I’m a fan of nature and wildlife shows – and there is no better source of amazing imagery and stories than National Geographic. I am interested in learning more about the creatures and how they interact with their environments and with each other in general, but I am even more interested in how the explorers, photographers and videographers manage to capture these incredible photos and videos. That’s why I was excited for the opportunity to chat with Alex Cooke, Director of Photography for “Savage Kingdom.”
“Savage Kingdom” takes the standard wildlife documentary and adds another element – a narrative, complete with starring characters – to create a compelling narrative that simultaneously educates and entertains. By naming the “characters” and editing the footage to weave together a story, the show reveals how these animals live and the struggles they face, but also keeps the audience connected and emotionally invested in what happens.
There are many characters to get to know on “Savage Kingdom.” There are the leopards – Motshidi and Phefo, the lions – Tsebe, Thata, and the Band of Northern Brothers, the dogs – Mogolo and Wame, and the hyena – Khutlo. Each has a unique personality and story, and the National Geographic team does a phenomenal job of constructing a narrative that highlights the drama – including both the triumphs and the challenges they face.
The fourth season of “Savage Kingdom” is a real-life drama from the heart of Mombo, Northern Botswana. A blurb from National Geographic explains,
“Since the tumultuous aftermath of the previous season, the Kingdom’s kings and queens return to purge the land of hyena rule and regain their rightful control. The worst drought in years has devastated the area, making it the perfect breeding ground for a war zone.
The tables are turning; dominance is shifting; and every player in this “Game of Thrones” must fight not only to survive but to defend his or her rightful place in an ever-changing, cut-throat kingdom. As more lions, leopards and African wild dogs enter this bloody battlefield to fight for their share of the power, only the strongest and most audacious can be victorious. War is the heartbeat of the Savage Kingdom; the story of life is written in blood; power is everything; and there can be only one ruler…right?”
Capturing the Story
I had an opportunity recently to talk to Alex Cooke, Director of Photography for “Savage Kingdom.” We talked about some of the “how” behind the epic series. How does Alex and his team manage to capture the astonishing footage from the wilds of Botswana that is then turned into the story we see?
Part of it is simply knowledge and experience. The team has to develop extensive skills in animal tracking and behavioural knowledge to know where to go in the first place. Over time, they have also gotten to know these specific animals—the central characters of “Savage Kingdom”—so they have some insight into where they go and how they act.
With that as a foundation, though, it comes down to having innovative cameras and technology to capture the sights and sounds. Watching the show, you feel like you are right in the middle of the action, and it leads you to wonder just how close the crew had to get. The combination of tracking skills, the established history with these particular animals, and high-tech equipment enables them to have equipment in the right place at the right time, and to capture the action from a safe distance.
Season 4 has already aired but you can find the episodes on YouTube.
Author: Tony Bradley
I am Senior Manager of Content Marketing for Alert Logic and Editor-in-Chief of TechSpective. I have a passion for technology and gadgets–with a focus on Microsoft and security–and a desire to help others understand how technology can affect or improve their lives. I also love spending time with my wife, 7 kids, 3 dogs, 4 cats, 3 rabbits, 2 ferrets, pot-bellied pig and sulcata tortoise, and I like to think I enjoy reading and golf even though I never find time for either. You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from me, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.