Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles.

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Penguins and spectacular birds-of-paradise star in big new photography books

BirdWatching may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. BirdWatching does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting BirdWatching.
Pages 24 and 25 of Penguin Planet (above) show Humboldt Penguins on an island in southern Chile and Gentoo Penguins leaping out of the water. Photos by Kevin Schafer.

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.

PenguinPlanet-sm“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.

BirdsOfParadise-smSchafer 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.

Photography books

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


BW1213_Cover_171x223Publishers and authors:

If you’ve brought out a book that we should consider reviewing, send it here:


BirdWatching Magazine
Madavor Media, LLC.
25 Braintree Hill Office Park, Suite 404
Braintree, MA 02184
[email protected]

Originally Published

Read our newsletter!

Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up for Free