Published: 20/10/2014 12:19 - Updated: 31/10/2014 14:26

Globe-trotter Gordon owes it all to Mull

Gordon Buchanan and friend in the Arctic.
Gordon Buchanan and friend in the Arctic.

HE has come face to face with a hungry polar bear, separated from its teeth and claws only by a clear Perspex box.

Now wildlife cameraman and presenter Gordon Buchanan comes face to face with his fans as he tours Scotland with tales of his adventures around the globe.

These have taken him from the frozen Arctic to the jungles of Papua New Guinea and the plains of Africa, but the Glasgow-based filmmaker reckons he might just owe it all to growing up on Mull.

"Definitely growing up on the Isle of Mull was a big influence — for two quite opposite reasons," he said.

"Mull offered freedom and a sense of wilderness, but being an island it was claustrophobic and limited in what it had to offer to someone with an adventurous spirit."

Buchanan’s adventurous spirt found a soulmate in the late Nick Gordon. Buchanan was working at a restaurant owned by Gordon’s wife when he met the established wildlife filmmaker and was offered a job as his assistant, one which took him to the Venezuelan Amazon to feast on roasted tarantula with the spider worshipping Piaroa tribe.

"Nick was the first ever person I had ever met who had a truly enviable job, was ambitious and simply loved doing what he did and strived to be the best at it," Buchanan said.

Something of that influence can also be found in Buchanan’s own philosophy as a cameraman and presenter.

"Work hard, follow your nose, trust your instincts and good things will come in life and in the wild," he said.

His career also took him full circle when he returned to Mull to make the much praised documentary Eagle Island.

"In some ways it was great to be back on Mull roaming around as I did when I was a boy, but, to be honest, it was a difficult one to make," he revealed.

"Our daughter was born that year and I was working from home for the first time. To be a successful filmmaker you need 100 per cent commitment. To be a successful father you need to 100 per commitment. It was a year that I felt very torn."

He is less torn when asked what would he pick if he had to choose between being a presenter or a cameraman.

"Cameraman — but not just a wildlife cameraman," he answered.

"I think that you can convey so much in filmmaking. You can tell a million different stories and provoke every emotion in a single film. There is so much art in making a great film, and I love every part of it.

"Presenting it just trying to be all the nice bits of yourself without swearing."

Even for a cameraman of Buchanan’s experience, there are the shots that get away.

"I’ve seen amazing things happened unexpectedly, too fast to react to, but that comes with the territory so I don’t beat myself up," he said.

"I messed up pretty enormously one time. Can’t bear to put it in print, I’ll only say that it was one of those once in a life time shots that I was running with the camera on — or at least I though I was running the camera on. I was so excited I hit the button twice so the camera wasn’t recording."

His Mull upbringing also seems to have influenced his taste in places.

Asked for to name his favourite places, he has a marked preference for the wild and the rugged.

"In the UK, the Highlands of Scotland around Aviemore has a special magic," he said.

"It has some of the most grand and wild looking pine forest in the country, In particular Abernethy forest and the area around Loch Garten.

"World? Alaska. It is the place most like the Highlands of Scotland, only bigger scenery, bigger animals and harsher weather."

Over his career, Buchanan has been chased by bears, elephants, tigers and more, but one of his earliest and most memorable encounters was in Sierra Leone when he was 17.

"I was driving back to camp when seven giant fruit bats escaped from a holding container in the back of the car," he said.

"They are huge and they flapped and nipped me all the way back to camp. Memorable only really because at the time I was slightly terrified of bats!

Gordon Buchanan presents Lost Adventures at Eden Court’s OneTouch Theatre on Tuesday 21st and Thursday 23rd (extra date added) and Universal Hall, Findhorn, on Wednesday 22nd October.

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