Stunning images of nature’s glory

Emperor penguins returning from feeding, Antarctica, Cape Washington,
Emperor penguins returning from feeding, Antarctica, Cape Washington,
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Love affairs... they come, and they go. Unless you are Doug Allan, wildlife cameraman extraordinaire.

He’s been involved in a love affair now for about 37 years – and there’s no end in sight.

Doug Allan on location, Kingdom of Tonga, South Pacific, during filming for Planet Earth, Sept 2005.

Doug Allan on location, Kingdom of Tonga, South Pacific, during filming for Planet Earth, Sept 2005.

But then the camera doesn’t answer back, nor do most of the animals he films, with the exception, perhaps, of the walrus that mistook him for a seal.

That, says Doug, who is coming to Lancashire to talk about his extraordinary life, probably rates as his scariest moment during a career that has seen him work on some of the best know sequences in the business.

“Walruses aren’t aggressive. They feed mainly on mussles and clams, but sometimes they go hunting for seals,” he says.

“I was bobbing up and down treading water and I suppose I must have looked very much like a seal because this walrus came from underneath, threw its arms round my waist and squeezed very tightly.”

Doug Allan and leopard seal

Doug Allan and leopard seal

Doug’s shocked response was to hit it sharply on its head. It worked, the animal let go and all was well.

“It was probably more shocked than me,” he says. “Had it’s response to a crack on the head been to pull me under the water, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Millions of wildlife enthusiasts should be grateful to that walrus for letting go, very grateful. Because among Doug’s many assignments over the years have been a number made in collaboration with David Attenborough: The Living Planet, Life in the Freezer ... say no more.

Doug was born in Scotland in 1951 and says his first passion was for diving. He was introduced to it at school and after completing a marine biology degree at Stirling University combined the two disciplines in a career with the British Antarctic Survey.

It was during his time there that he first met David Attenborough who was with a film crew on Signy Island.

“I helped them for a few days with the diving, chatted to them and watched them filming and in the end I thought it was right up my street. They were having a good time.”

When he next had the opportunity Doug took a movie camera with him, sent his wildlife footage to the BBC ... and the rest, as they say, is history.

His first meeting with David Attenborough was in 1981 and 10 years later he worked alongside him during the making of Life in the Freezer.

“He was, and still is, polite, gentle, hard working and good fun,” says Doug.

In the past almost four decades Doug has clocked up a long list of targets for his lens, both underwater and on land.

Now he is appearing at the Lancaster Grand Theatre on November 2 as part of his fascinating talk tour – Doug Allan: Life Behind the Lens. Highlights include the footage he took of young Polar bears emerging from their den for the first time, a scene he describes as “wonderful”.

There is plenty more he would like to capture on film, including the shy narwhal whale and, in a slightly warmer environment, elephants.

“When they clone a mammoth, I’ll film it,” he laughs.

As for retiring, 61-year-old Doug can’t see any reason to pack up his camera and diving gear. After all, the love affair is not over yet.