SOUTHERN LIGHT Images from Antarctica

THIS COLLECTION of striking images from Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic is the result of six journeys made by Australian photographer David Neilson on his quest to capture the exquisite light of these southernmost lands.

Between 2002 and 2008 he made three voyages from Ushuaia in southern Argentina to the Antarctic and the sub-Antarctic. In 2002 he sailed on the yacht Tooluka to the remote island of South Georgia in the middle of the South Atlantic. This heavily glaciated island with numerous high alpine peaks has a remarkable profusion of wildlife along its coasts. In 2006, and again in 2008, he sailed on the yacht Australis to the Antarctic Peninsula. This best-known part of Antarctica contains some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere on the planet and presents many opportunities for photographing scenes of exceptional drama and beauty. Deception Island, Cuverville Island, Paradise Harbour, Mount Français, Port Charcot, Lemaire Channel and Elephant Island are among the places covered.

In 1990 David Neilson received a Humanities Program position from the Australian Antarctic Division, and in 2004 the Division awarded him an Antarctic Arts Fellowship. These fellowships enabled him to spend two summers photographing in East Antarctica while based at Australia’s Mawson Station. Here he photographed the extensive wildlife around the coast and made three trips to the rarely visited Auster emperor penguin colony. Inland he photographed the Framnes Mountains, the remote Prince Charles Mountains and the Vestfold Hills near Davis Station.

In 2009 he journeyed to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, south of New Zealand, and photographed the Transantarctic Mountains, the active volcano Mount Erebus and the enigmatic McMurdo Dry Valleys. He also photographed several of the historic sites from the heroic era of polar exploration, including Robert Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans and the Southern Cross hut at Cape Adare where the Borchgrevink expedition was the first to spend a winter in Antarctica.

This evocative collection of photographs reveals a part of the grandeur and mystery of this great southern realm. There are 130 colour images and 100 black-and-white photos reproduced in duotone. Many of the landscape images were taken with a large-format view camera. There is also extensive coverage of the wildlife including emperor, king, Adélie, gentoo, chinstrap, royal and macaroni penguins, wandering, royal and grey-headed albatross, and crabeater and fur seals.

The text comprises a narrative of the six photographic journeys and essays on climate change and protecting the Antarctic environment. Five detailed maps give a geographic context for the photographs.



DAVID NEILSON has taken photographs in a wide range of wild places including western Tasmania, Patagonia, Greenland, the Karakoram and Antarctica. Much of his early photography was undertaken during mountaineering and exploring trips and he was for many years an active rock climber.
He has been the author and photographer for three books. South West Tasmania: A Land of the Wild was an early publication to highlight the threatened wilderness of western Tasmania. Wilsons Promontory: Coastal Wildness celebrated the beauty of one of Australia’s foremost national parks. Patagonia: Images of a Wild Land drew on his climbing expeditions to the Andes of southern South America.
He has received an Antarctic Arts Fellowship from the Australian Antarctic Division and his Antarctic photographs have been used in various books and calendars and reproduced as posters. They were also used extensively in the joint Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and Museum of Victoria exhibition Antarctica – Secrets of the Frozen World.
He worked for the Australian Conservation Foundation for ten years as a graphic designer and pictorial editor and his early working life was spent as a civil engineer. With his partner Karen Alexander he lives near Emerald to the east of Melbourne and runs the small photography and publishing business Snowgum Press.