Board the polar express to Fife with wildlife cameraman Doug Allan

Doug Allan filming at an Emperor Penguin Colony in the Antarctic.
Doug Allan filming at an Emperor Penguin Colony in the Antarctic.

For anyone who has enjoyed watching popular nature documentaries Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Frozen Planet there is a show coming to Fife next month which is a must-see.

Multi-award winning wildlife cameraman Doug Allan is hosting an evening of behind the scenes stories with highlights from the most challenging assignments of his 35 years filming wildlife in the remotest places on Earth.

Emperor penguins returning from feeding in Antarctica.

Emperor penguins returning from feeding in Antarctica.

Doug will present ‘Wild Images, Wild Life’ at Rothes Halls, Glenrothes on Saturday, October 6.

The 67-year-old takes his audience to the two frozen polar worlds - the Arctic and the Antarctic. He will present stunning pictures of the wildlife: polar bears, penguins and seals; as well scenery and the people, with insights into how he prepares and copes with long film shoots at minus 30°C.

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As well as discussing his two and a half year stint as a biologist on a British Antarctic Survey’s scientific research station, Doug also examines climate change and how it is affecting the polar regions.

Doug, who was born in Dunfermline, said he is looking forward to returning to Fife: “I have done a show before at Rothes Halls which was about three or four years ago and people are still intrigued by how we make these wildlife films. Usually you only get to see around ten minutes at the end of the documentary, which tells you how the filmmakers were able to capture their footage, so my shows are an expansion of that. I tell the public about some of the shoots I have done and the adventures I have had.”

He continued: “In this show I will be sharing a lot of stories that I haven’t told before so anyone who might have been to one of my previous shows should come to this one as it will be different.”

After leaving school, Doug studied a degree in Marine Biology at Stirling University and this was when he developed an interest in commercial diving. After he completed his degree, he wanted to go on expedititions rather than settling down to become a hard and fast scientist.

He secured a job in Antarctica in 1976 and was doing still photography for National Geographic magazine, when, a few years later in 1981, he had a fateful meeting with natural history expert and broadcaster David Attenborough.

“He came with his film crew and they were filming Living Planet and I saw the work his cameramen were doing and I thought this is the sort of thing I would love to do. I knew how to cope with the cold, the only thing I didn’t know anything about was movie making.”

However, Doug’s big break came when he was offered the opportunity to take photos and footage of the Emperor Penguins in the Antarctic during the winter months.

The footage was bought by the BBC and that set him up for a new career as a cameraman.

Since then he has been a top cameraman on many of the Attenborough series including Blue Planet and Planet Earth, as well as the BBC series Human Planet.

Doug has now been a wildlife cameraman for 35 years, but what jobs have been the most challenging?

“Filming for Planet Earth about ten years ago was difficult, I didn’t get much out of it,” he said.

“I spent a total of 11 weeks doing winter and summer shoots looking for the snow leopard and I ended up seeing one for just an hour – one hour in 11 weeks!

“That was probably my most challenging, but you have to expect that sometimes you are not going to get the footage you want.

“This can happen if the animal is rare, its behaviour is rare or too difficult to film.”

But aside from the difficult assigments, Doug also has animals and mammals he enjoys filming including polar bears and whales: “Polar bears are exciting, big, sexy animals which live in a challenging environment and when you see one, you never forget it,” Doug said.

“I also enjoy getting up close to marine animals. When you work in the water you have to get close to your subjects. You can’t hide from it.

“It is a different technique in the water: you have to interact with the subject, you have to understand it and you have to be giving off the right vibes.”

He added: “But when you get an animal coming over to you being extra friendly, like it wants to spend time with you, when that happens, it’s a great privilege.”

However, there are always reminders that while you are there to do a job, you have to remember whose territory you are in and that animals can be very protective, especially of their young.

Doug said: “I was filming seals in the water in Antarctica and some of them were on top of the ice, when I saw a hole in the ice and this little face looking into the water.

“I thought it would make a great picture so I went across, when suddenly along came its mum, hurtling towards me.

“She took a nip of my finger. It wasn’t a serious injury, but she saw me getting close – she was just protecting her pup.”

In the show, Doug also wants to raise awareness of climate change and to inspire people to make a difference.

He said: “I am well aware of the changes in the Poles – I have seen them taking place over the last 30 years such as longer seasons and winters not so cold, I have seen it with my own eyes.

“There are changes happening across the whole world. Look at this year – it has been a year of extreme weather.”

He added: “I give talks to people in the hope they can reconnect with nature and make a difference themselves to help the environment.

“But change is not happening quickly enough and if we are not careful, it will end up with Mother Nature having the last laugh and something very bad will happen which we can’t undo.”

Copies of Doug’s book Freeze Frame will be available on the night. For tickets to see Doug Allan in Glenrothes, visit: onfife.com