Into the wild this November with Doug Allan

Doug Allan filming Humpback whale mother and calf during filming for Planet Earth 2005.
Doug Allan filming Humpback whale mother and calf during filming for Planet Earth 2005.

A fascinating insight into wild animals and wild places will be unveiled by wildlife photographer, cameraman and explorer Doug Allan.

In a 30 year career span this double Polar medalist has filmed in many different environments, but is often drawn to the ends of the earth to film in the Arctic and Antarctic.

He brings his stories, photography and experiences to a Highlands and Islands tour which roars into the Western Isles at the end of November.

Doug will be hosting evenings at the Tarbert Community Centre in Harris on November 21st and in the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway on November 22nd.

From being dragged underwater by a hungry walrus to being poked by a polar bear in his sleep, Doug has seen some sights, talking about the highs and lows of the job, he says: I started doing this about 30 years ago, it’s an odd life, separation from your family is part and parcel of the work. You also work to the call of nature, so if the rains don’t happen shoots get cancelled, or perhaps you need to stay on another week.

“Discomfort is also par for the course, there may be places in the world where there is no biting insects or extremes of temperature, but most of the wildlife lives in wild places and fundamental levels of discomfort are accepted.

“I learned to cope with the cold, I have the physiology where I don’t feel the cold as badly as other people do, and the more you work in a cold environment the more accustomed you get to the conditions.”

But the benefits of the work are incredible, as Doug describes: On the upside look at the places you get to go, a cameraman spends all of their time out in the field watching the animals. When filming we are much more in front of the animals than the producers or presenters.

“It’s a job that is second to none, I’ve spent lots of time out in the field and been lucky enough to work with the big ‘sexy’ animals such as whales and polar bears.”

Doug is well known for his award winning photography and for his camerawork on hugely successful BBC series such as Life, Human Planet, Blue Planet, Planet Earth and the recently acclaimed Frozen Planet and Ocean Giants.

Over the years his lecture tours, which this time will combine with a week of talks in mainland libraries at the end of November, have taken in the whole of the UK and Ireland.

The format of the evening sees Doug talking for an hour, a 20 minute break, followed by another 20 minutes from Doug and ending with a 10 minute Q & A session.

There are also diary pieces which take you behind the scenes of filming and includes the animals’ biology.

“The talk appeals to people of all ages - they all take away something even if it’s only that Polar bears don’t chase penguins because they live at opposite ends of the earth,” jokes Doug.

In 2012 he published his book, Freeze Frame, about his life as a polar cameraman.

Talking about the inspiration for the book, which will be available to tour audiences, Doug said: “I got together with a friendly Editor, who works with wildlife books, then I had the idea of doing short stories.”

In fact it is the lecture tours which germinated the idea of a short-story format for the book, as Doug says: “The short story style really suits me, it came off the back of the talks and the Q&A sessions, as you try to weave a story into getting the information across.”

This will be Doug’s first trip to the Western Isles the nearest he has gotten before is when he was learning to dive and would visit Ullapool.

He says: “It’s nice to expand the tour out a bit this time, and if it is successful this time we can always come back again.”