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Southern Light: Images from Antarctica
     

Southern Light: Images from Antarctica

by David Neilson (Photographer)
 

A photo book of exceptional quality, depicting the awe-inspiring scenery and wildlife of the frozen continent in both color and black and white.

Between 1990 and 2009, veteran wilderness photographer David Neilson made six journeys to Antarctica and the subantarctic, in a quest to capture the exquisite light of these southernmost lands. This oversized

Overview


A photo book of exceptional quality, depicting the awe-inspiring scenery and wildlife of the frozen continent in both color and black and white.

Between 1990 and 2009, veteran wilderness photographer David Neilson made six journeys to Antarctica and the subantarctic, in a quest to capture the exquisite light of these southernmost lands. This oversized volume presents the spectacular results of his efforts; its 130 color and 100 duotone plates portray the dramatic topography of the Antarctic Peninsula; the icebound expanses of East Antarctica; the Ross Sea region, which witnessed the heroic age of Antarctic exploration; and the subantarctic islands of South Georgia and Macquarie, with their profusion of wildlife.

Many of the landscape photographs were taken with a large-format view camera for maximum detail and tonal subtlety, and several are reproduced as panoramic gatefolds, showing the true vastness of this great southern realm. The images of wildlife, many of them remarkable close-ups, include emperor, king, Adélie, gentoo, chinstrap, royal, and macaroni penguins; wandering, royal, and grey-headed albatross; and crabeater and fur seals. Accompanying the photographs are a narrative of Neilson’s Antarctic journeys, essays on conservation and climate change, and five full-page maps.

Southern Light is an excellent gift for anyone who has visited Antarctica personally, as well as for those who prefer to admire its frozen beauty from a more temperate clime.

Distributed for Snowgum Press

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Rebecca P. Sinkler
Southern Light is a blast of beauty…David Neilson…spreads before us myriad majestic peaks and plains in images that seem lit from within…Neilson's animal close-ups are latter-day Audubons—exquisitely observed portraits brimming with character…he revels in the glorious abundance of his subject. His camera celebrates life, unexpected eruptions of it in hues we don't associate with these latitudes—pinks, lavenders, emeralds, the sage green of Macquarie Island cabbage and the orange glow of certain lichens…Southern Light is a love letter in the form of a coffee-table book…
From the Publisher

"Southern Light is a blast of beauty. David Neilson...spreads before us myriad majestic peaks and plains in images that seem lit from within. One of several gatefold panoramas shows a colony of 20,000 king penguins, stretching as far as the lens can see.... Neilson’s animal close-ups are latter-day Audubons – exquisitely observed portraits brimming with character... he revels in the glorious abundance of his subject. His camera celebrates life, unexpected eruptions of it in hues we don’t associate with these latitudes – pinks, lavenders, emeralds, the sage green of Macquarie Island cabbage and the orange glow of certain lichens. Southern Light is a love letter in the form of a coffee-table book."
—Rebecca P. Sinkler, The New York Times Book Review

Amazon.com 2013 Best Books of the Year selection: Outdoors & Nature Photography

"This is a beauty!"
Longitude News

"Anyone with an interest in wildlife photography in general and in Antarctica specifically will enjoy this large-format book, as Neilson and fellow photographer Karen Alexander capture the essence of Antarctica, from the various varieties of penguins to seals to humpback whales to snow-covered peaks to icebergs. Especially poignant are the relics left behind by the great explorers: Robert Scott's hut built in 1910 for his Terra Nova expedition, for example, or Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition campsite."
Chicago Tribune

Winner: 2nd Place Nature Book
—International Photography Awards

"The spectacular images in David Neilson’s Southern Light...reveal the unique beauty and mystery of the icebound expanses of Antarctica. Page after page of beautiful and mysterious icebergs, vast penguin colonies with their fluffy youngsters...seal pups, petrels and whales, as well as shots of Scott’s expedition hut and the modern day scientists, all make us want to grab our cameras and head south."
Scotland on Sunday

"Southern Light by David Neilson is a monumental book....The large format makes for some sumptuous images. Single-page images of this size are impressive but there are double-page spreads measuring 57 by 26 centimetres and even triple-page "gatefolds". A picture of 20,000 king penguins at St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia spread across 85 centimetres is amazing. And it is sharp enough to find an uncovered egg in the middle distance! Southern Light....emphasises the range of colours that tint the white continent. The dominant colour is blue in a range of shades but the scenes that remain clearest in my memory of Antarctica and which are invoked by this book are the soft yellows and pinks when the sun is low but shining through the clear atmosphere. There is no scenery that compares with mountains and ice set in a mirror-calm sea. It is difficult to catch atmosphere with a camera but Neilson manages it."
—Robert Burton, Polar Record, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University

"This is Antarctica as you have never seen it.... This is a truly great photographic record of the continent. It offers images that are deeply personal and far beyond the usual photographic cliches."
—Bruce Elder, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald

"The stunning beauty of Antarctica has never been celebrated better than in this magnificent big book."
—Noel Shaw, The Examiner

"Southern Light is a gorgeous piece of work that quickly induces a fervent desire to visit this incredible piece of the world in all its icy splendour."
—Belinda Smith, Wild magazine

"Packed with large, luscious photographs of landscapes, rocky shorelines, penguins and brightly coloured lichen, this book shows us the stark beauty of this landscape and the animals that inhabit it."
Australian Geographic magazine

"This book of Antarctic photographs by one of Australia’s pre-eminent wilderness photographers documents six separate trips to Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands. It beautifully captures the frozen landscapes of their incredible environment, as well as the animals that live there."
—Ross Taylor, Get Lost magazine

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780789211552
Publisher:
Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/27/2013
Pages:
306
Product dimensions:
12.40(w) x 11.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Southern Light

Images from Antarctica


By David Neilson

Abbeville Press

Copyright © 2013 David Neilson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7892-1155-2


INTRODUCTION

We had just returned to Macey Island after an evening visit to an emperor penguin colony. The island was still surrounded by sea ice and there was a band of grounded icebergs to the north-east. It was three o’clock in the morning, and although the sun was not actually setting at all this time of year, for an hour or so it was hidden behind the ice plateau. As the sun started to rise from its low point, the dark blue of the scene changed to a pale blue-pink. Then the pink grew stronger, lighting the surrounding icebergs and sea ice until it was a pink of such rich intensity that it was almost unbelievable. Gradually it faded until at last the sun came into view.

The southern light of Antarctica presents the photographer with an extraordinary diverse palette. At times the light can be so serenely clear it takes your breath away. Distant mountain ranges appear hauntingly close; nearby objects can be lit with exceptional clarity. At other times the light can be subtle and diffuse, bringing a surreal and other-worldly quality to a scene.

The spectrum of Antarctic colour is often narrow but the variation in intensity is considerable. If any colour symbolizes Antarctica it is blue: cobalt, Prussian, aquamarine, cerulean, azure, peacock, eggshell. The names seem inadequate for the infinite shades of Antarctic blue. At its strongest it is like a colour with its own energy source; it emanates blueness as if it were radioactive. In stark contrast are the soft colors when the sun is very low in the sky or just below the horizon. In spring and autumn the dawn and dusk last far longer than in temperate latitudes; this soft light remains for several hours.

This book is a celebration of the beauty of Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands. I have traveled to these southern islands on six occasions to take photographs. Antarctica is a vast continent roughly twice the size of Australia and this collection of images reflects the areas I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit. All my visits have been over the summer month; I have not experienced the formidable cold of the Antarctic winter.

One of the challenges to photographing in Antarctica is simply getting there – and then once there, getting around. Until recently this has meant a sea voyage varying from several days to several weeks, depending on which part of the continent is visited. Governments are increasingly flying staff to their stations, but there are only limited options for other people to fly in or out. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to Antarctic photography is shortage of time. No matter what the circumstances of one’s visit, there is never enough time. Photographing efficiently and quickly partly overcomes this problem, but many images remain untaken.

The weather in Antarctica is harsh and potentially dangerous, with winter temperatures in the interior the coldest on the planet. Over the summer months the temperatures around the coast are not extreme, often within the range of —5C to +5C. They are less severe than winter temperatures in northern Europe and northern North America. However, for the photographer even the summer temperatures can be challenging. With my film cameras I had to change rolls with bare fingers, and if it was windy and below —5C my fingers quickly got very cold. The coldest temperature I photographed in was —25C.

I came to Antarctica with a mountaineering background, both as an active climber and as a mountain photographer. I was initially drawn to take photos of the dramatic aspects of the continent: the peaks, the glaciers and the endless icebergs. And then, like almost all visitors, I became entranced by the wildlife. With each visit I grew more familiar with the land and the light and started to see more subtle themes to photograph.

My first journey south was in 1990. In November of that year I travelled to Mawson Station on the Australian Antarctic Division’s recently launched Aurora Australis. I spent eight weeks based at Mawson and one of the highlights was a brief visit to the remote Prince Charles Mountains. I returned to Australia on Icebird in February 1991. This trip was provided by the Australian Government through the Humanities Program of the Antarctic Division.

At the time of this visit I was working for the Australian Conservation Foundation, and took photographs both for the Foundation and for myself. For a number of years the Australian Conservation Foundation had been actively campaigning on Antarctic environmental issues, and in particular had run a long and ultimately successful campaign to have mining prohibited. (See pages 302–303.)

In late November 2004 I again travelled on Aurora Australis to Mawson Station for the summer. By this stage I was working as an independent photographer and publisher, and the Antarctic Division had awarded me an Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship. On this visit our route went via Davis Station and I had a few days to photograph the nearby Vestfold Hills. Soon after arriving at Mawson I visited the Auster emperor penguin colony for the second time; later in the summer I explored the Framnes Mountains on the ice plateau inland from Mawson.

In addition to these two voyages, my partner Karen Alexander and I have chartered a yacht on three occasions to sail from Ushuaia in southern Argentina to the Antarctic or sub-Antarctic. Each of these six-week expeditions has been on a yacht owned and skippered by Roger Wallis, a former Bass Strait fisherman from Lakes Entrance in Victoria. Roger, with his son Ben, runs a yacht charter business based in southern South America.

The first of these yacht trips was in January 2002. Four friends joined us on Tooluka, a fifteen-metre sloop-rigged steel yacht, and we sailed from Ushuaia to the remote sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia in the middle of the South Atlantic. This island is heavily glaciated and has numerous high alpine peaks. Around the coast there is a remarkable profusion of wildlife: four species of penguins, including several vast king penguin colonies; eleven species of petrels and prions – with over twenty million Antarctic prions; four species of albatross, including the majestic wanderers; and over three million fur seals.

Our second voyage with Roger was in 2006, when we visited the Antarctic Peninsula. This time we travelled with a group of eight friends aboard Australis, a twenty-five meter motor-sailer with a powerful engine and considerably more space than Tooluka. We found the Peninsula landscape especially spectacular – an endless array of glaciated peaks rising from the waters of the channels and fjords. A number of these were over 1500 meters high, the highest being close to 3000 metres above sea level. The wildlife was abundant, although there were not the same overall numbers of birds and animals as on South Georgia.

In late 2008 we again sailed on Australis with Roger; our ambitious itinerary on this voyage included visiting the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. We were also keen to experience conditions earlier in the season, so we departed from Ushuaia in early November. We had more bad weather on this trip than on our previous sailing voyages, and thus gained a strong impression of what the Peninsula is like in the colder and stormier months of the year.

In February 2009 I travelled to New Zealand to join Aurora Expeditions on a voyage to the Ross Sea aboard the Marina Svetaeva. This large, well-equipped Russian vessel carried eighty passengers and fifty crew. The Australian climber and founder of Aurora Expeditions, Greg Mortimer, was the voyage leader. We visited two of New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands, Campbell and Auckland, on the way south. Cape Adare was our first landfall in Antarctica, and from there we visited Cape Hallett, McMurdo Sound, Cape Evans and the Dry Valleys. On the way north our final landfall before Tasmania was Macquarie Island.

In addition to my six southern journeys, Karen spent three and a half month at Macquarie Island in 1995 as a field assistant working on a long-term albatross research program. Several of her photographs from this visit are included in the sub-Antarctic chapter.

(Continues...)

Excerpted from Southern Light by David Neilson. Copyright © 2013 David Neilson. Excerpted by permission of Abbeville Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This is Antarctica as you have never seen it.... This is a truly great photographic record of the continent. It offers images that are deeply personal and far beyond the usual photographic cliches."
 —Bruce Elder, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald

"The stunning beauty of Antarctica has never been celebrated better than in this magnificent big book."
 —Noel Shaw, The Examiner

"Southern Light is a gorgeous piece of work that quickly induces a fervent desire to visit this incredible piece of the world in all its icy splendour."
 —Belinda Smith, Wild magazine

"Packed with large, luscious photographs of landscapes, rocky shorelines, penguins and brightly coloured lichen, this book shows us the stark beauty of this landscape and the animals that inhabit it."
 —Australian Geographic magazine

"This book of Antarctic photographs by one of Australia’s pre-eminent wilderness photographers documents six separate trips to Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands. It beautifully captures the frozen landscapes of their incredible environment, as well as the animals that live there."
 —Ross Taylor, Get Lost magazine

Meet the Author


David Neilson is an experienced mountaineer and rock climber as well as a wilderness photographer. Based in Australia, Neilson is the author and photographer of three previous books: South West Tasmania: A Land of the Wild; Wilson's Promontory: Coastal Wilderness; and Patagonia: Images of a Wild Land.

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