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Like his filmmaker dad, he's got an animal attraction

July 12, 2006|Kathy Blumenstock | Washington Post

Tristan Bayer grew up watching his father watch animals.

"He made films about wildlife," said Bayer, referring to cinematographer Wolfgang Bayer, who recorded the lives and habitats of all sorts of creatures for TV programs such as the syndicated "Animal World" (1968-80).

Now the younger Bayer, who often helped his father on photo shoots, is creating his own wildlife films for the Digital Age with "Caught in the Moment," Mondays at 9 p.m. on Animal Planet.

"We wanted to collect interesting, amazing moments in these animals' lives, maybe just before a migration, maybe in the change of seasons," Bayer said. "We wanted to be there at the right time and show something special."

For this 10-episode program, Bayer, 29, and naturalist Vanessa Garnick, 28, friends since childhood, set out to capture defining moments in the world of wildlife. The premiere episode, for instance, showed the simultaneous arrival of 150,000 turtles on a beach in Costa Rica.

With a production crew, the pair has crisscrossed continents in search of elusive and rare animals by traveling across water and unsettled terrain.

"There are animals people have never heard of or seen," Garnick said. "And everywhere, you can learn something new about ecology."

The intense heat in many spots made dressing for comfort a challenge and a necessity, Garnick said.

"It's really hard to know what to wear because you can never get cool," she said on a recent stop in Washington.

Garnick and Bayer have spent much of 2006 tracking such creatures as hammerhead sharks off the Cocos Islands, British Columbia's mysterious "spirit bear" and Costa Rica's basilisk lizard, known as the Jesus Christ lizard for its ability to skim across the water's surface on two legs.

"It's probably my favorite of all the ones we've seen," Bayer said. "It's so amazing -- you watch it going over the water, but you still can't believe it's real."

Garnick was most fascinated by the pony-size Mongolian wild horses, called takhi, and by Madagascar's chameleons, which she described as "nature's mood rings" for their ability to change color to signal anger, attraction or fear.

Each program wraps up with a short musical montage -- with songs by Corinne Bailey Rae, Jennifer Knapp, Andy Hunter, the O.C. Supertones and others -- accompanying footage from the episode's location, as well as shots of Garnick and Bayer preparing for their next adventure.

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