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Cameras, Mounts and Mountain Lions: In the Wild with Casey Anderson

What kind of gear does a nature filmmaker take into the wilderness? Documentarian Casey Anderson says he uses a range of cameras, from a RED to a GoPro. “It depends what I’m trying to achieve.”

Nighttime shooting is a common occurrence. Anderson estimates he shoots at night 50 percent of the time and has specialized cameras for the task. “I use a little Canon XA25 with built-in infrared. I also have the P660 made by FLIR, which is a military-grade thermal imaging camera. A mountain lion could be holding absolutely still on a cliff face—no way could I see him with binoculars, but with this camera I can see his heat, zoom in with a long lens and shoot.”

According to Anderson, almost more important than the camera is the weight and versatility of the entire package. “To get a camera package to the top of a mountain and deal with logistics and capture behavior is a constant struggle,” he says.

The Sachtler Ace L tripod with carbon fiber legs is always part of his kit. “It’s an amazing little tripod,” he says. “It is so tough and lightweight, I can take it anywhere. I’ve carried that thing up and down mountains, everywhere you can imagine. I always grab it, and it’s what I use for a RED, GoPro or even setting up my IR light.”

Wildlife will stay away if they see light, so he’s had his challenges figuring out the best way to light a scene without frightening the wolves or mountain lions. The MiniPlus infrared light from Litepanels has become invaluable to him. “The Litepanels IR light is a super power,” he says. “I can see in the dark but it doesn’t inhibit the lion’s behavior.”

Anderson also brings the Sachtler Ace Accessories Kit and uses its follow focus and mattebox. “It’s a little, lightweight, tough package,” says Anderson. “To be in the middle of nowhere and have the ability to do a perfect rack focus from the antlers of a deer to its eyeball is amazing. In wildlife cinematography, you only get one take—when the chance comes, the follow focus takes the guesswork away.”

The combination of Anderson’s wildlife know-how and cinematography skills, together with his toolset, has enabled him to capture some extraordinary footage. “With this gear and using IR lighting, we’re seeing things that no one else has ever seen,” he says.