Book Review: Antarctica – The Global Warning by Sebastian Copeland

Antarctica – The Global Warning was released in back in 2006. The photographs are by Sebastian Copeland and there is a forward by Mikhail Gorbachev and a Preface by Leonardo DiCaprio. At the time of release it retailed for approximately $70.00 AUD here in Australia. It can now be found for significantly less than that if you shop around. You might want to read this review in full however before you part with your hard earned dollars on this book. I have actually been meaning to review this book for some time now, but before I begin I just want to say a few words about what Antarctica is actually like for those of you who have never been there.

Antarctica is miraculous. It is a continent of stark and beautiful desolation and I feel very privileged to have now visited and led expeditions to this incredible continent numerous times over the last few years. No where else on earth have I experienced such a sense of wonder as what I have felt in Antarctica and no where else is the landscape so other worldly. There is a variation to the weather, light and landscape in Antarctica that is in my experience completely unique. Mother Nature is a mad scientist and Antarctica is surely her greatest creation.

I have seen and experienced Antarctica at it’s most sunlit, brilliant and dazzling. I have also experienced violent storms, catabatic winds, snowstorms and some of mother Nature’s wildest weather. I have experienced dark, moody and overcast skies, racing clouds, sunlit mountains and glistening blue glaciers, the gentlest of snowfall and the strongest of blizzards. The weather and conditions in Antarctica are as varied as anywhere on earth and every visit offers a new experience in this regard.

It is this varied weather and Antarctica’s ability to both dazzle with brilliance and glow with purity that I found so obviously missing in Sebastian Copeland’s – ‘Antarctica The Global Warning’ photography book. This omission might not have bothered me so much (if at all) if it were not for the title of this book; the connotation of which is undeniable. This is, in its most basic form, a book intended to fuel the global warming debate. I do not wish to enter into this debate in this review; suffice to say that in my experience global warming is undeniable (I have witnessed its effects every year in both Antarctica and the Arctic). The problem I have with Antarctica The Global Warning book is that it it only shows one face of Antarctica in an attempt to skew the viewers impression of what Antarctica actually looks like and that makes it only a half truth.AntarcticaglobalwarningI feel there was an opportunity (and even a responsibility) in this book that has been missed by Sebastian Copeland. The opportunity existed to show Antarctica not only at its most mysterious, dark and ominous, but also in its brilliance and purity. Sebastian could have shown the ‘real’ Antarctica and the global warming message would have been even stronger. Yes, Antarctica can look like the dark images portrayed in this book. But it can also look brilliantly dazzling and incredibly pristine and pure. Indeed, it is often the most brilliant weather that truly portrays the rate of melt underway. I feel somewhat at odds saying this as a photographer who seeks out dark, moody and evocative landscapes in my own photography. Ultimately however, Sebastian’s book is not intended as a book of fine art photographs; it is intended to deliver a message and the images it uses to do so are only partially representative of the true Antarctica.

By far the majority of people who will read this book will have never visited Antarctica and will never do so in their lifetime. There is therfore an obligation in my view to present a more balanced viewpoint on what Antarctica is truly like when the intended purpose of the book is to highlight global warming.

It is hard to get past the message Antarctica The Global Warning is intended to deliver and I feel that is largely due to my own significant experiences in Antarctica. Had I never visited the continent I may well feel differently about the photographs in this book and their intended message. This leads me to believe that I and others who have visited Antarctica are not the intended audience for this book.

Print Quality: From the dust jacket I was disappointed with the print quality in Antarctica The Gobal Warning. There is clear evidence of banding, crushed and muddy blacks, blown highlights and poor tonal gradation. The photographs themselves are highly stylised with what I feel has been overly heavy-handed post production treatment (particularly in the 3/4 tones) and heavy vignetting. Many of the photographs are quite soft and exhibit excessive grain and noise; which, would appear to be a combination of over processing and poor quality offset printing. I am giving Sebastian the benefit of the doubt that these were not technical errors during capture. Overall, I was bitterly disappointed with the print quality in this book.

I personally have a strong preference for images that are printed with a white border around them to help contain and frame the photograph. Many of the images in Antarctica The Global Warning are full page, full bleed and appear awkwardly cropped to fit the page size.  I find this approach detracts significantly from the photographs and the photographers vision. This approach leaves me feeling short changed as if the photographer or publisher decided it was more important to have a full bleed photograph than it was to respect the images naturally preferred crop. There are examples to numerous to document where important elements in images are arbitrarily cropped at the edge of the page which leaves the image experience incomplete.

I have attempted over numerous sittings with this book to come to a different conclusion; but ultimately I feel Antarctica the Global Warning is a propaganda piece likely intended for those who will never visit or experience the true nature of this miraculous continent. I do not believe photographers are the intended audience for this book or more care and attention would have been paid to the print quality, layout, cropping and selection of photographs. I feel this book is a missed opportunity and that to me is the most disappointing aspect to this book.

Overall Review – * Give it a miss. There are better books on this subject you should consider adding to your library first

World Photography Cup 2015 Finalist

Every now and again a really pleasant surprise crosses our path and this morning I was very fortunate to meet that surprise. Recently the AIPP Australian Institute of Professional Photography selected one of my photographs from the 2014 APPA Awards to be part of the Australian Team entry at the 2015 World Photography Cup (WPC). Twenty eight different countries entered this year from across 4 continents and the finalists have just been announced at Imaging USA. I was thrilled to learn this morning that my photograph was selected as a finalist in the Reportage category.  Medalists will be announced at the end of February 2015 and the overall Winners will be announced in Montpellier, France, on April 12th, 2015. Included below is the full finalist list.WPCFinalists2015

February Photo of the Month Winner: Chris Roberts

Congratulations to the second print winner ‘Chris Roberts’, for the photograph of the month for February 2015: ‘Arctic Fox Freeze’

What Chris said: The fox is beautifully isolated, in pristine snow, and I feel very cold just looking at him. He is clearly very much in his environment, and I’d love to know what he is looking at, and what he’s about to do.

Even at this distance on my computer, I can see that there is fine detail in his tail with the light dusting of snow on his body. I’d love to have the opportunity to see this beautiful and rare animal in the wild, but in the interim would be happy to view him in my home instead! A gorgeous capture, in what would have been very challenging conditions.Arctic Fox

Congratulations Chris, you were the first, and your print will be sent to you this week.

Keep an eye out on my blog for the next print giveaway with the March photograph of the month. Remember the best way to get instant updates is to subscribe via email.

2015 February Photograph of the Month: Arctic Fox Freeze – Win a Fine Art Print!

It feels appropriate that an Arctic fox photograph is the February photograph of the month given I will soon be headed back to Winter in Iceland to photograph one of my favourite Polar mammals – Perhaps Nature’s greatest survivor. This photograph, taken in the extreme northeast of Iceland last year during freezing sub zero temperatures was taken during a seven day expedition to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. This is an area of Iceland very rarely visited during the winter months. It is extremely remote, and only accessible via chartered boat ride (approximately fours north of Isafjord). It is logistically difficult to get there and special permission is required from the park ranger to undertake a winter expedition into the area. On top of that there is no infrastructure once you arrive and everything from food to satellite communication and survival gear must be carried in for the duration of the expedition. I love this photograph for both the pose of the fox, but also for the dusting of snow clinging to its coat and tail. There was a low fog when I took this image and in print you can actually see the exhale of breath from the fox.Arctic FoxDon’t forget! You can win a free 13″ x 19″ Win a Fine art Print of this photograph including shipping anywhere in the world. All you need do is to be the first to comment on this post on the home page with your thoughts on why you like this photograph or why you would like to own a print of the image and then share the post with your preferred social media outlet. Just keep in mind that due to my hectic travel schedule it may take me some time to make and post out each print so if you are the lucky winner for a given month I ask that you jut exercise a little patience and as soon as I am back in my studio in Australia and as soon as practical I will make the print and send it to you – free of charge. Each print will be made and personally signed by me with the same care and attention to detail I exercise on my large gallery prints. There will be a total of twelve prints to win throughout the calendar year. The first print was won by Fred Jennings and his print should be with him in the next few days – congratulations Fred!

Good luck and don’t forget in order to win the print you need to be the first to comment here on the home page on the February photograph of the Month for the 2015 calendar year with your thoughts on why you like the photograph or why you would like to own a print and to then share the post with your social media outlet of choice.