Saturday 17 November 2018

Famous wildlife photographer the focus of New Ross show

Colin Stafford-Johnson.
Colin Stafford-Johnson.

David Looby

Multi award winning wildlife photographer Colin Stafford-Johnson is bringing all the drama and colour of his career to a show at St Michael's Theatre in New Ross on Wednesday, November 8.

Dubliner Colin, 53, is the foremost nature and wildlife cinematographer and presenter in Ireland today and could be considered the Irish David Attenborough, given his encyclopedic knowledge of wildlife and nature.

Colin will present his 'Living the Wild Life... with Colin Stafford-Johnson' show at St. Michael's Theatre as part of a nationwide tour of Ireland.

He took time out from his hectic schedule to speak with this newspaper.

Colin said: 'My interest in wildlife came before my interest in photography. I backpacked around the world and visited natural history museums and studied wildlife.'

Colin completed a degree in wildlife filming in his mid-20s. 'I started off with a wildlife camerman making the tea. He was making a wildlife series in Wales and it was there where I got some experience on a proper film camera. I was able to build up a show reel over two years.'

Inspired by David Attenborough's groundbreaking Life on Earth series, he set off on his career.

Describing the job of wildlife cameraman as 'full on', Colin said you can be employed for six weeks and then have no work for several weeks.

His first big break came when he got a job filming tigers in India. 'I spent 220 days there. I would work on average 14 hours a day for six weeks and then take a break as you would be mentally drained. You have to be switched on. Nothing can happen for several days and it can be 45 degree heat in the sun while the tigers are in the shade.'

Colin worked for the BBC's natural history unit for many years before returning to Ireland nine years ago. He made fifty Living a Wild Life programmes over eight years and became a presenter for films about tigers and monkeys. 'I presented the film for Broken Tail; it was the most successful wildlife film of that year. The On a River In Ireland documentary I made was one of the top three nature documentaries ever made. It won the biggest prize in Europe and America.'

Colin canoed down the river Shannon, interacting with wildlife as he went for the programme. He recently finished a two part series called Wild Ireland: Edge of the World which was aired on PBS and the BBC to great success. His next job is filming sea otters and bears in America.

In his RTE Living the Wildlife series he encourages viewers to get out to see the country's amazing wildlife. 'During filming we had an absolutely amazing day where we saw 500 dolphins, three hump back whales, 20 fins and a few minkies off the Cork coast. The diversity of wildlife is amazing. Wildlife doesn't reveal itself very easily but if you go to the trouble of going out it's amazing what you can see.'

He said patience is vital. 'A lot of animals are very predictable but weather is the thing that gets you in Ireland. In tropical countries it's insects and the heat. You could be 100ft high up on a tree canopy platform and all the insects in the area see this human body and just chew you up. You could have 100 ticks all over your body and mosquitos eating you. After one filming trip to the Amazon I was scratching for two years. I got malaria, dengue fever and dysentry.'

Colin said filming tigers and monkeys have been the highlight of his career. In his talk - which will feature video clips from his series - he will tell the stories behind the shots. 'The show is split between Ireland and overseas. It's all very light and casual.'

People attending will have the opportunity to find out how people become a wildlife cameraman, what the challenges filming the wild include, the weird and the wonderful. Adult ticket prices cost €18 and the cost for retired people, students and children is 16.

New Ross Standard