Bears, bats and brilliance: Karen Bass at TED2012

Posted by:

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

As a filmmaker and photographer, Karen Bass has traveled from one end of the earth to the other to film and photograph the earth, its creatures and people. Bass proceeds to show some of her truly jaw-dropping footage to an appreciative TED audience, much of it shot with the BBC or for National Geographic, often with beloved veteran natural world commentator, David Attenborough. For instance, take this film, of grizzly bears, a common enough topic — unless you’re filming them emerging from hibernation in Alaska. The only way to film that, she says, “is from the air.” And the only way to do that is to film with a gyro-stabilized camera, like a “flying tripod crane and dolly in one.” It took two years to get the shots: technology is a wonderful enabler; persistence is always critical.


Bass also shows a sneak preview of new footage she’s taken for Untamed Americas, a new series shot for the National Geographic Channel. The tube-lipped nectar bat is a 2.5″ bat with a 3.5″ tongue. (The same proportions in a human would mean a nine-foot tongue, a concept that seems to delight and horrify the audience in equal measure.) To shoot the footage of the bat plunging its tongue into pollen, Bass’ team cut a tiny hole into the base of a flower, installing a special slow-motion camera to slow down the action by 40 times. She concludes with footage shot in the Altiplano region of the High Andes, a truly otherworldly place where you can see the heavens and the stars with amazing clarity. Astonishing.