I am very excited to announce that I will be joining forces with New Zealand’s most well known and respected photography tour company ‘Capture New Zealand Photography Tours‘ over the coming months. Phillip Bartlett from Capture New Zealand has been at the forefront of the best and most exclusive photography workshops in New Zealand over the past decade and has been responsible for opening up and unlocking some of New Zealand’s most magical locations for photographers. I was fortunate to travel with Phillip through the South Island of New Zealand in 2009 to many stunning locations that are well off the tourist track and that would otherwise have been impossible for me to find. His local knowledge of the best locations in New Zealand has elevated Capture New Zealand to the forefront of photography tours in his beautiful country and makes him the perfect guide for those photographers looking to get the very best images from their travel.Partnering with Phillip and Capture New Zealand is allowing us to offer an exclusive workshop for a limited number of photographers (just 9 people) in the late summer of 2014 (February – exact dates: TBA). This workshop will combine the critical local knowledge of Phillip’s life-long experience in New Zealand along with my own workshop style and New Zealand experience. Local knowledge is a critical key ingredient to any photography trip to the South Island of New Zealand. The ability to read and understand the local weather and light is the key difference to being in the best locations when the ‘magic’ happens and being caught in poor conditions for photography. We will be using dedicated 4-wheel drives outfitted for photography and getting into the back country, where the very best locations are to be found. We will have access to a privately chartered helicopter that is going allow photography over the southern Alps (with the doors removed) and a privately chartered boat in Kaikoura for marine wildlife including dusky Dolphins. We are not quite ready to start taking bookings, but if the idea of a twelve day exclusive landscape, nature and wilderness photography tour that lets you experience the very best the South Island is exciting to you, then you can register your interest by sending me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. No obligation at this point.
In case you were unable to attend the webinars I did yesterday on Tips and Techniques for working with images with Snow and Ice the good folks at X-Rite and Nik have archived the webinar online for on demand viewing.
Coloratti Joshua Holko spends a lot of time out in the ice and snow of Antarctica and Iceland. His photographs have won worldwide acclaim and give us a glimpse into another world that exists in some of the most difficult climate conditions on earth. Taking photographs in these conditions poses particular issues with light, reflection, shadow, glare, and more.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Joshua is a full-time professional landscape, nature and wilderness photographer who runs workshops and expeditions for other photographers and travellers to some of the world’s wildest and remotest regions. Specializing in the Polar and sub-Polar regions of the globe, his work celebrates the extreme latitudes of the Polar environment. An ambassador for the Polar Regions he gave up the corporate world to pursue his true passion for photography.
In this webinar Josh will show us his workflow using X-Rite ColorChecker Passport to solve some of the special issues that arise from shooting in these extreme conditions. This subject matter that can pose some difficult challenges for photographers. Josh also uses i1Display Pro to keep his monitors calibrated and profiled so that changes he makes using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4 and Viveza 2 can be properly evaluated.
Josh will share some of his favorite techniques using ColorChecker Passport and Nik Software for capturing and finishing beautiful images that you’ll be proud to hang on your wall. Even if you’ve never been to Antarctica or Iceland you’ll learn valuable problem solving techniques to help you in special lighting conditions.
Be sure to watch this webinar co-sponsored by X-Rite and Nik Software.
I will be giving a couple of free webinars with X-Rite and Nik Software next week on processing and working with images shot with snow and ice. There are two sessions available on Wednesday April 10th at 6pm EDT and 8pm EDT. You can register online at X-Rite for either the First or Second session and places are limited.
In part two of the new Gura Gear Bataflae series of videos we have a look at just what I pack in my camera bag for both international travel and local landscape photography. Depending on where I am travelling and what I am shooting I occasionally swap lenses in and out of this collection. As you will see, you can fit quite a bit of gear in a Bataflae 32L! I actually discovered another tele-converter in the bag on top of all the other equipment when I was repacking the bag after we finished filming. Just click on the image to watch the video via You Tube. I hope you enjoy. You can order the Gura Gear Bataflae cameras bags directly from Gura Gear.
The good folks at X-Rite have posted a short five minute audio interview on their blog I did with them a few weeks ago as part of their Coloratti program.
Coloratti Josh Holko is our newest member of the Coloratti program from Melbourne, Australia. Josh is an accomplished nature photographer and workshop leader. He received word this month that his photographs of Antarctica have made set him as a finalist in 2012 Outdoor Photographer of the Year. Already an award winning photographer Josh’s blog says, “I feel I have been very fortunate this year as I was also a finalist and highly commended with 3rd place in the Travel Photographer of the Year ‘Single Shot Water Category’ and was a finalist in the ‘Fine Art Photographer of the Year’ competition in Paris a few months ago.”
We caught up with Josh a few weeks ago to talk about his photography and yes, I admit it, to enjoy his lovely Aussie accent! You have to hear about his thoughts on “luxury shooting” in his workshops.
Visit the X-Rite blog for the complete interview.
I was recently interviewed by the editor of Camera House’s Better Pictures magazine for their Christmas issue and the article ‘Outward Bound’ is now online. The magazine is free and can be viewed online in a web browser or you can download a PDF of the article HERE. Check it out if you have a few minutes spare.
I was recently interviewed for Canon Australia’s CPS Pro website and the content of the interview is now online at CPS Australia. Although the discussion was wide ranging and varied there was an emphasis on large format printing and the fact that I do all of my own printing in-house. Printing is a critical part of producing photographic fine art and next to actually working in the field with my camera equipment is an aspect of my photography that I very much enjoy. Hope you enjoy the interview.
A small disclaimer: Although I both shoot and print exclusively with Canon cameras and printers I am not sponsored by Canon. I pay for all of my own equipment with my own hard earned money. I choose to use Canon cameras and printers because I have found them to offer outstanding results and reliability in my photography – not because I am incentivised by the manufacturer. I am a Canon CPS Gold Member and rely on CPS to assist me with sensor cleaning and loan equipment from time to time.
I have written before quite extensively on the subject of outdoor photography gloves for cold weather and as of my last ‘glove find post‘ I thought I had finally found the best option out there – the Seal Skinz. I still believe the Seal Skinz are an excellent glove for outdoor photography in cold weather. However, I discovered another glove today that ticks all the boxes for cold weather photography by outdoor clothing company Helly Hansen. As is often the case with these things, I was not actually shopping for yet another pair of gloves; I was just picking up a few last minute thermals for Antarctica in a months time and spied these gloves on the rack. What immediately caught my eye is that these gloves (Sailing Gloves) are fingerless on only two fingers per hand – the thumb and forefinger (a very clever design). The very two fingers that are required for almost all of the fine manual dexterity when operating a camera’s controls. This makes them absolutely ideal for photography. In fact, the genius of this design strikes you the moment you slip a pair on and pick up your camera.
According to to the information on the website - These durable gloves provide extra protection for handling abrasive equipment. Made of Amaro leather with adjustable wrist and reinforcements in areas of maximum wear.
What I immediately noticed upon trying a pair on is how they felt like a second skin more than a glove. Most gloves are too thick for easy camera control and are a hindrance to operating the camera quickly and efficiently. These sailing gloves are exceptionally soft and malleable against the skin and are designed to provide warmth, protection yet still give sailors a high degree of fine dexterity control for operating rigging - just perfect for photography. And of course, being designed for use at sea these gloves are water resistant. Note they are not waterproof like the Seal Skinz; merely water resistant. I immediately purchased a pair and will be taking them to Antarctica with me along with my Seal Skinz.
Earlier this year I licensed some images to a New Zealand based company that is producing calendars that contain iconic landscapes of New Zealand (both the North and the South Island). The Calendars have now come back from the printers and can be ordered through Black Fish Design and Publishing in New Zealand. They will shortly be distributed around the country to tourist hot spots and major cities and towns for purchase. Additionally calendars can be ordered with custom text for any individual business requirements. Some of my New Zealand photography is featured in the Top New Zealand Destinations 2012, Southern Splendour 2012, and Beautiful New Zealand 2012 Calendars.
One of the locations I most wanted to visit during my recent trip to the South Island of New Zealand was the Moeraki Boulders. The Moeraki boulders are located on the East Coast of the South Island not far from Dunedin. The area is so named for the large and highly unusual spherical boulders which are grouped together on the beach. Wikipedia has a good explanation of how these boulders formed as well as additional information about them. The boulders themselves are only a short five minute stroll from the car-park making them a very popular tourist attraction. I was fortunate during my visit to the boulders that I had the entire location to myself at both sunrise and sunset on two occasions – one of the benefits of shooting in the dead of winter I guess.I took this photograph not long before sunset as the tide was going out on a very overcast stormy afternoon. I actually prefer sunset at the Moeraki boulders even though the sun sets behind the photographer and is lost behind mountains quite early in the afternoon. I found sunrise somewhat problematic as so many of the boulders are deep in shadow and the moment the sun rises it is hard to exclude the sun from the frame if shooting wide angle lenses. That said, I do have some photographs from sunrise that I like very much and will post over the coming days.
I used Canon’s 17mm Wide Angle TSE lens for this photograph. A higher resolution version of this photograph is available for viewing on my primary portfolio website at www.jholko.com under New Zealand.
Some of the most enjoyable photography I have done in the South Island of New Zealand has been by small mountain helicopter. There really is no better way to see, experience and photograph the Southern Alps and glaciers than by helicopter. With the doors removed for better photography, warm clothes and cameras ready I spent just an over an hour this trip photographing the spectacular landscape. One of the goals of this trip was to try and get a photograph of the waterfall drilling down into the side of Fox Glacier. I had flown over these falls several times on previous trips, but had not been able to get the shot I wanted. My pilot from this trip was Mike from Mountain Helicopters. Mike is as good as they come and he was able to position the helicopter in the ideal position for me to lean out and take this frame with a wide angle 24mm lens on the full frame Canon 1DS MKIII. We were less than 30 metres off the deck when I took this photograph. I have flown with Mountain Helicopters several times now and can highly recommend them to anyone looking for very experienced pilots who can position a helicopter exactly where the photographer wants and then manage to tilt it to keep the rotor blades out of frame.
One of my recent purchases that I was very keen to test out in the South Island of New Zealand in Winter was the new Seal Skins gloves I purchased online just before I left Australia. In Part One of this mini-review I made mention that it has been a constant search for the perfect winter photography glove. I won’t restate the story thus far; suffice to say the search has been ongoing. Before I dive into it I just want to make a comment on the fingerless glove with the optional slide over mitten that many outdoor sports people and hunters use. These types of gloves don’t work for me. Although they provide plenty of tactile feel (because they are fingerless) they are not waterproof and far from warm enough in the sort of environments I sometimes shoot in.
The Seal Skins gloves on face value appeared to tick all the boxes for me. They are waterproof, warm (at least around the house!) and yet retain enough tactile feel that I can still operate my camera equipment effectively in the field. So how did they perform?
The result is a mixed bag. Firstly, the gloves are in fact waterproof as advertised. I spent several hours clambering over Fox Glacier in cold and wet conditions. Experience has shown me that my previous thermalite gloves (which were warm when dry) would have been totally saturated after half an hour of this kind of activity and thus totally useless. The Seal Skinz on the other hand remained totally dry; even when I was fumbling around in puddles of glacial water adjusting my crampons. They shed water beautifully and remain dry on both the inside and outside. Just on the subject of glaciers – I almost came to quite a nasty end at Fox Glacier. I am always extremely careful when traversing glaciers for obvious reasons.I have quite a bit of glacial experience; but you can never take them for granted. They are riddled with hidden dangers; falling ice, wave surges and crevasses are but some of the potential dangers. Glacial ice is pound for pound about the same weight as structural concrete and there have been several very unfortunate deaths over the years at Fox Glacier from falling ice. Fox Glacier is currently receding and this makes it more dangerous than an advancing glacier since it is shedding ice (at a fairly rapid rate). I was keen to get a photo of the terminal face of the glacier so had hiked up the side of the glacial river with a wide angle lens to get close to really give a sense of scale to the photograph. Getting close to the terminal face meant skirting the edge of a very large overhanging piece of glacial ice – not something I would normally do. I could see large boulders and rocks perched precariously on the ice flow 30 odd feet above. However, ‘photo fever’ got the better of me and I chanced it; I scrambled forward against the ice and river; set up my tripod and prepared to take a frame just as several rocks the size of basketballs came hurtling over the top of the ice landing only a few feet in front of me in the river. Needless to say that was enough for me. It was a timely reminder that no amount of experience on glaciers is worth a pinch if you find yourself somewhere you shouldn’t be . I beat a hasty retreat and decided it was far wiser, safer and more enjoyable to photograph the glacier and alps by helicopter.
I have photographed the Southern Alps and Glacier by Helicopter before in winter in 2009. I had chartered a small mountain helicopter with two other photographers. We had the doors removed and spent a couple of glorious hours shooting thousands of frames over the alps. The ambient air temperature was -19 degrees celsius during that flight plus whatever the wind chill factor was and even with several thermal layers I was frozen by the time we got back to the helipad.
I chartered another helicopter this trip and with the door off and harness on spent another hour photographing the alps and glaciers shortly after breakfast. It was not quite as cold this time at -9 degrees celsius; but it was still a good test for the Seal Skinz. What I found was that my fingers still got very cold (almost totally numb after an hour shooting); however, even with near numb fingers, the chopper door off and wind I was still able to change both CF and the tiny SD cards in my 1DSMK III with relative ease. In fact, I was really quite surprised at just how good the tactile feel is in these gloves. I never felt like I was going to drop any of the small cards; even when I had several between different fingers in an effort to ’speed-change’ the cards. Helicopter charter is $1500 an hour – so you don’t want to waste to much time playing with camera cards and settings. In this respect the Seal Skinz gloves are nothing short of brilliant; giving all the tactile feel required for even the most difficult shooting environments. The downside is they are not quite as warm as I had hoped they would be and I can only rate their thermal protection as average at best.
In summary the Seal Skinz are the best gloves for cold weather photography I have yet tried and are therefore my current choice when I am shooting in these environments. They are waterproof, and give wonderful tactile feel and grip. They are not as warm as other thicker gloves; but I am willing to trade some warmth for ‘feel’. I suspect that in temperatures down to around -5 celsius they will do just fine for quite long periods of time. In colder temperatures I will want to have a warmer over mitten that I can put over the top after an hours shooting to re-warm my hands. This is the best current compromise/solution I can come up with. Seal Skinz do make a version of this glove that is lined with a polar plus material; which would undoubtedly make it quite a bit warmer. However, I suspect that one would trade quite a lot of ‘feel’ for ‘warmth’. The Seal Skinz will be accompanying me to Antarctica later this year so that is a pretty solid recommendation. The caveat is I will also be taking a pair of 66 North over mittens just in case it gets really freezing and I need to re-warm to carry on shooting.
The Chile volcano is continuing to spew ash into the atmosphere and disrupt air travel and last night my flight home from New Zealand that was scheduled to leave this morning was cancelled by Virgin (yet again). I seem to be somewhat magnetic to volcanic eruptions. First it was Iceland last year and now New Zealand on the way in and out of the country. Two of my friends are now saying that you don’t need to ask if a volcano is going to erupt; just ask “Is Josh flying soon?”
Thankfully it appears as though Air New Zealand are again going to come to the rescue and after more phone calls I have been able to secure a ticket home at crack of dawn Sunday morning. Why Air New Zealand can fly and everyone else can’t makes little sense – very frustrating.
It has been a whirlwind trip and I feel like I have crammed in a huge amount of photography all over the island into a very short period of time. The weather and light has been a real mixed bag with everything from patches of brilliant sunshine to torrential rain; and just about everything in between. In point of fact, the weather has been remarkably warm for this time of year and as yet there is still no fresh snow (there are some really grumpy looking skiers around the place at the moment). In terms of light it has not been great; although there was some good sunrise and sunset light yesterday (the best of the trip). Most of the time the skies have been quite overcast at both sunrise and sunset which has lead to very grey and drab light – ce’st la vie.
Rather than sit around in my hotel room I have been invited out to go shooting today with a fellow local photographer who is also accompanying me to Antarctica in November this year. We went out shooting last night near Port Levy and had some wonderful sunset light. The volcanic ash particles in the air reflect the light beautifully and seem to extend sunset for what seems much longer than normal. Last night’s sunset was definitely the best light of the trip so far.
I returned my Maui camper van yesterday on my return to Christchurch. I did just over 2,500 kilometres in seven days and have shot just over 2300 frames – so I have a lot of sorting, editing and processing to do when I get back to Melbourne; which hopefully is tomorrow morning…
It is wonderful to be back in the small alpine village of Fox Glacier in the South Island of New Zealand – This really is a stunning part of the world for photography and I was very much looking forward to coming back. It has almost been two years since I was last here in winter 2009 with Capture New Zealand Photography Tours. There was a lot more snow around in 2009 and it was a lot colder, but the town is otherwise much as I remember it.
After a cloudless sunrise this morning at Matheson’s Lake I decided to hike up to the carving face of Fox Glacier for some more photography. The hike is relatively short these days (roughly 30 minutes from the car park to the terminal face viewing area) since the new track has been built. I was totally unprepared for the amount the glacier has receded upon reaching the viewing area – it is almost unrecognisable. I would estimate more than 200 metres has simply vanished (melted) from the glaciers length and I am told that the glacier is now retreating at an ever increasing rate – a clear indication of global warming at work.
With the bad luck getting a flight to New Zealand I was ready for a bit of luck to finally go my way and thankfully I did not have to wait very long. On arrival to pick up my rental camper van the good people at the hire centre took pity on me and upgraded me to a top of the range Maui camper van – thank you! After the wasted travel time and time spent at Christchurch (what a mess the city is in from the recent earthquakes) it was very refreshing to get underway in a high level of comfort.
Speaking of earthquakes, I was awoken this morning in my hotel by quite a large after shock; it gave me quite a start. You just have to feel for what the poor people of Christchurch are going through with these continual aftershocks – they must really fray the nerves; especially since the news is now reporting that another large or even larger quake is possible in the foreseeable future. I am glad to be out of the city and moving on. Tomorrow I hope to head to Fox Glacier weather permitting. At the moment its very cold and snow is forecast for tonight.
Air New Zealand have confirmed the flight I have booked onto this afternoon is now confirmed – Yay! So, baring any more natural or unnatural events I should now arrive in Christchurch just before midnight this evening. Better late than never…
After multiple phone calls to Virgin Blue, American Express and Air New Zealand I have just been able to secure a seat on a delayed (due to volcanic ash) Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch late this afternoon that was scheduled to leave this morning. That is the good news. The bad news is the single ticket was about the same as a one way ticket to Las Angeles and that the flight may still be cancelled. Currently Christchurch airport is closed and a decision is pending wether to re-open it for flights later today. Thankfully the ridiculously priced aire fare is fully refundable should the flight be cancelled. I wont know until later this afternoon if the flight is actually leaving. Until then its more waiting time at the airport…
‘Thanks’ Virgin Blue. I got up at 4am this morning and logged onto the Virgin website to see if my flight to New Zealand had been affected by the volcanic ash cloud that has been hovering around Australia and New Zealand disrupting air travel. I have been keeping an eye on it over the last few days as my trip was drawing closer and there was no mention of cancelling the flight. At 4am this morning and again at 6am all systems were go and green – at least according to Virgin’s Website. So bags in tow I drove to the airport (a one hour drive) expecting to fly out this morning only to find on arrival at the airport that the flight had been cancelled at 3am and Virgin had failed to update their website or alert their customers to the cancellation. To add insult to injury the best Virgin can now do is to book me onto what I am told is the next available flight; which does not leave until Saturday.
I don’t mind that the flight has been cancelled, I understand the safety implications of flying through volcanic ash. What I object to is the complete lack of communication by Virgin – its pathetic in this day and age of the internet, social media, mobile phones etc. that an airline cannot alert its passengers to cancellations or delays.
I am currently sitting at the Lounge at Melbourne Airport trying to get onto another flight to Christchurch; but its not looking good. Everything is either cancelled or fully booked (and about to be cancelled). Volcanic ash strikes again… This could be a very short trip indeed.
I am leaving for New Zealand in less than 12 Hours (provided the plume of volcanic ash does not delay or cancel my flight). I am packed (almost), bookings confirmed, itinerary set and feeling very much like I was before leaving for Iceland in July last year…nervous about Volcanic ash. It seems I have a small knack for planning photographic travel that syncs with the eruption of volcanoes. All being well I should in Christchurch by tomorrow afternoon and time and internet permitting I hope to post some updates to my blog throughout the trip. New Zealand’s spectacular South Island is a place very dear to my photographic heart and I cant wait to compose the first frame of the trip.
For as long as I have been into landscape, nature and wilderness photography I have been searching for the perfect gloves for outdoor winter photography. The problem has been that I have struggled to find gloves that are waterproof, yet are thin enough to retain enough ‘feel’ to enable me to use my camera equipment unhindered. I have a drawer full of potential candidates that have all ultimately disappointed for one reason or another; usually because the gloves ultimately lack enough tactile feel for camera operation or are not waterproof. Believe me when I say it has been quite a search.
Up until recently I had settled on a thermalite glove liner; which was both warm and thin enough to enable me to use my camera equipment relatively unhindered. The problem is that they are not waterproof and every time I have been shooting with them in the snow I have ended up with wet and subsequently freezing fingers. It also necessitated having multiple pairs (since one pair always ended up wet). Last weekend I was shooting up at Wallace’s Hut at Falls Creek at sunrise in a sleet and snow with the thermalites and yet again ended up with wet and freezing fingers. I told myself at the time I just had to find a better solution before I leave for New Zealand in a few days and before Antarctica later this year. I have no desire to find myself shooting from a zodiac amongst the icebergs in Antarctica with wet and freezing cold fingers.
Later that morning when I was getting a late breakfast / early lunch in Bright I popped into a couple of outdoor stores just to see what they had in the way of gloves. Amongst the usual assortment of skiing gloves (which are just to thick), woollen gloves (which are to slippery and not waterproof) I found a pair of ‘Seal Skinz‘. On first inspection these gloves ticked all the boxes: Waterproof – Yes, Thin for tactile feel, Yes, Grippy and non-slip, Yes. The Seal Skinz are very similar in appearance to the Lowe Pro gloves (I have never really liked the Lowe Pro gloves finding them still too thick and not waterproof), however, they are slightly thinner for better tactile feel and completely waterproof. Only problem was they were just shy of $70 a pair and they did not have my size in stock. Unperterbed I decided to try and order a pair online when I returned to Melbourne; which I did and the gloves arrived late last week just in time for my trip to the South Island of New Zealand. As an aside, I was also able to find them significantly cheaper online. I ordered the standard version of the Seal Skinz glove. Seal Skinz also make a chill blocker version of this glove; which although warmer again with its fleece lining is too thick for photography for me. Time will tell if these gloves prove their worth. The South Island of New Zealand in the dead of winter should certainly be a good test. Last time I was there I experienced -19 Degrees celsius while shooting from Helicopter above the alps with the doors removed (and that was cold!).
As an outdoor photographer whose favourite season is winter I am willing to accept some degree of finger discomfort (cold) to keep good tactile feel with my camera equipment. I can put up with being quite cold as long as I am not also wet. The trick is finding the right balance of warmth and tactile feel and I am hoping these new Seal Skinz finally fit the bill. I will see how they fare in New Zealand as a precursor test to my Antarctica trip and report back.