There have always been nature shows, films, documentaries, or television series. Throughout the years, astonishing cinematography featuring our wondrous planet has left many of us in awe. But only in recent years, with the technological advancements made in the digital age of modern-day filmography, has Earth—and her incredible inhabitants—looked so breathtaking. In the Emmy Award-winning Planet Earth, narrated by Sir David Attenborough and broadcast on BBC America do we see her inhabitants come to life in stunning, ultra high-definition detail.
Originally broadcast ten years ago, the groundbreaking natural history series is an immersive journey to faraway jungles, mountains, islands, grasslands, and even our cities. Across 40 different countries with distinct habitats, and over three years in the making, viewers travel the Globe learning about delicately balanced landscapes and the ways animals cope with the challenges of the wild, and the impact we’ve had on their environment.
The show has had several hosts, including Huw Cordey, Sigourney Weaver, and the inimitable Sir David Attenborough. But as much as the success of Planet Earth can be attributed to the wonders of the world, and the narration of talented artists interested in conservation, the show is a collaborative effort between the many musicians, editors, producers, cameramen, and actual stars themselves… our blue planet, and it’s many amazing, graceful, and sometimes bizarre animals. Below are just a few images of things that will captivate you on BBC‘s Planet Earth.
25 Standing Still Amidst A Swarm Of Locusts
In the “Deserts” episode of Planet Earth, cameraman Rob Drewitt stood amidst a swarm of locusts in Madagascar. But this wasn’t just any swarm. There were more than a billion of the flying creatures. No doubt a daunting experience that would make even the least squeamish shudder. According to Drewitt, who filmed the bizarrely beautiful cinematography, friends and family freaked out plenty, watching him get surrounded by the locusts. He claims it didn’t bother him but he found it interesting that the locusts never once hit his body or flew into him. Instead, they parted and flew past, mere inches away, as billions of wings created a sound like the roar of a waterfall.
24 Sir David Attenborough with a Leatherback Sea Turtle
Never one to rest on his laurels, Sir David Attenborough frequently goes on location to film, and simultaneously host episodes for Planet Earth. Shown here with the largest of all turtles, a leatherback, Attenborough informs us that their numbers have declined dramatically over the past few years. Because the turtles must leave the sea to lay their eggs, they become an easy prey for hunters. In the Caribbean, however, there is hope. Conservationists do what they can to educate, to help save the leatherback turtle and increase their numbers in the wild. Shown here, Attenborough lies on the beach while a leatherback lays her eggs.
23 Falcon Comes In For A Landing
Environmentalist and landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, was reputed to spend hours on end waiting for the proper light to take a picture of our planet in the wild. And much like the conservationist, so do the cameramen and crew of nature shows like Planet Earth, end up waiting a long time. After all, it’s not like there’s a script for our planet, or its inhabitants to follow. That’s why, like Adams, cameramen frequently spend hours waiting for just the right moment to capture something as incredible as this falcon, in mid-flight, coming in for a landing.
22 In The Heart Of Polar Bear Country
You might think that traveling the globe to film our planet or capture wildlife in their natural habitat is exciting, and it is! But it comes with many challenges, the least of which is the weather. From extreme heat to extreme cold, the cameramen and field assistants of Planet Earth come into contact with situations most people wouldn’t or couldn’t imagine. From having to scare off polar bears to jumping in frigid water, the crew, like Doug Allen and Jason Roberts must do what they can to capture the shot that leaves us in awe.
21 Baby Peregrine Falcon In NYC
New York City is home to more than eight and a half million people. You might not think wild animals exist in the concrete jungle—at least nothing beyond pigeons, subway rats, and flying roaches—but nothing could be further from the truth. New York City is also home to at least thirty peregrine falcons. Pictured here with one of four healthy young peregrine falcon chicks, Chris Nadareski, sits atop the Throgs Neck Bridge. It's his job to care for and monitor the birds to help them thrive in this most unusual of habitats.
20 A Meerkat Ready For His Close-Up
Five different teams of producers, directors, and camera operators filmed across the globe. From inhospitable locations all the way in Africa to the Arctic, their goal was to capture various young wild animals take their first breath. One of these was the meerkat, a member of the mongoose family. Meerkats live throughout the Kalahari and Namib Deserts, as well as South Africa. Each meerkat plays a relevant role in its community. Meerkats have a highly developed social structure. They can also be mischievous and extremely curious, like the one pictured here with a cameraman from Planet Earth.
19 Under The Sea
Fans of BBC America’s Planet Earth have been treated to stunning cinematography that stimulates the eye and fills us with wonder. It’s not just the quality of filming. It’s the eye-popping footage, the aural sensation of award-winning music, and the incredibly dangerous feats of adventure. Whether in the air, on land, or under the sea, the cameramen and crew of Planet Earth, Planet Earth II—and other spin-off Planet Earth shows—take us on journeys we never dreamed possible, like the underwater adventure shown here, as they inspect the depths of our mysterious oceans.
18 Focus On A Harvest Mouse
Grasses are an excellent place for a harvest mouse to build a nest and hunt for food. There’s plenty to eat but much is at the top of the grass canopy, which puts such a tiny creature in danger. A harvest mouse is about three times smaller than the average house mouse. It has a prehensile tail that allows it jumps from stem to stem without every touching the ground unless it absolutely has to. Here, after escaping a predator barn owl, a female harvest mouse climbs grass shoots to find her way home. Lucky for us, Planet Earth cameraman Jonathan Jones was there to film her progress until she got home to her newborn babies.
17 Sandesh Kadur - One Of The Filmmakers Behind Planet Earth II
Sandesh Kadur, a filmmaker for Planet Earth, is a director in his own right. With a visual arts company in India, Kadur has captured gripping footage of rhinos, elephants, and tigers in the tall grasslands in the wild. He’s also filmed monkeys and leopards living in Indian cities. Pictured here, Kadur is out in the field with Dr. Chadden Hunter, one of the producers for Planet Earth, specifically the Grasslands episode. The long-time friends and conservations walk through an open area before diving into grassland that can grow so tall it can hide large, dangerous predators.
16 Sir David Attenborough Observes Mama Meerkat And Her Pups
Sir David Attenborough, younger brother of actor Lord Richard Attenborough—of Jurassic Park fame—graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Natural Sciences. He joined the BBC in 1952 and two years later, hosted a television program called Zoo Quest. With a passion for wildlife and the environment, he has since continued to work with the BBC, writing, directing, and producing natural history shows to educate and enlighten viewers on the many wonders living on our planet. As a writer and narrator for Planet Earth, Attenborough has also traveled the Globe to show us some incredible habitats. Here, Attenborough observes a mother meerkat and her pups.
15 Sandesh Kadur - One Of The Filmmakers Behind Planet Earth 2
Crew member, producer, and cinematographer, Sandesh Kadur is best known for his work on Planet Earth II, which was broadcast ten years after the first Planet Earth. In this picture, Kandur awaits the presence of a tiger in the Grasslands episode. According to Kadur, sloth bears, tigers and elephants, continually ripped out camera traps in Kaziranga National Park during the making of that episode. Then again, filming wildlife in its natural habitat isn’t something that happens on cue. Once Kadur and his crew figured out the animal patterns and behavior, the result was filming a tiger properly while safely camouflaged in the high grasses.
14 What Swims Beneath The Surface
If you thought Planet Earth was groundbreaking, Planet Earth II is breathtaking. Like the first series, this new TV documentary is shot in ultra-high definition for some eye-popping footage across all eight episodes. The ultra-cool program not only educates and enlightens viewers about the amazing, bizarre, and at times outright frightening creatures with whom we share the planet. It presents thought-provoking elements with cinematography, as well as photography, that is nothing short of awe-inspiring, like the picture shown here. While crew and shipmates wait aboard the vessel, below the surface, lurks beauty and danger in the form of an Orca whale.
13 Planet Earth II - Live In Auckland Concert
Planet Earth and Planet Earth II, though 10 years apart, have become a global phenomenon among conservationists and viewers of shows that document natural history. The series has won BBC Studios more than 21 nominations and another 11 wins, including Emmys, Baftas and Critics’ Choice Awards. One award, in particular, the International Film Music Critics Award, inspired BBC programmers to dream up yet another way to amaze audiences. Planet Earth II, Live in Concert. Allowing for a more immersive experience, viewers went on a journey to far-away places, spectacular landscapes, cities and habitats, all set to the Academy Award-winning score by Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea and Jasha Klebe, with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.
12 Red Birds-Of-Paradise In Flight - West Papua, New Guinea
If Planet Earth fascinated viewers of natural history shows, Planet Earth II, wowed them with even more. Bird watchers, in particular, were treated to eye-popping photography, filming more feathers than before, in the form of peregrines, birds-of-paradise, and plenty of other avians to fill the screen. But bringing such a show to life isn’t easy. It requires cinematographers armed with high definition cameras, dedicated crew, and extreme amounts of patience. For example, it took John Aitchison three weeks crouched on the jungle floor in western New Guinea to film an intricate dance between a male and female vibrantly colored Red Birds-of-Paradise, like the ones shown here.
11 A Three-Toed Sloth
Nature doesn’t always cooperate and wildlife knows nothing about cues. So what do cameramen do to capture the stunning footage shown on Planet Earth and Planet Earth II? To begin with, cameras are more powerful than ever before, but smaller and more portable. Cinematographers use drones overhead, or maneuver them to remote places that would be too difficult to get to otherwise. To simulate flight, a Go Pro was strapped to an eagle to show how high and far they can travel. This would be impossible for a cinematographer to replicate. However, one other trick used to mimic flight is the use of an expert hang glider. And then there are camera traps, triggered by motion to capture footage of rare and endangered animals. For this little guy, however, a lovesick pygmy three-toed sloth who goes swimming to find “the one,” it was as simple as jumping in the water and waiting for the right moment.
10 Saving The Dolphins
Dolphins are masters of the marine environment and have shared their home with humans for hundreds of years. However, because of the impact we've had on the ocean, these graceful creatures are now at risk. Humans have developed more than 100,000 different chemicals, most of which have ended up in the delicate ecosystem. As a result, dolphins have accumulated high levels of contaminants that are far beyond the threshold for proper health and reproduction. The biggest culprit? Plastic. Yes, plastic makes our lives convenient but at a price. BBC America's Planet Earth explores what marine biologists are doing to help dolphins since the 1980s.
9 A Pat Of Pink Flamingos
Everyone has seen or heard of a pink flamingo. But did you know that what gives a flamingo its color is its diet? The species shown here, in this photo from Planet Earth II, eats floating microscopic algae containing the same pigment that makes carrots orange. This pigment turns their feathers pink. Though flamingos are frequently associated with tropical climates, all six species can live in environments inhospitable to humans. Flamingos do everything together, including breeding. But to do so, they must all be in the mood. Planet Earth was on location to witness a unique dance, en masse, that gets the fragile-looking birds all focused on reproducing.
8 A Whale Of A Time - Mother And Baby Humpback Off Tonga
Until “The Hunt” was filmed—an episode that is part of BBC America’s groundbreaking documentary series, Planet Earth—no one had ever seen the blue whale feeding underwater. For Alastair Fothergill, Executive Producer, it was a lifetime ambition and an epic experience. The blue whale, one of the largest animals that’s ever lived on our planet, can grow up to 30 meters, which is approximately 98 feet in length. It can travel up to 15 knots, or 17 miles per hour, and come to a dead stop under water. Luckily, the Planet Earth crew was on location to film every heart-pounding second of feeding.
7 In The Recording Studio With Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough is not the type of man to talk about wildlife without experiencing it for himself. He’s not just one of the narrators of Planet Earth, he’s someone you will actually find on set while filming in some of the most extreme places in the world. Much of the BBC show still has to be narrated and when that happens, off to the recording studio he goes, where he delivers that, now famous, relaxed, soothing and at times, coaxing British tone.
6 Chasing Monkeys Through India
Viewers of BBC America’s natural history documentary series, Planet Earth and Planet Earth II, have journeyed from the deepest jungles in the world to the tallest mountains on our planet. But it's not always as easy as picking up and setting up camp in a new location. There are logistics involved and permits. Sometimes, according to wildlife filmmaker, Dr. Fredi Devas--interviewed by vulture.com--, it can take up to nine months to get the necessary paperwork. Little did they know that when they got to the rooftops of Jodhpur, they would end up filming an incredible chase scene between an alpha Langur monkey, banishing any other eligible bachelor.
5 Red Birds-Of-Paradise In West Papua, New Guinea
Cameramen and crew for the BBC docuseries, Planet Earth, know that no matter how well prepared they are, it can be days, if not weeks before the right moment comes along for them to capture the wondrous beauty of our planet. Take, for example, the red Birds-of-Paradise shown here. While in the jungles of West Papua, New Guinea, John Aitchison, and his crew witnessed and filmed what might well be some of the most bizarre mating rituals between birds. A courtship that is part dance, part flight, eventually brings the brightly colored and beautiful birds together, allowing the cameraman and photographer to capture such an intimate moment.
4 Filming A Dolphin Pod
The ocean conceals many creatures that live beneath the surface but can’t hide them all. One of these is the Bottlenose Dolphin. One of the more common in the dolphin family, the Bottlenose are extremely intelligent. With that intelligence comes a certain playfulness. For example, did you know that they like to surf? Shown here, in this image from Planet Earth: Blue Planet II, according to the show’s narrator, Sir David Attenborough, dolphins surf for the sheer pleasure of it. The marine mammals live in tropical and temperate waters, including the more frigid waters of the United Kingdom and Ireland. They hunt and play in groups called “pods”, and they can reach speeds of more than 30 km, which is more than 18 miles per hour.
3 A Rare Closeness
The wandering albatross is one of the largest seabirds on the entire planet. With a wingspan that measures anywhere from 8 to 11 feet, they can weigh as much as 28 pounds. The wandering albatross breeds in faraway regions, from Macquarie Island off the southeastern coast of Australia to South Georgia, off the southernmost tip of South American. In this picture, we witness a rare closeness between human and mother albatross and her nesting chick. It’s moments like these that, according to Planet Earth crew, cameramen, and members of the British Antarctic Survey team that make the challenges worthwhile.
2 Tip Of The Iceberg In Polar Bear Country
The most demanding wilderness on our planet can be located in the North and South Poles. Nowhere else in the world is the climate so extreme, causing ice to expand and retreat every year. And life in these ice worlds is governed by just that, Ice. That is why filming in the bitterly cold conditions is fraught with almost insurmountable challenges. And yet, while filming in Polar Bear Country for BBC America’s Planet Earth, cameramen and crew think nothing of throwing themselves into frigid waters to show us the magnificent wonders that fill our world.
Planet Earth originally aired on BBC America in 2006. At the time, the documentary series about the animals that inhabit our planet was one of the most expensive shows to be commissioned by the BBC. It was also the first to be filmed in high definition. With 11 episodes, the groundbreaking series was nominated for 15 different awards, winning 11 of them, including 4 Emmys. In 2016, BBC America followed up with Planet Earth II. Cameramen and crew were able to capture even more astounding footage than they had in the first show of the series. One such episode—which can take weeks, if not months, to capture—was filmed on 12 different locations around the globe. Shown here is just one example of the many sequences for the episode Grasslands.
Sources: BBC; Vulture; information taken directly from TV show BBC Planet Earth, and BBC Planet Earth II.