Tom Crowley

Find out more about Tom on his website. 

Photography Guide & Professional Cinematographer

Tom is a true maestro behind the camera! His memorable work on Racer Snakes vs Iguanas in Planet Earth 2 was simply breathtaking and he has gone on to win Emmy and BAFTA awards for his work. 

Not only is he a gifted photographer and cinematographer, but Tom’s dedication to wildlife and the ocean is remarkable. His experiences as a marine scientist studying blue and humpback whales, coupled with his time as a polar guide, truly showcase his deep-rooted passion for the natural world.

Tom knows wildlife, their behaviors and how to anticipate the shot. His expertise in good-lighting and his patience in waiting for the shot has garnered him 2 prestigious BAFTA awards (British Academy of Film & Television Awards) for his work on the BBC’s popular Planet Earth.  Tom’s vast range of knowledge as a Marine Biologist and still and film photographer are shared joyfully with our onboard photographers in the field and back aboard ship.

“My personal relationship with nature has been the key driver from early childhood to now; it’s what has guided my decision-making along the way. The relationship is constantly evolving, which naturally drives me down new and interesting avenues. Before, I was far more interested in filming and documenting dramatic spectacles, but now I find myself exploring our disassociation with the natural world and its impact on our well-being and what we can learn from this to live a happier future.”

Tom has captured the world’s top predators across the globe, from the intense hunts of Lions and hyenas stalking buffalo and wildebeest to Jaguars on Caiman in the heart of Brazil, and Polar bears from Hudson Bay to Svalbard.

Toms recent venture into documenting Polar bears for the ‘Predators’ TV series, narrated by the iconic Tom Hardy for SkyTV, is a testament to Tom’s mastery. With a background as a marine scientist and Polar guide, coupled with an extraordinary flair behind the lens, Tom possesses a distinctive edge when it comes to capturing wildlife in its most natural form. 

Get to Know Tom

Tom, tell us a little about your journey into videography. 

My journey to becoming a Natural History and Adventure Cinematographer was rather circuitous! 

The spark, like for many, started in childhood. I remember being towed on an inflatable lilo with a window in it over a reef in Borneo by my dad. Looking through to the beautiful tropical reef below I decided, at age 6, to become a marine biologist. I was hooked on National Geographic videos about Ron and Valerie Taylor, and Jacques Cousteau, so I guess it started here. Valerie was famous for many things, including diving with sharks while wearing a chainmail suit and helping Ron (her husband) create oceanic sanctuaries. She also worked on the filming of JAWS, the movie!

Studying originally to become an Oceanographer, the draw of the outdoors and expedition travel was too much. I loved to see and experience the world around me which drew me to Chilean Patagonia, where I spent the best part of four years helping to study and document the Blue and Humpback whales. Shortly afterwards, I found myself guiding on the Antarctic peninsula and it was here that I started to dream about a career filming and documenting the incredible places I was visiting.  

Returning to the UK after one of these trips, I attended a film festival in Bristol to get a feel for the industry. I met a Commissioner for BBC’s Natural World, and he asked if I was interested in a job. Shortly after, in 2009 I started to work at the BBC’s Natural History Unit as a researcher and subsequently assistant producer focusing on Landmark series such as Frozen Planet, Life Story and Planet Earth 2. It was here where my real training began, and I became an accomplished cinematographer. Years of patience observing animal behaviour paid off with a knack for reading and anticipating what animals were about to do next. I soon found myself shooting more and more challenging stories and using sophisticated camera systems to do so.

What are you most looking forward to about your expedition to Svalbard? 

Svalbard is a land of awe and spectacle, from stunning landscapes to surprising wildlife experiences. I love the fact you don’t know what you will discover behind the next corner, and things can happen at any hour of the day. You can really lose track of time up here, and the more you look, the more likely you are to spot something unusual, from aquatic stalking polar bears to Blue whales…

“Of all these experiences, polar bears are the most unique with the greatest presence. When a Polar bear is hunting, and it looks at you, even while looking through the lens of a camera, you can feel it in your core.”

Tom Crowley: Your photo expedition guide in the field.

Even though I have plenty of mileage doing documentary film work, I am also an experienced still photographer, well versed in wildlife of all kinds. I look forward to advising my clients how to get the best award winning shots of their own. What one applies to documentary film is equally applicable to great still photography. I teach my guests how to best utilize their equipment and what design principles are effective in creating compelling compositions. We will spend time learning  how to recognize the best moments when good light seals the deal  and encourage my clients to be extremely patient while waiting for the most interesting behaviors to unfold. With polar bear photography, studying their behavior before heading out into the pack ice is quite important. Knowing that a bear may stand up on two legs when curious or looking from a distance, understanding how cubs interact with their moms, how they scent the air and shift the tilt of their heads, anticipating when a bear might leap across open stretches of water from one stand of pack ice to another…all this knowledge allows us to keep searching for the most compelling angles and perspectives of our subjects. This can be applied to penguin adults feeding chicks, whale’s throwing their flukes, Albatross dancing in the tussock, elephant seals hauling upward for a fight and countless other behaviors that bring us to that best shot of the season.

I’m very excited to join your  trip and can’t wait to share a little of my world as a professional wildlife cinematographer.

Top tips for our guests joining your expedition would be… 

  • Think before you shoot! What feeling do you have before you take a picture? Is it a beautiful scene, a dramatic hunt, or a little detail? In which case, think about how and when you should press the shutter button to capture that moment. In one photo you are trying to tell a story, capture a memory, freeze a feeling which you hope people looking at the photo will be able to tell. Less is often more!
  • If possible, have two cameras.  One with a wide lens and one with a telephoto. It’s quicker and safer not to change lenses on the small boats, and stops you from getting dust or snowflakes on your sensor.
  • When you come in from a day’s filming/photographing, take the batteries and media in with you but store the camera in a cool dry place, not your hot cabins.  This prevents moisture from getting into the lenses and fogging when you go back out into the cold.
  • Store your batteries in a warm pocket, the cold can really drain them and damage the lithium.  

The photos featured on this page are used by the kind permission of © Tom Crowley