Chased by a polar bear and almost drowned by a walrus, life is never dull for camerman Doug Allan. He talks to Roz Laws about his wild adventures.
Wildlife filmmaker Doug Allan would like to come in from the cold.
Not for good, as he is best known for being a polar adventurer, capturing fantastic images for television series such as Frozen Planet.
While polar bears and whales remain his favourite animals, he’d also like to film elephants and gorillas somewhere warm for a change.
For once, he’d like not to be camping out in temperatures as low as minus 35C, or be waiting for three months in the Himalayas for a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard.
He has been charged by polar bears and almost drowned by a walrus who mistook him for a seal – but his extraordinary footage has won him four Emmy awards and five Baftas.
Doug, who is coming to Birmingham to talk about his career, says: “Sometimes producers mention they have just sent a crew to the Caribbean and I say, ‘I’d like to do that’. They look at me oddly and say, ‘But you don’t do warm things’.
“I think it would be a pleasant change and would almost certainly be easier.
“I do envy cameramen who spend a lot of time with elephants and gorillas. I’d love that chance. Large mammals are wonderful creatures, with deep intelligence, moods and personalities.
“I like to go to the Azores for sperm whales and Tonga for humpback whales.
“But I’d also like to go back to the Arctic, to spend time with belugas and Narwhal whales. The single-tusked Narwhal are very shy and hard to approach, but I hope that somewhere there’s a friendly one.”
His previous fantastic footage includes orca whales attacking grey whales off the coast of California, polar bears capturing beluga whales in a frozen hole in Canada and leopard seals feeding on emperor penguins in Antarctica.
But doesn’t roughing it in the wild get a little tiresome after a while? And where does he find the patience? For every eight days a camera operator spends in the field, they will produce only one minute of footage.
“You’ve got to have a real tenacity for wanting to take back good pictures, and a real interest in what you’re doing,” explains Doug, who admits his job has cost him two marriages.
“Patience is a passive thing but tenacity makes you want to go out when conditions are not ideal, and keeps you hanging on.
“I would be more bored sitting in an office.
“The worst thing is the family sacrifices you make, being away for birthdays and anniversaries. If you are on a shoot where not a lot is happening and a special date comes up, it can be dispiriting to think you’re missing out on something at home.