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When we reached Casey Anderson by phone at his home a half-hour away from Yellowstone National Park, the host of Nat Geo Wild’s upcoming Expedition Wild was in the middle of packing for a five-day stint of camping in a snowy cave in the park to get some documentary footage of wolves in their natural habitat. Making a film in the middle of winter at Yellowstone means living outdoors in temperatures of 20 below zero, but Anderson, who grew up in rural Montana, wasn’t all that concerned personally about enduring the brutal cold. “In fact, it’s kind of great,” he said. “Before I became a filmmaker, I was always doing this. The tough thing now is having other people involved who aren’t necessarily used to it, having to work with equipment that’s not designed for the cold. It’s not like being out there with just my binoculars. There are a couple of layers of additional difficulty.”

The snow, Anderson explains, actually makes it easier to cope with the hardship of sleeping in a cave in sub-zero temperatures. “We can build a snow shelter, which is surprisingly effective at insulating us from the cold. It’ll maintain a 32-degree temperature inside the shelter. That means that not only do we not have to take a tent, but we can take lighter sleeping bags as well. That’s a big advantage, because we’re not one of those film crews that has 15 porters to carry their stuff. You can’t have that many guys along, because it inhibits wildlife behavior.”

Anderson does concede that it’s a lot easier to shoot a documentary in the wild than it used to be in the days when filmmakers used actual film cameras. “When you’re going out for five days, remember, you’ve got to take along five days worth of batteries, as well,” he explains. “The old cameras had motors, and those burned though batteries like crazy. Now we use these Panasonic digital cameras that don’t have any motors at all. When you just have to throw digital data onto a card, it means you don’t have to take as many batteries, and that’s a lot less weight to lug around.”

But even with state-of-the-art equipment under ideal weather conditions, shooting good-quality video of wild animals in the wilderness can be an exceedingly difficult challenge for Anderson and his crew. “Fortunately, we’ve been through a lot together,” he says. “So we’ve got some experience at doing this.” But even so, nature isn’t always predictable.  “Usually just when we think we have our stuff together, something will happen right in front of us, and we’ll have to go into a fireman drill.”

Anderson recalls, for example, a spring expedition to obtain rare footage of grizzlies killing elk calves. “I figured out some places where it happens, so we went there and started getting set up. Then, all of a sudden, it started happening—a grizzly was attacking a calf. So we’re ripping out the backpacks, throwing out the cameras and tripods, trying to find everything. It looked like a yard sale. We get a camera turned on, and the battery turns out to be dead. So we get another battery plugged in, and discover that the lens is completely fogged over. By the time we got it cleaned off, the whole thing was over. If it was me just out there hiking, I wouldn’t have to worry about any of that. It’s one thing to see something and tell stories about it, and it’s another whole thing to document it visually, and do it well enough that you can show it on television.”

Getting close enough to shoot video of big, powerful wild animals like bears and wolves necessitates learning to accept a certain amount of danger as well. “You have to keep reminding yourself that no matter what happens, just keep rolling,” Anderson says. “We’ve had bears charge after us. Something like that happens, you tend to think about self-preservation, and forget what you’re doing Later, you can’t believe that you risked your life and then forgot to hit the button, so you even have anything to show for it. That’s why we talk about having three f’s, instead of two. There’s fight or flight, and there’s filmmaking.”

Even when Anderson goes into wilderness habitats to observe nature, he still keeps a lifeline to civilization. In addition to the 80 or so pounds of camping and survival gear that he carries, Anderson takes along a Blackberry and a solar charger. “I’ve found that wherever I am, I can still usually get a connection these days, even if the cell signal has to bounce off a mountainside and a bison.” He uses the gadgetry, among other things, to regularly update his Facebook page. “I love seeing all this stuff,” he says of his wilderness jaunts. “But I love even more being able to share it with people.”

Comments

  1. huntarchy
    April 7, 2010, 3:19 pm

    When will this show be avaliable in the UK?

  2. Mountainmanrob
    May 17, 2010, 1:08 am

    Great Show!! I love it.

  3. bazsmith
    December 9, 2010, 12:21 am

    Wow, sounds dangerous with the grizzly, but what an adventure. Its great for getting paid for what you love doing.

  4. Betty Wright
    Oneonta Alabama
    August 11, 7:24 pm

    Love your show Expidition Wild. I am in Bozeman Mt visiting my daughter & her family. I am wondering what channel your
    Show comes on here in Bozeman. Also what time? I believe my grandson’s would love your show.