Award-winning photographer Sue Flood braved the extremes to bring us this marvelous new book, Emperor: The Perfect Penguin.
"One of the loveliest moments you can ever hope to experience is to stand in the middle of an emperor penguin colony, hundreds of miles from civilization, surrounded by the extraordinary cacophony of chicks and adults calling to one another."
And with those words, wildlife photographer, Sue Flood opens her new book, Emperor: The Perfect Penguin. The culmination of nine years of braving the extremes of remote Antarctic penguin colonies, Flood's photos are nothing short of stunning – a celebration of these remarkably perseverant and unfailingly charismatic creatures.
The book follows the penguins' arduous journey across the sea ice, a trek that requires the birds to soldier on in temperatures that can reach -60F with 150 mph winds. How Flood managed to follow them is clearly a testimony to her dedication (and good outerwear!).
In the forward to the book, actor Michael Palin – who joined Flood on one of her expeditions – describes the photographer's passion and offers a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes. He writes:
"The photographs of the Emperor penguins in this book, in all their crispness and clarity, show a real love and affection for the subjects and particularly for the relationship between parent and young. To capture the intimacy in some of these requires patience and stamina. I’ve seen Sue lying at on an icy shore, camera at the ready, penguins all around her, for what seemed like hours, waiting for the moment or the expression that no one had ever caught before. I’ve seen her lugging telescopic lenses the size of small submarines up the steepest, most slippery slopes because this might just be the day she gets a storm petrel scratching its ear. And I know from my own experience that the Antarctic is not an easy place to work. What she makes seem so easy and so relaxed can be endlessly difficult and uncomfortable to achieve."
Working for TreeHugger and being a self-admitted wildlife photography freak, I come across a lot of animal photos during the course of each day. But flipping through the pages of this book, I realized I have never seen penguin photos like these. Flood has an uncanny gift for capturing gestures that are so "penguin," but that are also so relatable – it's as if we can see humanity in these amazing birds. Or maybe we see the penguins in us? Regardless, they inspire empathy and admiration. They are just amazing – I lost count of how many involuntarily "awww"s escaped from my mouth.
To prove my point, consider the emblem sported on the chest of the chick below and try to resist the feeling of wonder. It is impossible!