Iceland Winter 2016 – The Frozen North Expedition Open for Bookings

Daniel Bergmann and I are pleased to have now finalised our Winter Workshop itinerary for 2016 to Iceland. The workshop will run from the 4th of March 2016 until the 13th of March 2016 and will focus on the incredible northern landscapes of Iceland as well as the Aurora Borealis. We will be travelling in two Icelandic Super Jeeps (modified 4-wheel drives) so that we can get off the main bitumen road and into the more interesting areas for photography and experience the true splendour of Iceland in Winter. We will be focusing our efforts in the Northern part of Iceland in some of the less visited and more spectacular winter locations. In winter the northern landscapes are covered in snow and the light is often soft and ethereal. There are fantastic opportunities to create wonderful images of the winter landscape.Godafoss in Winter from the top of the fallsAt the beginning of March the darkness of the Icelandic winter is starting to lift and the days are becoming longer. We will have up to ten hours of good light during the day and with a little bit of luck the spectacular Northern Lights will increase our photographic opportunities well into the night. Winter conditions in Iceland can be stunningly beautiful: the glacial lagoons freeze, some of the waterfalls are partially frozen, the glaciers appear more blue with fresh snow on top, the landscape of the north is covered in fresh snow and with fewer visitors. With true darkness in winter comes the possibility of seeing the awe inspiring Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). We plan to make photographs of them whenever there are clear skies and intense Aurora activity.Aurora over ReykjanestáYou can download a complete itinerary and information PDF HERE. The workshop is fully inclusive of all meals, accommodation and ground transportation as well as all tuition and image reviews. Our 2014 and 2015 workshop sold out in just a few days so if you would like to join us you can register your interest by dropping me an email or by filling in the registration form on my website at www.jholko.com. Due to initial expressions of interest and registrations the workshop is already 50% sold out. The last places are filled on a first come, first served basis and once they are spoken for thats it. Please be sure to read the testimonials page to see what others are saying about our workshops and expeditions. You can also visit the Iceland Portfolio on my website at www.jholko.com for more images of Iceland in Winter.Shaes of White

Baby Elephant Seal Play Time in South Georgia

One of the most fantastic experiences you can have during a Nature photography expedition is getting close to wildlife. Close encounters with wild animals are always special and can yield wonderful photographs. During the recent twenty one day expedition I lead to South Georgia Island and Antarctica we were fortunate to have some wonderful close encounters with wildlife. One of the most memorable was with a baby Elephant Seal at Grytviken Harbour in South Georgia.  This very curious and inquisitive baby seal decided it would be good fun to play in the shallows and kiss the underwater camera. Just click on the image below to play the video.Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 7.47.12 pmIt is important to note that this seal approached us on its own and was in no way stressed or harmed – it was merely curious. In fact, during our time in Antarctica we had several participants who even had curious baby seals approach them and try to climb up onto them whilst they were lying down and taking photographs. Baby seals are often very curious and its  quite common for them to not only approach well within five metres but also to touch, push and play with people. We always respect wildlife and boundaries to the wildlife and enjoy these special moments when the wildlife decides to come to us and investigate.

The underwater housing featured in this short video and that was used to make this photograph is an Aquatech Delphin 1DX housing with underwater dome port.Baby Elephant Seal

Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2014 – Commended Wildlife Category

It is definitely competition season at the moment in photographic circles with many Landscape, Nature and Wildlife competitions either opening for 2015 or announcing their winners for 2014. I was very pleased to learn yesterday that one of my photographs has been commended in the 2014 Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition in the Wildlife Insight Category. I was fortunate to win this competition in 2013 in the Spirit of Adventure Category for a photograph of mountain climbers near the summit in an approaching storm and it is a great thrill to have my work recognised again this year with a commendation for the Wildlife Insight Category. The photograph I chose to enter was of an Arctic Fox stalking a gull from behind a snow drift. I took this photograph early last year in winter in the extreme north east of Iceland in a place only accessible by boat. This particular image was taken with the Canon EOS1DX and Canon 600mm F4L IS MKII.Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 8.52.59 amFox Attack

Deception Island Antarctica – The Hand of Man

Deception Island is an island in the South Shetland Island archipelago off the Antarctic Peninsula. It is renowned as one of the safest harbours in Antarctica and has been for me a regular stopping point during Antarctic expeditions. The island itself is actually the caldera of an active volcano and geothermal sulphur still rises along the waterline. Photographer pauses to admire the beauty, partially hidden by riThe volcano caused serious damage to local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. The island is perhaps best known historically for its whaling station; although it is now regarded as a tourist destination with a scientific outpost. Interestingly there are various countries that havee claimed sovereignty over the Island but it is thankfully administered under the Antarctic treaty system.Deception IslandI have been fortunate to visit Deception Island and Whaler’s Bay now on several different occasions. In fact, I actually posted a series of images here on my blog I titled ‘Made of Steel‘ from my first visit back in 2011. There is a palpable sense of grim history to this location and I have heard many first time visitors remark on the impact this location has had on them. Having visited this location many times now it remains for me one of the most sombre locations I have ever photographed with its dark whaling history. I feel a strong sense of foreboding at Whalers Bay, although I have enjoyed the photographic opportunities at this location very much. Whaler’s Bay is in many ways a a stark reminder of the way we were. Its rusting whaling remnants are a poignant reminder of humanities injustices on Nature. It is said, that at the height of the whaling in this area there were so many whales slaughtered that the bay turned red with blood. Now, many decades on from the injustices of human action the rusting remains of the whalers activities serve as some very interesting photographic subjects. Deception IslandThese three photographs were made during my recent expedition to Antarctica at the end of 2014 (the first photograph of the photographer on the beach was taken in 2011). They summarise for me the feeling of this abandoned location and capture something of the haunting atmosphere that seems to hang so low over the land. Interestingly all of these photographs were made during heavy snowfall. I have visited Deception Island in a range of different weather, but it is the images captured in the driving snow that best convey the feeling of this location for me.Deception Island

South Georgia Island and Antarctica Expedition 2014 Report

In November 2014 I led an extensive twenty-one day landscape and wildlife photographic expedition with good friend Andy Biggs to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica. The purpose of this extended expedition was to provide the definitive Antarctic and sub-Antarctic experience. We planned to take in the best of the Falklands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica and experience not only the diverse landscape and wildlife, but also some of the historic relics and history of these amazing places.

Our expedition saw us cover more than 3400 nautical miles in a round trip from Ushuaia, to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, The South Shetland Islands, Antarctica and finally return to Ushuaia. We experienced the full range of weather and conditions from brilliant sunshine to gale force winds on our approach to Antarctica. As a photographer who prefers the drama of overcast skies and storm conditions I relished the opportunities that we had to shoot in inclement weather. Those of us who preferred calmer conditions were likewise blessed with some wonderful weather during much of our time in the Falklands and South Georgia. Unfortunately for me, I did suffer (not alone ) a good dose of seasickness during this expedition that more or less confined me to cabin during our sea days on this expedition. This was the first time I have succumbed in such a manner to sea sickness and I can now completely sympathise with anyone has been unfortunate enough to suffer from this uncomfortable condition.FalklandIslands-063612014In the Falklands we visited West Point Island and New Island where we photographed majestic Black Browed Albatross and Rock Hopper Penguins. Rock Hopper Penguins are the rock stars of the penguin world and are extremely photogenic with their wild hair and cool looks. We were fortunate to have some fabulous light and incredible access in the Falklands and were able to photograph nesting Black Browed Albatross up close. Some of us were also fortunate to see and photograph the very rare Striated Kara Kara. Although I did manage to grab a couple of snaps of this rare raptor for documentary purposes the images themselves are more record photographs and not considered compositions. Nevertheless it was a real thrill to see and photograph this rare bird of prey.

FalklandIslands-096412014We also stopped in Stanley, the capital of the Falklands where we refuelled on coffee and took in some local sights. Keen to make our way to South Georgia our stay in the Falklands was brief and we were soon underway for three days sailing to South Georgia Island.

South Georgia is one of the most remote islands on the planet and is a full three days sail from the Falkland Islands. It is also host to an incredible biomass of wildlife that makes it not only unique but also incredibly special. The sheer mass of wildlife on tap in South Georgia is a wildlife photographers dream and the opportunities are infinite. South Georgia is nothing short of a complete sensory assault with tens of thousands of nesting King Penguins, penguin chicks, Fur Seals, Elephant seals and a virtual cornucopia of birdlife. At first blush South Georgia can be so overwhelming that simply making sense of it can be difficult and it pays to spend some time simply enjoying the experience as well as photographing.King Penguins Saint AndrewsSouth Georgia island is strictly controlled in terms of number of visitors permitted on the island, where they are allowed to land and the hours they can be ashore. The purpose of these restrictions is to keep South Georgia as pristine as possible and to give wildlife a chance to rest away from the disturbance of human visitation. As such it is not permitted to land in South Georgia before 4am and you must depart by no later than 10pm. In order to take advantage of the best light possible we frequently commenced our zodiac operations at 4am so that we could not only maximise our time ashore but also ensure we experienced the best of the light available. These long hours usually enabled us three landings per day which meant we could squeeze in a great amount of photography during our time in this amazing location.

Our first stop in South Georgia was Grytviken where we explored the old whaling remnants that lie scattered amongst the small settlement. Fur seals and elephant seals greeted us as our zodiacs landed amongst the rusty whalers remnants. I chose to focus my efforts at this location on a very playful baby elephant seal wallowing in the shallows of the harbour. This photograph was taken with a Canon EOS1DX with a 16-35mm F4L IS lens in an Aquatech underwater sports housing with wide angle dome port. The seal seemed intent on kissing the camera and I had to wipe seal slobber off the dome port on several occasions. My sincere thanks to Aquatech for the loan of the underwater housing for the duration of this expedition.SouthGeorgia-8339-Edit22014One of the greatest attractions in South Georgia are the majestic King Penguins. These elegant birds are the Kings of South Georgia and can be found by the tens of thousands at Salisbury Plain, Gold Harbor and Saint Andrews – all of which we visited during this expedition. Larger than the Gentoo, Chinstrap, Rockhopper and Macaroon they are also the most colourful and to my mind at least, the most elegant and photogenic.

SouthGeorgia-2456-Edit42014We also visited Little Moltke harbour, Hercules and the Drygalski fjord in South Georgia. All of these offered incredible landscapes and wildlife opportunities. I hope to share more photographs from these locations over the coming weeks and months.

As we sailed from South Georgia Island to Antarctica through the Scotia sea we passed gigantic tabular icebergs slowly drifting out of the Weddell Sea. The largest of which measured an enormous twelve kilometres on the ships radar. Icebergs of this size and magnitude generate their own local weather system and are always dramatic to photograph.SouthGeorgia-9735-Edit62014Our approach from South Georgia to Antarctica presented us with nearly 50 knots of howling wind which prevented us from landing at Deception Island. However, we were able to land briefly at the historic Point Wild in rising Catabolic winds. This is the first time I have been able to actually place a foot on rock at this location having been blown out on all other attempts. Point Wild is home to a colony of Chinstrap penguins and was the location where Antarctic explorers huddled for three months before rescue.Antarctic StormDuring our time in Antarctica our most southerly point was the breathtaking Lemaire Channel which we cruised through during a magnificent polar sunset. The Lemaire channel is always a dicey bet this early in the season but with the experience of our Russian Captain we were able to navigate the ice strewn waters and experience one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever witnessed in polar waters.

Antarctica-375612014We also explored Neko Harbour, Paradise Bay, Cierva Cove and more. We cruised on zodiacs amongst spectacular icebergs as well as landing and exploring on foot. We were regularly greeted during our landings by our comedic friends the Gentoo penguins.

Our final landing in Antarctica was at the penguin festooned Cuverville Island. Cuverville has become one of my favourite landings in Antarctica with its stunning dramatic scenery, extensive Gentoo penguin colonies set against precipitous mountains and incredible glaciers hanging between mountains. It provides the perfect backdrop for Antarctic photography. Add a liberal dose of inclement weather and the island comes alive with drama. Cuverville was our coldest landing with 20-25knott winds and a significant wind chill. The resulting images bore out a taste of just what Antarctica can truly be like. It is hostile in its magnificence.Antarctica-2380-Edit82014There were some fantastic photographs that resulted from this expedition by many of the photographers who participated. Personally, I shot over 7,500 images during the course of the expedition and as is usual it will take me many months to mine the jewels from this expedition. For now the photographs in this report are just a few of my initial favourites. During the course of the expedition the ships crew prepare a report of the previous days activities as well as what to expect for the coming day. You can download the daily trip reports as a SouthGeorgiaReport PDF.

SouthGeorgia Group PhotoWe also had a videographer aboard to document our expedition and I hope to share the video from this expedition in a few months once all of the editing and post production work is complete.

If you are interested in travelling and photographing in South Georgia Island I will be leading a dedicated fifteen day expedition in November this year that departs from the Falkland Islands and that will spend more than eight days in this wondrous location. There are now only two places remaining before this expedition will be sold out. If you would like any additional information you can register your interest by dropping me an email at info@jholko.com