Schultz voyages to the bottom of the world
May 6, 2006
When David Schultz, owner of West Light Images on lower Main Street, read the book, "The Endurance," about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to be the first to cross the Antarctic, it was the beginning of an adventure. The book’s photographs, taken by Frank Hurley, inspired Schultz to take his own photographs of the Antarctic before he lost his eyesight.
Diagnosed at age 13 with juvenile diabetes, Schultz’s goal is "to see as much of the world as possible, because of the possibility of losing my eyesight eventually."
On Nov. 23, 2005, Schultz set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina to start a 24-hour day trip to the frozen continent, "my eye had hemorrhaged, but I went anyway. I can’t see nearly anything out of my left eye." Onboard a ship with Russian scientists, named The Akademik Loffe, one of two ice-strengthened ships used both for scientific purposes and tourist-oriented travel in Polar regions, Schultz stopped at several locations from Shackleton’s expedition.
In a well-known historic tragedy, the ship Shackleton and his crew were traveling on became trapped and was eventually smashed in the ice pack. To survive, the expedition sailed in tiny boats to the remote Elephant Island. After struggling to survive for several months, they crossed dangerous seas to reach South Georgia Island, where Shackleton was able to get help at a whaling station.
Just as Shackleton had encountered dangerous conditions nearly 100 years ago, Schultz also experienced the unforgiving elements. Schultz explained that due to the extreme weather conditions certain gear was needed: "Knee-high rubber boots for getting in and out of the rafts, Gore-Tex clothing that was both wind and water proof." Rafts were used to exit the ship, navigate through unsteady water, and bank ashore. "It was difficult to land at times due to constant winds coming off the glaciers." He would often see dolphins and whales. Once on land Schultz found "green patches of grass in areas." Seals, albatross, and penguin colonies dotted the shore.
"You could land on the shore, and there would be 200,000 penguins in one colony." At times, Schultz says, "If you sit down or stay in an area, [penguins] will come up and eventually check you out. Peck away at your boots, especially the chicks – they are very curious."
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The seals on the other hand were not as friendly. And they had sharp teeth. "Two of the rafts were punctured by seals," said Schultz. "The bull seals were very territorial, and would fight each other for space on the shore. At one point one bull seal charged me right into another bull seal. Two thousand pounds of blubber coming at you in a hurry – you got to be ready to move."
Besides dealing with territorial seals, Schultz was not used to being on someone else’s schedule when taking photographs.
"Waiting around for the right lighting conditions, that was a very difficult part for me on this trip." The ship was also on a schedule and each location had a set amount of time.
On the return trip, moving through the Drake Passage to Ushuaia, the ship encountered storms and turbulent waves. Schultz said the Drake Passage is "considered some of the worst seas in the world." One can imagine the scene, and actually see it on video at West Light Images; Schultz documented all events of the trip.
"We encountered 30 to 40 foot seas, Beaufort Scale Force 11 weather conditions," said Schultz. "There were people during the storm – one person got a broken leg on the ship, one lady got 10 stitches in her head, and several people were on IV’s because of the sea sickness." Fortunately, Schultz safely returned with numerous photos to document his journey. They are currently on display in his Main Street gallery until June.
The icebergs, described by Schultz as simply "incredible," are shown in various sizes such as 4 by 6 inch prints, all the way up to 30 by 40 prints. The subject matter ranges from friendly penguins to glowing statuesque icebergs.
"The collection of photographs which I’ve selected to display represents a fraction of nature’s beauty which I’ve been fortunate enough to witness. A very important part of photography is the ability to see the moment, and to have the patience and awareness to wait and observe the light and shadows. I hope visitors to my gallery will enjoy viewing my work," Schultz said.
Even though Schultz’s eyesight is impaired, his photos reveal an artist with a clear vision.
The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is located at 738 Main Street, Park City. For more information, visit http://www.westlightimages.com.