Gorilla Murders

Bookmark and Share

Wed, 01/27/2010 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

The award-winning Gorilla Murders episode of Explorer on the National Geographic Channel posed a unique challenge for cinematographers Erin Harvey and Bob Poole. The film covers the complicated issues of politics refugees and the economy of charcoal production in central Africa that culminated in the death of a family of gorillas in a wildlife preserve. The investigative journalism was underscored with incredible wildlife footage supplied by cinematographer Poole who was able to capture the intense features of these animals with a Fujinon HA25X16.5BERD super telephoto HD field lens on a Sony HDW-F900 HD camcorder. 
  Poole’s footage combined with that of principal shooter Harvey contributed greatly to the four News & Documentary Emmy Award nominations for Gorilla Murders. The show won the Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism – Long Form. The episode also won an Outstanding Achievement Award at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. 
 To convey the emotional tale the producers wanted the gorillas looking as human as possible. “He wanted super tight shots of eyes fingers fingernails and expressions ” says Poole. “You can only get so close to the gorillas and then you have to rely on the long lens to get those details. The key is the lens is long. These Fujinon lenses are fast very sharp long lenses.”
Physically it was a challenging shoot for Poole who had to walk through forests and mountainous terrain. “Fortunately the lens is not huge and it’s very long and very fast ” he says. “At 6.5 pounds the Fujinon 25X16.5 is about half the weight of Fujinon’s 42x but it still has the length and the speed which is important in the dark forest. That’s what I like about it.”
 The HA25X16.5BERD has a focal range of 16.5 to 413mm with a maximum reach of 826mm when the internal 2x extender is employed. The other lens Poole used on the shoot was a Fujinon HA13X4.5BERD 13x wide angle HD lens with 2x extender. “At times I was really close ” he says. “I knew if I got low to the ground and used the handheld camera with the wide angle lens that would make the gorillas seem really big when they approached.”
 Poole also made use of the TS-P58A optical stabilizer on both cameras he used. “Not only is it a stabilizer but it adds 1.25x magnification so it becomes longer ” he says. “Most stabilizers are built into the lens. This one was better for me since I could take it off if I wanted to lighten the weight.”
 Fujinon www.fujinon.com Bob Poole www.poolefilms.com