Doug Allan is best known as the principal cinematographer for a number of world-renowned BBC nature documentaries, including Planet Earth and Blue Planet. He is also a scientific research diver, biologist, and former station commander at two of the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) bases (Signy and Halley).
He first went to Antarctica in 1976 with the BAS. Over the next nine years he spent five winters and six summers working in the Antarctic. In 1983 he received the Fuchs Medal from BAS and the Polar Medal from Queen Elizabeth for his scientific and support work. In 2011 he was awarded a second Polar Medal in recognition of his filming work.
Doug’s wildlife filmmaking career began in 1986, and since then has specialised in extreme environments, particularly the North and South Polar regions, both above and below the water. He’s now very well acquainted with both penguins and polar bears, though of course never at the same time! He has filmed wildlife and expeditions all over the world, including the upper reaches of Mt Everest.
He has been involved in over 65 films, including assignments as a freelance for the BBC, Discovery, National Geographic and many other commissioners. He was principal cameraman on many award-winning programs and series, such as the BBC’s Life in the Freezer, Wildlife Special (Polar Bear), The Blue Planet, PlanetEarth, Life, Human Planet,Frozen Planet, Operation Iceberg and Forces of Nature.
On many of those, Doug self-directed short ‘diary’ pieces. The BBC now regularly uses the last 10 minutes of its nature programmes to showcase the skills of wildlife camera operators and the immense challenges they often face in capturing just a few moments of footage. In recent years, Doug has appeared as a co-presenter on the BBC’s Operation Iceberg and PBS’s Ocean Giants.
His photographic awards include eight Emmys, four BAFTAs, five Wildscreen Pandas and recognition at Jackson Hole and Missoula Film Festivals. He has twice won the underwater category in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year and was awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s Cherry Kearton Medal for his wildlife images. In addition to an Honorary Doctorate and Honorary Professorship at the University of Stirling, Doug has further Honorary Doctorates from St Andrews and Edinburgh Napier. In 2012 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the prestigious Royal Photographic Society, and in 2014 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.
Doug established his own company, Tartan Dragon Ltd in 2004. In between filming shoots he gives presentations about his work, science and the environment to schools and institutions across the UK. He has also been guest lecturer on several Quark expedition cruise trips to the Arctic and Antarctic, including a visit to the North Pole. In 2011, he self-published Freeze Frame, a book of polar photographs and anecdotes about his career.
BSc Marine Biology, 1973
Honorary Doctorate, 2007