WONDERS OF THE MONSOON – BBC TWO

Airs every Sunday for the next five weeks in the UK starting Sunday October 5th 2014

From India to Australia, all life awaits the transforming power of the monsoon rains. Step into a world where life is shaped by the greatest weather system on Earth.

The transforming power of the monsoon rains is the focus of a new series on BBC 2 that charts the effect on wildlife and people living in Australia and elsewhere in Asia. Here we share a few behind the scenes pictures taken during the making of #Wonders of the Monsoon.

Sandesh Kadur Chest deep in Water filming for the monsoon

Sandesh Kadur chest deep in water filming for the monsoon

I love the monsoon. I’ve always loved the monsoon… It’s no doubt my favourite time of the year in India. I remember that school used to begin right at the start of the rains in the month of June after the summer holidays. The only joy of going to school was the excitement of coming back home drenched in the evening. Later with a bicycle it was the joy of riding around in the rain. It was just plain fun.

So about two and a half years ago I met with the folks at the BBC about an epic new series they were bringing out, simply titled – Monsoon. What a great excuse to spend time out in the field – I couldn’t wait for it to get started! I kicked off the series shooting in June 2012 while the Monsoon series was still being recced. It was the first major flood in Kaziranga in over a decade. I had been working in this landscape for a few years before and in all that time, it had never flooded. So I told Jonathan Clay (producer for Deluge) that I was headed up to document this event, which went on to become a major component of the Kaziranga flood story. Here’s an edited clip on the BBC website for the upcoming show – this Sunday 12th of October on BBC two – UK.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p027vqmr

Fully soaked a herd of elephants cross the highway in the early hours of morning when the traffic is not too bad. Later in the day traffic on the highway causes a lot of stress to tired animals that jump back into the flood-waters unable to cross the highway due to constant traffic.

Fully soaked, a herd of elephants cross the highway in the early hours of morning when the traffic is not too bad. Later in the day traffic on the highway causes a lot of stress to tired animals that jump back into the flood-waters unable to cross the highway due to constant traffic.

To read more about that trip you can check out the blog report here:

http://www.sandeshkadur.com/2012/09/kaziranga-flood-in-pictures/

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We continued filming in Kaziranga for much of 2013. And in September 2013, there was a not-so-massive flood that occurred and in the last minute, Kathryn Jeffs (Producer for episode 1 & 3) along with Series Producer Paul Bradshaw rushed in with a whole load of kit to see how the animals would cope during the flood. One of the crucial shots was to get elephants and other animals as they crossed the highway. Getting those elephants crossing the road proved to be very tricky indeed and this sequence made it as the behind-the-scenes sequence in Episode 2 along with Jon Clay and Rob Wilcox trying to film mosquitoes getting hit by rain-drops inside a studio.

Paul Bradshaw &Kathryn Jeffs arrive on location to Kaziranga to help film the big Flood - Seen here with my right-hand forest gaurd Langpai Saro with a boatman

Paul Bradshaw & Kathryn Jeffs arrive on location to Kaziranga to help film the big Flood – Seen here with my right-hand forest gaurd Langpai Saro and a boatman

THE DELUGE – Episode 2 of 5

“In the far northeast of India, exceptional rain from the Bay of Bengal combines with meltwater from the Himalayas to create catastrophic floods in the river Brahmaputra. It floods Kaziranga National Park, forcing a herd of elephants to make the perilous journey across a busy road and come into conflict with humans before they can reach the safety of the hills.”

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The death of my Nikon:

All these years I kept a Nikon D7000 with me solely to do timelapses. The Brahmaputra claimed the camera as it was dutifully capturing the rising waters. I wish I had a great story of mis-adventure to tell, but sadly it was one stupid ass cow that came by and tripped the camera into the flood waters. Moral of the story – never leave your camera out there unattended. Well, it would’ve been a cooler story if it was a Rhino or an elephant that knocked it over, but it was just a local village cow…

End of a Nikon Timelapse mini-era

End of a Nikon Timelapse mini-era

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People of the Monsoon – Episode 5 of 5

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Later on in 2013, I filmed for Programme Five – this was a sequence of the elephant-human conflict in the paddy-fields of North Bengal and Assam. There was some difficulty in getting all the night-filming equipment that we needed, so in the end we filmed the whole sequence with the Canon C-300 that had just launched a new firmware upgrade that allowed you to shoot up to 80,000 ISO. Of course, I didn’t push the camera that far! Maybe only upto about 20,000 ISO – which was a great boon to be able to shoot in absolute natural light. So the C300 with a Canon Cinema 85mm 1.4 lens really proved itself well on this low-light, high-action shoot. That’s programme five, so it’ll be telecast on 2nd November.

 

 

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Filming paddy fields destroyed by elephants just before the harvest – Assam

Today, over half the world’s population lives under the monsoon, and side by side with some of the Earth’s richest wildlife. An extraordinary relationship between people and nature has been challenged by an increasingly developed modern world. This is an epic story of the past, present and hope for the future.

Here’s an edited clip on the BBC website for the episode – this Sunday 2nd of November on BBC two – UK.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p029h3lb

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An Indian Roller in the rain – Kaziranga National Park – Assam

The Transformation:

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In late-May/early June of 2014 we went out in search of the Bullfrog. To cut a long story short – we nicknamed it, the Great Bullfrog Chase – we didn’t find any. But what we did find was equally stunning if not more so! We found an orgy of bright yellow toads – basically the Common toad – Duttaphrynus melanostictus or that complex of toads breeding in a freshly filled pool of water in a streambed just at the start of the rains. It was just mind-blowing! I had never seen anything like it in all my years traveling across the Western Ghats. I was so glad to know that it made it into the film – can’t wait to see that sequence myself!

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Chasing the Bullfrog but catching a Golden toad orgy instead. Watch it here. (viewable only to residents in the U.K.)

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THE WILD BULLFROG TEAM:

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From Left to Right: Robin Conz, Nitye Sood, Sumanth Kuduvalli, Priya Singh, Sandesh Kadur.

Behind the Scenes:

Do also take a quick look at this behind the scenes extract from Episode 2!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

Here’s a great big shout-out of thanks to all the research folks and people in the field who helped make this production happen! Nothing would be possible if it wasn’t for the contributions of time given & interest shown by researchers, volunteers & amazingly helpful forest department staff & guards. The elephant sequence in Prog 5 would not have been possible without the last minute help by Neelam Dutta, who led us straight into a marauding herd of over a hundred elephants! To Bhuban Gogoi for turning up at the right moment to help with crowd control and drunk people management. That was probably one of the most difficult all-nighter sequence that I worked on. But it worked out, as I went on from shooting all night every night here and stayed on a nocturnal schedule for Urban jungle right after. Thanks also to the folks at Canon – Gaurav Markhan, Sana, who helped with the kit at the last minute. To Flir Systems India for their help in getting a thermal camera out with us. Enough digressing – back to the credits – all the forest staff & gaurds at Kaziranga National Park – Suresh Chand (Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam),  Field Director NK Vasu, DFO DD Gogoi, DFO Sharma, ACF Mr. Baruah, Tamuly, Rahman et. al Roopak Bhuyan, Ranjitda & the on ground staff – Langpai Saro, Deepak Saikia – who saved us from many near threatening moments.

Whilst looking for the Bullfrog we had a huge network of hereptologist and naturalist friends helping us look for it, but with an unpredictable monsoon, getting the bullfrog proved futile, but we did get the Golden (common) toad orgy! Thanks to all you folks who kept an eye out for the bullfrog – Shashank Dalvi, Vishnupriya, Viral Mistry, Dipti Mistry, Nirmal Kulkarni, Gowrishankar, Gerry Martin, Nilanjan Mukherjee, and many others – thanks for all your help! And thanks also to CR Naik – Forester from Anshi-Dandeli National Park who actually told us about the golden toads whist he was out looking for bullfrogs. We rushed to the spot which was over a hundred mountain kilometers away and were lucky enough to nail the sequence!

And, of course, a big thank you to the entire BBC Monsoon Production team!

Can’t wait to watch the whole series myself – Here’s the schedule

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p026glh9/episodes/guide

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p026glh9/episodes/guide

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