Magazine article Geographical

Sue Flood

Magazine article Geographical

Sue Flood

Article excerpt

Sue Flood is a wildlife film maker and photographer who spent 11 years with the BBC Natural History Unit working on television series including The Blue Planet and Planet Earth. Having made more than 30 trips to the Arctic and Antarctic during her career, she recently released a collection of her polar photography entitled Cold Places. She spoke to Olivia Edward about keeping clean in the Arctic and what it's like to wake up next to a baby penguin


I grew up watching David Attenborough on television and thought being a wildlife film maker would be an amazing job, but I never dreamt I would get to do it. After graduation, I started writing to the BBC Natural History Unit. On their advice, I gained work experience elsewhere and eventually started getting interviews with the BBC. Then I got down to the last 500 applicants, the last 200, the last ten, and eventually, in 1993, they offered me a job.

To be a good wildlife film producer, you have to be patient, creative, have incredible attention to detail and be able to stick at something until it's done. You also have to be willing to put up with uncomfortable conditions. You can be camping in a tent in the Arctic for months on end without a shower. I take a lot of wet wipes. It's not for everybody. It can be pretty challenging, especially if there are four of you in a tent. Usually it's just me and two or three guys.

One of the best jobs I ever had was as assistant producer on The Blue Planet. I got to go out and do some really interesting shoots, but ultimately, I wasn't having to carry the can. The higher up the ladder you go, the bigger the budgets and the worse the stress. People expect spectacular pieces of never-seen-before behaviour from the big BBC series, so the pressure is on to film them on time and on budget.

One of the most challenging shoots I did was filming eider ducks diving under the ice in Hudson Bay. It was meant to be -35[degrees]C or -40[degrees]C, but we were lucky, it was ten degrees warmer. That's still very cold, so we used an igloo to shelter out of the wind, and there's a shot of me covered in snow and ice with my eyelashes frozen. But, we got what we wanted and it was great watching it back and seeing these ducks diving down, pulling up the urchins from the sea bed, throwing them around in their beaks to squash the spines, and then swallowing them whole.

One of the most magical moments I've had as a wildlife photographer was with a colony of emperor penguins. After carrying my camera gear a few kilometres across the sea ice, I lay down on the snow and actually dropped off to sleep listening to this wonderful cacophony of chicks calling out to be fed. …

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