Filming and photography

We are always getting asked to take part in various filming and photography projects so nothing really surprises us anymore when someone sends an email or gives us a call with a slightly quirky request.

A more standard filming request with Euan McIlwraith.

A lot of you will have seen ‘A Baby Reindeer’s First Christmas’ starring Holy Moley. This is by far the longest stint of filming we have ever done in one go taking three months. Most of the time a crew will just come up for one day, or even half a day to get a quick piece to fit into their program. Sometimes we are asked to go on location somewhere else with the reindeer. Andi and I worked for a while down south at a private zoo which as well as caring for the animals it involved taking them onto film sets so we are quite used to it. There can be a lot of sitting around so now that I make the rules I am pretty ‘on it’ with our timings as the last thing I want is for the reindeer to have to sit around all day waiting for the actors to be ready so they get a set time frame now to work with us.

Holy Moley – the star of the channel 4 documentary!

Some of our sets have included an Ann Summers photoshoot with models in the Christmas wear. Luckily the reindeer just had to stand nearby and look pretty, which they did beautifully may I add! Last year we were asked to an American short film where the reindeer were portrayed as ‘wild’ so we were in some lovely woodland on the west of Scotland. We did mention to the producers that reindeer aren’t natural to this area but I think the film was just a Christmassy crowd pleaser so they weren’t picky when it came to native species. We’ve worked with fashion models both up on the mountain and also out on location. If I’m totally honest I can’t remember what they were advertising but I can tell you the clothes they were wearing weren’t exactly in keeping with reindeer and their natural habitat… in fact the models must have been freezing!

The Ann Summers photo shoot.
Another snap from the Ann Summers photo shoot.

For a kids TV drama I drew the short straw and had to dress up as a Viking, or at least I think it was a Viking. The show was about a Viking Princess and my colleagues took great delight in having a good laugh at me with some fairly random clothes on! Our reindeer have been part of photoshoots advertising cars. Audi, Landrover and Jaguar have had our reindeer pose next to their fancy pants vehicles.

A “fashion” shoot – nothing fazes Origami!
No midge net allowed for the model (unlike the photographer!)
Yet another photo shoot.

On the whole, however, we tend to do a one-on-one chat with a presenter who is visiting the area. In the past we’ve worked with Ben Fogle, Ray Mears, Bill Oddy, Susan Calman, Matt Baker, Katy Hill, Michaela Strachan, Gordon Buchanan, Elain Smith, James Martin, Bear Grylls and many more. We try to get Tilly to do these chats as she’s so great on TV but inevitably either myself or one of my colleagues will be roped in. We don’t tend to have to chat about anything out of the ordinary, just aren’t they lovely and tame, we mention some adaptations, their names and in general just enjoy spending time with the reindeer on the hill.

Fiona with Susan Calman and the lovely Baffin.
Tilly and Matt Baker.

So, there is a bit of insight to another part of our work with the reindeer. I love working closely with the reindeer like this as you get to know them really well individually and we already know what great characters they are so it’s easy to show them off and be proud of them!

Fiona

Reindeer Obsession!

This week’s blog is written by Candice, one of our long standing adopters, who has become something of a obsessed follower over the years! We regularly tell her she’s mad…

Candice helping out at at Christmas event, with Duke

My interest (or rather obsession!) with reindeer started in the early 90’s when holidaying with my parents, I was 11 and animal mad (I’m now 40 and still as besotted). So, one visit to see these wonderful creatures and I was hooked! I started adopting reindeer in 1995 and have now just signed up to my 26th year of supporting the scheme. Being from Kent, my visits only occurred 3 -4 times a year but no holiday was complete without a Hill Trip!

 

As the years went on and life progressed with exams, new jobs and house moves reindeer were never far from my thoughts, and relocation in 2004 resulted in me being only 80 miles from the herd instead of 580…RESULT! I was able to visit much more frequently and became a familiar face at Reindeer House, even though I know they all think I’m completely bonkers (Editor’s note: you’ll not find us arguing 😉 ) ! In 2008 I married Cameron and managed somehow to keep the reindeer obsession to a minimum until he’d signed on the dotted line, but of course we HAD to visit the reindeer on our honeymoon and then the extent of my addiction came to light!

In 2009 our daughter Pandra was born and our visits continued so inevitably she fell head over heels in love with the furry critters. At the age of 3 she took part in a series for CBeebies “Time for School” and for the Christmas episode the reindeer visited her school, Pandra proudly walked a little white calf on a lead rope into the playground in front of the cameras and the whole school. What we hadn’t realised that this was the making of a beautiful “friendship” between her and Blue, this pure white cutie. Three years later we were approached again by CBeebies to film more footage but this time in their natural environment of the Cairngorms for a programme called “The Let’s go Club”. Again it was the Christmas special and we spent a whole day filming out in the hills. By this time Pandra had a little brother, Oakley, who of course has HAD to love reindeer, luckily he does.

Pandra watching Fiona bottle feed Soleil…

…and graduating to having a go herself a couple of years later with Fergus!

 

Oakley and Olympic

Oakley made his first visit to the herd at 2.5 weeks old and at 9 months refused to be carried on the Hill Trip and crawled all the way! Making frequent visits, we visit every month, and being an active contributor to the social media platform you start recognising like-minded people and friendships form, sometimes you even stumble on each other on a Hill Trip, and you hear that terrifying phrase…”Oh so you’re Candice”….cringe!!! Mind you with reindeer vinyls plastered up the side of my car, I’m not easily missed! So, I decided to create a group where we reindeer enthusiasts (that’s the posh name!) can share pictures, stories and everything reindeer. We call ourselves the Reindeer Groupies and are all as mad as a box of frogs!

My car!

The group is 20+ strong and we meet up in smaller groups throughout the year either on the Hill Trip or with Tilly at her farm near Tomintoul (the second site for the reindeer herd) but we always try and have a large ‘Groupie Meet’ in October. This wonderful group of people from all over the UK, Holland and Denmark has all come about because of reindeer, of course Reindeer House think we’re all crazy but saying that on one of our October “get-togethers” Dave (reindeer herder) arrived for our private Hill Trip dressed as a reindeer so I’m not sure they have a leg to stand on!

First reindeer located at the car park….

At Christmas the reindeer usually visit town centres around the UK spreading Christmas cheer, of course the Groupies are always there (not all together!) lending a hand, chatting to the public and educating people about these superb creatures. Every November/December in ‘normal years’ I travel over 2,000 miles to various reindeer events which I have done for many years, I’m very lucky to be able to and even luckier to be trusted to do so. It is a great privilege to have had reindeer in my life for this long and I’m even luckier to have found a group of like-minded (even if slightly crazy) group of people that I can call lifelong friends! Long live the Groupies!

A quick ride on the sleigh while the herders were training the novice reindeer in October 2018

Candice

Winter free range days

From January to May, our whole herd are out roaming free on the mountains, enjoying the wintry weather that they’re so well-equipped for. Whilst it can be ridiculously wild at times, on other days it is completely still, with glorious sunshine. I thought it would be nice to put up a selection of photos from the last month or two to give you a taste of our winter days…

Oslo leading the herd over for breakfast.

Glorious views out over Aviemore on a beautiful day.

Camus, Sika, Brie and Bordeaux. Sika’s not sure about what she just ate!

Origami and the herd on an icy morning.

Ochil wondering if the food is ready yet

Okapi has cast the main uprights of her antlers, leaving her looking a bit like a unicorn!

Spider has found a nice pool for an after dinner drink.

Santana sporting one of her antlers.

Handsome Rubiks posing!

Pavlova is easily recognised with her white tuft of hair on her forehead.

Parmesan with her white face marking, and old lass Fonn in the background.

Olympic is always one of the first to see us.

LX on a grey day…

… and again on a blue sky day!

Fonn is the oldest reindeer in the herd, at nearly 17 years old.

Ryvita and her calf Berlin.

Beautiful Dixie.

Dixie, Fly and Lulu, stalwarts of the herd.

Young Dante.

Camembert, what a star!

Brie, Inca and Meadow.

We always give the calves some preferential feeding out of the bags – it keeps their condition up and keeps them tame – here’s Bordeaux, Florence, Athens and Texel enjoying a snack.

Blyton and Camembert.

Baffin.

Angua and mum Tap. Both are quite shy reindeer but we’ve put lots of effort into feeding them extra feed each day and their confidence has come on in leaps and bounds.

Hen, Lotti and Dave – feeding mission completed!

Happy reindeer eating their feed.

Celt on a windy day.

Little Kiruna.

Andi

How does a reindeer see the world?

We always encourage questions on our Hill Trips; some are simple to answer whilst others get us thinking more and this particular question even inspired me to write a blog!

“Are reindeer colour blind?”

The simple answer is… no. Reindeer, like other species of deer, are not colour blind, although they do see the world in a different way to us humans.

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How does Baffin see the world?

If you take a look at the visible spectrum below, reindeer can only see the colours at one end of it. They only see the short (blue) and middle (green) wavelength colours. This means they can distinguish blue from red, but not green from red, or orange from red. Therefore, their vision is thought to be similar to a human with red-green colour blindness.

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The visible spectrum – the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Image taken from Wikimedia.

So, when us Reindeer Herders go out for a Hill Trip wearing our bright red waterproof jackets, the reindeer would think we were camouflaged with the green hillside behind us. And there was I thinking we stand out!

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Lotti the Reindeer Herder taking a rest! To a reindeer our red jackets would not be distinguishable from the green grass.

To get a little bit more scientific this is because humans have three different kinds of cone cells in the retina which can detect the entire visible light spectrum. However, deer only have two sets of cones meaning that they cannot distinguish the longer wavelengths.

However, as I discovered this is not the end of the story of how a reindeer sees the world…. fascinatingly, they are one of only a tiny number of mammals which can also see ultraviolet!

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On the electromagnetic spectrum, ultraviolet fits in right between visible light and X-rays. Image from NOAA.

Humans can’t see UV light but it is in sunlight so we are exposed to it every day; suntans (or in my case freckling and sunburn!) are familiar effects of our exposure to it!

So this led me to ponder the question “why have reindeer evolved to have UV vision?”

Researchers think that reindeer have adapted to see in UV as they live in a very UV-rich world. It’s thought that snow reflects around 90% of the UV light that hits it, compared to snow-free land which usually only reflects a few per cent.

Therefore, reindeer have adapted to their white world and have taken full advantage of it! Their special ability to see in UV allows them to spot things that other mammals would miss and helps them to find food and stay safe.

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A reindeer in a white, UV-rich world.

In the frozen white Arctic where the vast majority of the landscape would reflect the UV light, there are a few things which would absorb it. Predators, such as wolves, who to us would appear camouflaged actually stand out to a reindeer as their fur (and also their urine – a sign of a potential predator!) absorbs the UV light making them appear dark grey/black against the white, snowy background. Clever!

Similarly lichen, a major food source for reindeer in the winter months, also absorbs UV light. So if there was a tuft of lichen sticking up above the snow it would also appears very dark allowing the reindeer to see it clearly, in stark contrast to the UV-reflecting snow.

Therefore, they can avoid animals which might want to eat them and instead find lots of delicious lichen to devour for themselves!

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Winter coats, huge feet and the ability to see in UV… perfectly adapted animals for their snowy, cold world.

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A close up of Bovril’s beautiful eyes… Just because!

We’re always getting lots of interesting questions and I look forward to the next one which gets me hitting the books… and maybe even writing another blog!

Ruth

 

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