I caught up with a photographic friend last night whom I had not seen in more than a year. During the course of the evening drinks and conversation on all things photographic the topic of Iceland came up and what my trip had been like earlier this year (2010). I always enjoy talking about photography related expeditions so enthusiastically recounted some of the highlights of the trip – including time spent at two of my favourite locations the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon and the volcanic area of Landmannalaugar. The question was then asked after looking over a portfolio of my photographs – ‘What is Iceland’s countryside really like?’

It occurred to me at this point (and was pointed out) that I had not actually posted any photographs to my blog of what the main countryside looks like – that is to say, what do the many miles I travelled look like from the side of the road? Iceland after all is a lot more than just volcanoes and icebergs.

I went through my Iceland collection this morning and for me this photograph summarises the beautiful and extensive countryside of Iceland in Summer. Lush grass fields, steep cliffs, small rural farms and of course the ubiquitous waterfalls. This photograph was taken just off main highway one between the small town of Vik and the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon. Although it looks like something out of a fairy tale, the small farm house is a typical example of those dotted around the islands coast; many of which like this one have their own personal backyard waterfall fed from one of the countries many glaciers. I saw this pleasant scene from the car window as I was driving to the lagoon and quickly stopped the car to grab a photograph.  As I wandered around the area making a few photographs local kids from the farm emerged and headed up to the waterfall for a play in the frigid water. I guess it was around 20 degrees celsius on that day and the sun was shinning; which is about as good as it gets in Iceland in the Summer. It made for a very pleasant rural scene. Iceland’s countryside is as varied as its weather but thinking back on my time there and the many hundreds of kilometres travelled around the island I feel that this photograph best summarises what the countryside of this beautiful country is really like.


I received an early Christmas present yesterday in the form of an email from Better Photography Magazine Australia in recognition of photographic excellence. I am pleased to report that the photograph I entered into the Better Photography Photograph of the year 2010  – “Abandoned Blue-Berg”  taken in Iceland earlier this year at the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon has won a Silver award for excellence in landscape photography. This was a double award for me with the same photograph taking out Bronze in the International Aperture Awards a few weeks ago. A higher resolution version of this photograph is also available on my portfolio website at www.jholko.com in the Iceland portfolio. This photograph will also be part of my upcoming Iceland exhibition early 2011; which is going to open in Brighton Melbourne before touring the country.


It has been quite a while since my last update (my apologies); things have just been very hectic at the office with the usual pre-Christmas insanity. I really do not understand what it is about the pre-Christmas period that makes people act as if the world is coming to an end. The desire to get everything finished before Christmas for no other reason than getting it finished before Christmas makes little to no sense to me. Anyway, despite the madness I did manage to sneak away the weekend before last to the Grampians for a couple of days for some photography. The Grampians was actually ‘Plan B’ – ‘Plan A’ was Mungo and the Walls of China; which if you have been following my blog at all will know I am destined not to visit due to the God of Thunders uncanny ability to pour rain for days prior and during any potential visit – such is life. I will keep trying though.

Exiting stage left at around 11am and leaving the kids with my somewhat understanding wife I made a beeline for Halls Gap and the Grampians Saturday morning. The Grampians are around three and half hours drive from my house; which gave me plenty of time to make a sunset shoot. Even though I did not as yet know where I would be shooting and the Grampians is an awfully big place. Arriving in Halls Gap early afternoon after some fairly atrocious traffic through the city outskirts I had  a good chat with one of the Rangers about the current state of the waterfalls and weather conditions. On his advice I made for an area of the Grampians near Dunkeld called Sentinel Peak.

Sentinel Peak is a steep three and a half hour trek virtually straight up from the main road from Halls Gap to Dunkeld to the Summit which looks North East across the main peak. The views from the top are spectacular (some of the best in the Grampians) although its a tough hike up very uneven rocky ground that saw me nothing short of shattered on reaching the summit. I contribute a good portion of my weakened condition on reaching the top to the twenty plus kilograms of camera equipment I hauled to the top. Not having photographed or even walked to the top before I did not want to be caught short of the wrong lens. In the end I used my trusty 50mm F1.2L and could have left most of the rest of the kit in the car.

This photograph was shot from the summit proper looking North East as distant rain showers and sunbeams streaked through the patchy cloud. There is a lovely play of light at work here that really works for me. You cant see it in the small jpeg on screen but there are two rainbows in the distance on the right hand side of frame. The light is warm late afternoon light that is often encountered this time of year in Australia and makes for wonderful landscape photography.

The Australian bush is very difficult to photograph at the best of times. Making order out of the chaos can be extremely challenging. If you have never visited Australia or attempted to photograph the Australian bush you may have a hard time comprehending what it is I am driving at with this statement. Those of you who have will understand what I mean when I say the Grampians (although exceedingly beautiful) is very challenging photographically. In this case, I am very pleased with the result.

I ended up getting back to the car around 10:30pm after the hike back down (nearly treading on a Tiger snake in the process) and decided that after dinner and a few hours sleep I would get up at 3am and hike back up for sunrise (must have been a brain fade moment). I did trek back up for sunrise but needn’t have bothered as the best light was most definitely the prior evening with the distant rain showers.


No real rains for a decade in Australia, years of drought, parched farm land and dried up creeks, lakes and rivers. Lost crops, top soil blown away, water shortages the list goes ever on. This wide brown land of Australia has really been just that. For more than ten years now Australia has been gripped in one of its worst droughts on record until just a few months ago when it finally started to rain. Roughly around the time I started to consider a trip to Mungo and the Walls of China if my memory serves me correctly. That trip was a wash out with the road into Mungo closed – hey.. it happens. The truth is I have been yearning for it to seriously rain for years. My disappointment at being denied access to the Walls of China was minimised by my shear delight to actually see it rain. Parched earth and dying foliage are not the prettiest of subjects for landscape and nature photography. They are no less interesting than a field of flowers or flowing stream; its just that after so many years of drought there are only so many parched landscapes you can look at before becoming rather jaded with the whole affair.

Since that wash out trip earlier this year it has kept raining… and  raining… raining…A few sunny days have graced us with their presence; but on the whole its been nothing short of wet.

Now; less than 15 hours hours before I am scheduled to depart for The Walls of China it is still raining and the roads are well and truly closed – with no sign of opening in the foreseeable future. No more rain dances for me. Mungo and The Walls of China will just have to wait yet again.

The best laid plans can easily go astray – especially when blessed Mother Nature is involved. Which means it is time to implement the backup plan. I am heading up to the Grampians instead to photograph the many waterfalls which are now flowing again with all the recent rains. Many of them have been dry for years or a trickle at best. It should be quite a site to see them in full force and hopefully with a little luck the weather offers some good light. See you in a few days…