I am planning on photoshopping two separate animals together for this first brief and have been thinking a lot about the ethics opt it all. Is it ok the photoshop wildlife biased images? There is much dispute and discussion about this subject on the internet but this short article stood out for two reasons 1: it’s the BBC and 2: it’s Doug Allan who is a very experienced and respected wildlife camera man.
BBC ‘fakes wildlife
shots all the time’:
rabbits’ are filmed
- Doug Allan revealed secrets of how BBC makes wildlife films
- He said most small species are filmed in closed conditions
- The cameraman said people felt ‘deceived’ by the trickery
- But he defended the practice, and said the BBC should be open about it
- He was speaking at Cheltenham Literature Festival to promote his book
They are the programmes that leave viewers enthralled by the wonders of nature.
But many wildlife scenes in BBC series are faked, a veteran cameraman admits.
In fact, most footage involving small animals is not what it appears, Doug Allan said.
Secret’s out: Experienced cameraman Doug Allan let slip the fakery in a speech at the Cheltenham Literature Festival
Species ‘smaller than a baby rabbit’ are put in custom-built sets and filmed under controlled conditions, rather than in the wild.
Mr Allan’s revelation comes only two years after Sir David Attenborough’s flagship documentary Frozen Planet was accused of fakery for filming the birth of a polar bear in a zoo rather than in the wild.
The footage was defended at the time by the veteran naturalist, who compared nature documentaries to ‘making movies’.
But Mr Allan – once described by Sir David as the best cameraman he had worked with – said he understood why people felt ‘deceived’.
He said: ‘I think the BBC didn’t handle it the best. On their website there was a video showing how it was done, but they didn’t quite bring enough attention to it. It wasn’t obvious.’
Mr Allan defended the use of captive animals in wildlife films, so long as producers make it clear to audiences which shots are not gathered in the wild.
Proud: Mr Allan said the BBC should have been open about the fact that some scenes for recent David Attenborough series Frozen planet were filmed in a zoo
Preparing for the new arrivals: The fake nest being built in a Dutch zoo, ahead of the birth of the polar bear cubs
Not as it seems: The ‘den’ in the wildlife park was constructed out of plaster and wood, built below the zoo’s polar bear enclosure. It was fitted with cameras shortly before the birth
‘You can’t make a film about mice just by going out into a meadow and looking at mice,’ he said.
‘You need to introduce them to a safely built set in which they will be happy. There’s a lot of skill in doing that.’
Asked whether cameramen were worried about filming wildlife on sets, he said they ‘have to do and accept it’, adding: ‘Nobody seemed to be bothered by it.’
Mr Allan was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, where he is promoting his book Freeze Frame: A Wildlife Cameraman’s Adventures On Ice.
He said the BBC should have been proud of the way in which it gathered the Frozen Planet footage rather than hiding the explanation on its website.
The sequence showed the new-born polar bears mewling and nuzzling their mother in a cave. Eight million viewers were led to believe the footage was captured by BBC cameramen in harsh sub-zero temperatures.
However, it emerged it was actually shot in a Dutch zoo, using fake snow.
Moving scene: The pair of two-day-old polar bear cubs shown on the documentary. At this age they weighed less than a kilo, but were filmed in a zoo
New build: The polar bear and cub inside the man-made den fashioned out of wood and covered in fake snow
Faked? What the viewers saw on Frozen Planet turned out not to be filmed in the wild, but in a Netherlands zoo
It was interspersed with real shots of the Arctic, while Sir David’s carefully worded narration led viewers to believe the scene was genuine.
The veteran broadcaster, 87, defended the footage at the time, saying: ‘Come on, we were making movies.’
But Mr Allan said the BBC should have flagged up its filming techniques at the end of the programme.
He said: ‘Be proud of it, and then I think people would have felt less deceived. I don’t have a problem with that sort of thing – I did it myself years earlier – but the public, some of the public, chose to think that was fakery.’
Mr Allan was not involved in the polar bear scene and does not film small animals.
Mixed: The scene was mixed with real footage of polar bears in the wild, which may have misled viewers
He also addressed the future of nature documentaries, saying there would be no one like Sir David on television again and claiming the presenter’s involvement in a programme guaranteed 20 per cent more viewers.
‘There will never be another David,’ he said. ‘As long as David is alive, for anyone else to be called “the next David Attenborough” is a kiss of death. The way television works these days, a presenter is doing well if they last more than ten years.
‘On the BBC, you’ll see a lot of new faces that are being tried out. Some are good, some you see once and then bye bye.’
But if anyone is to follow in Sir David’s footsteps, Mr Allan said, it will be Springwatch presenter Chris Packham because he has ‘integrity’ even though he is not ‘everyone’s cup of tea’.
Kept quiet: Mr Allan said it would be impossible to make programmes about small animals like mice entirely in the wild
Mr Allan also praised Professor Brian Cox, but said he only ‘came alive’ when talking about space and physics rather than wildlife.
In June, Sir David praised Mr Allan, who has worked with him on Blue Planet, Frozen Planet and Planet Earth.
He said: ‘Capturing animal behaviour in extreme and hostile places takes a very special kind of cameraman and they don’t come more special than Doug Allan.
‘I’ve had the extraordinary good luck of working with him over many years and no one knows the frozen world better than him.’
Am I just making art and if so how far can I push the boundaries, there are strict rules in competitions about editing techniques but just as a photographer should I tell everyone which images I’ve edited and which ones are “real” (because nothing that has been framed and composed in photograph is truly real) I am still unsure about this as a subject but will keep researching and asking the questions and hopefully soon I will have a better understanding of the complex world of Ethics.