We’re drowning in photos — of birds, babies, pets, sports stars, birthday parties, you name it. Consider this: Facebook users upload 208,300 pictures every minute. The unfortunate consequence of the deluge is that it’s easy to overlook, or simply miss, good images. The gems just get lost among all those kitty pictures.
That’s why we’re delighted with the new books Penguin Planet and Birds of Paradise. Not only is each devoted to a bird family that only the most fortunate birders get to see in person, but each contains true photographic works of art.
“My life has been shaped by penguins,” writes Kevin Schafer in the preface of Penguin Planet. He has photographed all of the world’s 17 species. “They have inhabited my dreams and fueled my longings for distant shores and cold, windswept islands.”
In this, the second edition of a book that first appeared in 2000, fully 80 percent of Schafer’s pictures are new, the result of “the past 10 years of chasing penguins all over the world.”
Snow serves as a frequent backdrop, but not all penguins are snowbirds. Schafer also shows us a pair of Fiordland Penguins in a hollowed-out log in New Zealand, Rockhopper Penguins perched in thick brownish tussock grass in the Falklands, and other ice-free penguin-filled scenes, all gorgeous.
Schafer is cut from the same cloth as National Geographic photographer Tim Laman and ornithologist Edwin Scholes, the curator of the video collection at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Laman and Scholes spent eight years documenting all 39 species of birds-of-paradise, including the evocatively named Paradise Riflebird, Pale-billed Sicklebill, and Twelve-wired Bird-of-Paradise.
The family, which largely occurs in New Guinea and nearby islands, has “the most spectacular and complex courtship of all avian groups,” wrote Founding Editor Eldon Greij in our August issue. The birds have captivated explorers and naturalists for centuries but, until now, had not been recorded in such detail. Not only did Laman photograph every species, but he and Scholes gathered video and audio recordings as well. Their book is a testament to both the extraordinary beauty of nature and the perseverance and skill required to bring it to the page.
A request: After you’ve had your fill of the photographs in both books (if that’s even possible), be sure to read the accompanying text. Schafer’s and Laman and Scholes’s words are every bit as captivating as their images.
Birds of Paradise: Revealing the World’s Most Extraordinary Birds
Authors: Tim Laman, Edwin Scholes
Publisher: National Geographic, 2012
228 pages, $50 cloth
Find Tim Laman on Facebook
Penguin Planet: Their World, Our World, 2nd Edition
Author: Kevin Schafer
Publisher: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2013
136 pages, $24.95 paper, $9.99 ebook
Find Kevin Schafer on Facebook
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