Glacial Details at the Svínafellsjökull Glacier – Iceland

One of the things I love most about photographing glaciers and icebergs is the incredible colour and textural detail to be found in the ice. On my last winter workshop to Iceland earlier this year I made a conscious effort to really focus on the intimate landscape much more than the grand vista and the glaciers were the ideal subject and source of inspiration (as they always are). I have always been attracted to glaciers, but as I spend more and more time with them I find myself drawn more and more by the details and seductive beauty of an ever-changing ice landscape. There is an incredible beauty in glacial ice that is bought about through time, immense pressure and environmental considerations. These intimate photographs from the Svínafellsjökull Glacier in Iceland I feel illustrate the beauty and color to be found in just this single rapidly disappearing glacier in the south of Iceland.If you are interested, I would strongly encourage you to beg, borrow and watch the National Geographic documentary Chasing Ice. This follow up documentary to Extreme Ice documents the catastrophic effect global warming is having on the glaciers across the planet. As someone who regularly spends time in Iceland and the Polar regions I have witnessed first hand the dramatic melting that is underway. The worlds glaciers are not just slowly melting. They are melting at an accelerated rate as global warming speeds the process along. Rates of glacial deflation are at never before seen levels and if we do not act now to curbe the amounts of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere we may well lose these magnificent glacial beasts forever.Higher resolution versions of these and more photographs from Iceland can be seen on my website at www.jholko.com

AIPP – Victorian Print Critique Evening 3rd of July 2013

If you are in Melbourne on the 3rd of July be sure to register to attend the AIPP Australian Institute of Professional Photography Print Critique Evening at the Melbourne Headquarters in Box Hill.  The print critique evening is a fabulous opportunity to have your photographic prints critiqued by a skilled panel of experienced judges under APPA Australian Professional Photography Awards lights. The evening is informal and is designed to provide useful feedback to help you improve your prints. Members are invited to bring at least two printed images for review, if time permits we may review additional prints. Non members are still invited to attend and will get a great insight into what makes a great print. The Print Critique evening is free but you must register to attend.

Date: 3rd July 2013

Where: National Office, Suite 5, 205A Middleborough Road, Box Hill South, 3128
When: 6pm for 6.30pm start
Cost: Free, bookings essential.

Gura Gear – Bataflae Around the World

As the cool fall air breaks free of the summer heat, thousands of cocooned Monarch butterflies begin to hatch and ready themselves for their migration journey of roughly 3000 miles (4,828 km). Monarch butterflies are said to have the most highly evolved migration pattern of any species of butterfly on the planet. Every year the Monarchs that are born in the fall set off from as far north as Canada on a long journey to Mexico. Monarchs are truly a butterfly built for traveling. Since its inception, Gura Gear has focused its efforts on photography backpacks for the traveling photographer. The original bag featured a butterfly style opening and after many phases of design, the bag has evolved into what is now the Bataflae. The 26 and 32 litre Bataflae bags still retain the same butterfly style opening capability and are my camera bags of choice for all my photographic needs.

This shouldn’t be news to most of you. So what is the point?

In honor of the obvious influence butterflies have had on the Gura Gear bags, the folks at Gura Gear are sending one camera bag on a Monarch style adventure to as many corners of the globe as possible. A brand new grey 32L Bataflae which has been appropriately named “The Monarch Bataflae“, recently completed its maiden journey in the deserts of Africa with my friend and  professional African wildlife photographer, Andy Biggs. You can follow his travels with the bag on his Google+ page. After an exciting few weeks with Andy, the same bag returned to the Gura Gear head office before winging its way to me down under in preperation for my summer workshops to Iceland, Svalbard and Greenland. In a few days time I will start the long trek to Iceland with The Monarch Bataflae. It will take three flights and over 24 hours of travel to reach Iceland from Australia. Over the next two months it will travel across the Icelandic landscape during my midnight sun summer highlands workshop. I will carry it from the city of Reykjavik to the spectacular Jokulsarlon lagoon, onto the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and into the stunning multi-coloured geothermal highlands of Landmannalaugar. After its sojourn through Iceland the bag will travel with me to Longyearbyen in the Svalbard Archipelago (via Oslo) where I will take it aboard the expedition ship M.S Origo to cruise the Arctic waters around Svalbard in search of Polar Bears and dramatic Arctic landscapes.  It will then board the ice hardened expedition ship Polar Pioneer and cruise the Arctic waters to Greenland to photograph giant icebergs, polar bears, reindeer and carving glaciers. At it’s northerly most point The Monarch Bataflae will be only 600 miles from the North Pole. On my return home in September The Monarch Bataflae will be shipped back to Gura Gear in the USA where a couple more pro photographers will be waiting to take the bag onto more exotic destinations – each one signing the inside of the bag to track it’s journey across the planet. This Monarch Bataflae is going to rack up some serious miles over the coming year and reach some truly wondrous destinations for photography.

Then its Your Turn!

Gura Gear want your help to get the bag to as many places in the world as possible and you are invited to submit an application to participate (applications are now open! Click here to apply.) You will also be able to sign your name inside the bag alongside those pro photographers who have travelled before you and help The Monarch Bataflae complete a truly worldwide migration.

Keep an eye on the Gura Gear blog and their social channels to see when it’s your turn to have a chance to take the bag. Also follow along as each photographer and destination will be highlighted with stories and images from their travels.

Stay tuned for a list of equipment The Monarch Bataflae will be carrying on my two month journey to the Arctic.

Of course, if you can’t wait and need a new camera bag for your next adventure you can order one now from Gura Gear.

Expert Shield – Screen Protectors Review

Screen protectors for phones, tablets and cameras are a very large business these days (in fact IOS device accessories alone are a multi billion dollar industry) and there are a great many possible options from which to choose. Up until now I have avoided these accessories as I have found they often do not adhere properly, bubble, are too opaque or otherwise fail to deliver on their promises. Some camera manufacturers have actually taken to shipping their cameras with screen protectors. The problem with these plastic devices is they are often opaque or only slightly translucent. They often dull the LCD screen or adversely affect the colour appearance. I have always discarded these devices when I have found them shipped with my camera or touch screen device and simply lived with the resultant scratches that inevitably occur through general wear and tear.

I came across a product a few weeks ago that I think is worth sharing and that I have been trialling for the last week on my iPhone, iPad Mini and 1DX camera. These screen protectors made by ‘Expert Shield‘ who are based in the United Kingdom claim a level of transparency and resistance to scratching that sets them above the other offerings on the market (You may already be aware of these Shields and I could just be late to the party).

Applying the shield to your device is a straightforward three step process as documented on the back of the product:

Step 1: Using the supplied lint cloth you just wipe the surface of the screen to remove any finger prints, dust or skin oil. This step is best done in a dust free environment and the key to a perfect application is to ensure you do not get any dust trapped between the screen and the protector. Once you have cleaned the screen you need to be careful not to touch it before applying the shield.

Step 2: You peel back the edge of the side labelled Step One on the shield and lay it on the screen corner of your device. Once aligned, you simply lay it down removing the protective cover as you go. If you misalign the shield you can easily lift it off and reapply. This step is simply about accurately positioning the shield and it can be a bit of an iterative process to get it perfect. The Shield is not fully adhered to the device until you remove the top layer in step three. So if you get any dust under the shield you can still lift it and clean it away easily.Step 3: Simply pull back the top cover using the tag provided. You just pull this back tightly on itself to be sure to separate the top cover. The remaining shield is adhered to the screen. The first time I did this I thought I had accidentally peeled back both layers as the finished shield is ultra transparent and effectively invisible.

The above steps are perhaps best demonstrated by video and there are a number of different You Tube videos online that accurately demonstrate the process if you do a search. The real key to a great clean installation is to ensure the screen surface is completely free of contaminants. I recommend cleaning your screen with a lens cleaning solution and not just a micro-fibre cloth. This will be sure to remove any residue that a cloth might simply smear around. Be sure to work in a clean dust free environment. A bathroom where there has recently been steam from a shower is an excellent place to do a Screen Shield installation as the steam will have settled any dust in the air. Take your time to properly prepare your work area and screen before you start the installation and you will get a great clean result.

I spend a lot time travelling in the field and my iPhone, tablet and cameras are always taking a beating so was quite keen to put these protectors to the test. After a week of general use I can see no wear on any of the Shields and I look forward to taking them to Iceland and the Arctic for two months in a few weeks time. I am forever scratching screens on my cameras and devices so am very pleased to have finally come across a product that is virtually invisible, but offers a good level of protection from scratches. Expert Shield won’t save you if you drop your camera or phone, but it will likely save you the next time you would have scratched your screen. Ten bucks to help protect an $8000 camera or a $800 iPhone with no impact on the appearance – thats a no brainer in my book. If you are wondering how much scratch protection these nearly invisible shields confer on your screen then check out this video of a belt sander doing its worst on an iPhone fitted with Expert Shield.

Expert Shield protectors are available for a wide variety of cameras and touch screen devices and there is a good chance they have one to fit your camera. These inexpensive shields are I believe well worth the small investment to protect your devices from scratches in the field. My initial impressions after a week are very promising and I will no doubt have more to add when I get back from Iceland and the Arctic in September.

By way of full disclosure – I was not aware of Expert Shield until I was contacted by their head office and invited to try their product. I was somewhat hesitant due to my current travel schedule but agreed it would be a great opportunity to field test the Shield in Iceland and the Arctic. Expert Shield kindly sent me some samples to test and the above are the results of my trial to date. I do not endorse or review products for which I have not purchased so have contacted Expert Shield and have offered to pay for the samples they sent me.

Xinjiang China – Ghost City

In a few short weeks I will be heading back to Iceland for my summer workshops under the spectacular midnight sun. I will then travel north of the Arctic circle for three back-to-back expeditions to Svalbard and Greenland. In the meantime, I have been busy catching up on office paperwork and processing some of my recent photographs from Xinjiang in the remote north west of China. It has taken me several weeks to fully digest this fascinating trip and I do hope to make more posts and share more images over the coming weeks and months. As well as still images we also shot a lot of video footage during our trip and my friend Antony and I hope to piece this together into a short travelogue that will help us share our experience.

The Ghost City was one of the more spectacular locations for photography we visited during our time in Xinjiang and we photographed in this remarkable landscape for two days spending most of our time working at sunset and sunrise. This photograph was taken just after sunset on top of one of the many compressed sand outcroppings.