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.
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.”
How will this trip differ from your usual work?
We usually have a very singular focus on our filming trips, so this offers a beautiful opportunity to take in and explore the best of Svalbard. I’m very excited to join the 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