Doug Allan is a freelance wildlife and documentary cameraman who films both topside and underwater. His equipment includes RED Weapon 4K , Sony PMW 200 camera and Canon stills cameras with housings and various lenses for all of them.
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, Frozen Planet, Expedition Iceberg, Forces of Nature and many other programmes he has made over 100 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. In Wildlife Cameramen at Work from BBC Scotland in 2012, Doug was one of the featured cameramen.
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 has contributed to Radio 4's Fragile Planet, Penguin Post Office. and Natural Histories. 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.