Filming Otters in October on Mull with Sean and Adam

wildlife filmmaking course otters

We have just completed our last 2019 course on the Isle of Mull. October saw Sean and Adam joining us at our base cottage on the island. Prior to their arrival we had worked with them via email to develop their concept ideas, progress to storyboarding and creating shot lists. This is a vital stage in the course as it develops and pushes ideas in order to be prepared to hit the ground running as they arrive on the island. They didn’t know each other but soon bonded over coffee and cake on arrival!

Adam and Sean came with different reasons for joining us.

Sean is in his second year of university, studying film and television production but wanted to further his experience filming wildlife and being predominantly outdoors. A creative camera operator, Sean took every opportunity to find new angles and different ways of approaching the same shot. Sean had never seen an otter in the wild before and this was top of his list. This is Sean below getting to grips with the EVA1 camera.

Adam had been involved in some film club groups and had also recently been to Africa on holiday where he took lots of stills images of wildlife. He was looking to increase his confidence and skills in order to create short films on his own. He also had never seen a wild otter and was desperate to do so. He was also keen to film a sun set. As you can see below, he nailed it and it’s used as the final parting shot in his film.

On the second day in, we headed out to one of the lochs where we knew of good otter activity. We can never guarantee wildlife of course, but we are experienced in fieldcraft and spotting, with both myself and Andrew on silent radio coms, we are able to cover large areas. We will also be checking for spraint sites that may indicate recent activity. It turned out to be one of those perfect days where everything came together. Good communication between myself and Andrew meant that before long we saw a mother otter with her two cubs. Both Adam and Sean were thrilled but stayed composed and carried out fieldcraft perfectly, ensuring the otters were not disturbed or even aware of our presence. We were some distance away, around 80ft.

After around 30 minutes of the otters sunbathing on the rocks, the mother led them down into the loch. We decided to head back up to the Land Rover and leave them to it. Adam had managed some great footage using his own DSLR and Sigma 100-600. He was beaming.

As we approached the Land Rover I spotted the otters again, just 20 feet in front of us. I instructed Sean and Adam to drop slowly to their knees and just freeze. No movement, no reaching for cameras. The mother otter looked straight at us and turned to take her cubs back to the loch, she was not spooked, just chose to give herself distance from us. I knew it highly likely she would be back so I asked Sean and Adam to reach slowly for their cameras and to get in position. We waited, motionless, making no sound.

a screengrab of one of the otters we filmed on Mull

Within a minute, mother otter came back with the cubs and we were now sat directly in front of them. The mother was not threatened by us at all and the family unit continued to roll, play and fish right in front of us. It was breathtaking.

We stayed in position for around 40 minutes until the mother otter decided to call it a day and take her cubs home, heading out across the loch.

It was an incredibly special moment for us all and Sean and Adam had had one of the best otter experiences imaginable. They could hardly speak! With such fantastic otter footage in the bag, everyone relaxed and knew that any other footage would be a bonus.

We covered a large area of the island over the 5 days, capturing wonderful footage from cameras, the drone and out on the RIB using Osmo Action cameras. We attached one to a long boom to get some great underwater world scenes.

Adam doing a great job filming seals from the RIB.

an underwater scene taken using an Osmo Action camera

We thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Adam and Sean, from traveling around in the Land Rover, filming and spotting to good conversation over a home cooked supper in the evenings.