The prestigious Wildscreen Film Festival was recently held in Bristol, England. Held every two years, the world’s leading event focuses on photographers, videographers and conservationists telling compelling stories about nature. Its mission is to reconnect people with nature through inclusive, accessible, and impactful storytelling, as well as through multiple networking events.
This year’s speaker list featured some of the most important voices working in conservation, including the ever-popular nature documentary narrator David Attenborough, songwriter and record producer Imogen Heap, and film director Darren Aronofsky, who is best known Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan and Noah.
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While some of the talks were delivered virtually, many of the talks were held at locations across Bristol, giving audiences the opportunity to engage, ask questions and have a more interactive experience.
Australian conservationist, photographer and videographer Doug Gimesy (opens in new tab) was just one of the incredibly passionate speakers attending this year’s event. He joined Ashwika Kapur, Clay Bolt and Fiona Tande on the Telling Local Stories panel where they discussed capturing engaging content close to home.
In recent years, Doug has been studying a specific species of bat native to Melbourne, Australia, where he lives. Bats make up 20% of the mammal population, and yet Doug believes they are “both misunderstood and underestimated.”
Most people don’t pay enough attention to them, he tells me, but Doug hopes his work will help people see the importance of bats around the world in controlling pests, pollinating plants, and even dispersing seeds. Fruit-eating bats, for example, can be responsible for up to 95% of seed dispersal in deforested rainforests and are one of the catalysts for biodiversity regeneration.
There are four main reasons Doug started working closer to where he lives:
1) to have more time to capture nature at different times of the day,
2) to build relationships and benefit from better access,
3) to reduce its cost and impact on the planet, and
4) delve deeper into an issue and give them the right to “stick my nose in and say, ‘Hey, not in my backyard.'”
Originally trained in zoology and microbiology, Doug has always had a deep connection to animal welfare and nature, but it wasn’t until 2012 that he picked up a camera. However, in 2016 he made it full-time and today he describes himself as a conservation, wildlife and welfare photojournalist. Doug hopes he can “inspire people to stop, think, and treat the world a little kinder” by using imagery as a method of communication that transcends language and culture.
Throughout his career as a photojournalist, Doug has published his photos in National Geographic, he has worked with the Natural History Museum in London and has appeared on national ABC radio to talk about his conversation work. But for Doug, winning the 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year final and winning the 2018 Wildscreen Photo-Story Award were the two moments that changed his career.
As well as showcasing the incredible work of photographers and videographers and giving creators time to talk about their conservation projects, Wildscreen has hosted the Panda Awards since 1982 – a sort of ‘Green Oscar’ celebrating the international wildlife film and television industry. The award consists of 20 categories and special awards, recognizing everything from the best emerging talent to the best written story.
This year, Doug appeared again in the Photo Story category as a finalist for his series Fighting the Heart, which explored the impact Australian bushfires have had on the local fruit bat population.
Although Doug admits he’s “definitely not a adopter” of new technology, he likes to have the latest versions of the devices he uses. Just this year he switched from a DSLR to a mirrorless system and is currently shooting with a Sony A1 (opens in new tab)a Sony A7 IV (opens in new tab) and several Sony lenses, including a Sony FE 16 – 35 f/2.8 GM (opens in new tab)a Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM OSS II (opens in new tab) and a Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II (opens in new tab).
Doug’s latest project was working with sniffer dogs; well-trained dogs capable of sniffing out the scent of target animals that humans cannot easily find, like dead microbats in wind farms and endangered species like koalas and tigers in forested areas.
If you missed this year’s Wildscreen Film Festival, you can still get access to all the talks and seminars by purchasing a virtual pass after the festival (opens in new tab). Whether you want to talk to Steve Backshall about sensational sharks or discuss Imogen Heap on how she created the score for the Climate of Change podcast, there’s a wealth of engaging and thought-provoking talks to be had.
Festivals like Wildscreen continue to be an extremely important way to communicate with the wider community about issues facing our planet and nature, and through these platforms Doug is able to raise awareness about bats, an animal he holds dear is at heart.
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