Renowned wildlife cameraman Doug Allan was director of photography on Zoopla’s new Crab World TV advert. Here's what he had to say about the shoot and his fascinating career.
Doug Allan is a wildlife cameraman, photographer, marine biologist and diver. He has worked with David Attenborough for more than 30 years, specialising in the polar regions and underwater.
When did you start out as a wildlife cameraman?
“In 1983. I filmed Emperor penguins in Antarctica for the BBC series Birds for all Seasons. I’d first gone to Antarctica in 1976 as a scientist and diver – and by 1983 had three Antarctic winters under my belt.”
How did you meet David Attenborough?
“It was 1981 and I was working on a base in the Antarctic. David and his crew were filming The Living Planet and we got a radio call from HMS Endurance – the ship they were on – asking if they could come onto the island. Antarctica was much more remote back then so the call was a complete surprise.”
Above: Doug Allan with Husky, Greenland
How would you describe working with David?
“Great fun, great man, great privilege.”
What's the most challenging animal you've worked with?
“A snow leopard. For 11 weeks on location in the Himalayas, she graced me with one hour of her company.”
And the most challenging environment?
“Xixapangma mountain on the border of Nepal and China. It’s one of only 14 peaks in the world that reach 8,000 metres. That wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”
Is there a country that's still on your bucket list?
“New Caledonia, a French colony north of Australia.”
Which animal do you identify with most?
“Whales are effortlessly graceful in the water. You can also sense their intelligence. I wish I had the same attributes.”
Above: Doug Allan's photograph of a Weddell seal and pup under ice, Antarctica
What impact has improving technology had on your career?
“Huge. When I started out we used film, which had to be sent back to the UK and processed, so there was no feedback on what we’d shot. But even in the last 10 years it’s made a massive impact. Now you can get immediate high-resolution playback.”
How did you find working with hermit crabs Zoopla's Crab World TV advert?
“Experience gives you a feel of how to get the best out of them but you still need a lot of patience. Thankfully, the director and I were on the same wavelength and we had a super crab wrangler to look after them so it was a great success.”
Did the crabs have their own personalities?
“Some were definitely more active and others more camera shy.”
Had you worked with hermit crabs before?
“Once, by chance, in the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The sea snakes were trying to grab and eat the hermit crabs but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time on location to get good shots of the behaviour.”
If you were looking for a home on Zoopla, would you choose one by the sea or in the mountains?
“By the sea. Because water’s in constant motion and you never get the same view twice.”
Above: Doug Allan's iconic photograph of fighting polar bears, Canadian Arctic
Doug Allan grew up in Fife, Scotland. He lives in Bristol but enjoys escaping to his house in Ireland’s Co Galway and watching the dolphins in the bay.
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