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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Eleven: Aspects of Antarctica a travel photo-essay > Rounding the Horn, Patagonia, Argentina, 2004
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Rounding the Horn, Patagonia, Argentina, 2004

The opening shot of a photo essay should set a tone or theme for what is to follow. I open my essay on Antarctica with this shot made from the deck of a ship in heavy weather off Cape Horn. At this place, the Atlantic Ocean meets the Pacific, and winds deflected down the Andes are free to bend and race past the Horn like a snapping whip. Bad weather is what makes this part of the earth terrifying, yet special. My precarious vantage point hanging on to a railing with one hand and shooting with the other -- features the blowing and churning seas, and also the distant but distinct shape of Cape Horn in the misty background, which adds context. For centuries, sailing ships were tossed about and smashed to pieces in these waters -- the 600-mile wide Drake Passage separating Antarctica, the Great White Continent, from the tip of South America.

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Phil Douglis10-Jul-2008 21:54
Thank you, Bartosz, for this comment. I am glad you feel the motion of the ship, and the mood of this treacherous place. I wanted you to feel as if you, too, were rounding Cape Horn.
Bartosz Kotulski10-Jul-2008 12:32
very strong composition. really like it. love this mood. vote
Phil Douglis13-Sep-2006 16:51
I like your characterization, Jude, of the Horn as "a monument to a failed voyage." It makes me see this image with new eyes. As for that "thrill of bracing myself on the deck," it was a thrill that I would just as well never have to endure again. I much prefer solid ground to a heaving sea.
Jude Marion13-Sep-2006 14:27
I have to agree with others comments - this image shows the pure, raw power of the winds and seas. I remember from my history classes that passage around the Horn was a great challenge for explorers. A very treacherous passage. The seas in the foreground are unpredictable, agitated, we can see strong winds at play. The Horn, off in the distance appears monolithic - potentially a trophy or a monument to a failed voyage. It must have been pretty thrilling to brace yourself on the deck to take this photo!
Phil Douglis20-Jun-2006 22:24
I like your phrase "bearing witness," Brian. It is something I take very seriously. The photogapher's role as "witness" is very much in jeopardy because people can longer trust what they see in an image as being true to the facts. "The camera never lies" has become "the camera usually lies," not so much because of the camera itself, but because of how it is now being used and even more importantly, because how the image is later processed. I believe deeply in photography as fact, not fiction, and this image is evidence of that belief. Not everyone will have a chance to hang on to a pole with one hand and camera with the other as their ship rounds Cape Horn in a turbulent sea. I owe to those who may never have such an experience an image such as this -- an accurate image, full of feeling and energy and as you say, an image that connects all of us to the terrible power of the sea.
Guest 20-Jun-2006 21:39
This is the kind of image which defies description, it evokes deep emotional feelings... connecting us with the sea and the rock in their terrible power. As with so many of your powerful images Phil, I think it reflects your very deep awareness of - and connection with reality... bearing witness and honoring its' magnificence. Magical.
Phil Douglis24-Jan-2006 04:56
It is well to fear this stretch of water, Diana. It is the most dangerous passage on earth. You are right. It is very strong. But lethal.
Guest 16-Jan-2006 22:58
This scene makes me think of strength... the strong type that can take away our securities. The loss of life of many sailors at war, the fisherman who collect our food to eat. I am scared of deep water. I like the beauty of the movement of the waves and the sprays on their crests. I see strength in two places, the sea and the mountain.
Phil Douglis01-Apr-2005 19:19
Call of the wild, indeed! This was among the most difficult images I have ever made -- to find this moment of nature's fury and make it my own was not easy with the deck moving in three directions at once under my feet. It was no accident either -- I wanted to be shooting this surging sea at the exact moment we passed Cape Horn itself. Through this spot runs some of the roughest water on earth, and it did not disappoint.
Benchang Tang 01-Apr-2005 11:55
Force and power of Nature. "Call of the wild". Thank you for this great shot.
Phil Douglis22-Oct-2004 01:34
Thanks, Doug, for commenting on the role of color here. We usually look at gray skies as a liability than an asset. But shooting this scene on a brilliant clear day would have robbed this image of its mystery and frigidity.
Guest 16-Oct-2004 00:30
Wonderful image Phil...

I have read of the Horn many times, many novels, etc. I love the ocean and have always been fascinated with this place, my father is the same. The image evokes and captures the Horn's history and the powerful and dangerous dynamics that come together there... it has been a pivotal and dramatic place for sailors and navigators of the past, a place that has claimed countless lives and caused much terror in the heart... this images illustrates why...

Amazingly cold and powerful blue tones... the blue in itself evokes power, not just the obvious swells and currents but the color as well. The silhouette of the Horn is much better then if clear, it is ominous and fitting of the vision that has been encountered on many an occasion in the magical history of navigation...

Well Done.

Phil Douglis10-Sep-2004 15:33
Thanks for the comment on this image of my journey round the horn -- it was a memorable passage and when looking at this image I can still feel the bite of those roaring, shifting winds and the jolting force of those massive waves pitching into our ship from all directions. This was one of the most physically difficult photos I've ever made -- just keeping my balance and holding on to the camera at the same time was a huge challenge. Glad you are pleased with the result.
northstar3710-Sep-2004 08:47
At that latitude at sea there is no land around the whole circumference of the earth. The prevailling westerly winds can reach incredible speeds. And there is a treacherous current. Sailing ships could take days, even weeks to pass 'The Horn'. I passed it once. But it was at night, flat calm and foggy. Pleased to see a glimpse of it in all its mysterious, misty glory...
Phil Douglis27-Feb-2004 20:02
A cruel power, indeed, Likyin. Those last three words of your comment could be the title of my picture. Sorry, no ice fragments. Cape Horn is at the tip of Argentina, and no snow or ice was in sight until we crossed the 600 mile wide Drake Passage to Antarctica.
Guest 27-Feb-2004 15:50
Are there the fragments of ice providing this mysteriously heavy matrix the power of both liquid and solid?
Also with the reference and contrast of the distant Mountain in the mist, the powerful body shows its massive scale and the breath-taking texture.

a cruel power...
Phil Douglis26-Jan-2004 02:22
Tim and Jill -- thanks for your comment on this picture. There is intensity and power in the churning sea, and the foaming spray in the foreground does indeed relate to the lines of the Horn itself. When I shoot, I always conscious of foreground to background relationships, and how they work together to express the idea.
Jill26-Jan-2004 01:12
Powerful intense capture.
Tim May25-Jan-2004 22:18
There is power here. I can feel the reason that the Straights are feared and dangerous. I am also interested by the lines created by the foam of the front wave and the line of the mountain.
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