The Photograph Explained: Cuverville Island by David Neilson
This photo was taken in November on an early season visit to the Antarctic Peninsula. I had previously been to Cuverville Island in January and this time I was interested to see this landscape with more snow cover. The gentoo penguins had not long arrived and were waiting for the snow to melt so that they could start nest building on bare rocky ground. It is difficult to visit this part of Antarctica in winter so I was partly drawn to this view because the moody overcast weather on this day evoked a scene reminiscent of the colder months of the year.
The image was taken with a Horseman 45FA camera with a 180mm lens. The film was 120 Fuji Velvia shot on a 6 x 12 roll back, scanned, and converted to black & white in Photoshop. On my early Antarctic trips I also took black & white film but found there was often not enough time to use both colour and black & white and just having one film stock was much more manageable. (Often there are significant time constraints on photographing in Antarctica because one is relying on other people for transport.) I found the 6 x 12 format very suitable for portraying the expansive Antarctic landscape and eventually used this format almost exclusively. The most recent print I have made of this image was printed on Canson platen fibre rag on an Epson 7900. The size was 870 mm x 510 mm.
I took this photo on the fifth of six photographic trips I made to Antarctica. For two of these trips in 1990 and 2004 I received an Antarctic Arts Fellowship and on both occasions was fortunate to spend a full summer at Mawson Station in East Antarctica. Three of the other trips involved chartering a yacht from Ushuaia in southern Argentina and sailing to the Antarctic Peninsula and to South Georgia. My final visit in 2009 was to the Ross Sea. In 2012 a selection of my Antarctic images was published in the book Southern Light: Images from Antarctica.
David is also author of ‘Wilsons Promontory: Coastal Wildness and Patagonia: Images of a Wild Land’.