Antarctica The Wild Side – Weddell Sea Expedition

In February 2016 I will be leading a brand new expedition to Antarctica. Unlike previous years this new expedition to Antarctica will depart in February instead of early November and will take us deep into the Weddell Sea – the Wild Side of Antarctica. The expedition dates are February 9th – February 20th 2016. The Weddell sea is an area of Antarctica pretty much inaccessible earlier in the season due to sea ice conditions and our intention is to explore and photograph this rarely visited wild side of Antarctica. We will be using an ice-hardened expedition class ship ‘Polar Pioneer’ so we can push quite a lot of ice safely; which will enable us to get much further south than most vessels.Antarctica-Weddell2015We will sail across the Bransfield Strait to Antarctic Sound on our journey toward the Weddell Sea. Antarctic Sound is home to literally monolothic tabular icebergs that break off the Antarctic ice shelf and float up out of the Weddell Sea. There are incredible photographic opportunities in this area and we will stop to take advantage of spectacular tabular icebergs as we encounter them. We then plan to travel down the east side of the peninsula as deeply as we can penetrate into the sea ice.

Polar Pioneer

The peninsula’s wild side will welcome us with huge icebergs and spectacular scenery. We will likely visit Paulet Island, a conical volcano with a huge Adelie penguin colony that rises several hundred feet from the islands periphery to its lower slopes. Penguin covered icebergs drift in the currents set against towering ice cliffs. We also hope to explore Prince Gustav Channel and Seymour Island. We will also explore the west coast of the peninsula which offers glaciated peaks rising from a maze of islands and waterways alive with seals, penguins and whales. At the conclusion of the expedition we will sail back across the Drake Passage to Ushuaia.An Epic Sense of Scale

This expedition is for a strictly limited number of just 54 photographers. With many of the expedition ships now taking well over 100 passengers this is a unique opportunity to take advantage of a small group on an ice hardened expedition ship in one of the most rarely visited areas in Antarctica. Due to preliminary expressions of interest and bookings there are now only a few places remaining before this expedition will be sold out. If you would like to confirm cabin availability or would like any additional information about this expedition please drop me an email to info@jholko.com. A detailed PDF information flyer and itinerary can be downloaded clicking on weddellsea2016.

Arrived in Yellowstone for 2015 Winter Workshop

A few hours ago I finally completed the long journey from Australia and arrived in Bozeman for my Yellowstone Winter workshop. It is a very nice feeling to have abandoned the heat of the Australian summer for the snow and ice of a Yellowstone winter. Currently its quite a balmy 14 degrees Celsius outside and the air is dry and crisp. It is an even nicer feeling to have made it through American airport security more or less without hassle.

Tomorrow will be a rest day to recover from travel and jet lag before we commence our workshop into the park proper. I need to go shopping shortly for a new pair of winter boots for both Yellowstone, Iceland and the Arctic and have my eye on a pair of the new Baffin Expedition boots. I had considered using my Arctic Sport Muck Boots for this expedition but was concerned they may not be warm enough in the Yellowstone winter. They definitely would not be warm enough for the expedition I am doing into the Arctic after Iceland, so its time to add yet one more pair of boots to the wardrobe.

We have a pretty solid schedule planed out for the next ten days so I am unsure of how much if any time I may get to post updates to my Blog. We will just have to see what Yellowstone has to offer…

Leaving for Yellowstone 2015 Winter Workshop

In a few minutes time I am leaving for the airport for my first workshop of 2015 – Yellowstone in Winter. I have been looking forward to returning to the United States for some time now and it is very exciting to be headed to Yellowstone in Winter with a small group of participants and passionate photographers. We are looking forward to beautiful and dramatic snow covered landscapes, geothermal features, Bison, Elk and with a little luck even Wolves. We hope to make some iconic images of some of the more well known features, but also venture further afield. We will be using a large private snow-coach so that we can get off the main road and move around the park to some of the better, but harder to reach areas for photography. During our trip we will be utilising accommodation both in and around Yellowstone National Park. We will also be visiting the Grand Tetons and National Elk Refuge. It is going to be very exciting and I am itching to don my warm clothes and step out into the park with my cameras. You can read my packing list for this expedition HERE and my thoughts on traveling with camera equipment and dealing with customs in my article on Carnets – A Passport for your Camera Equipment.Yellowstone Sold OutYellowstone in Winter is only my first stop during my time away from home and at the conclusion of this trip I will be travelling directly to Iceland for my annual Winter Aurora Workshop with Daniel Bergmann (Sold Out). If you are interested in joining us on our 2016 Iceland Frozen North workshop there are still a few places remaining before it will be sold out. At the conclusion of the 2015 winter workshop I have some time allocated for two personal projects (both in Iceland and Svalbard) of which I will have more to say in future posts. We should have good internet access in Yellowstone and I hope to post some updates and photographs from the trip as we progress. See you in Yellowstone in a couple of days.

Get Ready to Pre-Order the New 50 Mega Pixel Canon 5DS and 5DSR Cameras

For those of you who have been waiting eagerly for Canon to announce their new high-mega pixel 5DS and 5DS R cameras (offered in two versions with and without “low-pass filter effect cancellation”) you can now sign up to be one of the first to place your order on B&H Photo. The new Canon 11-24mm wide angle zoom is also now available for pre-order. Expected availability for delivery of the new cameras is June 2015 – just in time for my 2015 Iceland Highlands Expedition! Personally, I will be ordering the R version for landscape use. This will strictly be an ISO100 on the tripod landscape camera for me with the Canon EOS 1DX remaining my tool for everything else.

Just a friendly reminder, it helps me pay for the costs associated with running this website and blog when you purchase your camera gear using the above links.

The Spirit of Antarctica 2014 Expedition Report

In early December 2014 I led an expedition to Antarctica ‘The Spirit of Antarctica‘ with my good friend and fellow Nature photographer Antony Watson. This expedition departed from Ushuaia and saw us sail across the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. We spent the next ten days exploring the incredible landscapes and wildlife of Antarctica before our return back across the Drake to Puerto Williams in Chile. We were quite fortunate with both crossings of the Drake and unlike my previous South Georgia Island expedition we really did not experience the ferocity that the Drake is so renowned for. Our crossings by comparison were quite mild which was manna from heaven for those of us who succumb to the occasional bout of sea sickness.

This expedition was a mixed group of photographers, climbers and kayakers which provided us with some unique opportunities to include the human element in our photographs. It also meant that we had quite a lot of room in our zodiacs for gear and equipment.

During this expedition we visited several new areas I had not been to before in Antarctica including Enterprise Island, Elephant Point and Useful Island. Enterprise Island turned out to be a really fantastic location where we encountered two humpback whales which played for a short time before they decided to head south. We also stopped to photograph the wrecked remains of ‘The Governor’ whaling ship. This abandoned hulk rests in the shallows of the island and provided wonderful subject material for our cameras. I normally choose not to photograph on blue sky days in Antarctica and instead soak up the beauty of the location but in this instance there was just enough interesting cloud to make a strong photograph. The key to this image was to ensure just the right angle on the ship and not to clip the reflection in the water. One of the wonderful things about zodiac photography is if you miss the shot on the first pass you can always have the driver turn the zodiac around for another go. If memory serves, we probably spent the better part of an hour photographing around the wreck remains. The wildlife photographers amongst us were thrilled with the nesting Antarctic terns and we also encountered a Crab Eater Seal on a nearby ice-flow. Enterprise Island is a location I am now looking forward to returning on future expeditions.

The GovernerElephant Point turned out to be another wonderful new location that reminded me very much of South Georgia Island. The beach was bedecked with Elephant Seals, Fur Seals and Gentoo Penguins when our zodiacs landed and there were outstanding opportunities for really intimate wildlife images with recently hatched penguin chicks. We even came across a vagrant King Penguin as we explored the area. Elephant Point is also a wonderful location to photograph Giant Petrels, Kelp Gulls and many other bird species. Personally, I spent quite a bit of time photographing the Giant Petrels during light snowfall. By far the majority of the photographers on this expedition had never visited South Georgia Island and this stop at Elephant Island really gave them a taste of the incredible Bio-mass one finds in South Georgia. I am leading a dedicated expedition to South Georgia Island this November and can’t wait to return. There are only two places remaining before this expedition will be sold out. You can read more about that expedition HERE.

Giant PetrelWe also visited the geothermal caldera and remains of the whaling station at Deception Island during this expedition and were fortunate to have some overcast skies and light snowfall; which really added to the mystery and drama of this location. Deception Island is one of my personal favourite locations for photography in Antarctica. I actually wrote a short op ed. piece on this location earlier last month. This wonderfully surreal location offers virtually limitless opportunities for photography and its a great place to wander and explore. It has been interesting to watch the decay of the whalers remnants from visit to visit and year to year at Deception Island. My feeling is there is probably only a decade or two remaining before all that will be left is a few scraps of iron. Deception Island

One of the regular stops for Antarctica expeditions and one of my favourites for photographing penguins is Cuverville Island. Surrounded on just about all sides by towering mountains and hanging glaciers Cuverville Island is home to well over a thousand Gentoo Penguins and offers fantastic opportunities for photography amongst the many rookeries. We were fortunate to experience heavy snowfall during our stay here and some really fabulous photographs came out of this day. This photograph (my favourite from this Antarctica expedition) really captures the feeling of solitude one feels in Antarctica. I actually used this image recently in an article here on my blog ‘How to get Emotion and Mystery into your Landscape Photography‘ as an example of how to create evocative photographs.Antarctica-4470-Edit12014We even had an opportunity during this expedition to spend a night ashore camping at Useful Island for those who wished to partake in an overnight polar camping experience. From a photographic perspective this opportunity provided a great chance to work with the landscape and wildlife under the soft light of the moon and there is something quite surreal about falling asleep to the trumpeting sounds of Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins.

We also passed through the Lemaire channel during this expedition in wonderful conditions that even enabled us to have a BBQ on the back deck of the ship for dinner! This photograph of Gentoo penguins on the sea in front of our expedition ship was taken near the exit to the Lemaire channel in Pleneau Bay. This is an area I have visited on several other occasions, but this was the first time I have seen Penguins on the sea ice at this location.PolarPioneer and PenguinsAntarctic expeditions are always a unique experience. With the variation in weather comes a different expedition plan. These expeditions are fluid and its not uncommon for us to move from Plan A to B and C as the weather dictates. In this instance I think we got very close to sticking with Plan A for the duration of the expedition.

If you are interested in travelling and photographing in Antarctica, I will be leading a brand new expedition in February 2016 to the Weddell Sea – Antarctica The Wild Side. There are now only very limited places remaining before this expedition will be sold out. If you would like to know about this opportunity you can download a complete PDF itinerary and information flyer from my website HERE.

Just by way of a teaser and an easter egg for those of you who have read the trip review in its entirety: I am almost ready to announce a very special and totally unique opportunity for just four photographers to join me on a November 2016 expedition deep into Antarctica to photograph the mighty Emperor Penguins. This expedition will utilise a privately chartered transport jet to fly us deep into Antarctica where we are going to land on a pre-prepared ice-runway. At this point we will have left South America more than 3000 kilometres behind us and already be only 600 miles from the South Pole! We will then take a smaller privately chartered twin-otter ski aircraft to the remote Emperor Penguin colony where we will establish a field camp and spend our days living with and photographing the Emperors against a backdrop of spectacular mountains, icebergs and pressure ridges under soft evening  and early morning light. This is an expedition I have been working on for more than two years now and I am really excited to offer this very exclusive and unique opportunity to just four people very soon.