This course will focus on the The Outer Hebrides & Wester Ross. The overall production will follow a ‘presenter’ in a sea kayak paddling up the whole length of the west coast of Scotland. Utilising a sea kayak will give us unprecedented access to all things wildlife as well as some extremely picturesque locations. The advantage of filming a journey in sea kayak is we will be able to film both on, and underneath the water, as well as on the land and from the air. The final film produced will make up program 6 of a 6 part wildlife/travel documentary series.
Ric Swift (The course instructor) is a very accomplished sea kayaker. It is now 25 years since he undertook a 3600+ mile journey to be ‘The first person to paddle a sea kayak, solo, unsupported around the whole of the British Isles’ for which he gained a Guinness World Record for being the first person to paddle from John o’ Groats to Lands End solo, unsupported in a sea kayak. (1365 miles)
Please Note – As a Wildlife Film School student, you do not need to have any experience in paddling a sea kayak to attend any of our 2024 courses, as you WILL NOT be paddling a sea kayak as part of your course.
The Outer Hebrides
The Outer Hebrides or Western Isles is an island chain off the west coast of mainland Scotland. They form part of the archipelago of the Hebrides, separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the waters of the Minch, the Little Minch, and the Sea of the Hebrides.
Most of the islands have a bedrock formed from ancient metamorphic rocks, and the climate is mild and oceanic. The 15 inhabited islands have a total population of 26,830 and there are more than 50 substantial uninhabited islands. The distance from Barra Head to the Butt of Lewis is roughly 130 miles.
Much of the western coastline of the islands is machair, a fertile low-lying dune pastureland. Lewis is comparatively flat, and largely consists of treeless moors of blanket peat. North and South Uist and Benbecula have sandy beaches and wide cultivated areas of machair to the west and virtually uninhabited mountainous areas to the east. The highest peak here is Beinn Mhòr at 2,034 ft.
The scenic qualities of the islands are reflected in the fact that three of Scotland’s forty national scenic areas (NSAs) are located here. The national scenic areas are defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery and are considered to represent the type of scenic beauty “popularly associated with Scotland for which it is renowned”
There are 53 Sites of Special Scientific Interest of which the largest are Loch an Duin, North Uist and North Harris. South Uist is considered the best place in the UK for the aquatic plant Slender Naiad, which is a European Protected Species.
Nationally important populations of breeding waders are present in the Outer Hebrides, including common redshank, dunlin, lapwing and ringed plover. The islands also provide a habitat for other important species such as corncrake, hen harrier, golden eagle and otter. Offshore, basking shark and various species of whale and dolphin can often be seen.
Wester Ross is an area of the Northwest Highlands of Scotland. Wester Ross has one of the lowest population densities in Europe, with just 1.6 people per km2, who live mostly in small crofting townships along the coastline of the region. The area is renowned for the scenic splendour of its mountains and coastline, and the range of wildlife that can be seen. Much of Wester Ross is designated as a national scenic area, one of 40 such areas in Scotland which are defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery. Scenic spots including Loch Maree, Inverewe Garden, Corrieshalloch Gorge, Glen Docherty and the Bealach na Bà.
Wester Ross is well known for its spectacular mountain scenery, especially the Torridon Hills which includes such peaks as Beinn Eighe and Liathach. Torridonian hills exhibit some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the British Isles, surpassed in grandeur probably only by the Cuillin of Skye. In contrast to the isolated Torridonian peaks that characterise much of Wester Ross, the mountains of Kintail in the south of the area take the form of peaks linked by ridges that rise steeply from narrow glens and the sea.
There are many different habitats in Wester Ross, ranging from the marine and coastal environment to mountain summits over 1000m above sea level. The coastline is mostly formed of cliffs and rocky shores covered with barnacles and seaweed. These cliffs are home to large numbers of seabirds such as puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots, black guillemots, cormorants and shags, whilst the rocky islets and skerries are important for harbour seals. There are also beaches and sand dunes. There is relatively little machair in Wester Ross compared to other parts of western Scotland.
Whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals area frequently seen in the outer lochs and open waters, whilst the more sheltered sea lochs contain rocky reefs, maerl beds and deep mud banks. Loch Carron is home to the world’s largest flame shell beds. The rivers and lochs of Wester Ross support important populations of Atlantic salmon and sea trout. Freshwater pearl mussels live in the gravel beds of clean, fast flowing rivers Otters and water voles are both present in strong numbers in the rivers of Wester Ross. The lochs also support internationally important concentrations of breeding black-throated divers, which is at the southern edge of its range in Wester Ross.
The course will take you through all the stages of –
• Initial program / script ideas & brainstorming
• Script writing
• Production ethics
• Presenter lead programming
• Presenters’ scripting
• Animal observation & tracking
• Filming on location
• Filming a Presenter on location
• Sound recording on location
• Video editing on location
• Audio editing on location
• Production of final film / documentary
• All necessary logistics & camp-craft
(We will also cover the elements below at various points during the course (Time Permitting))
• Locating / tracking Animals
• Map & compass work
• Navigation overland without a map
• Route planning
• Camp placement & orientation
• Base camp management
• Water management & sanitation
• Emergency procedures & actions
This course will be running from: Monday 5th to Friday 30th August 2024. This will be a practical course and you will need to be on location with us in Scotland for the full duration of the course.
We will be running 6 wildlife film courses during 2024, from March 2024 through to August 2024. Should you wish to, you are able to join us for more than one course.
Course Closing Date:
You need to have read, signed and returned your course booking paperwork back to us, and paid for your course, in full, with the equipment damage waiver before 5pm GMT on Thursday 29th February 2024, to be able to attend this course. Your place on the course is not guaranteed until you have done this.
This course is booked on a ´First-come, First-served´ basis, so it is highly recommended that you book early to secure your place. You will not be able to book on this course after this date.
You do not need to have any previous film production experience to attend a course. (However a basic understanding about the principles of ‘how a lens works’ as well as ‘shutter speeds’ and ‘exposure’ will help you)
We will take you through the whole process of producing a wildlife documentary film from start to finish including; script ideas, production ethics, script writing, presenter and voiceover-led productions, filming on location, recording audio on location and editing on location; as well as all the necessary logistics and camp-craft requirements to allow you to be able to successfully work in such a remote environment.
We can guarantee that four weeks of filming / working on location will give you an unprecedented amount of time for you to learn and improve both your camera and production skills in some truly fantastic locations. The west coast of Scotland by far is the best location in the UK to both see and film wildlife.
The entire four week long practical section of this course will be operating out of various basecamps situated in different locations throughout Western Scotland. Each course will have a maximum of 4 students working from a vehicle/s. The vehicle/s will have a course instructor and wildlife guide/driver, with the students occupying the rest of the vehicle. This vehicle/s will carry everything logistical we need for our time in Scotland; as well as selection of 4K cameras, lenses, audio recording equipment and other production equipment; plus various grip, tripod and support equipment.
During the whole of your course we will living / working out of a tented basecamp; which will have electrical power via a petrol generator. For your comfort each student will have your own 2-man mountain tent.
As part of your course fees we will supply you with:
• All 4K camera equipment
• All ‘on location’ production equipment
• All ‘on location’ 4K editing equipment
• All basecamp tents and equipment
• All staff and instruction
• All vehicles and transportation overland required during your course
Number of Students:
To minimise our impact on the ground in reference to the size of our base-camps, there is a maximum of 4 students permitted on each course.
The cost of your course is £6000 per student.
• All of the Wildlife Film School courses are booked on a ‘First-come, First-served’ basis.
• It is highly recommended that you book early to secure your place, especially if you are from outside of the UK
• You are not able to book after the ‘closing date’ of that course.
• Flights to and from the UK are not included in your course fees as our students fly in from many different destinations around the world.