Award winning Blue Planet II and Planet Earth II cameraman Gavin Thurston took some time to sign copies and answer our question about his new book, Journeys in the Wild and his adventures filming the world’s most charismatic animals in spectacular and remote locations.
1. Could you tell us a little about your background and how you got interested in filming and photographing wildlife?
My first childhood memories are when growing up in Petersfield in Hampshire. A green and leafy part of England. My sister and I used to go and stay with my grandparents who lived near the village of Selbourne close to the South Downs. This was home to the 18th Century literary naturalist Gilbert White. My Granny had a shared interest in nature and had great knowledge of the wildflowers, butterflies and trees of the area. I believe it was her enthusiasm that set the seed to grow a passion for nature in my inquisitive young mind. As a young frustrated artist, I found an outlet in photography, and later on, in moving images, combining the two passions to spend much of my career filming wildlife.
2. What inspired you to write your book?
Mostly due to my career. I have had so many wonderful experiences and adventures around our planet. I have witnessed more of nature’s wonders than anyone has the right to do. When I told stories to family or friends the most common response was ‘You should write a book!’. So, before I got too decrepit to remember the details, I tried to get on with it. It’s only when I was contacted out of the blue by commissioning editor Emily Barrett, from Orion Publishing, with a book offer, that I signed a contract and then had to bloody well get on and finish it!
3. What contribution does wildlife photography and filming make to conservation?
Hopefully the films I work on help to instill in viewers both an interest and then a passion for the natural world. Just as my Granny did for me by showing me the beauty and intricacies of nature firsthand. Once someone takes an interest in what wilderness and wildlife we have left, then there’s more chance that they will take measures to reduce their impact on Earth. The more passionate and driven viewers may well then go on to either donate, campaign or volunteer on conservation projects. It’s only once we know what is out there and why we stand to lose it, that an informed audience can then make a choice on how to stop the decline of habitat and biodiversity.
4. If someone was inspired to pursue a career filming wildlife, what advice would you give them to get started?
Spend as much time observing nature as you can. Get outside and see it for yourself. Explore and discover. Take photographs, or if you have the talent, then sketch the natural world. Britain has an amazing variety of species. Animals and insects are playing out life and death dramas all around us daily. Teach yourself how to document these engaging stories. Most teenagers have a smart phone these days, and most of these phones have pretty good cameras for photos and videos. Get out there and use them. Discover the natural world and your hidden talent.
5. What is your favourite habitat to film in and why?
I can’t say I can pin down a favourite habitat. I love nature’s variety. Whether that’s dark, dense tropical forest or a rugged coastline, snowy Arctic expanse or vast sandy desert. All I can say is that I’m a big fan of truly wild places. The less human influence or signs the better.
6. What is the biggest challenge when filming wildlife in the field?
The biggest challenge is to do the animals and habitats justice on screen without affecting or influencing their often already difficult lives.
7. When writing your book and looking back over your career, was there one incident or animal encounter that stood out as exceptional?
I have experienced many extraordinary animal encounters, so it is difficult to single out one. There are a few in my book, so read ‘Journeys in the Wild’ and judge for yourself!
8. Have you got any future projects planned that you can tell us about?
In this age on non-disclosure agreements I can’t say too much about future projects. I can hint though at one project I’ve been working on for the last year with Sir David Attenborough. It is conservation led, and hopefully will have far reaching influence on how we humans need to change our habits to try and restore natural balance on our planet. Watch this space…
Gavin signed copies of Journeys in the Wild The Secret Life of a Cameraman for NHBS: order now while stocks last
Hardback| August 2019| £13.99
Gavin’s book, Journeys in the Wild, is out now and available from NHBS. If you want to discover even more about filming wildlife: BBC Wildlife Documentaries in the Age of Attenborough explores the history of wildlife television in post-war Britain and Untangling the Knot, Belugas & Bears by acclaimed wildlife cameraman, Mike Potts are both published in November.