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The big frame hunter: Photographer David Yarrow on the secrets of stunning pictures from around the world

© David YarrowMankind, Yirol, South Sudan, 2015
Mankind, Yirol, South Sudan, 2015

He is one of the world’s most celebrated photographers with a stunning portfolio of pictures taken around the globe.

David Yarrow has gone to the ends of the earth, risking life and limb for the perfect picture and will now tell the incredible stories from behind the lens in a podcast series.

The 54-year-old, originally from Kilmacolm in Renfrewshire, said: “I’ve been a guest on about 15 different podcasts and it made sense to have my own. I’m a storyteller, and whether it’s tales of photographing Maradona way back or Cindy Crawford or Cara Delevingne more recently, there are stories to tell, and maybe lessons on what I got right and wrong.

“I think the world is a bit bored of ‘I went to Africa and took some pictures of animals’. People want to know more, when things went well and when they went horribly wrong.”

In Focus is a six-part podcast telling the stories behind some of his favourite photographs. From capturing an elephant charging at his lens and taking a selfie in the eye of a polar bear, to wading chest-deep into crocodile-infested Nile waters shooting Sudanese cattle camps, falling overboard photographing orcas, and setting up Cindy Crawford with a wolf in a bar, his tales are as fascinating as the pictures themselves.

Speaking from a mining town in the middle of the Rockies in Montana, where he is currently shooting, David says he has found a way to keep working despite the difficulties of travel during a pandemic.

Amboseli National
Park, Kenya, 2018

“The biggest elephants in the world are at Amboseli National Park and we work in conjunction with the Kenyan Wildlife Service,” David said. “I always say people at home shouldn’t try to do what I do, because we know the behaviour of certain elephants, and there are only two or three in the world we can do this with.

I wasn’t too far away when taking this picture, and that’s always an adrenaline rush. There are only 18 big tuskers left in the world, because they are dying of old age, but a new bunch of them are coming through.”

The Unusual Suspects,

Virginia City, Montana, 2019

David came across The Pioneer Bar while exploring ghost towns in Montana. He had taken pictures there previously with Roxanna Redfoot, an actress, singer and model, and a group of locals that spend the long winter days in the bar, who he refers to as The Mountain Men.

For this picture, he added Cindy Crawford to the ensemble. David said: “We’ve now raised $1 million for Cindy’s charity from the picture, which is testament to her rather than me. When you are working with someone like that you have to be on your game, because you’re working with the very best. I came up with the concept and she trusts me. She’s nervous of dogs, so she was very nervous of the wolf, but she’s a pro.”
David only came away with one shot, but it was
all he needed.

The Killers
Norwegian Arctic, 2019

There are only a few places in the world where it’s possible to capture a killer whale, or orca, on camera. During a Norwegian winter, David took his chance, but his perspective-shifting image came at a price. “I fell in the water and wasn’t wearing a wetsuit, it was pretty cold.

In the Arctic you have about a minute and a half to get out. Thankfully, I was pulled out quite quickly. It’s not something I would recommend. My cameras were ruined but the photograph survived, so that was quite the result.”

David Yarrow.

“We’ve been quite resourceful. Every morning the first thing we do is check international travel restrictions and what we can and can’t do,” he explained. “To get into America, we had to spend two weeks in Mexico, but we didn’t just spend the time on the beach, we found things to do in Mexico like photographing whales in the Pacific Ocean.

“Now that we’re in America, we want to stay here and film. While Covid is bad here, it’s not in lockdown and it’s very much state by state. California is bad but places like Texas are very much open. We just need to be resourceful.

“I’ve had Covid, all of our team got it. We were working with Cindy Crawford – she’d already had it – and about 10 of us went down with it the same night. Once you’ve had it, the hope is it’s out of the way and you can work with a bit more freedom.”

In Focus launches on February 3 and is available on Apple, Google, and Spotify