Iceland Winter Workshop 2015 Complete – Heading North in search of Polar Bears

Daniel Bergmann and I have just wrapped up an absolutely brilliant 2015 Winter workshop here in Iceland. We had some incredible light, Aurora and experiences during our time exploring the winter countryside with a fabulous group of passionate photographers. In brief, we photographed the spectacular snow covered landscapes of Southern Iceland, partially frozen waterfalls, and the magical Northern Lights over a period of ten days.Iceland-7629 A full trip report and photographs from the workshop will come later once I have a chance to sort through the images and fully digest our shared experiences. Just a reminder if you would like to join us on our 2016 Winter workshop to Iceland there are now only a few places remaining before it will be sold out. We will be exploring the northern landscapes of Iceland and visiting some of the spectacular northern features and landscapes whilst they are covered in fresh snow. You can register your interest by dropping me an email.GullFoss in WinterI am headed North tomorrow via Oslo to the small town of Longyearbyen in Svalbard on a scouting trip to photograph Polar Bears and Reindeer in the deep freeze of an Arctic Winter. Longyearbyen is the world’s most northerly permanent settlement at 78º North and has a population of around 2,500 people. In summer, it is the jumping off point for many Arctic adventures including my own Polar Bear Photography Expeditions. In winter, it is a sleepy frozen town held tightly in the clutches of the Arctic night. Longyearbyen is only my starting point for this scouting trip however, and I will be heading further north with a few friends via snowmobile (snowmobile and dog sleds are the only way to get further north in winter) to a very remote hut by the edge of one of Svalbard’s most spectacular glaciers. We intend to spend a week at this location photographing wildlife and landscapes in the Arctic winter light. At this time of year we are expecting temperatures to potentially dip as low as -30 Celsius and possibly even colder, but we are also expecting incredible winter light should the weather and conditions co-operate. Because of the extremes of temperature at this time of year as well as the danger of camping with Polar Bears we are utilising the small hut as our Basecamp and will explore the landscape daily on snowmobiles and then return to rest in the warmth of the hut. This is the first time a photographic expedition of this nature has been undertaken to my knowledge and it should be an incredible experience. It is our hope that we may be able to offer this remarkable opportunity as a workshop expedition in the near future if our scouting trip is successful. I am very excited about this new opportunity and will have more to report once I return. In the meantime it is time to catch a few hours sleep before I catch my flight to Oslo.

Read more.. Friday, March 6th, 2015

Yellowstone 2015 Winter Wonderland Workshop Complete – Heading to Iceland

Early this afternoon I wrapped up the 2015 Yellowstone Winter Wonderland Experience Workshop in Jackson Hole. We have spent the last ten days travelling through Yellowstone and the Grand Teton area photographing both landscape and wildlife by private snow-coach and it has been an incredible experience. We actually spent the last part of our workshop in the Grand Tetons  and it was a wonderful experience from beginning to end. There were many fantastic photographic opportunities and from what I have already seen some beautiful winter images have been created by all on the trip. The landscape of Yellowstone is stunningly beautiful in Winter with clean crisp air and stunning winter light. The combination of geothermal features, snow and wildlife is truly a miracle of Nature and has created a photographic paradise. Personally I took over a thousand images during the course of the trip and as always it will take me some time to sort, edit and process my favourites. Travelling and photographing in Yellowstone in Winter with a small group of good friends and talented, passionate photographers has been a wonderful experience that I hope to repeat in future years. In fact, I already can’t wait to return and do it all again and am planning another winter trip for early 2017. Watch for the trip report from our 2015 experience over the coming weeks if you would like to get an idea what a workshop to Yellowstone is like in Winter.

Tomorrow I am flying to Denver and onto Iceland for my 2015 Winter Aurora Workshop with my good friend Daniel Bergmann. It has been nearly six months since I was last in Iceland and I am itching to return to this wonderful country. Iceland is a country I hold very near and dear to my heart and feels very much like my home away from home. I am particularly fond of winter in Iceland – the streets of Reykjavik are quiet, and with a dusting of fresh snow there is wonderful fairy tale feel to the city. I am particularly looking forward to Kaffi (thats Icelandic for coffee) at my favourite cafe ‘C is for Cookie‘ cafe and a big bowl of seafood soup from the hipster restaurant Vegamote when I arrive in Reykjavik.

Whilst it will be nowhere near as cold in Iceland as it has been in Yellowstone during winter (actually it has been a very mild winter in Yellowstone) we should still see the mercury dip below 0º celsius on regular occasions – especially in the evening when we are out photographing the Aurora. I am personally looking forward to more ice cave photography during this workshop as well photographing the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula in winter and of course the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón as well as many other excellent locations. We may even get up into the helicopter for some aerial photography of the fissure eruption near the Bárðarbunga volcano that has been ongoing for some months now. This last option is very weather dependant so we shall have to wait and see what Nature dishes up. The 2015 Winter Iceland Workshop has been sold out for many months now, but there are still a couple of places available on the 2016 Frozen North Workshop if you would like to join us. See you in Iceland.IcelandWinter2016

Read more.. Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

World Photographic Cup Medalist 2015

Final judging of the World Photographic Cup 2015 is underway in France and I was thrilled to learn this evening that one of my photographs has made the podium as a medalist for Australia in the reportage category. We will have to wait until April when the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded to know where my photograph has placed. Regardless of the final place however, it is a great thrill and honour to have had my photograph selected to represent Australia, to have made the finals, and to subsequently have received a medal.

The overall Winners will be announced in Montpellier, France, on April 12th, 2015. If you are wondering which photograph has medalled – you will have to wait until the overall winners are announced….Stay tuned.

Read more.. Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Top Ten Polar Photography Tips to Improve Your Photography

Recently I compiled a list of Top Ten things you can do to give yourself the best chance of taking great photographs when you visit the extreme latitudes of the globe. The Top Ten Tips were also recently featured on View-Bug.

Nature and landscape photographs really require three things in my mind to be successful. Great Subject, Great Composition and Great Light. You really need all three to create an exceptional photograph. 
 
Included below are my top ten in no particular order
  1.  Be patient whenever possible: Wait for good light. Wait for the wildlife to be active.
  2. Give yourself a chance to get in tune with the landscape. Its almost impossible to turn up to a new area you have never visited and make outstanding photographs. It takes time to get in the rhythm of the landscape and really ‘see’ powerful images. Spend some time just looking before you start taking pictures. (See my articles on Landscape Photography with Mystery and Emotion – Part One, Part Two and Part Three).
  3. Know your camera gear intimately. It needs to be muscle memory to change settings on your camera. If you are fumbling with buttons and unsure of how to makes changes to your cameras setting your’e photography is going to suffer (See my article on Landscape Photography with Mystery and Emotion Part Three).
  4. Use weather sealed cameras or use weather proof covers for your camera gear.
  5. Think about what it is you are trying to say with your photography. Try and look past the cliche postcard. The strongest images are often the simplest and are those that leave the viewer wanting more or that evoke an emotional response in the viewer.See my article on Landscape Photography with Mystery and Emotion Part Two).
  6.  Look for the edges of weather. The most dramatic light is often found at the edge of a rainstorm or snow storm. Avoid blue sky sunny days as they usually result in boring photographs. 
  7. Be prepared and dress for bad weather. You need to be able to stay out in the snow storm if the light is incredible and keep making photographs. Having the right equipment for yourself is as important as having the right camera equipment.
  8. Try different focal lengths and compositions. Don’t always go for the super wide angle because it looks more dramatic on the camera’s LCD.
  9. Remember that landscape and nature photography are more often about what we exclude from the frame rather than what we include. Consider simplifying the frame when you are composing the image. A photograph that leaves the viewer asking questions is far more interesting than just a pretty picture. (See my articles on Landscape Photography with Mystery and Emotion – Part OnePart Two and Part Three).
  10. Look for leading lines in the landscape. Photography is the reproduction of a 3-dimensional scene into a 2-dimensional image or print. Strong leading lines will help you convey a sense of depth and help bring the image to life. Also use slow shutter speeds for clouds and water to help create a sense of movement that can also help bring a photograph to life.HMAS Penguin Pool
Read more.. Monday, February 16th, 2015

Book Review: Canon APPA 2014 Gold Awards

My second book review for 2015 is the new 2014 Canon APPA (Australian Professional Photography Awards) book. The 2014 Canon APPA book is different than many photography books in that it  contains the combined works of many photographers from  a photographic competition. Specifically, those photographers who scored a highly coveted Gold or Gold with Distinction award at the 2014 Australian Professional Photography Awards in Sydney. If you are unfamiliar with the APPA awards it is worth taking a moment and reading about them on the APPA website. In brief, these awards represent the very pinnacle of Australian photography. The competition is fierce and is regarded by many as one of the toughest in the world. The 2014 APPA Gold book represents those images that were professionally judged under controlled lighting conditions by AIPP Master and Grand Master Photographers to have reached the highest standards of excellence and creativity in their respective categories and genres.

AIPP-APPA-Gold-Book-20142014 is the first year that APPA have produced a Gold Award book with previous years seeing the creation of much larger volumes that also contained all of the Silver and Silver with Distinction Awards. Personally, I am very pleased to see the segregation of the Gold awards spun off into a new book as the previous iterations had become extremely large and unwieldy. There are only so many images the eye and brain can absorb in one sitting before it tires of looking at photographs. My feeling is that the new Gold Awards book has the balance just about perfect in this regard.

The book is divided up into the separate APPA categories with the Gold and Gold with Distinction Award winners being featured for each category in alphabetical order. By way of full disclosure I should say at this point that I won the 2014 Science, Environment and Nature photographer of the Year award at the 2014 APPA’s. Two of my photographs received Gold awards and are featured in this book in the Science, Environment and Nature Category. My review of this book is not based on the inclusion of these two photographs and I would feel the same way about this book regardless of their inclusion or exclusion.

Presentation: The 2014 Canon APPA Gold Awards book is hardbound in black linen with a smart, clean dust jacket that is simple and elegant. The paper is a medium weight semi-gloss lustre that works well for the broad genre of images included in the book. Although I personally prefer art papers to lustre papers it was a wise decision to choose a paper that conformed to the broad range of genres in this book. All of the included photographs are printed with a white paper border to help frame and contain the image and keep the eye from running off the page. The photographers name is included beneath each image, along with the category entered and the award won (Gold or Gold with Distinction). There is a simplicity to the presentation of the images in this book that resonants with me and I very much enjoyed the clean no fuss layout that leaves the emphasis squarely on the photographs.

Print Quality: When it comes to print quality the 2014 Canon APPA Gold awards book is the gold standard in print quality surpassing anything I have yet seen from an offset printer. Printed on the Canon Dreamlabo 5000 printer this book is the closest you are likely to ever get to the original fine art inkjet prints that were entered into the APPA awards. Put simply, the quality of the printing is superb and I believe this book is worth owning simply as a reference for how good book printing can look when it is  handled with care and attention to detail.

Conclusion: I considered giving this book five stars based on its print quality alone as a reference standard to other books, but in the end I felt somewhat conflicted giving a book five stars that includes two of my own photographs. I am therefore going to give it four stars and recommend that you strongly consider adding this book to your photographic library. I feel quite strongly that with the sheer breadth of subject that is presented in the book that there is quite literally something for just about every genre of photographer. Secondly, every one of the images in this book won a Gold or Gold with Distinction award at the 2014 APPA awards and represent the very pinnacle of Australian Professional Photography. Finally the print quality represents the current best it can be in book production. If you want to see where the standard lies and where the bar is set for professional photography in Australia then I recommend you purchase a copy of this book. Not only is it an excellent resource and reference to have on hand by which to evaluate your own work, but it is also contains a treasure trove of inspiration. The 2014 Canon APPA Gold Book is available for $75 AUD in strictly limited quantities from the AIPP**** You should own this book and consider it an important part of your photography library.

Read more.. Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Update from Yellowstone February 2015

We are currently in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone on day three of our Winter Workshop to this amazing National Park. It has been unseasonably warm here in Yellowstone the past few days (actually, according to the locals it has been unseasonably warm for some time now) with temperatures hovering in the mid to high 40’s (Fahrenheit) during the day and really only dipping below 32 (Fahrenheit) during the night. There isn’t much snow around in the Lamar at present which has made access easy, but has somewhat limited our photographic opportunities to date. My own hopes of heavy snowfall to help isolate and add context to the animals in this area have not yet been realised. The weather is supposed to turn cold in the next two days with forecast snowfall in Yellowstone and we are hopeful this will add that missing magic element that brings photographs from this region to life.

We have had some good wildlife encounters in the first few days with the real highlight for me being a pair of wonderful Bald Eagles that we spent around an hour photographing by the side of the road. We were fortunate to stumble across the two eagles perched in trees deep in a canyon which put us at almost eye level by the roadside. Yellowstone-7710After a sunrise shoot tomorrow in the Lamar Valley we will pack up and head toward Old Faithful and spend several days exploring and photographing in this area. There have been reports of Bobcat activity along the Madison River and I am keen to see if we can find and photograph one of these elusive cats in the wild.

Read more.. Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Antarctica The Wild Side – Weddell Sea Expedition

In February 2016 I will be leading a brand new expedition to Antarctica. Unlike previous years this new expedition to Antarctica will depart in February instead of early November and will take us deep into the Weddell Sea – the Wild Side of Antarctica. The expedition dates are February 9th – February 20th 2016. The Weddell sea is an area of Antarctica pretty much inaccessible earlier in the season due to sea ice conditions and our intention is to explore and photograph this rarely visited wild side of Antarctica. We will be using an ice-hardened expedition class ship ‘Polar Pioneer’ so we can push quite a lot of ice safely; which will enable us to get much further south than most vessels.Antarctica-Weddell2015We will sail across the Bransfield Strait to Antarctic Sound on our journey toward the Weddell Sea. Antarctic Sound is home to literally monolothic tabular icebergs that break off the Antarctic ice shelf and float up out of the Weddell Sea. There are incredible photographic opportunities in this area and we will stop to take advantage of spectacular tabular icebergs as we encounter them. We then plan to travel down the east side of the peninsula as deeply as we can penetrate into the sea ice.

Polar Pioneer

The peninsula’s wild side will welcome us with huge icebergs and spectacular scenery. We will likely visit Paulet Island, a conical volcano with a huge Adelie penguin colony that rises several hundred feet from the islands periphery to its lower slopes. Penguin covered icebergs drift in the currents set against towering ice cliffs. We also hope to explore Prince Gustav Channel and Seymour Island. We will also explore the west coast of the peninsula which offers glaciated peaks rising from a maze of islands and waterways alive with seals, penguins and whales. At the conclusion of the expedition we will sail back across the Drake Passage to Ushuaia.An Epic Sense of Scale

This expedition is for a strictly limited number of just 54 photographers. With many of the expedition ships now taking well over 100 passengers this is a unique opportunity to take advantage of a small group on an ice hardened expedition ship in one of the most rarely visited areas in Antarctica. Due to preliminary expressions of interest and bookings there are now only a few places remaining before this expedition will be sold out. If you would like to confirm cabin availability or would like any additional information about this expedition please drop me an email to info@jholko.com. A detailed PDF information flyer and itinerary can be downloaded clicking on weddellsea2016.

Read more.. Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Arrived in Yellowstone for 2015 Winter Workshop

A few hours ago I finally completed the long journey from Australia and arrived in Bozeman for my Yellowstone Winter workshop. It is a very nice feeling to have abandoned the heat of the Australian summer for the snow and ice of a Yellowstone winter. Currently its quite a balmy 14 degrees Celsius outside and the air is dry and crisp. It is an even nicer feeling to have made it through American airport security more or less without hassle.

Tomorrow will be a rest day to recover from travel and jet lag before we commence our workshop into the park proper. I need to go shopping shortly for a new pair of winter boots for both Yellowstone, Iceland and the Arctic and have my eye on a pair of the new Baffin Expedition boots. I had considered using my Arctic Sport Muck Boots for this expedition but was concerned they may not be warm enough in the Yellowstone winter. They definitely would not be warm enough for the expedition I am doing into the Arctic after Iceland, so its time to add yet one more pair of boots to the wardrobe.

We have a pretty solid schedule planed out for the next ten days so I am unsure of how much if any time I may get to post updates to my Blog. We will just have to see what Yellowstone has to offer…

Read more.. Monday, February 9th, 2015

Leaving for Yellowstone 2015 Winter Workshop

In a few minutes time I am leaving for the airport for my first workshop of 2015 – Yellowstone in Winter. I have been looking forward to returning to the United States for some time now and it is very exciting to be headed to Yellowstone in Winter with a small group of participants and passionate photographers. We are looking forward to beautiful and dramatic snow covered landscapes, geothermal features, Bison, Elk and with a little luck even Wolves. We hope to make some iconic images of some of the more well known features, but also venture further afield. We will be using a large private snow-coach so that we can get off the main road and move around the park to some of the better, but harder to reach areas for photography. During our trip we will be utilising accommodation both in and around Yellowstone National Park. We will also be visiting the Grand Tetons and National Elk Refuge. It is going to be very exciting and I am itching to don my warm clothes and step out into the park with my cameras. You can read my packing list for this expedition HERE and my thoughts on traveling with camera equipment and dealing with customs in my article on Carnets – A Passport for your Camera Equipment.Yellowstone Sold OutYellowstone in Winter is only my first stop during my time away from home and at the conclusion of this trip I will be travelling directly to Iceland for my annual Winter Aurora Workshop with Daniel Bergmann (Sold Out). If you are interested in joining us on our 2016 Iceland Frozen North workshop there are still a few places remaining before it will be sold out. At the conclusion of the 2015 winter workshop I have some time allocated for two personal projects (both in Iceland and Svalbard) of which I will have more to say in future posts. We should have good internet access in Yellowstone and I hope to post some updates and photographs from the trip as we progress. See you in Yellowstone in a couple of days.

Read more.. Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Get Ready to Pre-Order the New 50 Mega Pixel Canon 5DS and 5DSR Cameras

For those of you who have been waiting eagerly for Canon to announce their new high-mega pixel 5DS and 5DS R cameras (offered in two versions with and without “low-pass filter effect cancellation”) you can now sign up to be one of the first to place your order on B&H Photo. The new Canon 11-24mm wide angle zoom is also now available for pre-order. Expected availability for delivery of the new cameras is June 2015 – just in time for my 2015 Iceland Highlands Expedition! Personally, I will be ordering the R version for landscape use. This will strictly be an ISO100 on the tripod landscape camera for me with the Canon EOS 1DX remaining my tool for everything else.

Just a friendly reminder, it helps me pay for the costs associated with running this website and blog when you purchase your camera gear using the above links.

Read more.. Friday, February 6th, 2015