Doug Allen- Life behind the lens

by Alison, 26/09/2013

Last week I spent an evening listening to tales of the Arctic and Antarctic and taking in the breath-taking scenery that exist in these frosty zones. Unfortunately Ollie had to go back to the boat and was unable to join me. Prior to the talk I knew very little about Doug Allen, but I had been inspired and awed by his work for many years. Often without realising it was his. Doug Allen is best known for his work with David Attenborough to produce (in my opinion) some of the greatest wild-life documentaries. I may be a little bit biased though. I have grown up watching the BBC and to me, wild-life documentaries are the BBC. 

Doug Allen grew up in Scotland. Inspired by the writings of Jacques Cousteau, he began to dive at age 12 and later studied marine biology. Leaving college he followed his passion and continued to dive. A position with the British Antarctic Survey (B.A.S.) , led to a life long love affair with the frozen reaches of our planet. He spent 9years working with the B.A.S. remaining in the Antarctic for long periods of time. One stint lasted 2.5years. This unique position gave him his first opportunity to combine his interests of diving, science and finally photography. He reports initially being a very amateur camera man but it was his ability to survive the extreme cold that helped his career to flourish. 

While making documentaries such as Life, The Blue Planet, Planet Earth he has worked in all manner of regions and climates. However his speciality and persuasion has always been for the coldest reaches of our world.  From diving in -1.7degree water, to documenting Everest missions.

Aside from his ability to withstand extreme conditions, he appears to have a unique ability to capture pivotal animal behaviours which give us a greater understanding and appreciation of the world we live in. One which stands out in my mind is the filming of a pod of killer whales, creating a tidal wave to wash a Weddell seal off an ice-flow. This was first shown in Frozen Planet. 

He also seems to be able to make light of any situation. When filming a mother and calf humpback whale with his wife, his wife was hit by the calf's tail. Having identified that his wife, while in pain was floating on the surface, he quickly dived to retrieve the camera she had dropped before all the film was lost to the ocean depths. This was the story he used to introduce himself and get a feel for the audience. As he reports only a few brave men have ever sided with him, when he asked whether the audience felt he had his priorities right ;p

I really enjoyed his talk. He was an incredibly vital and positive presence. Signing books and chatting to people, before, after and during the interval of a 2hour talk. The images and stories were the accumulated experiences of a lifetime. The images were spectacular, his appreciation for the wild spaces tangible and the clarity with which he remembered each shot spokes volumes for the impact they had on him. 

Listening to Doug Allen, was a reminder that really what you need to be in life is interested. Whatever you are doing, be engaged and be interested. Photography or filming  were not his goal when he was 12 and neither did he have a career path mapped out to be on the BBC. His story, as he presented it, was of a man that followed his interests, who is engaged in the world around him and is continuously adapting and learning new skills (apparently he only learned to snow-board recently). Another skill that staggered me was that, at 62, he can still free-dive for over two minutes. Seeing as my current ability is about the length of a 25m pool, this gave me a lot of hope.

All images not taken in Glor, are reproduced here to demonstrate the beauty and skill of Doug Allen's work. 

No comments:

Post a Comment