One of the cardinal rules of documentary wildlife photography and filmmaking is to not interfere with the natural course of events in the scenes and situations you’re trying to capture on camera. A BBC wildlife film crew decided to break that rule by coming to the rescue of trapped penguins.
The Guardian reports that the crew was filming David Attenborough’s latest BBC series Dynasties in Antarctica when they noticed that a group of penguins had become trapped in a gully during a storm.
Believing that the birds were trapped and would die, the team entered the deep gully and used shovels to dig steps into one end to provide the penguins with an escape route.
BBC Earth describes the effort as an “unprecedented move” for its filmmakers, who determined that the intervention didn’t pose any danger to them or the animals, that they weren’t changing the dynamics of the natural system, and that they weren’t depriving any other creatures of food.
— BBC Earth (@BBCEarth) November 18, 2018
While some “orthodox” wildlife documentarians might object to the rescue, other top filmmakers are voicing support over the crew’s actions.
“Interfering or not is a decision based on what you’re seeing at the time,” veteran wildlife cameraman Doug Allen tells The Guardian. “To interfere on a predation event is definitely wrong but, in this situation, they didn’t spook the penguins. All they did was create an escape route for them.
“I certainly think, in that case, what they did was entirely justifiable and entirely understandable. I would have done the same thing in their situation.”