Englishman Herbert Ponting (1870-1935) was an adventurer first and photographer second. As a young man, he rejected the idea of following his father into banking and instead set off for the American West and wilds of California. Finding work first as a miner, Ponting eventually bought a fruit ranch and married an American woman. Photography had always been a hobby and encouraged after a chance meeting with a photographer near San Francisco, Ponting began showing his work publicly and offering stereoscopic prints to publishing companies. After the turn of the century, Ponting gathered his equipment and traveled to Asia as a freelancer. He first photographed the Russo-Japanese War then continued on to Burma, Korea, Japan, China, and India providing travel stereoscopes to the burgeoning magazine market.

Ponting returned to Europe an experienced professional and traveled the continent photographing and writing extensively for many contemporary periodicals. In 1910, he published a book of Japanese scenes, In Lotus-land Japan, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. Given Ponting’s extensive accomplishments and reputation as a raconteur, it was not a surprise when he was chosen as a member of Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole, the first ever photographer invited on an Antarctic expedition.