Yellowstone Winter Workshop Trip Report 2015

In early February 2015 I led a small photography group to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons for an exploratory winter workshop. This was my first time to Yellowstone in winter and very much a preliminary scouting trip for future workshops in the area. Winter is a wonderful time to visit America’s first national park; tourist numbers are very low by comparison with summer and the combination of snow and geothermal features offers outstanding landscape photography opportunities. There is also an abundance of wildlife in Yellowstone and many opportunities to create really unique imagery in the snow covered landscape.Yellowstone-7096-Edit12015Our plan was to photograph both the landscape and wildlife found in the park and take advantage of the winter snowfall. When visiting Yellowstone in winter there is a sense that you have almost crossed to another planet. The landscape is hushed by a thick blanket of snow. The trees are wreathed in frost and loom like wraiths against the ominous winter clouds. The crisp, icy air enhances the effect of the geothermal features. There is an exotic combination of mist-shrouded hot pools, bubbling paint pots and steaming fumaroles that is the ideal setting for winter landscape photography.Yellowstone-7127-Edit22015During this trip we explored the northern part of Yellowstone in the Lamar Valley as well as Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, Madison Valley and the Firehole River Basin. We also journeyed into the Grand Teton National Park. We had planned to also visit the national Elk Refuge, however the lack of snow this particular season worked against us and we decided to give this a miss and focus on areas with better snowfall instead.Yellowstone-726012015During our time in Yellowstone we spent several days in the Lamar Valley area photographing both the landscape and wildlife. We were fortunate to see and photograph the Lamar Valley wolf pack on several different occasions as well as Big Horn Sheep, Red Fox, Coyote and Moose. Although the wolves kept a respectful distance it was still a wonderful experience to watch wild wolves in the snow covered landscape. Just as an aside, It was almost as interesting to observe the cult of wolf watchers with their spotting scopes that prowl the Lamar Valley road in the hope of even a glimpse of these elusive animals. I am still sorting through the images I captured of the wolves and I hope to share a few in a future post.

Yellowstone-9034-Edit32015During the workshop we also spent several days in the Old Faithful area visiting and photographing many of the geothermal features. Geothermal features photograph extremely well with snow and ice. There is a wonderful contrast between rising steam and a snow covered landscape that adds that magic element and wonderful contrast to a photograph.Yellowstone-889112015

Travel inside the park during winter is restricted to snow coaches and snow mobiles and as of a few years ago you now cannot enter the park in winter without a guide provided by the parks service (Private vehicles are also not allowed in winter). This new requirement necessitated the need for us to hire a private snow-coach that enabled us to go at our own pace for photography free from the burden of regular tourists. A normal tourist visit just does not allow sufficient time at each location during the best light of the day.

Winter in Yellowstone can be brutally cold with temperatures plummeting well below -20 degrees Celsius.This year however was quite mild with little snow fall compared to past years. As a result we rarely saw temperatures dip below -10 Celsius with most days hovering around 0 Celsius. As a result of the unusually mild weather the wildlife was more active than usual and there were already clear indicators of bear activity in late February during our visit.Yellowstone-706712015

In terms of wildlife Yellowstone has a wonderful diversity and during our time in the park we saw and photographed Bison, Elk, Red Fox, Big Horn sheep, Moose, Coyotes, Bald Eagles, and Osprey. We also spotted and photographed the Canyon wolf pack alongside some of the geothermal features just after sunrise. We searched hard for both Bobcats and Great Grey Owls but did not see them despite a few recent reports of sightings along the Madison river. We did however photograph a Bobcat a few days prior to the workshop in the Montana area (But this was a controlled shoot).AnimalsMontana-474012015Yellowstone in winter was a fantastic experience and is a truly remarkable place that offers limitless possibilities for photography of both wildlife and landscape in winter. I will be leading a future workshop to Yellowstone for a small group of people in Winter in January of 2017. This workshop will also include an extension into the Grand Teton area that will also take us to the spectacular and iconic Mount Moran area. If you would like to get the drop on the option of securing a place when details are finalised then please just drop me an email to register your interest. There is no obligation at the point.Yellowstone-370312015

Read more.. Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Testimonial – Fine Art Print of the Month Winner

Every month this year I am giving away a 13″ x 19″ inch fine art pigment on paper print of my photograph of the month. The first four prints for the year have already been won and given away – January, February, March and April. They are now either framed and on the wall in a home or office or shortly to be framed. Keep an eye out for the May photograph of the month and if you comment here on my blog on why you like the photograph and share it on social media you could well be the next winner.
 
Hi Josh,
 
I collected the print yesterday from the post office and it is FABULOUS!  Thank you so much again, I can’t wait to get it framed and hung on a wall somewhere at home.
 
Best regards,
Caroline
Read more.. Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Lightroom Creative Cloud New Features Worth Noting

Unless you have been living on an iceberg you already know that Lightroom 6 / Creative Cloud was released today by Adobe systems. Amid the buzz and hype of the option to purchase Lightroom outright or move to the subscription “Cloud” option (If you are already a full suite subscriber such as myself its a free download to add Lightroom Creative Cloud) and the somewhat spurious facial recognition and HDR offerings (and did we really need ‘Pet eye correction?’) there are actually a couple of pretty cool new features – One of which I have been wanting for a very long time.

As a landscape and Nature photographer one of the tools I find myself frequently using in Lightroom is the graduated filter. I still use graduated neutral density filters extensively in the field as I prefer to do as much as possible in camera, but I also frequently find a need to use the Lightroom offering as well. The problem up until now has been its been difficult to darken a sky for example without darkening the peaks of a mountain that rise up into the sky.Iceland-7951-Edit22015Take the photograph above as an example. If I apply a gradient filter to this sky in Lightroom 5.x and pull it down over the mountains it very quickly destroys the image as the tops of the mountain peaks are darkened along with the sky. This creates a very unnatural effect. Up until now you had to accept the darkened peaks and then create a local adjustment and paint back in exposure compensation where the peaks had been darkened – it was a real pain. Now in Lightroom 6 / Creative Cloud Adobe has given us the option to paint out areas of the graduated filter and solve this problem of unnaturally darkened peaks without a kludgy work around. Landscape photographers rejoice. Our workflows just got simpler. The technique is quite well illustrated in the video below that outlines some of the new features in Lightroom 6 / CC.

The other new feature I am very pleased to see relates to performance. Lightroom 5.x was notoriously sluggish. Even my 8-core Mac Pro with 64 gig of RAM and a super fast SSD didn’t set any speed records for image processing. In this new release Adobe has finally enabled GPU processing in the develop module which means if your GPU is compatible you should see a fairly significant boost in the responsiveness of the develop module adjustments. Details of how to check this feature are also in the video above.

Read more.. Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Spirit of Nature 2016 Calendar features Goðafoss

German calendar company Heye has just released its 2016 Spirit of Nature calendar which includes one of my favourite photographs of Goðafoss waterfall in Iceland in winter. The calendar is available to purchase for 24 Euro onlineCalendar2016

Goðafoss is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the north of Iceland and one we are looking forward to photographing again next year on my 2016 Iceland Winter workshop. If you are interested in photographing in the spectacular frozen north of Iceland then there are only a few places remaining before the workshop will be sold out. Please just email me if you would like additional information or would like to register for one of the remaining places.icelandwinter-1-holko

Read more.. Monday, April 20th, 2015

Testimonial from Jon Harding – Fine Art Printing One-on-One

”I made a decision to start printing some of my photographs, rather than have a hard drive full of digital images. Joshua’s workshop exceeded all of my expectations. I walked away with some amazing prints and a greater understanding of post production and photography in general. I highly recommend spending a day with Joshua.”

Its always an absolute pleasure to receive this sort of feedback from workshop and expedition participants. The one-on-one Fine Art Printing and post production day is one of my most popular local workshops. These days are on demand and are run around my international workshop and expedition schedule. If you are interested in the craft of post production and fine-art printing you can read more about this workshop on my website – Fine Art Printing or email me to book your session.

Read more.. Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Polar Bears of Svalbard Expedition 2016 – Limited Places Only

In July 2016 I am leading a very exciting expedition to the permanent pack ice north of Svalbard to photograph Polar Bears living and hunting in their natural environment on the sea ice. This expedition has been designed from the ground up to provide the very best possible opportunities to Photograph Polar Bears in their natural environment. With the reduction in Arctic sea ice the Polar Bears in Svalbard are dwindling in number and the number of years left to photograph them is unfortunately now extremely limited. Late July and August are the ideal times to photograph Polar Bears north of Svalbard due to the dwindling ice around the archipelago. On this expedition we will be carrying a naturalist/biologist who specialises in locating Polar Bears and an expedition leader and captain who have years of experience in placing us in the ideal position to make the best photographs. Their expertise will allow us to approach the king of the Arctic as closely and safely as possible and make incredible photographs under the spectacular midnight sun.PolarBearsofSvalbardThe expedition is for a strictly limited number of just 12 participants (only four places remaining) plus leader and is dedicated to the photography of Polar Bears living and hunting on the sea ice. Our intention is to sail directly north from the small town of Longyearbyen in Svalbard to approximately 80 degrees North to the very edge of the permanent pack ice. At our northerly most point we will likely be less than 600 miles from the North Pole. Top of the World We will be using the ice hardened expedition ship M.S Origo which will enable us to skirt the edge of the pack ice searching for and photographing Polar Bears. M.S Origo is widely regarded as the best ship in the Arctic for Polar Bear Photography and has been my ship of choice for this expedition for the past three years. With its super low decks and operable portholes a mere 50cm above the water line we can photograph at eye level with wild Polar Bears. Our expedition ship is also equipped with sufficient zodiacs and crew for all photographers to be shooting simultaneously with plenty of room to spare for camera equipment – So bring what you need! On this expedition we will also likely photograph Walrus, Seals, Whales, Arctic Foxes and the many Arctic sea birds including the rare and angelic Ivory Gull. To get an idea of the sort of wildlife photographs you can take on this expedition please visit the Svalbard portfolio on my website. All of the Polar Bear photographs on this website were taken from the very same ship we will be utilising for this expedition.

_H9P3362-Edit-MoabSMR-RelCol32013Due to initial registrations from those who missed out on the 2015 expedition there are only a few places left before the expedition will be sold out (2015 Sold out in just a few days). If you are excited by the idea of travelling to the edge of the permanent pack ice to photograph Polar Bears in their natural environment with a small group of dedicated photographers now is the time to register and secure your place. Places are very limited and once they are spoken for thats it. If you would like more information you can download a detailed PDF itinerary from my website at www.jholko.com. To register your place please just email me at info@jholko.com or use the register link on my website.

VPPY - Gold AwardThis brand new expedition has also just been featured in Hong Kong’s Jetsetter Magazine.

MEDIA2015_journey

Read more.. Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

World Photography Cup 2015 – Bronze Medal Reportage Category

The World Photography Cup winners were announced last night at Montpellier in France and I was thrilled and very honoured to receive a Bronze Medal for Australia for my photograph of Penguins on the sea ice near the mouth of the Lemaire Channel in Antarctica. This particular photograph scored a Gold award at the 2014 AIPP Awards and was one of the four images in my winning portfolio in the Science, Nature and Environment Category. Fellow Australian James Simmons also medalled in the Wedding category. Overall, Australia placed third in the World Photography Cup this year. Next year the World Cup is coming down under to Australia. VPPY - Gold with Distinction

Read more.. Monday, April 13th, 2015

Iceland Winter Workshop Report 2015

In February 2015 I led my annual winter workshop to Iceland with good friend, local guide and photographer Daniel Bergmann. This is the fourth year in a row I have led a dedicated winter trip for landscape and Northern Lights in Iceland. This year we were fortunate to experience some of the best light I have had the pleasure to photograph in during the winter months. It was also the coldest I can recall with snowfall down to sea level on several occasions. Iceland’s 2015 winter was one for the recent record books with greater snowfall, and colder temperatures than recent years.

The weather always plays a major role in the itinerary of a winter workshop to Iceland (and that is just one reason why its a very good idea to travel with a local guide who can accurately read the weather). We had planned to visit the west coast and Snæfellsnes Peninsula during the first few days of our workshop but storm force winds gusting over 30 metres a second meant it was prudent to alter our plan and we headed east instead. It was a wise decision as winds were so strong in the west that many of the roads were closed and photography would have been impossible. Our decision to head east opened up new opportunities for us and we were able to take advantage of some really great light and fantastic conditions.Josh12015During our ten days on the southern peninsula we experienced snowfall down to sea level which provided us some magical opportunities for landscape photography. We also had some of the best light I have yet to experience during the winter months in this amazing country. Our timing in this regard was absolutely spot on as several days either side of our workshop would have been sub optimal with strong winds and rain.

Heading east from Reykjavik our first stop was the Þingvellir region which has some wonderful landscapes and waterfalls. Þingvellir can be quite busy during the summer months but is less crowded during winter and its quite easy to find yourself alone in a  location once you get away from the tourist hot spots. We photographed a number of different locations in this area including the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall.GullFoss in WinterWe spent several days in the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon area; photographing at Fjallsárlón as well as the black sand beach and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon areas. Winter at the lagoon is wonderful with many of the icebergs frozen in place it is possible walk out a short way onto the ice when the conditions are safe.

Iceland-7629We also visited the precipitous mountains at the Stokksness peninsula where we were  treated to some spectacular evening light that made for incredible images. Stokksness is a wild place and this was the first time in four years of visiting this location that I can recall experiencing such amazing light and conditions.

Iceland-7951-Edit22015During our workshop we visited a huge ice cave in the south of Iceland where we spent several hours photographing the incredible texture and color that is found in these amazing natural structures. We were fortunate that there had been heavy snow fall a few days earlier and all footprints from previous visitors had been erased.Iceland-7851-Edit12015We also saw and photographed the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) over Hekla volcano as well as the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon during our time in the south of Iceland. If you have ever wanted to see and photograph the northern lights and see the stunning landscape of Iceland covered in fresh snow and bathed in winter light I will be leading another trip to Iceland in winter in March 2016 (only a few places remaining before it will be sold out). The 2016 workshop will focus on the frozen north of Iceland. We will see and photograph places rarely visited during the winter months including geothermal areas, waterfalls, mountains and more. You can download more information including a detailed itinerary from my website at www.jholko.com or email me to register your interest.

Read more.. Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Lofoten Islands Workshop 2016 SOLD OUT

I have been meaning to announce a new workshop to the Lofoten Islands for sometime now but due to my travel commitments it has been sitting on the back burner along with a number of other projects. The Lofoten Islands are approximately 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, west of Norway. The village of Reine on the island of Moskenesoya will be our base for six nights situated in some of the most picturesque mountain scenery rising precipitously out of the fjords. Reine has often been described as one of the most beautiful places on earth. If we are lucky and blessed with clear skies, we will be able to witness the Aurora Borealis and the magic of the Northern Lights as they flicker across the night skies. Besides the incredible wealth of photographic locations in the vicinity of Reine, we will use local Fjordskyss ferry service to Vinstad and to the tiny hamlet of Kjerkfjorden, both of which are surrounded by towering granite mountains. Our private transportation will allow to access some of the iconic beaches near Leknes which might be covered in snow.

During March, the days are short with sunrise at approximately 6:30am and sunset around 6:00pm. Given our northern location, the sun will be low in the sky providing soft, magnificent light conditions, for all day photography. Please note that due to the initial expressions of interest and subsequent bookings the trip is already sold out.  If you would like to be added to the wait list please just drop me an email at info@jholko.com. You can download more information including a detailed itinerary and PDF from my website at www.jholko.com.Lofoten

Read more.. Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

April Photo of the Month Winner: Nita Gulbas

Congratulations to the fourth print winner ‘Nita Gulbas’, for the photograph of the month for April 2015: ‘Polar Bear Blues’.

What Nita said: This image shows the world of the Polar Bear and the vanishing world it must survive in. The isolation of the bear on it’s bed of ice, where they are happy to be. In addition, the difficult environment that should remain theirs, not to be invaded my mankind and hunted to near extinction.

Congratulations Nita, you were the first, and your print will be sent to you shortly after Easter.Polar Bear Blues

Keep an eye out on my blog for the next print giveaway with the May photograph of the month. Remember the best way to get instant updates is to subscribe via email.

Read more.. Saturday, April 4th, 2015