The Picture Show is going on a hiatus this week, but we wanted to leave you with something. The following are five gift ideas based on photo books we've covered throughout the year. If you've already made all your holiday purchases, you could consider treating yourself. Or if you are a bit behind, call it a New Year's gift. It works every time.
1.) For that adventure-seeking nephew you almost left off the shopping list: Paul Nicklen's Polar Obsession.
Raised in an Inuit community, Paul Nicklen has had an affinity for both the cold and for outdoor adventure from a young age. Today he travels to remote polar locations to capture rare scenes. In this photo, a mother walrus and her newborn pup rest on a piece of multiyear ice in Foxe Basin north of Hudson Bay in Nunavut, Canada.
Photos by Paul Nicklen/National Geographic
A leopard seal patrols a penguin rookery near Anvers Island, Antarctica. Nicklen uses special equipment to capture images half submerged in water, with a deep depth of field above water to focus on distant landscapes, and a sharp, shallower focus on wildlife below.
In one Antarctic adventure near Anvers Island, Nicklen befriended an enormous female leopard seal. In Nicklen's words, a seal's natural response toward an intruder is "breed or feed." After realizing that Nicklen was nonthreatening, this seal tried to feed him penguins, not knowing how else to interact with him.
When Nicklen refused to eat the penguins, the leopard seal became more and more insistent in her efforts to feed him. "She's trying to make it a beautiful package," Nicklen describes. "She's trying to make herself look elegant ... doing these ballet-like moves."
Over the course of a five-day photographic study, she brought him approximately 30 penguins, beginning with live penguins, then weaker penguins to make it easier for him, dead penguins — and even demonstrated how to eat one.
Two adult bowhead whales, each more than 45 feet in length, rest by a floe edge after diving under the ice to feed. Nicklen tells one story of accidentally parking his boat on top of a whale at night.
Parked on a whale's back, Nicklen barely escaped disaster by slowly backing up as the whale arched its back and curled its tail, dumping hundreds of gallons of water into his small boat. Rightfully overwhelmed, Nicklen did not snap a photo. But here, a bowhead whale dives to feed on copepods in Baffin Bay, Nunavut.
Elephant seals are a very large species that Nicklen photographed in the Antarctic. During breeding season, the males, distinguished by large proboscis noses, become disproportionately aggressive, attacking anything in sight to protect a beach of female seals. Two seals battle here at St. Andrews Bay.
Nicklen tried for weeks to get a close-up portrait of a male elephant seal. Because the creatures are so aggressive during breeding season, it was a dangerous endeavor. In one instance, he barely escaped death when a bull attacked him. He eventually got his shot of this bull cooling off in fresh water in Stromness Harbour.
With all the attention received by polar bears and penguins, it's easy to forget the other important species in polar ecosytems. Here, a winged pteropod feeds in the open water.
A kittiwake soars in front of a large iceberg in Svalbard, Norway.
Nicklen writes in his book, "Of all the animals I have ever photographed, the Arctic's narwhals are the most mysterious, unusual and elusive. Because of their incredibly shy nature and advanced echolocation, underwater images of these magnificent creatures are rare."
Nicklen's friend, the female leopard seal, greets a fellow adventurer near Anvers Island.
Admiralty Inlet breaks up in early July. Nicklen's hope is that his photographs will inspire viewers to care about something that they may never see in person.