On the surface of it, Antarctica might well be considered an environment that is seemingly devoid of colour and monochromatic in nature. This is a reasonable assumption because the great white continent is renowned for its brilliant white ice and dark brooding seas. Such dichotomy is simply wonderful for black and white photography and consequently some of the photographers on my recent expedition produced some stunning examples. However, there is also a pallet of colours on display in Antarctica that can only be described as extraordinary. For the colour photographer, Antarctica, and its dizzying array of free-form sculptured icebergs, is a veritable playground of deep blues and glowing aquamarines that are as alluring as the sirens’ call. To claim the scope of colours is inspirational is to hugely understate the nature of this superb environment. It is breathtaking.
During my 2011 expedition to Antarctica I wore a persistent ear-to-ear grin when out shooting, which was for most of my waking hours. Many of the bays and coves we visited were festooned with icebergs that provided limitless opportunities for photography. As a colour photographer, I place great emphasis on a complimentary pallet of colours in my images, so I was completely enthralled by the deep blues and luminous aquamarines in the ice. On more than one occasion the cry of ‘look at those blues!’ could be heard coming from either our zodiac, or another nearby. Even the frequent driving snow did little to dampen my enthusiasm for the extraordinary colours and the magical scenes around us.I am methodically working my way through the editing and processing of my photographs but wanted to share some examples that illustrate the range and tone of colours found in Antarctica. Post-production of these photographs, and in particular the blues and greens, presented some unique challenges. To date, my experience has shown that a very delicate touch is required in order to compliment and accentuate the myriad of subtle tones and textures in the ice and to balance these with the overall colours in each frame.The temptation to overly saturate colour that is naturally incredibly vibrant and surreal is an easy mistake to make. The end result can be a photograph that not only transgresses belief but appears almost gaudy. Judicious use of saturation is the key difference between an incredible, but believable photograph and one that is quite simply ‘over cooked’. It’s a discussion I have had with my good friend and co-Moab Master Andy Biggs over Skype on a couple of occasions and we are in agreement that no embellishment is required in most cases – isn’t Mother Nature wonderful! In these examples very little post-production work was performed to the RAW files. No additional saturation or vibrance was added and in the majority of cases the white balance was only subtly tweaked, or otherwise left as shot.I am starting to make my first prints from this trip for my upcoming exhibition in Melbourne at Source Photographica and have settled on Moab Entrada Rag Natural 300gsm as the paper of choice for my Antarctica images. After some experimentation I have found Entrada Rag Natural to offer the ideal surface and stipple to preserve the tone and colour in my photographs. Images have a soft, soothing, somewhat muted and understated look on Entrada Rag that I find highly complementary to the vividness of the natural blues and greens. Delicate texture and detail is retained and enhanced by the paper surface, whilst blacks remain rich and deep. Entrada Rag Natural 300gsm is in many ways a similar paper to my other favorite Somerset Museum Rag. However, there are some subtle differences in the surface texture that led me to choose Entrada Rag for my Antarctica photographs, because it retains and accentuates all the subtle nuances in the ice surfaces.
Higher resolution versions of these photographs can be seen at my portfolio website at www.jholko.com
EDIT – Some of you may have noticed that this blog entry has also appeared on the Moab website and that another of my earlier entries ‘The Fortress‘ also appeared on Gura Gear’s blog a few days prior to my own. You aren’t going crazy or experiencing a weird case of de’ja’vu. I was invited by both Moab and Gura Gear to share some journal entries for their own blogs that I think might be of interest to their readers.