THERE'S A bumper crop of photography books this year. Here are some of the more highly recommended:

"Wild Southlands," by Bates Littlehales, explores the plants, animals, birds and landscapes of the South. From the swamps of Mississippi up through the forests of Virginia, Littlehales gives us a quiet, almost mystical look at the sites. His picture of Great Falls in Virginia is like no other I've seen. The roaring water is there, the power is there, but there is an almost friendly feeling about the falls. The brilliant red of a mountain ash tree in West Virginia sharply contrasts to the gray, bleak rocks it grows near. And there is a wonderful picture of a gray bat in Tennessee; I studied it a long time and still couldn't figure out how it was taken. $34.95; Thomasson-Grant, Charlottesville, Va.

"Century Ended, Century Begun: The Catholic University of America," by Fred J. Maroon, is a true labor of love and every picture shows it. Maroon returned to CUA, where he had been an architecture student 40 years ago; although there were many changes, he was able to admire the new and relate it to the old and traditional. The book opens with a series of double pages that give a magnificent overview of the college. They, like the other pictures in the book, are technically perfect. They reflect the joy of a great photographer coming home. $29.95; Catholic University Press, Washington.

"Wild Ice, Antarctic Journeys," is the blending of the work of four internationally known photographer/naturalists. The four -- Ron Naveen, Colin Monteath, Tui De Roy and Mark Jones -- have among them logged more than 60 trips to the Antarctic. I never dreamed there was so much color there until I saw their breathtaking views of the mountains of ice and stone and their pictures of the abundant wild life of the Antarctic. In "Wild Ice" we are shown sunsets of glorious reds and oranges and a land teeming with such wildlife as penguins, seals, whales and fish. All have their own distinctive colors. $29.95; Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.

"Photographing the Patterns of Nature," by Gary Braasch, is more than a beautiful collection of images. It's a useful and practical guide for anyone interested in nature photography. The book is divided into three sections: recognizing patterns, which deals with shapes, color, texture and motion; designing an image, dealing with composition and the combining of patterns and abstractions; and the business of nature photography, with how-to's on becoming a professional, preparing for an assignment and marketing strategies. $22.50; Amphoto, New York.

"Low Light and Night Photography," by Roger Hicks, helps take the fear out of shooting pictures under difficult light conditions. The book is filled with excellent technical data and easy-to-read, step-by-step guidance. $27.95; Sterling Publishing, New York.

The pictures in "Children in Photography -- 150 Years" were chosen by Canadian gallery curator Jane Corkin. They range from the 1896 "Kiss of Peace" by Julia Margaret Cameron to Simeon Alev's "Blind Girl Learning to Swim" (1986). $29.95; Firefly Books, Willowdale, Ontario.

From Smithsonian Press comes the "Photographers at Work" series. Each book starts with a question and answer session, then gives a series of well-annotated examples of the author's work. The books are: "The Photo Essay," by Mary Ellen Mark; "Pure Invention: The Tabletop Still Life," by Jan Groover; "Creating a Sense of Place," by Joel Myerowitz; and "On Assignment," by Jay Maisel. Each costs $15.95.

"Stay This Moment" is a well-organized collection of the works of Sam Abell, one of the nation's leading contemporary photographers. It has pictures from around the world, many taken while Abell was on assignment from National Geographic. $50; Thomasson-Grant, Charlottesville, Va.

Finishing the list is the ultimate Ansel Adams book, "The American Wilderness." This is a legacy of incredible pictures left by America's most prominent photographer. These pictures, some familiar, some not, show Adams's love for the environment and wilderness and his ability to see scenes and images never seen or interpreted before. The oversized book was edited by Andrea G. Stillman, noted curator and long-time assistant to Adams, and is interspersed with Adams's letters. $100; Little Brown, New York.

Next week: Videotapes.