Charlie Hamilton James: Directing a lens on the wild

National Geographic Explorer Charlie Hamilton James' childhood dreams of wildlife photography are now larger than life realities.

Charlie Hamilton James followed an indirect path to realize his childhood dream of being a wildlife photographer. 

Today an accomplished photographer who has shot many pieces for National Geographic magazine, James had initially set his sights not on photography but on television. As James told Overheard at National Geographic earlier this year, “By my mid-teens, I'd sort of had Geographic magazine as this dream, but in the immediate and short-term I wanted to get into TV just because it was a more consistent way of making a living.”

As a teenager in the United Kingdom, James had become enamored with the kingfisher, a small, brightly-colored bird with a long, pointed bill. He became so adept at capturing these birds on camera that the BBC took notice, and James’ career began while working on David Attenborough’s 1990 nature documentary The Trials of Life

James went on to make both his own film, My Halcyon River, and a name for himself in the industry, eventually becoming a film producer and host for the BBC. In these roles, he earned accolades including nominations for Wildlife Cameraman of the Year and a Royal Television Society medal for cinematography.

An encounter with a National Geographic editor eventually led James to trade his television career for the chance to shoot for the magazine. In the years since, James has completed a number of assignments, including on wildlife in Yellowstone, vultures in east and southern Africa, and Manú National Park in Peru.

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