Television programmes like Blue Planet offer viewers stunning visuals of ice-capped peaks and far-flung vistas, bringing us impossibly close to polar bears and killer whales without having to leave our seat. But how much work goes into getting those incredible shots? Scottish photographer, Doug Allan, who specialises in underwater photography, joined guest-host Baz Ashmawy on The Ray D’Arcy Show to explain why David Attenborough refers to him as “the toughest in the business”.
Allan has worked extensively in the industry for decades. Baz wondered aloud about the type of person attracted to a job like this. In his own words, Doug must be “a whole bag of crazy”. Is this fair? Doug thinks so. He’s proud to be called “more than a little bit mad”. After all, he has found himself in some dangerous situations over the years, as he recounted to Baz with great humour.
“I got grabbed by a walrus…I’d just finished taking photographs of some birds diving underwater and suddenly it was like I was in a Galway nightclub late on because something grabbed me round the upper thighs…I think it mistook me for a seal…I looked down, saw its head and I swung the camera around and bashed the camera off the top of its head….If it had held on tighter and taken me down then you wouldn’t be talking to me today.”
While he assured Baz that he generally prefers “a slightly more gentle encounter”, Doug sees the challenge of working in such close proximity to large animals in tricky conditions as part of the thrill.
“When it gets down to maybe minus 35 [degrees] and it’s blowing 20 knots of wind and you really can’t take your gloves off for more than a few seconds without getting frostbite, you know, that does make some extra special problems. Then you chuck in, of course, polar bears wandering around…it does make it quite exciting at times.”
Listen back to the full interview with Doug Allan on The Ray D’Arcy Show here.
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