The Ballito MagazineDecember 14, 2023

The beauty of our world is baffling. From the microscopic details of leaves on plants to the wrinkles on an elephant, we can’t forget the overwhelming views you can find in our country alone. Mother nature is astonishing, and we have people who love documenting it.

Growing up, we’d watch National Geographic and learn about animals we had never heard of before. You sit there in awe and wonder how these people get so close to even the deadliest animals. It’s purely a passion for capturing the world from all perspectives and bringing awareness to those we share our earth with.

Meet local Graeme Duane, an experienced director with over 200 hours of wildlife documentaries, who works closely with the National Geographic team as a director of photography (DP or cameraman), producer or executive producer.

Some of his documentaries have won several awards, such as Panda Awards, Green Screen Awards, numerous SAFTAs and an Emmy for cinematography for National Geographic’s “Great Migrations”!

His journey in this field all began when he realised he had a visual brain soon after he left school. “I’ve always thought in pictures, so l gravitated to the visual arts.” Graeme went to film school and ended up in news but soon ventured into natural history documentaries. “I’ve always loved nature, especially bird, frog, and tree watching, as a kid, so it was a natural progression.”

As a cinematographer documenting with National Geographic, it has taken him worldwide. Initially, Graeme did all of National Geographic Television’s work in Africa – Senegal, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Then, he started heading further afield with numerous jobs in Brazil, Argentina, Falklands, Suriname, Hawaii, the US and the UK. I can bet his passport tells a story in and of itself! Graeme has been on many adventures and done things no one else would do.

25 years ago, with the help of a few key people, Graeme started free diving with sharks at Gansbaai, where he was one of the first to capture great white sharks outside of the cage – in the open water. “I was among two out of three of the first people to do this. Same story with the crocodiles in the Okavango. It’s not easy to find firsts in today’s media universe.” All of his extensive experience progressed to running a South African-based production business, which he said has been the hardest job of the lot.

Graeme said that “back in the day”, he loved to shoot for traditional wildlife shows, which he believes was the greatest era in wildlife cinematography. “We had time to wait for animals to do interesting things. More recently, there’s been pressure to take wildlife programming to the mainstream, which means more reality-based shows. They’re fun, but not as rewarding as the big nature documentaries. It’s been a fantastic adventure to travel to places that tourists don’t get to see over the years.”

Despite travelling and seeing the world, Graeme always ends up back here, in Ballito. He has a long family history in our town and it has always felt like home to him. “As I get older, friends and family seem to become more important.” But, his adventures never end. “We’re currently shooting season 10 of Snakes in the City – out in central India. We’re also about to launch a brand new wildlife channel, but I can’t say anything about that yet…”

Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for some amazing documentaries directed and produced by our very own Graeme Duane!