Amber Ants

John Aitchinson asked me to do some work on an Amber project he was doing with Sir David Attenborough. They wanted to shoot ants tending scale insects, milking them like cattle, however the scale insects were only about 1mm in size.


To simulate the liquid Amber at the opening an endoscope was tilted out of a pint glass filled with honey. The ants were shot with PL mounted Zeiss Luminar microscope objectives on tubes using a focus stage and tilt wedge. Lighting was with a 400w HMI shot through a water scrim to absorb heat and a 5mm washer wrapped in foil positioned with an alligator clamp provided fill. The sequence had to be shot outside in the rainforest to get the milking behaviour. Hence the plant, light stand, scrim stand, and tripod were all braced together with a number of magic arms. We waited quite some time for a calm windless day – at this magnification any breeze looked like a tornado.


A smeary shot of Jimmy and I zooming down the trail to work. I had the local welder make up these mountain bikes to get the film gear in and out of the jungle each day for my Heliconia film. Sort of a reversed tricycle, looks kind of silly but they work great on muddy rainforest trails. After the shoot we donated them to OTS’s La Selva biological field station; researchers and BBC film crews still put them to good use.

clip from Amber Time Machine
Producer Director Camera: John Aitchinson
Cinematography: Phil Savoie
Field Assistants: Jimmy Trejos Camacho
Editor: Martin Elsbury
Aerial Cinematography: Robert Fulton
Super 16: Kodak 7218
Location: Costa Rica

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