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.
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.
In a word, beautiful. John shares the experience of patiently waiting, then the euphoria of capturing the action; capturing the art in nature.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A wonderful and evocative book. John's writing is, at turns, poetic and funny, thought-provoking and mesmerising.
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.
Brilliant book- beautifully written.
Fantastic book. Highly recommend!!
Beautifully written book that transported me to far flung places. A highly recommended read.
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.
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.
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.
There were three parts to the UAE shoot: to film camel racing, falconry in the desert and the flocks of flamingoes which winter close to the spectacular skyline of Dubai city.
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
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.
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
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.