Yellowstone 2015 Winter Wonderland Workshop Complete – Heading to Iceland

Early this afternoon I wrapped up the 2015 Yellowstone Winter Wonderland Experience Workshop in Jackson Hole. We have spent the last ten days travelling through Yellowstone and the Grand Teton area photographing both landscape and wildlife by private snow-coach and it has been an incredible experience. We actually spent the last part of our workshop in the Grand Tetons  and it was a wonderful experience from beginning to end. There were many fantastic photographic opportunities and from what I have already seen some beautiful winter images have been created by all on the trip. The landscape of Yellowstone is stunningly beautiful in Winter with clean crisp air and stunning winter light. The combination of geothermal features, snow and wildlife is truly a miracle of Nature and has created a photographic paradise. Personally I took over a thousand images during the course of the trip and as always it will take me some time to sort, edit and process my favourites. Travelling and photographing in Yellowstone in Winter with a small group of good friends and talented, passionate photographers has been a wonderful experience that I hope to repeat in future years. In fact, I already can’t wait to return and do it all again and am planning another winter trip for early 2017. Watch for the trip report from our 2015 experience over the coming weeks if you would like to get an idea what a workshop to Yellowstone is like in Winter.

Tomorrow I am flying to Denver and onto Iceland for my 2015 Winter Aurora Workshop with my good friend Daniel Bergmann. It has been nearly six months since I was last in Iceland and I am itching to return to this wonderful country. Iceland is a country I hold very near and dear to my heart and feels very much like my home away from home. I am particularly fond of winter in Iceland – the streets of Reykjavik are quiet, and with a dusting of fresh snow there is wonderful fairy tale feel to the city. I am particularly looking forward to Kaffi (thats Icelandic for coffee) at my favourite cafe ‘C is for Cookie‘ cafe and a big bowl of seafood soup from the hipster restaurant Vegamote when I arrive in Reykjavik.

Whilst it will be nowhere near as cold in Iceland as it has been in Yellowstone during winter (actually it has been a very mild winter in Yellowstone) we should still see the mercury dip below 0º celsius on regular occasions – especially in the evening when we are out photographing the Aurora. I am personally looking forward to more ice cave photography during this workshop as well photographing the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula in winter and of course the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón as well as many other excellent locations. We may even get up into the helicopter for some aerial photography of the fissure eruption near the Bárðarbunga volcano that has been ongoing for some months now. This last option is very weather dependant so we shall have to wait and see what Nature dishes up. The 2015 Winter Iceland Workshop has been sold out for many months now, but there are still a couple of places available on the 2016 Frozen North Workshop if you would like to join us. See you in Iceland.IcelandWinter2016

World Photographic Cup Medalist 2015

Final judging of the World Photographic Cup 2015 is underway in France and I was thrilled to learn this evening that one of my photographs has made the podium as a medalist for Australia in the reportage category. We will have to wait until April when the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded to know where my photograph has placed. Regardless of the final place however, it is a great thrill and honour to have had my photograph selected to represent Australia, to have made the finals, and to subsequently have received a medal.

The overall Winners will be announced in Montpellier, France, on April 12th, 2015. If you are wondering which photograph has medalled – you will have to wait until the overall winners are announced….Stay tuned.

Top Ten Polar Photography Tips to Improve Your Photography

Recently I compiled a list of Top Ten things you can do to give yourself the best chance of taking great photographs when you visit the extreme latitudes of the globe. The Top Ten Tips were also recently featured on View-Bug.

Nature and landscape photographs really require three things in my mind to be successful. Great Subject, Great Composition and Great Light. You really need all three to create an exceptional photograph. 
Included below are my top ten in no particular order
  1.  Be patient whenever possible: Wait for good light. Wait for the wildlife to be active.
  2. Give yourself a chance to get in tune with the landscape. Its almost impossible to turn up to a new area you have never visited and make outstanding photographs. It takes time to get in the rhythm of the landscape and really ‘see’ powerful images. Spend some time just looking before you start taking pictures. (See my articles on Landscape Photography with Mystery and Emotion – Part One, Part Two and Part Three).
  3. Know your camera gear intimately. It needs to be muscle memory to change settings on your camera. If you are fumbling with buttons and unsure of how to makes changes to your cameras setting your’e photography is going to suffer (See my article on Landscape Photography with Mystery and Emotion Part Three).
  4. Use weather sealed cameras or use weather proof covers for your camera gear.
  5. Think about what it is you are trying to say with your photography. Try and look past the cliche postcard. The strongest images are often the simplest and are those that leave the viewer wanting more or that evoke an emotional response in the viewer.See my article on Landscape Photography with Mystery and Emotion Part Two).
  6.  Look for the edges of weather. The most dramatic light is often found at the edge of a rainstorm or snow storm. Avoid blue sky sunny days as they usually result in boring photographs. 
  7. Be prepared and dress for bad weather. You need to be able to stay out in the snow storm if the light is incredible and keep making photographs. Having the right equipment for yourself is as important as having the right camera equipment.
  8. Try different focal lengths and compositions. Don’t always go for the super wide angle because it looks more dramatic on the camera’s LCD.
  9. Remember that landscape and nature photography are more often about what we exclude from the frame rather than what we include. Consider simplifying the frame when you are composing the image. A photograph that leaves the viewer asking questions is far more interesting than just a pretty picture. (See my articles on Landscape Photography with Mystery and Emotion – Part OnePart Two and Part Three).
  10. Look for leading lines in the landscape. Photography is the reproduction of a 3-dimensional scene into a 2-dimensional image or print. Strong leading lines will help you convey a sense of depth and help bring the image to life. Also use slow shutter speeds for clouds and water to help create a sense of movement that can also help bring a photograph to life.HMAS Penguin Pool

Book Review: Canon APPA 2014 Gold Awards

My second book review for 2015 is the new 2014 Canon APPA (Australian Professional Photography Awards) book. The 2014 Canon APPA book is different than many photography books in that it  contains the combined works of many photographers from  a photographic competition. Specifically, those photographers who scored a highly coveted Gold or Gold with Distinction award at the 2014 Australian Professional Photography Awards in Sydney. If you are unfamiliar with the APPA awards it is worth taking a moment and reading about them on the APPA website. In brief, these awards represent the very pinnacle of Australian photography. The competition is fierce and is regarded by many as one of the toughest in the world. The 2014 APPA Gold book represents those images that were professionally judged under controlled lighting conditions by AIPP Master and Grand Master Photographers to have reached the highest standards of excellence and creativity in their respective categories and genres.

AIPP-APPA-Gold-Book-20142014 is the first year that APPA have produced a Gold Award book with previous years seeing the creation of much larger volumes that also contained all of the Silver and Silver with Distinction Awards. Personally, I am very pleased to see the segregation of the Gold awards spun off into a new book as the previous iterations had become extremely large and unwieldy. There are only so many images the eye and brain can absorb in one sitting before it tires of looking at photographs. My feeling is that the new Gold Awards book has the balance just about perfect in this regard.

The book is divided up into the separate APPA categories with the Gold and Gold with Distinction Award winners being featured for each category in alphabetical order. By way of full disclosure I should say at this point that I won the 2014 Science, Environment and Nature photographer of the Year award at the 2014 APPA’s. Two of my photographs received Gold awards and are featured in this book in the Science, Environment and Nature Category. My review of this book is not based on the inclusion of these two photographs and I would feel the same way about this book regardless of their inclusion or exclusion.

Presentation: The 2014 Canon APPA Gold Awards book is hardbound in black linen with a smart, clean dust jacket that is simple and elegant. The paper is a medium weight semi-gloss lustre that works well for the broad genre of images included in the book. Although I personally prefer art papers to lustre papers it was a wise decision to choose a paper that conformed to the broad range of genres in this book. All of the included photographs are printed with a white paper border to help frame and contain the image and keep the eye from running off the page. The photographers name is included beneath each image, along with the category entered and the award won (Gold or Gold with Distinction). There is a simplicity to the presentation of the images in this book that resonants with me and I very much enjoyed the clean no fuss layout that leaves the emphasis squarely on the photographs.

Print Quality: When it comes to print quality the 2014 Canon APPA Gold awards book is the gold standard in print quality surpassing anything I have yet seen from an offset printer. Printed on the Canon Dreamlabo 5000 printer this book is the closest you are likely to ever get to the original fine art inkjet prints that were entered into the APPA awards. Put simply, the quality of the printing is superb and I believe this book is worth owning simply as a reference for how good book printing can look when it is  handled with care and attention to detail.

Conclusion: I considered giving this book five stars based on its print quality alone as a reference standard to other books, but in the end I felt somewhat conflicted giving a book five stars that includes two of my own photographs. I am therefore going to give it four stars and recommend that you strongly consider adding this book to your photographic library. I feel quite strongly that with the sheer breadth of subject that is presented in the book that there is quite literally something for just about every genre of photographer. Secondly, every one of the images in this book won a Gold or Gold with Distinction award at the 2014 APPA awards and represent the very pinnacle of Australian Professional Photography. Finally the print quality represents the current best it can be in book production. If you want to see where the standard lies and where the bar is set for professional photography in Australia then I recommend you purchase a copy of this book. Not only is it an excellent resource and reference to have on hand by which to evaluate your own work, but it is also contains a treasure trove of inspiration. The 2014 Canon APPA Gold Book is available for $75 AUD in strictly limited quantities from the AIPP**** You should own this book and consider it an important part of your photography library.

Update from Yellowstone February 2015

We are currently in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone on day three of our Winter Workshop to this amazing National Park. It has been unseasonably warm here in Yellowstone the past few days (actually, according to the locals it has been unseasonably warm for some time now) with temperatures hovering in the mid to high 40’s (Fahrenheit) during the day and really only dipping below 32 (Fahrenheit) during the night. There isn’t much snow around in the Lamar at present which has made access easy, but has somewhat limited our photographic opportunities to date. My own hopes of heavy snowfall to help isolate and add context to the animals in this area have not yet been realised. The weather is supposed to turn cold in the next two days with forecast snowfall in Yellowstone and we are hopeful this will add that missing magic element that brings photographs from this region to life.

We have had some good wildlife encounters in the first few days with the real highlight for me being a pair of wonderful Bald Eagles that we spent around an hour photographing by the side of the road. We were fortunate to stumble across the two eagles perched in trees deep in a canyon which put us at almost eye level by the roadside. Yellowstone-7710After a sunrise shoot tomorrow in the Lamar Valley we will pack up and head toward Old Faithful and spend several days exploring and photographing in this area. There have been reports of Bobcat activity along the Madison River and I am keen to see if we can find and photograph one of these elusive cats in the wild.