Is This A Portrait?

April 23, 2020

Neko Harbour Landscape 03Neko Harbour Landscape 03Late Season, Antarctica 2020

Ian Goodwin, Glaciologist, Marine Climatologist and Geologist. Neko Harbour, Antarctica.
Phase One XF 150MP, 240mm Schneider lens, f5.6 @ 1/1000, ISO 64

Ian Goodwin was walking up the ice above Neko Harbour, ensuring there were no crevasses for our passengers to fall into. I was on a zodiac a kilometre or more away (distances are weird down south because the air is so clear) and I could see him walking into a patch of sunshine. I took a few frames. Then I got onto the radio. "Ian, Ian, Ian - Peter." "Yes, Peter." "Can you stop and wave please - oh, and don't forget to smile!"

And because Ian is good-natured, he stopped, but I couldn't tell if he was smiling or grimacing. Not from this distance. And not on the photo either. In fact, you're probably reading this and wondering where the hell Ian is in the frame. The answer is up the very top right of the triangle of sunshine. You can see a black vertical mark, but if you look a little more to the left, there's a smaller vertical mark and that's Ian.

Of course, on a large print, Ian can be easily seen. He tells me he wants a large print, but he's questioning my choice of a square crop. I actually like the rectangular crop as well, but this edit was produced for the Antarctica book I hope to get printed shortly with Momento Pro.

So, is this a portrait? Ian thinks it is. He says he loves how it talks about what he has done with his life. Stealing from The Conversation website (, Ian has 40 years research experience in the fields of climatology, paleoclimatology, polar glaciology, climate change science, coastal and marine geoscience, coastal oceanography, and maritime prehistory. He has spent a lot of time in Antarctica. And until recently, he was an Associate Professor of Marine Climate and leader of the Marine Climate Risk and Austral Glacier Research Groups at Macquarie University. Ian is also the principal scientist of the consultancy ClimaLab, and a Shipboard Glaciologist and Climatologist with Aurora Expeditions. And most importantly for his CV, he went to school with me 40 years ago!

But is it a portrait? What constitutes a portrait? Who decides? Without Ian in the frame, it's certainly a landscape. But how big does your subject have to be before a landscape can become an environmental portrait?

I've decided it's a portrait. You can have a think while you're in lock down with the rest of us!

As I come to the end of my isolation down in a Melbourne hotel, and seeing quite a few readers have taken advantage of my 'at home with nothing to do' offer, let's keep it open over the weekend. If you'd like to upgrade your skills while at home, how about signing up to my Landscape Photography MasterClass or my Lightroom Atelier? I'll put a 50% discount on them if you use the coupon code CORONA. Visit our sister website at for free samples.


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