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A brief encounter with Sir David Attenborough!

Well that was unexpected! When my alarm went off at 430am this morning, I had no idea that less than 4 hours later I’d have the privilege of meeting the legend that is Sir David Attenborough. I don’t usually get star struck, but I don’t mind admitting I think (sorry, I know) I turned in to a blabbering fool as I shook the hand of undoubtedly the most inspirational man in the world of natural history and wildlife documentary film making.

Frozen Planet, signed by Sir David Attenborough. Now my most prized book.

Frozen Planet. Now my most prized book.

There was a slight issue to overcome first. I didn’t find out he was coming in to work until I was there myself at 5am, and thus I had nothing with me to get signed. Luckily, there is a supermarket just up the road from the studios and so I figured at the very least I could go and get a copy of Frozen Planet on Blu-ray, and ask him to sign the sleeve. I had to wait for the shop to open at 8am before running up the road, knowing I only had a small window in which to buy something and get back to see him before he was interviewed and left the building around 8:30. I ran in, found a copy of the Frozen Planet book and ran out with it (after paying, of course).

A quick dash back to work and, out of breath, I riffled through the pages to find a suitable one to have signed, which turned out to be the end of his foreword, complete with his picture. Perfect. Now, I should explain that when I’m not getting dirty in a field somewhere with my camera, I work in a tv studio in the media industry. Also, I not only normally find the idea of asking for an autograph a bit unprofessional when I’m in a working environment but also, I tend not to pay much attention when I see someone off the TV wondering through the building. After years of working in that industry, it just becomes the norm. Yet here I was going against my own rules and I found myself feeling incredibly nervous as I walked towards the green room where he was waiting.

It’s stupid I know. I’m a grown man, simply about to tell another grown man that I find his work an incredible inspiration. But my nerves were building up like I was about to have the most important conversation of my life. After all, this isn’t just any man, this is Sir David Attenborough, someone who I’ve watched on the BBC and beyond since I was a little boy, a man who’s work was in part one of the reasons why I fell in love with the natural world to begin with. Like I said, the man is a legend. But in my head, despite the nerves, we were already best friends and about to discuss our shared love of wildlife. I’d tell him how ridiculous I thought all this supposed controversy over the Polar Bear den footage in Frozen Planet was and I’d tell him how I was a wildlife photographer who was inspired by his work in a big way. Like I said, best friends. It didn’t quite go like that though. More, something like this…

I walked in the room and suddenly there we were, just the two of us! I said ‘Sir David, I just wanted to say hello, I’m a huge fan of your work’, before shaking his hand. However, it all gets a bit fuzzy after that and I’m not really sure what I said from there on as my composure and structured conversation went out the window. There was definitely something about how much of an inspiration he was and how I loved Frozen Planet. I know I asked if he could sign my book at some point and I think I repeated how much of a fan I was of his work again whilst he did so. I’m sure there were other words in there, but I’m not sure what they were or even what order they came out in. He said thank you, smiled politely the whole time and then said thank you again as I thanked him for signing the book, wished him a happy Christmas and stumbled out the room within 30 seconds of walking in. Yep, I’m pretty sure I had just provided one of the most inspiring men on the planet with one of the least inspiring conversations on the planet! Damn. Way to play it cool Richard! lol

But at the end of the day, what a fantastic chance meeting and certainly a Christmas present I won’t soon forget! I never thought I’d have the honour of meeting the amazing Sir David Attenborough, and feel incredibly lucky and fortunate that I have done so.

And, even though I suspect I didn’t leave a lasting impression on him, he certainly has, did and will continue to do so on me.

About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

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