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DISNEY ON ICE; LENSMAN ON HOW HE CAPTURES UNIQUE SHOTSGlobe-trotting cameraman goes back to the Antarctic for wildlife film.

Byline: Julie-Anne Barnes

Wildlife lensman John Aitchison has been chosen by Disney to help make a new nature film.

The cameraman, who has filmed some of Sir David Attenborough's most extraordinary documentaries, has returned from a six-week shoot in the Antarctic for the global entertainment giant.

John, 50, said: "There's nothing startling or secret but I'm not supposed to talk about it until the film is finished."

The Argyll-based cameraman has worked for the BBC and National Geographic on series including The Hunt, Frozen Planet, Life Stories, Life, Big Cat Diary, Springwatch and Yellowstone.

The last time dad-of-three John was in the Antarctic he was filming Frozen Planet, taking amazing images of emperor penguins.

After a career spanning three decades, John has written a book about his adventures revealing how some of his most memorable shots were filmed.

He said: "Something which was very hard won or very far away or rarely seen is always rewarding. But there are others which are closer to home.

"But one of the obvious ones is the emperor penguins which we filmed in the Antarctic. Their lives are so extreme. In the winter, the males incubate the eggs. They sit on them for more than 100 days. Those tiny chicks are born in temperatures as low as -60C.

"When we found them, it was summer so they had half grown. My job was to film the adults coming and going from the sea. We had to go across the ice, several kilometres offshore.

"There were just three holes that they would jump in and out of. The ice is just a few inches thick towards the edge. The water is crystal clear.

"Seeing them coming up, they were just like grains of rice, all silvery with the air bubbles. They stream air bubbles to make them go faster. They come up to the hole and shoot out and shoot across the ice. They are just as sweet a bird as you will find."

His book, The Shark and the Albatross, covers some of his other travels across the globe getting images of the world's most fascinating animals and meeting conservation specialists.

He said: "I was going to all of these places and meeting so many people and we would live alongside each other very intensely. Their lives and their perspectives were so interesting. All their knowledge was locally learned.

"If we were with tigers, they would know everything about a specific tiger and everything that happened in that area. They were so valuable and their lives were fascinating. I didn't want to let that go."

John says Scotland's shores are also filled with fascinating sea life but warns that more needs to be done to conserve birds in the UK.

He said: "One of the most beautiful things I've seen was in Scotland. It was a murmuration of starlings. There used to be many more but they come in large numbers from eastern Europe. I filmed some with Bill Oddie. Everything was right - the light and the mood.

"In the past, our lives were full of birds. It's only relatively recently we've noticed birds declining. It is a change that has been made by our acceptance of farming practices.

"I feel Scotland could do more to nurture its environment. There is certainly a will and there is huge value in it economically."

The Shark and the Albatross, published by Profile Books at PS17.99, is out now.


WILD CHILD Cameraman John loves the outdoors

SNAPPING AT THE HEELS A wolf chasing a bull elk in Yellowstone National Park, a tigress in Bandhavgarh in India and a harpy eagle in Venezuela. All pictures from John's new book

P-P-PICTURE A PENGUIN John filmed this Adelie penguin colony in the Fish Islands, close to the Antarctic peninsula
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 13, 2016
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