driven day on video. The birds either look too close or miles away, depending on the lens, angle, etc. If you stop and think about it too hard, the action is all over and it's too late.

Some of the birds on the video look lower - and easier - than they were in real life, a fact that's clearly lost on the couple of sneering commenters who seem determined to give shooting a bad name. All in all, though, I think it turned out quite well for a demanding day's filming followed by a quick turnaround on the edit.

Schools Challenge TV goes to the opticians

For the latest episode of Schools Challenge TV I went with David Florent to see Keith Holland, one of TSC Academy's sponsors. He's an expert in vision for shooting, and had some fascinating stuff to say about shooting glasses - plus I learned that contact lenses have come a long way and now more than 90% of people can wear them without problems.

From a technical point of view, I was specially pleased with the footage inside the opticians - tricky white balance, low light and lots of other problems, but it turned out rather well.

Plus we visited Bredon School to see what changes the new headmaster is making, and see how the school's shooting team is getting ready for the Schools Challenge.

More goose shooting on Orkney

This episode of The Shooting Show includes the second video in my series on wildfowling on Orkney. Magnus takes Gary for a chilly morning flight on a frozen pond - and Gary can't resist filling his boots! It's the first item after Pete Carr's intro, starting around 00:55.

Friday 10 January 2014

I'm an Air Head: official

I spend most of my time behind the camera, so it's odd to see myself on video - but here I am in the latest offering from Fieldsports Channel, Air Heads, in a self-filmed piece (does that make it a selfie?) about shooting a squirrel in the garden. My piece starts at 17:50, but the whole programme is worth a watch.

I expected some leg-pulling - and I got it! Some say I look/sound like Michael Caine, which I can live with. Less kindly souls have compared me to Bricktop in Snatch - not a nice chap at all, a villain known for feeding his victims to the pigs. I blame the glasses, although the grey hair and eye bags might have something to do with it.

Orkney goose shoot

This episode includes the first of three stories from my recent visit to Orkney, goose shooting with local guide Magnus Norquay. Thanks to Hamish Cromarty of Black Islander for fixing it up for us.

And if you watch through to 25:15, you'll find a short piece by me about the problems - and rewards - of being a cameraman on The Shooting Show.

Muntjac from a high seat

In this episode of The Shooting Show, I'm out with Gary Green who is up a high seat after a fox, but ends up shooting a nice brace of muntjac bucks.