As a child, I well remember watching documentaries on British tv about the natural world.
This was during the days when black and white tv was the norm..old VHF sets with rotary tuners and those well-known set-top aerials with 2 extendable prongs, which we sometimes had to manoeuvre around awkward places in order to get the right signal!
And one of the best documentaries I can recall were the ones by Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough.
Little known however is the fact that many of the shots and subsequent movie filming on David Attenborough’s programs were done by an unknown photographic genius by the name of Peter Scoones.
Peter was originally a naval architect with the Royal Navy in England, but learnt photography whilst working with the RAF in 1959.
His claim to fame came about quite accidentally while he was looking at a coelacanth that had been caught by a fisherman in Mozambique and was still alive, tied up to the side of the boat.
It just so happens that the coelacanth had been thought extinct for millions of years, but here it was in the flesh! Peter paid off the fisherman for the privilege to take the first ever photos of a live coelacanth, and that single action resulted in his new role as underwater photographer, and the awards of an Emmy and a Bafta for technical achievement.
He was the first man to photograph great white sharks swimming naturally in their environment, without resorting to luring them with hunks of rotting meat. And a daredevil of a man he was too…frequently risking his life on dangerous photographic quests such as filming deep under ice, or in waters infested with piranhas and alligators.
On top of his expertise in using his cameras, he was also very knowledgeable about them, many a time having to dismantle cameras costing thousands of $$$, when the waterproof housings had failed, and soaked the gear throughout. He would have the camera stripped down to it’s electronic circuit boards etc and dried and put together again within a matter of hours.
A very rare character indeed. Peter Scoones, born October 1937, died April 2014.