Reel Adventurer: Wildlife Cinematographer Bob Poole

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Reel Adventurer: Wildlife Cinematographer Bob Poole
Emmy Award–winning wildlife cinematographer Bob Poole spends six to eight months a year crisscrossing the globe to shoot films for National Geographic, PBS, BBC, Discovery Channel, and others. Next up: a six-part TV series that he is shooting in Africa and will air in 2015. Here, the 54-year-old Poole talks about what launched and drives his career, and how he recharges. —ALEXIS MARIE ADAMS
Photo by Nigel Paveitt/Jai/Corbis
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    Inspired by Africa
    “When I was three years old, my parents moved the family to Africa for the first time,” Poole recalls. “Before my dad died in an accident in 1978, he served as the head of the African Wildlife Foundation in Nairobi and as a Peace Corps director.” While working with a helicopter game-capture unit in Kenya, the 17-year-old Poole was recruited onto a team that was filming elephants from the air for a National Geographic documentary. “I drove an old Toyota Land Cruiser and guided them to see giant herds of elephants in northern Kenya,” says Poole. “I didn’t know anything about films. I grew up without TV and movies, but I knew what National Geographic magazine was, and I liked it. That was the beginning.” 
    Photo by Nigel Paveitt/Jai/Corbis
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    The Jane Goodall Effect
    Jane Goodall (pictured with then-husband Hugo van Lawick) is one of Poole’s conservation heroes.  
    Photo courtesy of the Associated Press
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    Peace Corps Roots
    As a teen, Poole joined a crew that herded and protected Cape buffalo in Kenya.  
    Photo courtesy of the Associated Press
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    Art Inspiration
    Poole’s favorite museums include the Smithsonian, above, and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. 
    Photo by Hal Beral/Corbis
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    Poole has photographed tigers, leopards, Asian golden cats, and antelope in Thailand’s Kaeng Krachan National Park. 
    Photo by Marc Anderson/Alamy
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    24/7 Adventurer
    Poole doesn’t get much time off when he’s on a shoot. “In my work, we go from very early to very late,” he says. “We’re looking for sunrise and chasing sunset. I sleep in between, but not much.” For recreation, Poole, who lives in Central Idaho, spends most of his time outdoors. "When I’m home in Sun Valley in the winter,” says Poole, “I ride my bike to the lifts and ski every day. My favorite winter activity is filming heli-skiing in Haines, Alaska, with guides ‘Sunny’ Scott Sundberg and Reggie Crist at SEABA Heli." Poole is also a white-water kayaker. “The Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness is in my backyard. But if I had a month off, I would go somewhere the wind blows steady and the water is warm and clear, because I’ve been learning how to kiteboard.”  

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    On-The-Job Exploits
    Poole filmed the Easter Island (pictured) episode of the PBS Nova series Secrets of Lost Empires. His on-the-job adventures include being charged by a white rhino and having his Land Rover Defender crushed by an elephant.
    Photo by Bob Krist/Corbis
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    Team Effort
    “Making a film is always a team effort—by storytellers, writers, editors, and others,” Poole says. “For technical quality, I’m probably most proud of the work I did in Africa for the Great Migrations series for National Geographic. It resulted in some extraordinary footage of elephants in Mali, migrating wildebeest in Kenya and Tanzania, and white-eared cob in southern Sudan. I also really love Africa’s Lost Eden, about Gorongosa National Park, the heart of the real African bush.” Fifteen years of civil war in Mozambique took a huge toll on some of the wildlife population. Not only is the film beautiful, but it has also done a lot to advance conservation in that park. Nowadays, that is what’s most important to me: conservation and wildlife.”

    Photo by Michael Paredes
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    Global Favorites
    In Kenya, Poole enjoys the elegant safari-style accommodations of the Naboisho Camp lodge (pictured). For water adventures: "Vilanculos Beach on Mozambique is my favorite place for snorkeling and diving,” he says. 
    Photo by Trueafrica/