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The making of Braving the Elements

To BIAFF 2009 results | To Full Making Of Index

Braving the Elements by Kay Bamford-Burnell won a 4-Stars Award at BIAFF 2009.

Kay has been an important figure in the Midlands and in CEMRIAC for many years. She was the first film maker to feature in what is now the Making of... series of articles. (See A Day in Kenya's Bush.) She is a popular judge and has given talks on judging amateur films. We were curious about how her background led her towards taking a lead in various committees, training initiatives and enterprises ... and to making remarkable wildlife movies.

Lying down in bird poo

Still from 'Braving the Elements'. Still from 'Braving the Elements'.

From Aircraft Mechanic to Magistrate

I was born in Hitchin Herts. and we moved around quite a bit, ending up in Reading when I was quite young. After leaving school, I enlisted in the Women's Royal Naval service at 18 to follow a career as an Aircraft Mechanic. At 20 following the death of my father and being the eldest of 6 children I was discharged on compassionate grounds in order that I might follow in his footsteps into the entertainment business to help support the family.

At 21 I branched out on my own and proceeded to open businesses across the south of England promoting Boxing, Wrestling, Ballroom Dancing, Roller Skating and all the Top Pop Groups until 1959 when I moved to Worcester to open the Majestic (the former Public Hall in the Corn Market). The same combination of entertainments ensued for many years until the Bingo craze hit the UK when I then started to promote this more vigorously. With anticipated redevelopment of the Corn Market area I then opened a purpose made hall in Warndon Worcester for the sole purpose of Bingo.

I made many friends during the years at The Majestic until I decided to take early retirement. I then served as a local Magistrate for the Worcestershire and district areas.

Filming animals silence is golden

It was around this time and seeking a hobby I first developed an interest in film making. My first camera was a cine and I then went to video using a Panasonic M7. Technology was changing very quickly at this time and I soon progressed to a Sony Hi 8 camera and then later a Sony TRV 900 and finally to my current SonyA1.

I have enjoyed filming action events such as Motor Racing, Balloon Festivals, and (being a keen Water Skier and Windsurfer) all water sports, but have always loved the animal kingdom in any shape or form. Of late I have concentrated on this subject but I do however make films for charity events and have done a few weddings but these have not excited me as much as wildlife.

Of course I made many mistakes in the early days and still continue to do so, my main failing initially was being too impatient. However I soon learnt that when filming animals silence is golden and one must be very patient to get that special shot.

I acquired a computer and now use Adobe Premier ProCS3 on which I edit all my films. I have never found learning easy and discovered by far the best way to acquire the skills for editing and adding music etc is by trial and error.

Still from 'Braving the Elements'. Still from 'Braving the Elements'. Still from 'Braving the Elements'.

The more I filmed the more I became hooked

Living in Worcestershire there are many places where wildlife can be found and the more I filmed the more I became hooked. Greater leisure time and annual holidays allowed me to be more adventurous and I have been fortunate enough to visit Kenya, Australia, India, the Galapagos, Canada, and the Antarctic; these trips have provided me with superb material for wildlife filming. Whenever possible I use a tripod and always prefer to use as much natural light and sound that are appropriate and spend many hours seeking suitable background music when required.

For most films I may shoot up to 10 hours and then edit this down to the required time for a competition usually around 14 - 16 minutes. The key to success I believe is incredible patience and attention to detail. Frequently very good films can be spoilt due to the producer trying to use every trick in the computer's repertoire. Simple and clean cuts often produce the best results with appropriate background music at limited volume.

Having been successful with a number of films at Worcester Camcorder Club where I served as Chairman for some years I was then persuaded to join the IAC. I also served for some years as training officer and later as Chairman on Central and East Midlands Region (CEMRIAC) council. I was very proud to be awarded the Certificate of Fellowship IAC in 2007.

Braving the Elements

Still from 'Braving the Elements'.Still from 'Braving the Elements'.My most recent success is with Braving the Elements in BIAFF this year.

The main purpose of my trip this year was to find the King Penguins. I was delighted not only to find thousands of them, but also other breeds of penguins. Plus Skewers, Albatrosses, Seals and Sea Lions. It took twelve months to arrange my trip to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Arriving at Ushuaia in Argentina after a long flight I was ready to board my ship Grigoriy Mikheev which was to be my base for the next three weeks. Its is a former research vessel is manned by an extremely capable Russian crew.

With 40 passengers we set off using Zodiacs (inflatable boats with outboard engines) to transfer us from ship to shore at times in very rough conditions. The terrain was very rugged and hilly, the weather was wet, windy and cold. Much of my filming had to be shot lying down often in bird poo, the smell was horrendous. I used stones to steady my camera. A few times I stood in the polar sea to get different angles for my clips and had very wet and cold feet.

For me a tripod is a must, I never film without it. On one excursion the long climb up a steep river bed to reach the Albatrosses sapped my strength. It was very windy and at one point my tripod and camera were sent flying. I managed to save my camera with a rugby tackle.

I had to wear two pairs of gloves: one pair silk to enable me to use the camera, the other thick thermals to stop my fingers freezing. Focusing was manual or left on infinity. I had to keep batteries in my inside pockets to keep them warm and functioning.

Noting the judge's comments

Still from 'Braving the Elements'.My first competition with the IAC was in 1999 the film was entitled A Day In Kenya's Bush, which gained the judges recognition. Since then I have been fortunate enough to have some of my films meet international approval including Survival Of The Swan, Tara, and Galapagos Wild Life.

By noting the judges' comments over the years,I have hopefully improved over the years and been able to share some of my limited knowledge with my fellow members at the Wyre Forest Video Club Kidderminster.

When I am not filming I enjoy my garden and travelling away in my motor caravan across the UK. There are so many beautiful places and things to see in this country and there is always a rally or similar going on every weekend. I spend time at my local hospital visiting patients as a chaplaincy volunteer, which I find very rewarding. Sadly I lost my dear husband, Ken, four years ago. He was my constant companion on these trips and encouraged me to travel further afield to film.

I would encourage anyone to pick up a camera and 'have a go' as apart from an exciting interest it is a great way to meet people and make new friends.

- Kay Bamford-Burnell

See Kay's article about A Day in Kenya's Bush.

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