Lonely Planet Writer

A stunning photo-book documents daily life in the world's frozen regions

A new photography book has been published that documents the unique and varied ways that people interact with nature in some of the coldest regions around the world. From dog-sledding and ice-climbing to snow art made by trekking across the frozen landscape, the publication captures the stories of exceptional individuals in a series of stunning photographs.

An ice climber at Vatnajökull Glacier in Iceland.
An ice climber at Vatnajökull Glacier in Iceland. Image by Mikael Buck courtesy of Gestalten

Released by Gestalten, Below Zero tells the story of solitary ice fishers in Canada, volcanic ice cap explorers in Iceland, frozen waterfall scalers in the United States, high altitude motorbike racers in the Italian alps and a crew onboard a ship built in 1911 bound for the Antarctic, amongst many others. The premise behind the book is to outline how select groups of people, from winter sports enthusiasts to workers have come to rely on the cold weather.

Photographer René Kosterboarded a 1911 ship, the Bark Europa, and documented the journey to and the terrain of the South Pole.
Photographer René Koster’s photograph of The Opal, taken in Scoresby Sound, Greenland. Image by René Koster courtesy of Gestalten

Included in the book are detailed images by professional photographer Mikael Buck, who explored Iceland’s glaciers and caverns to test the low light capabilities of a camera without the use of a tripod. “The not-needing-to-take-a-tripod part was particularly important when you have to hike two hours each way over a glacier in crampons to access the caves. You can only safely visit them in the middle of winter due to the risk of ice moving if it’s too warm, and in Iceland the days are quite short at that time of year, so it was really crucial to pack light in order to have enough time to get the right shots,” Mikeal told Lonely Planet Travel News. Below Zero also features a collection of photographs taken by Richard Johnson of Canadian ice fishing huts, ranging from one-person pods and trailers with kitchenettes to shacks that accommodate families of six.

Photographer Richard Johnson documented ice fishing huts in Canada.
Photographer Richard Johnson documented ice fishing huts in Canada. Image by Richard Johnson courtesy of Gestalten

A particularly fascinating project that is captured in a series of images in the book is the snow art of Simon Beck, who created a series of vast geometric patterns in the snow around a French ski resort by designing site-specific images on a computer, mapping them out and creating them on day-long perambulations through the snow.

Artist Simon Beck creates intricate, geometric shapes in the snow by first designing and mapping it before setting out on a hike.
Artist Simon Beck creates intricate, geometric shapes in the snow by designing and mapping them before setting out on a trek. Image by Simon Beck courtesy of Gestalten

“From as young as I could walk, I was always trying to hike to the summit of every hill in sight. I also drew on paper some patterns that nowadays I make in the snow, so in a way things were set up for snow drawing well in advance. The process starts with two or three hours of tedious careful measurement using a sighting magnetic compass and pace counting. Occasionally more accurate measuring is done using knotted ropes and an anchor for the centre, but usually it is preferable to compromise the accuracy in the name of getting it completed quicker,” Simon told Lonely Planet Travel News.

Below Zero is out now. More information is available on the Gestalten website.