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'Numer of endemic species in lake Baikal is 1,455'
Marc Di Duca

Help us fund documentaries to showcase our stunning wildlife

By Derek Lambie and Olga Gertcyk
03 April 2015

Photographer appeals for sponsorship to finance high-quality productions, including the first-ever following the life of bears for a year.

The documentaries will showcase 'the world of nature that lives in line with its laws, but is friendly to those who enter it with respect and an open heart'. Picture: Igor Shpilenok

An award-winning photographer has launched a campaign to raise enough funds to showcase Siberia's stunning landscape and wildlife in TV documentaries.

Igor Shpilenok, 55, knows better than most the beauty and majesty of the nature surrounding us, having spent years taking images of it with his camera.

But he believes there is a lack of quality television footage of Russia’s unique wildlife and is now keen to begin creating high-definition productions to show the world.

Two projects have already been announced by his Lesfilm company – one of which will focus on the bears of the Far East – but the team lacks proper funding to get started.

Making good quality documentaries is complex and financially-demanding, with a special cinematographic camera alone costing $20,000 (1.13million roubles).

'At least two of such cameras are required to start working,' said Mr Shpilenok. 'We're starting from scratch in terms of financial and technical support. All in all, our main goal for now is money. We hope to find a general sponsor but will be grateful for each and every rouble.'

On its website Lesfilm explains the documentaries will showcase 'the world of nature that lives in line with its laws, but is friendly to those who enter it with respect and an open heart'.

Bears on Kamchatka


Bears on Kamchatka


Bears on Kamchatka


Bears on Kamchatka

'Existing documentaries on bears were all filmed over a short period of time. The disadvantage of such projects is that the plot is set by humans, not by the nature.' Pictures: Igor Shpilenok

Two projects have been announced - Kamchatka’s Bears: Beginning of Life and Forrest Reserve: Harmony of Life. 

Kamchatka's Bears will see a filming team, led by Shpilenok travel to Kurilskoye Lake in the South Kamchatka reserve in the Russian Far East. They plan to spend eight months making the 90-minute production for release in 2017. It is described as 'a unique observation of bear families to uncover the mysteries of the growing up of new-born bear cubs'.

Mr Shpilenok said: 'Existing documentaries on bears were all filmed over a short period of time. The disadvantage of such projects is that the plot is set by humans, not by the nature. Russia is called the tsarstvo, the kingdom, of the bear, but we know nothing of the real personality of our symbol.

'How do bears grow, how do they study, how do they interact socially?'

Kurilskoye Lake, a Unesco World Heritage site, is the biggest in Eurasia for the breeding of salmon, with the bears attracted to the waters. There can be up to 200 bears at a time on the shore.

Russia has about 110,000 brown bears, and populations have been relatively stable in recent years, though over-hunting remains a serious problem in some regions.

Bears on Kamchatka


Forest Reserve


Kurilskoye lake

Two projects have been announced - Kamchatka’s Bears: Beginning of Life and Forrest Reserve: Harmony of Life. Pictures: Lesfilm, Igor Shpilenok

The other project, Forest Reserve: Harmony of Life, focuses on the woodlands of Russia with filming due to take place in a number of reserves.

Among the locations is the Bryansky Forest, which has 1,310 types of plants and 878 different species of animals, the Tigiresksky reserve in Altai with its pre-ice age plants, the Kedrovaya Pad reserve which features the Far Eastern leopard, and the Baikal state reserve.

Promotional material for the 90-minute documentary states: 'The forest is a temple of nature. Over its entire history, humans have been trying to comprehend this subtle world and the humans’ place in it.'

The idea of creating a documentary unit was first discussed by Shpilenok and a group of like-minded people a few years ago but it never came to fruition.

'For various we didn’t start it, we were waiting for a better time,' he said. 'Now it is clear this time may never come. That's why we'll start now. 'Over recent years we have witnessed a rapid growth of Russia's wildlife photography. But a totally different story is wildlife documentaries. It's sluggish.'

The Lesfilm team comprises a number of skilled professional experts in their fields, among them ecologist Dr Valentin Sergeyevich Pazhetnov, who is dubbed 'uncle bear'.

Shpilenok is accustomed to Russia’s rural wildlife, having set up home with his wife and four sons in the Bryansk forest, not far from the borders with Ukraine and Belarus.

A fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, he is a winner of the 2006 BBC Wildlife Photographer Competition and his work has been published in numerous international and Russian magazines.

Igor Shpilenok


Valentin Pazhetnov

Igor Shpilenok, 55, is a winner of the 2006 BBC Wildlife Photographer Competition. Dr Valentin Sergeyevich Pazhetnov, ecologist, who is dubbed 'uncle bear'. Pictures: Igor Shpilenok, Varvara Lozenko/Russian Reporter

Clearly he has a passion for his work, having first got the idea to photograph nature at the age of 13 when exploring the forest.

He said: 'For two weeks, I begged my grandmother for a camera, but when I finally returned to the meadow with my new camera, it was too late.

'Instead of the blanket of wildflowers, I found black earth upturned by tractors and piles of freshly cut logs towering to the sky. It was one of the most intense impressions of my adolescence, determining the future direction of my life. Since then, the camera has been my most faithful companion in the struggle to save the Bryansk forest.

'I feel fortunate to have chosen Russia's system of strict nature reserves and national parks as the focus of my creativity. We Russians can be proud of our protected areas' system, one of the most significant in the world for biodiversity conservation.

'The role of Russia’s protected areas for conserving biodiversity, furthering ecological research, and promoting environmental education cannot be overstated.

'Yet, what attracts me most is the boundless beauty of these pristine wilderness areas.'

You can support the project HERE

Comments (1)

nice photo's!...
jed, kansas city US
23/04/2015 00:55
2
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