Steve's Herpetological Blog

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#SteveReviews: Night on Earth

On January 29th 2020, Netflix dropped a new nature documentary series comprising of six episodes. Whilst it isn’t narrated by the god that is Sir David Attenborough, it is very well produced and is novel as far as I’m aware in terms of nature documentaries. It documents what nature gets up to in the darkness of night when the sun has set. Advances in technology has allowed the series to be produced, relying on such techniques as low light photography and infrared cameras. As someone who is a bit of a night owl (although still vaguely diurnal) it is interesting to follow the lives of some familiar animals into the twilight as well as those we are less familiar with.

There series is narrated by Samira Wiley (of Orange Is the New Black fame) covering all of the habitats we know and love from rainforests to the African savanna. In recent years we’ve seen programming such as Our Planet and Seven Worlds, One Planet that have pulled on humanity’s heartstrings in order to try to get us to act on the many ways we are unwinding the many functions ecosystems provide us. Night on Earth however is thought-provoking for other reasons. Due to it’s unique nature and take on sharing unseen aspects of species we’re already well acquainted with, it makes you wonder what is going on in your garden or local park whilst you’re asleep. As someone who spends his evenings surveying for amphibians in the dark, I know all too well what they’re up to.

Although the journey only lasts six episodes, the way Night on Earth has been put together works extremely well. Five of the episodes take us on an around the world trip exploring how different animals live in habitats from moonrise to moonset, usually with multiple locations twinned across the globe. It isn’t until we get to the fifth episode that this series resembles some of the newer documentaries that I mentioned above. This instalment demonstrates how animals are adapting to the fastest growing habitat on Earth, cities. Something that is also evident throughout there series is that there isn’t a strong environmental message that would make even the coldest heart melt. Instead the series allows nature to convey it’s own message about our changing world.

Of course the series wouldn’t be possible without the low-light photography and new techniques which throughout this series is perfected to a fine art. The series is quite unusual as it combines traditional video photography with both low-light and infrared photography. In the beginning I thought this was quite odd but the way all of the footage has been blended together, is seamless. Night of Earth allows us to see and experience the lives of animals and plants we’d never usually be able to see. From vampire bats hoping around on a rocky shore in search of a meal to the many sweeping time lapses of the night sky. In my opinion Night of Earth is a technological achievement, one that should be enjoyed by all!

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