Gordon Buchanan: Award-winning Scottish filmmaker take wildlife shows on the road

“Having never been abroad – never even been on a plane – there I was, a month after leaving school, setting off for a year and a half on the other side of the world.”

Gordon Buchanan grew up on the island of Mull, where he developed a fascination for nature and love of the outdoors at an early age.

He was only 17 when he set off on his first adventure into the unknown to help a local cameraman document animals in the rainforests of Sierra Leone.

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The job came about through a lucky coincidence, but it has shaped his entire life going forward.

Award-winning Scottish wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan is taking his work on tour around the UK to mark 30 years of studying rare and fascinating animals at home and across the world

“I was right in at the deep end with making wildlife films,” he said.

“I knew nothing about what it involved and I had no idea really what I was getting into, but I knew it was the sort of life I wanted – and I never wavered from that belief.”

Now aged 49, the award-winning Scottish filmmaker and television presenter has got up close to some of the rarest and most iconic creatures on the planet over an impressive career spanning 30 years.

He has documented native species in some of the wildest and most remote places across the globe, including South America, Asia, Africa, Papua New Guinea, Russia and Alaska, and has even had to run for his life from hungry predators.

Buchanan is the talent behind popular BBC productions including the recently aired Cheetah Family and Me, part of a series of shows featuring different species, as well Springwatch and Autumnwatch, Equator from the Air, Life in Polar Bear Town and the highly-acclaimed Tribes, Predators and Me series.

Other notable television credits are Wild Burma, The Dark: Nature’s Nighttime World, Land of the Lost Wolves, Lost Land of the Tiger, Lost Land of the Volcano and Lost Land of the Jaguar.

He also filmed a six-part series titled Into the Wild, taking famous people to nature hotspots around the UK to look for local wildlife, and Animals with Cameras.

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Now he is taking some of his work on the road, including previously unseen footage and photographs, as part of a UK tour marking three decades of doing what he loves and helping to highlight the pressures facing nature in today’s world.

As part of the tour he will discuss his experiences on location and describe how evolving technology has made previously impossible feats achievable – such as shooting a genuine bird’s eye view, or even a bear’s or bat’s, using cameras attached to the animals themselves.

“It has always been about showing viewers the parts of nature we’ve never been able to see before, and technology allows us to do that more and more,” he said.

“But the other huge change across the years has been the increased realisation about how vulnerable and fragile these areas of the world where I’m filming actually are.

“Right now we’re losing animals before we even knew their species existed.

“That’s a tragedy.

“So much change has taken place over the past 30 years years.

“The concerns I have now just weren’t around when I started out.

“There were different worries then.

“The world has been going through the biggest transformation in a short space of time in human history.

“And over the past three decades I’ve had a unique view.”

Buchanan refuses to pick a favourite animal, despite the variety he has to choose from, but admits filming wolves in the Canadian Arctic was one of his favourite jobs.

“Wolves are fascinating animals in themselves, but these packs had never before encountered people,” he said.

“We were the first humans they had seen and they had no fear of us, so we were able to film close up without disturbing them.

“There are very few places left in the world where animals have not interacted with humans. They were the lucky few which hadn’t had to learn of the dangers posed by mankind.”

However, not all encounters have been quite so charmed.

“I’ve been chased by bears, tigers and elephants, but not all at the same time,” he said.

“And let me tell you, that’s when you discover how fast you really can run.”

But it’s not just exotic foreign species that capture Buchanan’s heart.

He is a staunch supporter of a number of environmental and wildlife organisations at home in Scotland, including roles as patron of conservation charity Trees for Life and ambassador for the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

He also loves working here.

“Last year I was at Lake of Menteith filming ospreys – it was one of my most enjoyable experiences, being close to home with a fascinating native species,” he said.

“And I enjoyed some of my best ever encounters with dolphins in Scotland last summer.

“You don’t have to travel to the furthest parts of the planet to see amazing wildlife.”

The secret to capturing great footage might come as a surprise.

It’s not patience, according to Buchanan, but optimism – which carries you along after patience has run out.

As far as the future is concerned, sighting Scotland’s resident orcas in seas off the west coast is top of his personal wish list.

So what would ice his professional cake?

“I’ve worked on every continent except Antarctica,” he said.

“I would love to film leopard seals under the ice there.”

The UK tour, Gordon Buchanan: 30 Years in the Wild, kicks off in Fife, at the Alhambra in Dunfermline, this Sunday.

Then he travels south, progressing around England and Wales, before returning to six venues across Scotland from February 22 to 27.

Audiences will hear about his work both behind and in front of the camera, creating some of the country’s best-loved wildlife programmes.

The event will be a showcase of both his most celebrated work and material never seen before, providing a ‘behind-the-scenes’ insight into how the shows are made.

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