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Journeys in the Wild The Secret Life of a Cameraman

Biography / Memoir Nature Writing
By: Gavin Thurston(Author), Sir David Attenborough(Foreword By)
440 pages, 8 plates with colour & b/w photos
Publisher: Orion
A collection of memorable adventures and engrossing stories, Journeys in the Wild reveals just what it takes for a wildlife documentary cameraman to film the stunning footage we all admire.
Journeys in the Wild
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  • Journeys in the Wild ISBN: 9781841883113 Paperback May 2020 In stock
    £6.50 £8.99
  • Journeys in the Wild ISBN: 9781841883106 Hardback Aug 2019 In stock
Selected version: £6.50
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About this book

Read out interview with the author here.

From Gavin Thurston, the award-winning Blue Planet II and Planet Earth II cameraman, comes extraordinary and adventurous true stories of what it takes to track down and film our planet's most captivating creatures.

Gavin has been a wildlife photographer for over thirty years. During that time he's lurked in the shadows of some of the world's remotest places in order to capture footage of the animal kingdom's finest: prides of lions, silverback gorillas, capuchin monkeys, brown bears, grey whales, penguins, mosquitoes – you name it, he's filmed it.

From journeys to the deepest depths of the Antarctic Ocean and the wide expanse of the Saharan deserts, to the peaks of the Himalayas and the wild forests of the Congo, Gavin's experiences describe much more than just the incredible array of animals he's filmed. He invites you to come inside the cameraman's hidden world and discover the hours spent patiently waiting for the protagonists to appear; the inevitable dangers in the wings and the challenges faced and overcome; and the heart-warming, life-affirming moments the cameras miss as well as capture.

Customer Reviews (1)

  • Memorable adventures and engrossing stories
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 2 Sep 2019 Written for Hardback

    In recent years, wildlife documentaries have started featuring short “making-of” sections at the end of each episode, showing the camera crew in action as they try to film animals in the wild. The reason for this, as Sir David Attenborough explains in his foreword, is actually very mundane. But they have proven wildly popular with audiences and I always find them incredibly interesting. They show the effort, hardship, and patience required for capturing that perfect shot. Journeys in the Wild, then, is like a giant collection of such segments from cameraman Gavin Thurston. For the last 30 years, he has travelled the globe to film footage for some of the best-known wildlife documentaries, racking up more hilarious, unnerving, and wondrous adventures than most people would know what to do with.

    The downside of being a cameraman is that you are literally out of the picture, so most people might have no idea who goes behind the name Gavin Thurston. But if I say BBC, David Attenborough, Blue Planet II, or Planet Earth you might get an idea. That, and he has won Emmy and BAFTA Film awards for his work. Still stumped? Remember that utterly bizarre sequence in Blue Planet II of an underwater brine pool with an eel suffering toxic shock? That was Thurston behind the camera.

    Now, a picture may say more than a thousand words, but Thurston’s book tells of all the things that the cameras did not capture. Journeys in the Wild is divided into seven parts, each seemingly structured around a certain theme (first encounters, courage, patience, luck etc.) and contains a series of diary entries in chronological order.

    The material here is thoroughly engrossing and there are some nail-bitingly tense situations: a narrow escape from a kidnapping in India, being caught out in a fierce storm in Antarctic waters, crashing an aeroplane in remote Gabon, being stalked by a pride of lions, or nearly being beaten up by a kangaroo. Especially the trip into war-torn Sudan to film for the BBC is harrowing to read.

    But there are also moments of comic relief: dressing up as a gorilla to get close-up shots of sitatunga (small, swamp-dwelling antelopes), dealing with a corrupt customs official in Panama who insists on a “donation for their Christmas party”. But it was the opening scene in a UK studio filming rabbits, where a dominant male rabbit by the name of Piss Dick gets up to no good that had me in stitches, tears running down my face with laughter.

    There are moments of intense wonder, as Thurston witnesses wildlife and natural events that most people will never see, in many cases before he even has a chance to record it: a chimpanzee admiring a butterfly, the mating call of the male kakapo (an endemic ground-dwelling parrot) in New Zealand, a chance encounter with a wild fossa (an endemic mammalian carnivore) in Madagascar. But he does not shy away from the less glamorous sides of the job: the long days spent waiting in hides, the bush camping under all weather conditions, falling ill while travelling in the tropics, the frequent jetlags, and the long months spent away from home and family.

    Thurston has many captivating anecdotes to share and I found it difficult to put the book down. But I thought there was one downside to the way Journeys in the Wild is written. It is literally a collection of diary entries, making the book feel slightly disjointed. One moment we are in the ’90s, the next moment a paragraph header announces we have fast-forwarded weeks, months, or many years to a completely different location. This leaves very little room for a continuous narrative or for reflections on how documentary filmmaking has changed over the years (there are occasional remarks on how technology has advanced, but these are made almost off-hand). The upside of this approach is that it is very easy to pick this book up or dip into it if you do not have stretches of time to read non-stop.

    Although often hard work, documentary filmmakers at the same time lead a charmed and adventurous existence. Many of them would not wish to trade it for something else for all the world. There is a huge audience out there craving to hear their stories, and Thurston joins an illustrious line-up. Attenborough has written many books over the years (most recently e.g. Life on Air, Adventures of a Young Naturalist, and Journeys to the Other Side of the World), but the people working behind the scenes have equally captivating stories to tell, e.g. James Aldred’s The Man Who Climbs Trees, Doug Alan’s Freeze Frame, Keith Partridge’s The Adventure Game, and the forthcoming The Whale in Your Room by producer John Ruthven.

    I think it is no exaggeration to say that wildlife documentaries have been influential in shaping people’s attitude to the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats (see also BBC Wildlife Documentaries in the Age of Attenborough). If anything, Thurston’s drive to capture footage of some of nature’s extraordinary wonders for all to see shines through in this book. If you ever wondered what goes on behind the lens, then Journeys in the Wild is just the ticket: a captivating collection of exotic encounters and truly memorable adventures.
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Gavin Thurston (born 1962) is a BAFTA and Emmy award winning cameraman specialising in wildlife. He has worked on 17 of Sir David Attenborough's series and has travelled and filmed on all seven continents and at both North and South poles. Recently, whilst filming for Blue Planet II he was in the submersible that set the world record for deepest dive in Antarctica. Gavin attended King's School Gloucester having won a choral scholarship at Gloucester Cathedral. As a frustrated artist, he taught himself photography to fulfil that want. On the day he left school, armed with his black and white portfolio, he landed a job with Oxford Scientific Films. This is where his passion for the photographic image merged with his fascination for the natural world. His job provides a variety of experiences from filming the space shuttle launch for Rocketships, a documentary for The Discovery Channel to working with a remote Korowai tribe in Papua New Guinea for Human Planet. He once had the lens hood bitten off his camera by a Siberian tiger and survived crashing a Land Rover in remote Russia whilst filming for BBC's Realms of the Russian Bear. Not to mention surviving a plane crash on a dirt strip in Gabon delivering some orphaned Gorillas back to the wild. He has stood down charging elephants and a lion as well as very close encounters with a grizzly bear mum with cubs and wild wolves. And whilst filming for a BBC special on Gorillas, he was slapped by a silverback. Gavin has won numerous awards including a Royal Humane Society Award for Bravery (1984), 5 EMMYs and 3 BAFTAs for cinematography. Gavin is married to Maggie and has two sons, Thomas and Harry.

Biography / Memoir Nature Writing
By: Gavin Thurston(Author), Sir David Attenborough(Foreword By)
440 pages, 8 plates with colour & b/w photos
Publisher: Orion
A collection of memorable adventures and engrossing stories, Journeys in the Wild reveals just what it takes for a wildlife documentary cameraman to film the stunning footage we all admire.
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