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Swooping down from the top of a saguaro down to the desert floor: Howard moves the crane while Martin drives the camera.

Swooping from the top of a saguaro down to the desert floor: Howard Bourne swings the crane while Martin Dohrn drives the camera. Tucson Mountain Park.

What was I doing in Arizona last month?

Thanks for asking.  I was helping a film crew wrangle harvester ants for an upcoming National Geographic documentary.  The crew, an all-star cast of nature cinematographers including Martin Dohrn, Howard Bourne, and Gavin Thurston, is still in the field- you can follow their progress by blog. The program is tentatively titled “Planet of the Ants” and should be on television in 2010.

If there’s one thing I learned from the experience, it is that nature films are strenuous work.  A night with more than 5 hours’ sleep was unusual.  We’d often film well past midnight, only to be up before dawn to catch the early morning foragers at another site.  The equipment occupies 20 heavy cases and is constant need of being loaded, unloaded, or carried about here and there.  The hotter the temperature (and we saw temps in Tucson above 108º), it seems the farther and more frequently the gear needed to be ferried about.

But no matter.  The shoot was tremendous fun, and I could not imagine a more genial lot than Martin, Howard, and Gavin.  Below is a photo essay from the week.

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