By Richard McGuire
Spotted Lake, the iconic Osoyoos-area landmark, makes an appearance in a new five-part CBC documentary cinematic series kicking off the new season of “The Nature of Things with David Suzuki.”
The series, “The Wild Canadian Year,” started Sunday, Sept. 24 with the first segment, “Spring.”
The Spotted Lake sequence, which is short, appeared the following Sunday, Oct. 1, in the second part titled, “Summer.” Once aired, episodes can be seen online at: http://www.cbc.ca/wildcanadianyear/.
“There isn’t anything more unique than Spotted Lake,” said Jeff Turner, the award-winning Princeton-area filmmaker who produced the series with his wife Sue.
“I’ve known about Spotted Lake all my life and have driven by it many times on the highway and stopped and looked,” Turner told the Okanagan Sun. “One of the things we wanted to do in the series was showcase some of the more rare, unusual and less-known landscapes in Canada. Certainly the Osoyoos area and Spotted Lake is one of those.”
When the Turners first showed pictures of Spotted Lake to the executive producers, they were enthralled and insisted it should be in the series, he said.
Spotted Lake is one of 75 stories from all 13 Canadian provinces and territories included in the series.
Unlike some of the stories that show intimate details of animal behaviour and survival, the Spotted Lake sequence concentrates on the landscape.
It features aerial views of the lake’s muddy mineral rings as evaporation exposes them in summer.
Turner said the sequence was filmed using drones and with the permission of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, which owns the surrounding land and considers the lake to be sacred.
The Turners have been involved for more than 30 years making wildlife documentary films for the BBC, Terra Mater, CBC, PBS, Discovery, Animal Planet and Eden channels in settings throughout the world.
These have included sequences in such landmark BBC Earth documentaries as “Planet Earth” and “Frozen Planet.”
“We’re kind of taking the same approach that you would take in a series like Planet Earth and applying it strictly to Canada,” said Turner. “Just looking at the wildlife and natural history story of Canada, it’s such an amazing country that we live in.”
But unlike the filming in Canada that the Turners have done for BBC, this time they did it for a Canadian audience.
“We want to do the same thing, but have it air on Canadian television,” he said.
When Turner spoke to the Okanagan Sun, he was already working on another project on the remote Gribbell Island on a Pacific coastal inlet southeast of Prince Rupert.
When he filmed “The Wild Canadian Year,” he had a chance to visit many such remote areas of Canada and observe the behaviour of wildlife he’d never filmed before.
“I’ve been filming wildlife for 30 years, but until this series, I never had a chance to film animals like polar bears, for example, and spend time in Hudson Bay,” he said. “The sequence at the end of ‘Summer’ with the polar bears hunting beluga whales was a real highlight. That was something we discovered no one had ever filmed before. Even scientists didn’t know about it.”
Getting intimate scenes of animal behaviour is a combination of getting to know that behaviour, winning the trust of animals, and having the right equipment and photographic skills, he said.
And it’s different for different animals.
“What we’re trying to do is observe natural behaviour, so we’re trying to observe these animals without disturbing them,” Turner said. “For certain animals, that means you have to stay back and watch them from a distance. Other animals, it’s about getting them used to your presence.”
In one remarkable sequence showing star-nosed moles burrowing underground, Turner worked with a biologist to bring the moles into specially constructed tunnels created for the cameras rather than damaging their actual tunnels.
In another sequence, he was able to film fireflies at dusk using special light-sensitive cameras and working with a firefly expert.
“Those were challenging,” said Turner. “Every sequence has its own unique challenges.”
Some of the Turners’ previous work has been filmed much closer to home, including a film called “Living with Cougars” shot from their back door in Tulameen, northwest of Princeton.
They also did a film called “The Last Grizzly of Paradise Valley” set in the Similkameen area and Cascade Mountains.
The Wild Canadian Year features a new episode each Sunday from Sept. 24 to Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. on CBC Television.
Starting with “Spring,” the series covers a different season in each episode.
The final episode on Oct. 22 is “Making The Wild Canadian Year,” which shows some of the feats of endurance and technical wizardry involved in the filming.
Once episodes have aired, they can be viewed online at http://www.cbc.ca/wildcanadianyear/.
A CBC blog post about the Spotted Lake sequence is headed: “BC’s Spotted Lake is the Most Magical Place in Canada.” It can be seen at: http://www.cbc.ca/wildcanadianyear/blog/bcs-spotted-lake-is-the-most-magical-place-in-canada.