The Shark and the Albatross

This is a lovely book, vividly written, giving us a fascinating insight into the world of wildlife photography. It is a must for all those who enjoy insights into the natural world.
(Alexander McCall Smith)

These evocative stories are from the heart of the keenest observer, a skilled cameraman and a superb naturalist.
(Chris Packham)

If you watch wildlife films and like the 'making of' sections at the end you will enjoy John's book, The Shark and the Albatross, which is published in the UK by Profile Books.
The book contains behind-the-scenes stories about the filming and conservation of polar bears, tigers, emperor penguins, wolves, humpback whales, snow geese and many other animals, including the tiger shark and black-footed albatross of the title.

You can order The Shark and the Albatross from Profile Books here and follow them on Twitter @ProfileBooks for news about this and other books.

It's page on Amazon UK is here.
A Kindle/ebook version is also available

The book is also widely available in bookshops, including Waterstones.

John can sign and post copies. Email him here.

The book will be published in North America in May 2016 by Greystone Books. Their website is here and on Twitter they are @greystonebooks

Publication in China has also been agreed. More details later.

There is also an audio book here. on Audible, read by the author.


Long hours seeing the world through a telephoto lens give his narrative a heightened, almost hallucinatory sharpness...Nature writing for a technological age, rich with zoom-enabled insights, the gleaming beads of water on the feathers of a migratory bird in the middle of a vast lake as close at hand as the ground beneath our feet....He simply loves his craft, and his enthusiasm sings off the page.
(The Independent 23rd October 2015)
You can read this review here.

Absorbing, elegant essays.
(The Sunday Express 10th November 2015)
You can read this review here.

Aitchison’s intelligent, evocative prose brings real depth to his stories, and his human subjects – from a tracker in the Yukon to his own grandmother back home – spring as vividly from the page as his polar bears, humpback whales and wandering albatrosses.
(BBC Wildlife Magazine Book of the Month: November 2015)
You can read this article and see a gallery of John's photographs here.

In the book's conclusion, entitled Moving Pictures, he makes a timely plea for us not simply to read about his experiences, or enjoy his films, but to engage more closely with the natural world: 'In the most important sense of the word, moving is exactly what our pictures ought to be, and if they are, perhaps more of us will choose to be on nature's side.' With people like Aitchison capturing so brilliantly the world's wildlife on camera, we surely will.
(The Daily Mail 1st October 2015)
You can read this review here.

The Herald did a piece on John when the book was published.
You can read it here.

John's approach to showcasing his passion for the natural world has always been one of gentle empathy. This book is a distillation of that empathy and reveals why so many of the stunning images that have graced our screens through his lens have an ephemeral and sensitive quality that is there for all to see in the real world, but which so very few of us ever have the romance in our eye to find. John has just that, and we are all the richer for sharing his vision.
(Simon King)

In a word, beautiful. John shares the experience of patiently waiting, then the euphoria of capturing the action; capturing the art in nature.
(Bill Oddie)

A kaleidoscope of brilliant wildlife experiences not to be missed.
(Sir John Lister-Kaye)

Here you'll find a version of the world which is more real, more intense and, sadly, more beautiful than the one most of us are forced to occupy.
(Adam Nicolson)

One of the most beautiful wildlife books I have read...By turn, compassion, humour, fear and enchantment shine through his stories – written in a style that is clear, lyrical and honest. Anyone who loves nature should read this book.
(Amazon review)

A wonderful and absorbing book. John Aitchison writes so descriptively and sensitively that it's easy to become totally immersed in his accounts of filming diverse wildlife expeditions around the globe. His writing has moved me to tears several times but that's been perfectly balanced by amusement too.
...a wonderful and absorbing book.

(Amazon review)

Exquisitely written. Transports you to these iconic places and gives you the feeling that you were really there, experience these spectacular wildlife moments for yourself. A must read for anyone genuinely interested in wildlife.
(Amazon review)

Beautifully descriptive, and sensitively told. Enormously informative-packed with wonderful exotic tales of the natural world we live in but often overlook. For anyone interested in photography, travel, conservation, and wildlife this book it an essential companion.
(Amazon review)

A wonderful and evocative book. John's writing is, at turns, poetic and funny, thought-provoking and mesmerising.
(Amazon review)

This book is a must read! I have always been passionate about animals and the way they are photographed in the wild, The shark and the Albatross offers a back stage pass to many of the best animal documentaries on TV. It's a facinating and stunning read for any animal lover.
(Amazon review)

Brilliant book- beautifully written.
(Amazon review)

Fantastic book. Highly recommend!!
(Amazon review)

Beautifully written book that transported me to far flung places. A highly recommended read.
(Amazon review)

I loved this book. Well written and full of interesting thoughts and insights. The natural world described by someone who has dedicated their life to observing and documenting it. Highly recommended.
(Amazon review)


Autumnwatch: Changing of the Guard - November 2013 | BBC 2

This is a short film made for Autumnwatch about migration. In Britain we are lucky to live where swallows spend the summer and geese spend the winter. Between them these birds travel a large part of the globe. When the wind swings into the north and the swallows leave I love to think of them spending the winter in the company of elephants while the geese have just parted from polar bears in Greenland. These are barnacle geese by the way, rather than white-fronted geese.


Wild Cameramen at Work - 2013 | BBC Scotland

Wild Cameramen at Work, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, featured John, Mark Smith, Doug Allan and Doug Anderson; all Scottish-based wildlife cameramen.
This clip is of a murmuration of starlings coming to roost in a reed bed in Gloucestershire, watched by Bill Oddie.


Hebrides - Islands on the Edge - Clips - July 2013 | BBC2

The series went down very well when it was first shown just in Scotland and has also had a network transmission on BBC2.

Twitter: #BBCHebrides

DVDs and Blu-ray discs of the series are now available here on Amazon for instance.

Continue reading: Hebrides - Islands on the Edge - Clips - July 2013 | BBC2


Tigers - Life Story | BBC 2

This tigress with only one eye lives in Bandhavgarh in central India. She and her family featured in the BBC series Life Story. We followed their lives for a dramatic month during which one of the cubs was killed by another tiger.

Picture courtesy of Theo Webb


Hebrides series - 2011-12 filming | BBC Scotland

The spring was very busy. A huge pod of common dolphins which came close to Skye in May were a great bonus.

Continue reading: Hebrides series - 2011-12 filming | BBC Scotland


Wild Arabia - BBC | November 2011/March 2012

Wild Arabia is a three-part series produced by the BBC Natural History Unit. John filmed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and in Jordan.

As well as filming the flocks of flamingoes which winter close to the spectacular skyline of Dubai city, John also helped film camel racing, falconry in the desert and the migratory harriers which hunt songbirds around irrigated areas in Jordan.

Continue reading: Wild Arabia - BBC | November 2011/March 2012


Frozen Planet | BBC 1 and Discovery Channel

Frozen Planet, the BBC's polar sequel to Planet Earth, started transmission towards the end of October 2011. There are seven episodes in total.

John filmed shearwaters and humpbacked whales gathering to feed in the Aleutians, gentoo penguins exploding from waves and being hunted by southern sealions in the Falkland Islands, emperor penguins leaping from the Ross sea in super slow motion then struggling back to their colony, young adelie penguins leaving their colonies on the Antarctic peninsula and learning to swim while leopard seals hunted them through the ice floes, fur seals fighting and giving birth in South Georgia where young wandering albatross were also taking their first flights, polar bears eating berries and wrestling on the coast of Hudson Bay as well as searching for nesting eider ducks and Arctic terns in Svalbard where other Arctic birds, including Brunnich's guillemots, nest on immense seacliffs.

You can see one of the series trailers here.

And a slow motion clip of a sealion hunting gentoo penguins from Programme One here.

Continue reading: Frozen Planet | BBC 1 and Discovery Channel


A View through a Lens - series 3 | BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4

You can listen to all five programmes here.

Wildlife cameraman John Aitchison often finds himself in isolated and even dangerous locations across the globe filming wildlife. In this series he reflects on the uniqueness of human experience, the beauty of nature, the fragility of life and the connections which unite society and nature across the globe.

1.Taking the Plunge
On a remote island close to the Antarctic Circle, hungry leopard seals patrol the waters where young Adelie penguins are learning to swim.

2. Funky Chickens
In Kansas, land of the prairies and the ‘wild west’, John discovers some very funky chickens.

3. Patience
John travels to Svalbard to film polar bears hunting for food and reflects on what it means to be patient.

4. Fur Seals
On a very small island in the South Atlantic, amidst the noise and aggression of battling male fur seals, something very beautiful and tender happens.

5. Shearwater Hurricane
John travels to the Aleutian islands to film one of Nature’s greatest feeding spectacles.

Written and presented by wildlife cameraman John Aitchison
Additional sound recordings by Chris Watson and Miles Barton
Produced by Sarah Blunt


Slow motion filming for National Geographic in Brazil | April 2011

This is the island of Fernando de Noronha off the coast of Brazil.

Continue reading: Slow motion filming for National Geographic in Brazil | April 2011


Polar bears wrestling | November 2010

Polar bears wrestling from John Aitchison on Vimeo.

Young polar bears waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze pass the time by wrestling. This looks like play and perhaps it is but it also allows the bears to test each other's strength, saving them from dangerous fights if they should encounter each other later out on the ice.


Polar bears | Seal River Lodge, Canada

A polar bear at sunrise with ice fog rising behind it. Hudson Bay is starting to freeze.

Photo courtesy Sean Crane.
You can see more of Sean's excellent wildlife photographs here.

Continue reading: Polar bears | Seal River Lodge, Canada


A View Through A Lens - series 2 | BBC Radio 4 Autumn 2010

In this radio series wildlife cameraman, John Aitchison, reflects on the uniqueness of human experience, the beauty of nature, the fragility of life and the connections which unite society and nature across the globe.

Photo courtesy Chadden Hunter.

Continue reading: A View Through A Lens - series 2 | BBC Radio 4 Autumn 2010


BAFTA for Yellowstone "Winter" Cinematography | May 2010

The Yellowstone camera team were given the BAFTA Factual Cinematography award in May. John was delighted to be there with Producer Andrew Murray and AP Nathan Budd to accept the award on everyone's behalf.
The series was also nominated for a Cinematography Emmy.


A View Through A Lens - series 1 | BBC Radio 4 2009

One episode ("Wolves") was about trying to film Yellowstone's Druid Peak wolf pack hunting elk in the depths of winter.

All five episodes were broadcast in December 2009 and repeated in 2010.
Produced by Sarah Blunt of the BBC Natural History Unit, Bristol.
BBC series link.



Photo courtesy Charlie Phillips

John is a wildlife filmmaker who works for the independent production company Otter Films Ltd. Otter Films has worked with the BBC, National Geographic, PBS and Discovery Channel on series including The Hunt, Frozen Planet, Life Stories, Life, Big Cat Diary, Springwatch and Yellowstone.

The BBC's Natural World series commissioned Otter Films to produce the Amber Time Machine. It features David Attenborough's quest to discover what amber can tell us about the past. You can watch it here on the BBC Earth YouTube channel.

You can download a list of productions here.

The BBC's Frozen Planet website is here.


Social Media

Find out more about
The Shark and the Albatross
by liking John's Facebook page ( here.

You can follow John (@johnaitchison1)
on Twitter here.

and on Instagram here.


Latest News...

The Hunt - BBC1

The BBC's latest blockbuster wildlife series about predators and prey has been proving popular on BBC1.
John filmed Amur falcons for the introductory programme, sparrowhawks and jays, harpy eagles and a sloth, and pine martens for the forests episode, peregrines for the coastal episode and snow geese for the plains episode.

You can visit the series website here

BBC World Service - Outlook

Matthew Bannister talked to John about The Shark and the Albatross. You can listen to the interview here.

New Networks for Nature - Nature Matters

In November John delivered the Prologue at Nature Matters, an inspiring event which draws together artists and scientists interested in the natural world and its preservation. The theme was 'Place and Belonging'. Anyone with an interest in wildlife, conservation and creativity would enormously enjoy these very stimulating annual events.
The next one will take place in Cambridge in September 2016.

There are some details of the 2015 event here.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

John took part in the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.
The webpage for the event is here.

Martha - An Endling's Tale - BBC Radio 4

Martha was the last of her kind. The passenger pigeon was once the most numerous bird in North America and perhaps the world. Martha died in Cincinnati zoo in 1914. One human generation earlier her species had been counted in the billions. In this radio programme, produced by Sarah Blunt with wildlife sound recordings by Chris Watson, John explores how this unthinkable extinction happened and what we can learn from Martha's sad tale.

To lean more about Martha and listen to the programme you can visit the programme's website here.

Hebrides wins a Wildscreen panda

In October 2014 the Hebrides series was awarded the panda for Best Series at Wildscreen, the biennial wildlife film festival held in Bristol. The judges described it as, "a very well crafted series. The filmmakers clear vision brought the landscape, wildlife and people together into a very engaging story."

Hebrides receives award from the Guild of Television Cameramen

In May 2014 the Hebrides series was honoured with an award for excellence in cinematography by the UK's Guild of Television Cameramen.

Tweet of the Day - BBC Radio 4

John presented several Tweet of the Day programmes on Radio 4. You can listen to them here.

Current Projects

One Planet, a new BBC1 series for 2016 and Dynasties: Lions for BBC1 in 2018

Frozen Planet at Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival

In September 2013 the camera team for Frozen Planet won the Best Cinematography award at Jackson Hole.

A View Through a Lens

The 3rd series of these programmes about filming wildlife was repeated on BBC Radio 4 in August 2013.
If you missed it you can listen to all five episodes here.

Disney Nature - Bears

John has recently been part of a team filming coastal brown bears in Alaska for a documentary feature for Disney Nature, released first in the USA in April 2014.
The trailer is here.

Wild Cameramen at Work

BBC Scotland's series on wildlife filmmakers born or living in Scotland went out on BBC2 in July and August 2013 as part of the Summer of Wildlife season. Twitter: #Wildcameramen

The series website and clips are here.

Hebrides - Islands of the Edge
Narrated by Ewan McGregor

John spent 240 days filing the topside wildlife for this four part series.
Doug Anderson filmed underwater. Nigel Pope was the exec/series producer and produced prog 1, John produced prog 2, Sue Western edit-produced prog 3, Kate Munro and Amanda Reilly produced prog 4.
Editing by Nick Carline, Martin Elsbury and Alex Broad.
It's a Maramedia production in association with Otter Films and was commissioned by BBC Scotland.
A quarter of Scots watched the first episode.
The series website, with video clips, is here.

The series trailer is on YouTube here.

Ewan McGregor Narrating 'Hebrides - Islands on the Edge'

"It's one of the most beautiful films I have seen".

John directed Ewan's narration for the second programme. It was a real pleasure to see how much skill and intelligence Ewan brought to all the films.

Wild Arabia

Sixty Years in the Wild

John filmed with Sir David Attenborough and Lloyd and Rose Bucks' imprinted greylag geese on Loch Lomond for David's next BBC series, Sixty Years in the Wild. The series was shown in November 2012.

There is a clip here.

Frozen Planet Wins at Wildscreen

At the Wildscreen festival in Bristol on October 18th 2012 Frozen Planet was honoured with Panda awards for sound, best series and cinematography.

Nigel Wilkes of Panasonic UK presented the Cinematography Panda to John, Mark Smith, Doug Anderson and Hugh Miller, on behalf of the many cameramen in the team.

Frozen Planet Wins Emmy for Cinematography

In Los Angeles in September 2012 Frozen Planet 'Ends of the Earth' won the Primetime Creative Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Non-fiction Programme and the Emmys for Non-Fiction Picture Editing and Sound editing. The series also won the Outstanding Non-Fiction Series Emmy. Well done everyone!

Frozen Planet Wins BAFTAs for Cinematography, Editing & Sound

On 13th May 2012 Frozen Planet won Craft BAFTAs for cinematography, editing and sound. John and underwater cameraman Doug Anderson collected the Cinematography BAFTA.
Read more here.

The Winter episode has also won the Royal Television Society award for Cinematography and the series won Best Cinematography at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula as well as several other awards there.

Other News

Otter Films have recently run several wildlife film-making training courses for rangers from the National Trust for Scotland. The Trust has some outstanding properties with world-class wildlife, like St Kilda and Mar Lodge.

John gave an after-dinner speech to more than 600 people at the RSPB Members' Weekend at York University and spoke at the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust's 50th Anniversary Celebration Event.
Read more here.



You can contact John Aitchison by emailing him here.

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Advice for new camerapeople

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