Photographers have to contend with all types of malevolents and dangers threatening them — but not many have to deal with fish shooting water at them.
That’s exactly what happened to one wildlife cameraman who, in fairness, was making a documentary about archerfish; a breed of fish that are experts in firing water accurately at prey.
For the new Planet Earth III program on the BBC, a camera crew traveled to a mangrove habitat in Raja Ampat, Indonesia that is full of “all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures.”
“Archerfish are a very challenging fish to to film,” explains camera operator Roger Munns. “They are small, they move erratically. They are pretty shy so they don’t really like the camera being turned on them they often move away. So it is really a game of patience and perseverance.”
But the reason the filmmakers wanted to capture archerfish is because of the breed’s unusual ability to hunt prey above water as well as below it.
“They can spit water very, very accurately and knock down insects, crabs, snails, anything they can see from the mangroves,” says slow-motion camera operator Mitch Buckley.
And Buckley found out just how accurate archerfish are just as he was talking about them.
“The first couple of days when we were looking for archerfish, it was very difficult to find them and you can see how I’m actually surrounded by archerfish,” he says.
“Whereas before, they wouldn’t come within three meters of us — they’re very very comfortable with us now.”
Moments after he spoke that sentence, water shot up from the depths below and struck Buckley right in the eye leaving him rubbing his face and laughing despite the pain.
“Exactly what happens with archerfish, is they see something that looks a bit different like a bracelet or a red thing on a camera or the whites of your eye and they have a go,” he continues after being hit.
“They see if they can shoot it down and eat it, so I just got nailed in the eye by an archerfish.”
And it wasn’t the first time Buckley had been hit by an archerfish with the rest of the crew also being hit by the sharpshooters.
“Setting out, filming archerfish hunting in the wild seemed like an impossible task,” adds Buckley.
“Once we found a location and an obliging school of fish, the next challenge was trying to spot who was going to spit next, and in which direction.”
In case fish firing volleys of water wasn’t bad enough — the crew also had to be wary of crocodiles with the camera operators wearing fake eyes on the back of their heads because “crocodiles don’t like being watched.”