The world of wildlife: waiting and waiting then being chased and chased
So what is it like to be a wildlife camera man? For acclaimed film-maker and presenter Gordon Buchanan, it’s about being chased by elephants, and bears, and tigers and ... the list goes on.
"It’s a working hazard," says Buchanan. "As a wildlife cameraman, so much of my time is spent sitting. At one point I thought to myself, am I going to do his for the next 40 to 50 years? Just waiting for something to happen? But when something does happen, including being chased, it’s great and it’s worth waiting for."
The Scottish native has spent the last 20 years filming and travelling in some of the world’s most remote corners. He has taken part in expeditions in South America, Asia, Africa, the Arctic, Russia and Alaska. "I like the challenge of telling a story. I get to experience things that most people can’t even dream of. It’s my duty to package the information in such a way that helps them feel like they are right there with me."
Buchanan says advancements in technology have really changed the game. "Technology is going to put me out of a job someday, but it has its perks. We use remote cameras for some footage. I can sit on a mountain and stay awake 48 hours straight with my finger on the button just waiting for something to happen, but when I get past those two days, I’m useless, whereas a camera will stay awake as long as it has batteries."
But some animals tend to be a bit suspicious of cameras. Elephants have smashed some while curious primates have made away with a couple more.
"It’s a numbers game. You need more than one camera going. We are also starting to fit small camera systems to animals for more in-depth scientific study. It’s breath-taking what can be done these days. Technology will be the driving force in keeping viewers hooked to wildlife and nature shows."
Buchanan says his life philosophy is to connect with nature as often as possible. "All the worries in life that we have as a result of our modern ways … to get to grips with them or to put them into perspective, I go for a walk. I’ll walk around the hills or the coast. It levels things out. When I get home in a city — I just want to get out and see something predominantly green."
Modern society, Buchanan says, is so unnatural. "We have adapted and evolved with a set of basic social structures in our species but in the last 50 years things have changed. We communicate with the world through the TV and telephone screens."
Buchanan adds: "I have an aversion to screens. I have developed an allergy to my laptop. I hate it. As we all know, you might be planning to book a bus ticket and before you know it you are looking at helicopter crashes. It robs you of the most valuable thing: your time here on earth."
Buchanan’s latest adventure sees him following a herd of elephants in the Kenyan wilderness. The programme will soon be available on DStv’s BBC Earth.
• Goko was recently in the UK as a guest of the BBC during the broadcaster’s annual worldwide showcase