Interview with Pat Mckeeman

Pat Mckeeman is a force of nature. An all action camera operator, multi-cam supervisor and jib operator with credits under his belt from BBC’s Planet Earth, Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch, Big Blue Live and Alaska Live to name but a few.

Pat is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to shooting in nature. Inland Sea caught up with Pat for a quick chat at his home in Cornwall.

Inland Sea: Hi Pat, you’ve worked in TV for a long time, what drew you to become a camera operator?

Pat: I realised I wanted to become a cameraman after starting as a runner in TV. Up until then I wasn’t sure which path I wanted to take it but when I started working in the industry I was quickly drawn to it. I had studied photography too so it felt like quite a natural progression.

I then learnt from other camera operators by becoming a camera assistant initially and trying to jump on a camera whenever I could. I then had to make the jump and actually call myself a camera operator. That was a hard transition but I knew it was my calling at that point.

Inland Sea: It seems like studio work would be much easier than filming in nature?

Pat: I really enjoy shooting in the wild and I have been lucky enough to do a lot of live wildlife shows. As everything is going out live we have no choice but to deal with the weather. That’s the main challenge. The worst to deal with is torrential rain, then cold, then when it’s too hot it’s not nice either, oh and the wind! Don’t make me mention the wind, sound operators really don’t like the wind and it can make for wobbly shot. 

I personally like a nice flat, inclement day but you can never guarantee that, and that’s what I love about it.

It’s actually more about being prepared for the weather. You really need to think ahead and look at the weather and dress accordingly because a wet, cold camera operator or one with sunstroke because they didn’t bring a hat is no good to anyone. 

Inland Sea: What are your top tips for any of our readers who want to get quality footage shooting outdoors?

Pat: Shooting in the wild has its challenges and is harder than shooting in a studio as you have less control of your environment. However, as cameras get better at handling highlights and lowlights it has become easier to shoot outside.

Inland Sea: What have been the best and worst moments of your career so far?

Pat: I have had loads of great moments in the UK and abroad but one of my favourite moments was filming a Great Grey Shrike with Chris Packham in the Forest of Dean. It’s quite a rare bird that is also called the butcher bird because it stabs its prey on thorns to eat it. Who wouldn’t like to go and see a really cool bird with Chris. Camping out with lions whilst filming a walking safari in the Masai Mara wasn’t too bad either. 

My worst moment was rehearsing in torrential rain in Edinburgh zoo for a Saturday morning kids show called Wild. We rehearsed the whole day and it didn’t stop raining once and the whole show was outside with no wet weather cover. We were all utterly drained and drowned by the end of the day.

Inland Sea: What have been your favourite locations to film?

Pat: I have filmed at many cool locations across the world. I went to Jodhpur in India to film the langur monkeys for earth live on National Geographic. I’ve been to Kenya to the Masai Mara to film for a month. I’ve been to Alaska and Monterey bay in California for Alaska Live and Big Blue live on BBC1 and New Hampshire for a one off Autumnwatch during the fall which was incredible. 

I have to say though that my absolute favourite place to shoot is Scotland. I have been lucky enough to go to Scotland countless times with Winterwatch and other shows. It is such an incredibly beautiful country. Epic mountains, clean rivers, salmon, Pine Martin’s and the occasional deer. What more could one want?

Inland Sea: Scotland is our favourite place too. So many amazing beaches. Speaking of beaches, I know you’re in Cornwall right now with some amazing beaches on your doorstep. Which is your favourite?

Pat: My favourite beach is my local one. It’s about a 10 minute walk from my house in Cornwall. It’s Calf Porthpean and is known as the St Austell town beach. It’s normally pretty calm in the cove so it’s a great place to get in the kayak and go out and see the local seals that live just to the right of it or the pair of Oyster catchers to the left. There are more beautiful beaches around us but this one has some of the greatest memories for me.

Thanks Pat! If you’d like to see some of Pat’s work you can catch one of the myriad of shows he’s worked on on BBCIplayer, or check out his instagram @patmckeeman for epic pictures of Cornwall and beyond.