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Thorsten Milse explores the ‘Polar World’ in new book

Thorsten Milse explores the ‘Polar World’ in new book

© Thorsten Milse

November 2011

The result of over six years of work can be seen in Canon Ambassador, and nature photographer, Thorsten Milse’s new coffee table book 'Polar World' – a 354 page tome that features nearly 300 images shot in the extreme weather conditions of the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

The book includes both German and English language versions of all the text, technical information about each image shot, a mixture of landscape and wildlife images, plus a foreword by German explorer Arved Fuchs. Thorsten Milse explained: "I shot the project over a six year period – the first pictures are from 2004. The last time I was there was in 2009. In 2010 I started with the book layout and I worked for one year on the book. It was hard work."

Milse added: "For this six-year project, there were over 200,000 photos, and more than 20 expeditions with icebreakers, helicopters, Zodiac boats and Ski-Doos. It is hard to go into these regions – when the open water is totally frozen you have no chance. There is only a short time available with an icebreaker. Although it’s a long time period for a book, in the Arctic the little polar bear season is only four weeks and it’s then same for the emperor penguins – you have only four weeks to take good photos."


Please click on the window above to watch a short film about Thorsten Milse’s ‘Polar World’ project. Film provided courtesy of Blue Planet Film.

The shooting schedule for the book project was usually at least three polar trips a year: "Mostly three times a year – one time in February and March to shoot the little polar bears; in October and November for the big polar bears; and the Antarctica season is from the end of October through to January. It also depends on the schedules of the ships. Sometimes I would go to Antarctica three times from October to January," revealed Milse.

He added: "Blizzards, cold winds and temperatures below -60°C were a real adventure for both myself and the Canon equipment. For example, when I am sitting in a Zodiac in choppy seas, with my 500mm telephoto lens at the ready, and am trying to get a sharp image – despite the saltwater, wind and waves – the built-in Image Stabilizer in Canon lenses helps when taking such freehand shots. Sometimes I had 24 hours of light, so there were really magical moments for landscape and animal shots."

Milse recalled: "Visiting such a historic site as Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica was very special. Battered by storms and surrounded by Adélie penguins, stands the hut erected by polar explorer Douglas Mawson. It is an unforgettable moment for a photographer to take a look at the darkroom of the famous polar photographer Frank Hurley who took pictures for the expedition led by Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. If I have to cope with difficult conditions in my job, how hard must it have been back in 1911 to take photos in this environment!"

  • 'Polar World' is published by DuMont (ISBN: 978 3 7701 8923 6) and, according to Thorsten Milse, the book may also become available in other languages at a later date.

Biografie: Thorsten Milse

Thorsten Milse

Born in Germany, nature photographer Thorsten Milse trained as a graphics designer, but then decided to pursue a photographic career. Thorsten specialises in landscape and wildlife photography with a strong focus on conservation and endangered species. His images have been published in 25 countries in prestigious nature magazines including GEO, BBC Wildlife, Illustreret Videnskab and Nature’s Best Photography. His pictures have won several international prizes, including BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year (animal behaviour) and the Grand Prize Winner at Nature’s Best Photo Competition. In late 2011 his coffee table book 'Polar World', the result of over six years of work in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, was published.


Albatross in flight in the Antarctic. Shot on the EOS-1Ds Mark III at 420mm with an EF300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens fitted with an EF1.4x extender, the exposure was 1/1600sec at f/4, ISO 200.