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Running (and Gunning) Wild with Shannon Wild and Russ MacLaughlin

Shannon Benson is a wildlife photographer, cinematographer, author, and conservationist who works with organizations such as NatGeo Wild, WildAid, United Nations, and other wildlife NGO's and non-profits to share her passion and spark action in ways of wildlife conservation efforts. For Shannon, wildlife photography started as a hobby, photographing her pets and local wildlife. She recalls, “it became an all-consuming passion” and eventually, with enough practice, she was able to pursue a full-time career in photography. As the years went by, her passion and determination only grew as she switched her attention to film. Wooden Camera was able to catch up with Shannon who, alongside Russell MacLaughlin, has just finished filming their latest National Geographic documentary.

Tell us about this collaboration. How did you come into contact with National Geographic?

Russ and I have worked with National Geographic in the past on various projects so when we came across this beautiful and rare Black Leopard in India we pitched the documentary concept to NatGeo and it evolved from there.

How many projects have you and Russ done with National Geographic?

I’m currently working on my third and Russ has a few more under his belt from previous years. In fact his very first filming job was for National Geographic over a decade ago.

What is the mission of this latest film with National Geographic? How long have you been working on it?

Filming has taken place over the course of 18 months and absolutely every second of that is needed, even more if the budget allowed. The cat is unique in that he’s the only melanistic leopard in that region so finding him is incredibly difficult. We went out every single day looking forward based on where we last saw him, his previous behavior, knowing his territory, where water sources are etc.  It’s basically an educated guessing game, one that really tests your patience.

Our mission is to showcase not only the beauty and rarity of this cat but also the very unique challenges it faces being so different to other members of its species.

During filming, your camera setup must have been constantly evolving - but what does your main configuration look like?

Our main configuration is the RED DSMC2 with Redvolt Expander as well as the Wooden Camera Master Top Handle, the Pass Through Top Plate, the Air EVF Mount and the Wooden Camera lens support systems with Zip Focus.

What is your most essential camera tool on location?

I have found the Zip Focus being incredibly handy with the filming we have been doing, making focusing on moving subjects just that much easier.

What Wooden Camera accessory has proved most efficient and reliable?

I must say everything we have had has been fantastic! The way we have had our cameras configured makes our lives, and shooting, so much easier but narrowing it down to one item: it would be our lens support systems. They have been perfect, as all the lenses we use are various mounts and heights and the kits allow you to support them perfectly.

What have been some of the highlights of the shoot?

Just being in the forest, the sounds of it make you feel alive especially when the forest reveals her secrets and one of the apex predators comes out leaving you in awe every time.

What comes next?

Filming is wrapped and now it’s in editing. Then it will have music composed and narration done - a really exciting period!  It’s due for release in December of this year (2019) on NatGeo WILD channel during Big Cat Week as the feature show.

You can follow Shannon’s journeys on Instagram and help support hard working conservation organizations through her Wild In Africa - Bracelets for Wildlife project. 

“I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved so far and have very big plans for it in future so definitely stay tuned!” - Shannon Wild

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