Ever wondered if your garden comes alive when you’re not looking? As a child I loved to think that, like in Toy Story, my toys came to life when I was at school and played together, just to kill time until I was back again.
Imagine if your garden was an intricate kingdom of characters and stories at night or while you were at work and you never got to see it. What if a friendly fox had befriended your shy cat and they played together all day long, took naps side by side in the sun and helped each other hunt?
I may have ventured into the realms of fairytale here but it is certainly true to say that your garden is alive and filled with nature’s wonderments that you should get to see.
Here’s how you can document your garden’s wonders and, like David Attenborough, create a masterpiece of natural footage that you can share with family members and make into an online video or a cool documentary that will inspire others to take notice of their garden’s secret life too.
Choose the Hot Spots
Spend a bit of time checking out your garden and choose the corners or spots you’d most like to monitor.
Popular spots could be in or outside your bird box, where you can capture the hatching of baby birds, the feeding frenzies, etc. Your bird feeder is also a great place to watch feeding time for birds and squirrels alike and the rivalry that develops between them.
You’ll capture some great action with cameras mounted on the ground too. Make them discreet so that they don’t upset the animals. Ground cams will capture foxes, badgers, voles, rats, mice, hedgehogs and all manner of lovely creatures!
Choose your Equipment
You can find some state-of-the-art cameras online now for very reasonable prices so do some research. There are companies that have entire sections on their websites for wildlife cameras, so they will offer a nice range in brands, prices and purposes.
You’ll want a few cameras in different shapes, sizes and resolutions for the various places you’ll be placing them.
Important things to consider here are:
You’re obviously not going to leave an unprotected camera out in the open. Wildlife cameras tend to come in camouflaged cases that are waterproof. Waterproofing is a prerequisite for this mission!
Some of the most magical wildlife activity goes on at night as so many animals are nocturnal, so I would suggest you find an infra-red camera with motion detecting capabilities that will capture the most detailed and captivating night shots.
Install the Cameras and Retreat
The magic will happen when you’re not looking so once you have picked your spots and acquired the equipment, take some time to install them carefully and then retreat to let the magic unfold before the lens.
While you are waiting for the footage, plan out what you will do with it.
Will you make an entertaining docu-soap with voiceovers to amuse your children? Would you like it to be like a short film about the wildlife people are missing out on in their very own gardens? Or just a cool, well-edited video with great background music and stunning HD shots of your garden’s wildlife?
You should be able to gather sufficient footage over the course of about 48 hours; two days and two nights. You’d be surprised at how much goes on in this time period in your back yard, especially when no humans are around!
Now, Back to the Studio!
Once you’ve collected your cameras, load all of the footage onto your computer. Back it all up immediately on an external hard drive if you have one.
There are many video editing programmes available, some of which come preinstalled on your computer, such as iMovie (Mac) or Moviemaker (PC). Opt for one of these basic programmes if you’re a beginner as they’re perfectly good to start off with. As you become more experienced with the editing process, consider more complex and expensive software like Apple’s Final Cut Studio 2.
This is the fun part, where you get to watch through the footage and see what was captured. You may come across a stand-off between slow worms, frolicking foxes or a parade of adorable baby hedgehogs passing through. Whatever you discover, seeing your garden through the lenses of wildlife cameras like these will make you see it in a whole new light!
And the Award Goes to…
Pick out the most interesting bits, use a time lapse function, choose all the best stills as well and put it all together. Your first nature video is made and will make the perfect gift.
If you have a family, you can organise a fun little family premiere of the video, invite a couple of friends round, serve drinks and nibbles and make a little fuss.
You can also upload it to YouTube, Vimeo or Dailymotion and share it on Facebook, Twitter, and on as many social media platforms as you can and wait for it to go viral (well, maybe).
You are now a certified David Attenborough in your own right – of your own garden, of course!
How would you make your own garden documentary?