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Wildlife Cameraman | Operation Iceberg

Have you ever been watching one of the BBC’s groundbreaking wildlife documentaries and thought “How did he get that shot?!” – well now you can find out the incredible stories behind the images in Doug Allan’s debut book.

Braving the elements and depths of the Antarctic and Arctic Oceans, Doug has produced a fascinating 240 page book filled with exceptional photographs and secrets of life behind the lens, giving you a peek into the often hostile yet inspiring world of a wildlife cameraman.

This book is so much more than a collection of superb images. Doug started life as a research diver in 1976 at Signy Island, Antarctica. Now with 35 years of experience in the Antarctic and Arctic, the stories that accompany every picture in this book tell of Doug’s astonishing adventures and encounters, his insights and emotions, his deep understanding of the biology of the animals and the psychology of film-makers.

“The toughest in the business”
David Attenborough
“Every picture tells a story. I’ve just given the ones in this book a chance to tell theirs.”
Doug Allan

You can pre-order Doug Allan's new book "Freeze Frame" in hardback using the button below: £25 + postage

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    A collection of my pictures from encounters and experiences on shoots worldwide. No reasons in particular for the shots though there's something quietly wonderful about how I can remember the circumstances of every single one.

    Emperor Penguins and Leopard Seals

    From the Blue Planet, Emperor Penguins face up to their enemy, the Leopard Seal

    Orcas and Seals Wave Wash Frozen Planet

    Amazing behaviour! Killer Whales take seals off ice floes in the Antarctic with remarkably co-ordinated behaviour.

    Trapped Belugas from Blue Planet

    A group of Beluga Whales are surfacing for air in a gap in the frozen ocean. They are weak with starvation and attractive prey for a passing Polar Bear.

    Typical berg off Newfoundland, Our RIB for the Newfy filming, Prepping for the dive. Note the hard hats for protection!, SMB's so the RIB knew where we were, The Bristol Whales being woven, One of the weaving workshop groups,
    All the latest June 2015
    Sunday, June 28, 2015 - 05:06

    Greetings all – yup it’s the old story, apologies from the world’s least consistent blogger. I turn round and another six months has slipped by.

    It was a quiet-ish kick off to the year, starting with five talks for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society up north. I concentrated on climate change issues, a subject near to my heart with all the changes that are happening in the Arctic. When you’ve been going there like I have since 1988, it’s clear the region is altering, and real fast. There was the poorest sea ice on record at the end of March, which doesn't augur at all well for this summer. I wonder if we’ll see a new sea ice minimum mid September which is when its area is measured?

    US Lectures:
    I went to the US in March to deliver three lectures – at The Rosenstiel Scool of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Miami Zoo and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. All great venues, well filled with enthusiastic and interested audiences. It seems to grab their attention when near the start I flash up that picture of me washing a bathtub when I was in the Red Sea in 1974 before moving on to polar bears, belugas and climate change …… I had an excellent reception and thanks to everyone who helped make them happen. Hoping to return to the US for more dates January – February 2016.

    Doug’s RED Dragon:
    I was always thinking of more filming for this year, so while preparing for the US talks, I also set about acquiring a RED Dragon camera package, including a Gates underwater housing. I got lots of sensible advice from Dave Blackham at Esprit Films ( so I’m now well set up. A fair bit poorer, but well set up ….. and when I’m not using the rig it’s hireable through Dave.

    Kit comprises
    RED Dragon
    Gates Housing
    Canon Lenses
    70-150 macro
    and all the accessories for topside and hand held shooting

    Chagos BIOT:
    First outing for me and the RED was to Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Three weeks in April with John Ruthven for the Living Oceans Foundation. Spectacular diving in one of the most remote and least visited places in the world. LOF are a great crew, their super support ship The Golden Shadow is a perfect dive / research platform, and this time we the film crew had our own dedicated RIB. Some lovely dives across acres of virgin Acropora tables, but also evidence of bleaching events. One reef was covered with the most amazing hues of pink, yellow and blue, for in the five days or so a reef takes to turn white, the coral goes through all these vivid colours. We were lucky (I use the word ironically) to be on a reef just as it changed. A sad terrible beauty.

    Big thanks to Andy Bruckner, Phil Renaud and all the Shadow officers and crew for all their help on the cruise. I know I’ve said it before but LOF really is a good worthwhile organization, I like it that they spread the word of conservation and back it up with useful science.

    BBC Brian Cox:
    Shoot in June couldn't have been a greater contrast in tewrms of water temperature. Doing a sequence for Brian Cox’s forthcoming BBC series, Forces of Nature. Before you ask, the man himself wasn’t on this one, and I’m not able to say a whole lot about it right now as the Beeb like to keep the highlights back until closer to transmission (spring 2016) but it involved diving round icebergs off Newfoundland in Canada. Our man on charge on location, Rick Stanley, of Ocean Quest Adventures ( was a larger than life character, knew Newfy water like the back of his hand, had just the greatest boats and dive support crew. Big thanks to him, Patricia, Debbie, Johnny Mac and Johnny O for keeping us fed and safe and in the right place at the right time (most of the time). And to Alice of course, the blurry AP who was always on the zoom organizing thing.

    Forthcoming Lectures:
    With Jo Sarsby Management, I’m going on the road later in the year with another talky tour. Dates through November are on the poster with this blog. Also doing presentations in 5 public libraries in Scotland through the week of 23 – 28 November immediately after the English venues. Not yet sure of the time of day and the exact library venues, but closer to time I’ll post them here.

    The Bristol Whales:
    Codsteaks ( are a classy Bristol company, managed by their eccentrically wonderful MD, and I’ve been helping out with their current project, creating giant (and I mean giant - bigger than life sized) wicker sculptures of the tail and the head of a couple of whales. Modeled on Humpbacks but in reality as big as a Blue, these are in the final stages of construction in Cods yard. Last week five parties of pupils from local primary schools came for a three hour workshop - I gave them half an hour’s worth of whaley facts,pictures and sounds before joining them to be taught by Abi and Ollie about the weaving. Yes that slightly wonky bit of weave just near the eye of the whale head is courtesy yours truly ….

    The Bristol Whales are officially being launched and will be on public display in Millennium Square in Bristol from the evening of 17 July. My birthday but regrettably I’ll be away on shoot in South Africa. Some things just don't work out do they …….. do come see them, they’re truly spectacular. They’ll be on display until the end of August.

    Off to Svalbard now to try some polar bears ……


    Doug Allan is a freelance wildlife and documentary cameraman who films both topside and underwater. His equipment includes Sony PMW 200camera and Canon stills cameras with housings for both.

    Born in 1951 in Scotland, he graduated with an honours degree in marine biology from Stirling University in 1973. On completion of his degree, he decided that science at the sharp end wasn’t quite where he sought to be. Underwater anywhere became the drive and for the next three years he worked on a wide range of diving jobs. He searched for (and found) freshwater pearls in the rivers of Scotland. Commercial diving in Germany involved underwater video work and rebuilding canals. Twice he assisted with research on marine biological expeditions with Cambridge University in the Red Sea. And in the summer 1975 he ran the Bouley Bay Underwater Centre in Jersey in the Channel Islands.

    British Antarctic Survey
    But the big break was in 1976 when he first went to the Antarctic to work as a research diver on the British Antarctic Survey station at Signy Island in the South Orkneys. The job entailed helping the scientists to carry out their underwater studies, from boats in the summer, beneath the ice in the winter. It was the start of an affair with ice that lasts to this day.

    Over the next ten years until 1985, Doug and B.A.S. had a great relationship – he spent four winters and nine summers “down south” in that time, and was awarded the Fuchs Medal, then the Polar Medal, for his work. He did three winters at Signy as diver, and one at Halley Station down at 75° S as Base Commander. Halley was no place for a biologist – but it offered a chance to winter with Emperor Penguins, and a first opportunity for Doug to turn over with a movie camera rather than just stills.

    The BBC took first option on buying that Emperor footage for their forthcoming series Birds for All Seasons, and Doug’s career took a new direction. Using his experience of ice diving, and intimate knowledge of Signy through its winters, he proposed two films to Survival Anglia then in 1987 spent ten months in the Antarctic making them.

    Filming Since Then
    Since then, he has returned frequently to both the poles, with a string of high profile award winning films and series for the major TV networks worldwide. In contributing to The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Life, Human Planet and Frozen Planet, he has made over 70 filming trips, including orcas attacking gray whales off California, polar bears trying to capture belugas in a frozen hole in Arctic Canada, and killer whales washing seals off ice floes in Antarctica – all on screen firsts.

    But he likes the challenge of filming people as well as animals, and has done documentary synch shooting for many programmes, including assignments with Discovery along the length of the Andes, to the deserts of Africa and to the upper reaches of Mount Everest.

    In 2011 he filmed and was a presenter for the BBC series Ocean Giants about whales worldwide. In 2012 he was one of the presenters on Operation Iceberg, as well as filming many of the sequences in this award winning series.

    Radio and Writing
    Doug has also contributed to numerous radio shows. His audio diary recordings while he made his “Wildlife Special – Polar Bear” became an acclaimed radio programme in their own right. He just recently contributed to Radio 4's Fragile Planet, and Penguin Post Office. Over the years, he’s also written numerous articles about wildlife and his experiences, and two commissioned children’s books. In February 2012 he published his own book Freeze Frame, a collection of polar pictures and experiences. It's available through this website.

    Doug lives in Bristol and through his company Tartan Dragon Ltd, he films for broadcast and for his stock library. His son Liam is 21, and has worked as a PADI Dive instructor in Koh Tao, Thailand and at El Nido in the Phillippines. Liam knows all the best sites and dive resorts there for training, and he'll gladly offer advice. Contact him on

    Illustrated Lectures

    Doug is an award winning stills photographer as well as being a film maker. He's been giving talks for many years on wildlife, diving, his experiences while film making and the craft of nature photography. The four talks below give you an idea of the scope of his presentations, though he's happy to customise these so they're suitable for any audience of any age. All are lavishly illustrated with slides that he's taken during his travels. Each talk normally lasts 1 hour to 90 minutes, fees are negotiable.

    An Eye below Zero
    Doug takes his audience to the two frozen polar worlds - the Arctic and the Antarctic. Glorious pictures of the wildlife, polar bears, penguins and all the seals, the scenery and the people, with insights into how Doug prepares and copes with the short term of a six week film shoot at minus 30°C in search of polar bears. And quite different thoughts on survival of another kind during his two and a half year stint as a biologist on a British Antarctic Survey's scientific research station.

    Underwater Camera
    Experience life on a coral reef in the Red Sea and Indonesia, under the ice with seals in Canada, and looking or belugas and narwhal with the Inuit at the ice edge. Nose to nose with mating Right Whales in Patagonia gives you a chance to rewarm before heading to Antarctica to discover the remarkable rich undersea life there. There sow features behind the scenes stories and sequences from many of the best know BBC wildlife series.

    Wild Images
    Adventures, encounters and insights from the cameraman whose TV credits include Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Life, Human Planet, Ocean Giants and Frozen Planet.In this show Doug takes you up close and personal with the animals that live in the wildest places on earth. Stories and pictures that will appeal to all ages.


    RED Epic with all accessories
    Various Canon zoom lenses ranging from 15mm - 400mm
    Gates Underwater Housing for RED Epic
    4k kit is available for rental - please contact Doug for details

    Sony PMW 200 camera
    Gates Underwater Housing for PMW 200with Fathom w/a lens and HD monitor
    HDV Kit is available for rental – please contact Doug for details
    Sachtler and Ronford Baker tripods, baby, medium and tall legs
    2 x Filming blinds

    Digital Stills
    Canon 5D2
    Canon 1Ds
    Canon 14mm
    Canon 17-40mm
    Canon 24-105mm
    Canon 100-400mm stabilised
    Canon x 2 teleconverter
    Digital Time Lapse
    Seacam housing and wideangle dome for Canon 1Ds and Seacam Strobe"

    Stock Photography

    Doug has an extensive collection of 35mm transparencies, taken all over the world but particularly strong on animals, scenery and life in the polar regions north and south.

    Stock movie footage is also available directly from us, in particular a wide range of humpback and calf material from Tonga and material from the Antarctic Peninsula region.
    Subjects Include...
    • Emperor Penguins at all stages of their life cycle including underwater.
    • Underwater Belugas in the Canadian Arctic.
    • Almost all the seals from both the Arctic and Antarctic, underwater and topside.
    • More icebergs and snow than you'd know what to do with...

    Doug's stills are handled by:
    Getty Images
    Nature Picture Library (Incorporating the BBC NHU Picture library)

    Robert Harding World Imagery

    Doug's stock footage is handled by:
    BBC Motion Gallery
    Getty Images
    Robert Harding World Imagery

    Skills and Qualifications

    • 4k filming with RED Epic cameras
    • SSI Platinum Pro Diver Certification
    • U.K. Health and Safety Executive Class 4 SCUBA Diver
    • U.K.H.S.E. Registered Diving Contractor
    • BBC Approved Diving Contractor
    • Blue screen underwater
    • In date Diving Medical and First Aid Training
    • Excess of 8000 hours underwater, including 500+ hours under ice
    • Experienced handling small boats and inflatables
    • Experienced climber on snow and ice, including rope and rescue techniques
    • Cineflex mount experience
    • Reasonable French and Spanish
    • Full clean UK Driving Licence

    Filmography and Awards

    Principal Productions Doug's filmed on since 2000:
    Forces of Nature (Brian Cox) BBC
    Monty Halls Shark Hunt Discovery
    The Missing Fish Living Oceans Foundation
    Mission Chagos Living Oceans Fouundation

    Shark Alley Living Oceans Foundation
    Operation Polynesia Living Oceans Foundation

    Midnight Sun Brando Quilici Feature Films
    Operation Galapagos Living Oceans Foundation

    Operation Iceberg BBC / Discovery
    Wild Cameramen at Work BBC Scotland
    Nurofen Commercial

    Frozen Planet BBC / Discovery
    Ocean Giants BBC / WNET

    Human Planet BBC / Discovery

    Life BBC / Discovery
    Charlie Bird in the Arctic RTE

    24/7 UAE Corporate
    Gordon Ramsay’s F Word C4

    Everest Extreme Discovery Channel

    Planet Earth BBC / Discovery
    Steve Leonard’s Incredible Animal Journeys BBC

    Boy Among Polar Bears BBC

    Search for the Snow Leopard Granada / WNET

    Steve Leonard: Search for the Loch Ness Monster BBC / Discovery
    Ray Mears: The Real Heroes of Telemark BBC

    Wildlife Special : Killer Whales BBC
    Ultimate Guide to Volcanoes Discovery
    Wild Weather BBC
    Life of Mammals BBC / Discovery

    Ewan McGregor In the Wild Polar Bears Tigress Productions
    Congo Scorer Associates for BBC
    The Blue Planet BBC

    Principal Camerawork Awards

    BAFTA 2011 Cinematography Human Planet: Arctic
    BAFTA 2002 Cinematography Blue Planet
    BAFTA 1997 Cinematography Polar Bear Special
    BAFTA 1993 Cinematography Life in the Freezer

    Emmy Cinematography 2010 Life
    Emmy Cinematography 2007 Planet Earth
    Emmy Cinematography 2001 Blue Planet
    Emmy Cinematography 1995 White Shark Special

    Wildscreen Cinematography Panda 2006 Planet Earth
    Wildscreen Best of Festival Panda 2002 Blue Planet
    Wildscreen Conservation Panda 1998 People of the Sea
    Wildscreen Best Series Panda 1994 Life in the Freezer

    Missoula Best Photography 2007 Planet Earth
    Missoula Best Photography 2005 A Boy Among Polar Bears
    Missoula Best Underwater Photography 2003 Killer Whale Special
    Missoula Best Underwater Photography 2002 Blue Planet

    Jackson Hole Best Cinematography 2011 Life
    Jackson Hole Best Cinematography 2007 Planet Earth
    Jackson Hole Best of Festival 1997 People of the Sea

    Stills Photography

    BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year 1986 Runner Up Bird Behaviour
    Royal Geographical Society Cherry Kearton Photography Medal 1993
    BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year 1996 Winner Underwater
    BG Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2002 Winner Underwater


    Honorary Doctorate, University of Stirling 2007
    Fellow of Explorers Club, based in New York 2010
    Honorary Doctorate, Edinburgh Napier University 2009
    Honorary Professorship University of Stirling Dept of Aquaculture 2010
    Honorary Doctorate D.Sc. from St Andrews University 2010
    Honorory Fellow University of Falmouth 2012
    Honorary Fellow Royal Photographic Society 2012
    Honorary Fellow Royal Scottish Geographical Society 2013