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Spring Valley man captures new perspective from the Edge of the Earth

by Tom Overlie, Anchor/Producer

SPRING VALLEY, Minn. (KTTC) — Joshua Swanson from Spring Valley is all about adventure and living life on the edge. In the late 1990s, when he was offered a chance to live and work in one of the harshest places on Earth — Antarctica — he snapped it up.

But it’s a hobby he started there during the dark winter months that’s giving us a chance to see Antarctica in a new light — a new perspective from the edge of the Earth.

On a recent February afternoon in Spring Valley, the temperatures were in the upper teens. Josh Swanson headed outdoors, camera gear in hand, to capture a few shots in the fleeting daylight hours of a Minnesota winter. It’s the only natural light he sees for most of the year.

Since 1999, Swanson has been splitting his time between southern Minnesota and McMurdo Station in Antarctica, where he works as a high voltage power lineman. For nine months of the year, he lives in near darkness and sub-zero temperatures at the bottom of the world.

Swanson described a typical work week. “Nine hours, six days a week. Sunday is our day off,” he said.

And on that day off, photography becomes his outlet. He took up photography in earnest two years ago. It helps fill the time while living in one of the harshest environments on Earth.

His panoramic images take time and patience.

“For one picture, I’ve done an hour and a half of image taking,” Swanson said.

Often, that time is spent in -30 degree temps with wind chills of -60.

“Sometimes it’s worse. And I wonder why I’m out here. But the aurora is going, and it makes it worth it,” Swanson said.

The Aurora Australis  comes onto the scene when it’s least expected, sometimes showing up at the end of a lengthy two hour shoot out in the bitter cold.

“One of the shoots I did, I finished my shoot. The aurora started. I had to start again,” Swanson said. ‘I’ve had moments where I’ve stood out there too long. My fingers are cold. Yeah, I push the envelope a little.”

Pushing the envelope, to capture the mystery of the seventh continent.

“The Antarctic is a beautiful place.”

A place few can go. A desolate place Swanson embraces with camera and perspective. Giving us all a chance to see the dark winter months of Antarctica in a new light.

Swanson will leave for his 12th winter in Antarctica this month. He will be gone until October. Meanwhile, his wife Megan stays behind in southern Minnesota.

To see more of Swanson’s photography, including spectacular shots from other parts of the world, check out his Facebook page by clicking here.

Tom Overlie

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