Departing for Wild Polar Bears and the Iceland Highlands 2015

I am not exactly sure where the time has gone since I returned home to Australia from New Zealand a month or so ago, but tomorrow I will make the long journey back to Svalbard in the Arctic for my 2015 Wild Polar Bear expedition. I have been looking forward to this expedition for quite some time now and have been eager to get back to Svalbard and the land of the Polar Bear since my winter expedition earlier this year. Svalbard is an incredible place and one of the best places in the world to see and photograph wild Polar Bears living and hunting at the edge of the permanent pack ice. On this expedition we are using a small ice hardened vessel that will enable us to get in nice and close to drift ice around Svalbard. Importantly, it has nice low decks so we can get down to eye level with our subjects. With this expedition being limited to just twelve participants we will have plenty of room for everyone to photograph at once from both ship and zodiac and I am super excited to share this experience with all aboard. As well as Polar Bears, we will also likely photograph Walrus, Arctic Fox and a great many Arctic sea birds during our expedition.Svalbard-8864-Edit12015After we finish up our Polar Bear Expedition I am heading to Iceland for my 2015 Highlands workshop. The Highlands of Iceland are the heart of the country and the jewel in the crown of Iceland’s landscapes. I am really looking forward to the opportunity to photograph in the highlands again with a passionate group of photographers and to be able to put the new Canon EOS 5DSR 50 mega pixel camera through its paces in this active landscape of colour and light. It has been just over a year since I was last in the Highlands and although I have visited this area many times it remains my absolute favourite place in Iceland to Photograph. The only thing better than actually photographing in this incredible location is getting to share it with other passionate photographers! The 2015 Highlands workshop has long been sold out – but if you are interested in photographing in this incredible part of Iceland I will be leading two workshops to the Highlands next year in late August and September with Daniel Bergmann and there are still a few places available. Just drop me an email to register your interest.Once we finish up our Highlands workshop I am heading back to Svalbard with Daniel Bergmann for our Kingdom of the Ice Bear expedition. Also accompanying us on this expedition will be a two person film crew from Untitled Film Works and we hope to produce a short film of our experiences during the expedition similar to what we produced in Greenland and Svalbard two years ago – Watch the previous video HERE. Both the Polar Bear expeditions have been sold out for many months, but there is a single place remaining on the 2016 expedition and details are on my website at  The ice conditions in Svalbard this year have been better than the previous ten years and I am hopeful we will have some really fabulous photographic encounters with Polar Bears during both expeditions.PolarBearsofSvalbardIn terms of equipment for these expeditions I am taking everything from 11mm (Canon’s new 11-24mm) to 600mm lenses as well as two Canon EOS 1DX cameras (specifically for wildlife) and the new EOS 5DSR camera (specifically for landscape).

Just as an aside: Over the last twenty four months of international travel the airlines have managed to destroy two of the  expensive North Face Rolling Thunder duffles; which I had been using for my checked luggage. These are some of the toughest and largest rolling bags I have come across and come with a lifetime warranty (and to North Face’s credit they have replaced the bag both times). It amazes me that the airlines can actually be rough enough to destroy these bags (it really would take some pretty serious effort). Rather than risk a third bag I have switched back to the normal North Face Expedition Duffle (lets see how they go with this one). Whilst these duffles don’t have rollers, they are slightly larger and significantly lighter than the rolling version; which is always a bonus. I will carry both a Gura Gear Bataflae 32L and a Gura Gear Chobe for my camera bags as well as a large Ortlieb waterproof duffle for zodiac excursions. See you in Svalbard.

How to Improve your Wildlife Photography without Spending a Lot of Money

During the first lecture I presented on Arctic Wildlife Photography at the AIPP Event in Perth Western Australia earlier this month I caught a number of people off guard in the audience when I explained my process for going out to photograph a particular species. It is an approach that will cost you much less than a new camera or lens and is guaranteed to help you get better photographs during your next wildlife outing. It is also an approach that requires a little investment in time, but its time well spent that will ensure you capture better images than you otherwise might have.

When I leave for a photographic expedition to photograph wildlife (it doesn’t matter what sort of wildlife) I don’t just pack my bags and head off into the wilderness to photograph a given animal with the latest and greatest gear. I do an extensive amount of research into the animal’s ecology so that I not only know where to find them, but also so that I am fully armed with knowledge of their behaviour. This knowledge is critical to capturing intimate images that would otherwise be impossible to realise. It enables me to read the many subtle signs an animal often displays and even predict their behaviour. Most of us know that a house cat is usually agitated or afraid when it flattens its ears. And we use this knowledge to deal with the cat accordingly. This same knowledge is a critical component to effective and successful wildlife imagery. It is far more important than a faster focusing lens or a camera with one stop more dynamic range. Those technical aspects of equipment are irrelivent if you have not equipped yourself with the right knowledge of your subject.

To cite an actual recent example of this in practice – When I set out on my Arctic Fox project (now coming into its third year) I went out and purchased every book I could on the ecology of Arctic Foxes so that I could learn as much as possible about their behaviour long before I ever pressed the shutter on my camera (I own not less than half a dozen different books on Arctic foxes). I wanted to arm myself with knowledge of the foxes behaviour so that I could recognise subtle signs and cues in their behaviour as I worked with the animals in the field. Wildlife give a great many clues about what they are going to do next through their behaviour and if you know and can recognise these clues you can predict the animals behaviour and greatly increase your ratio of quality keepers.Hornvik-9988-Edit42015The other thing you can do in addition to researching and reading about your subject is to enlist the help of someone studying the animal you want to photograph. A scientist or even a PHD student working with a particular species is likely to posses a lot more knowledge on your subject than you can probably otherwise acquire in a short period of time. Their assistance can be invaluable in the field in locating hard to find wildlife and in understanding wildlife behaviour.

Now I grant you, spending time purchasing books, researching and reading about your photographic subject is not nearly as glamorous as a purchasing a shiny new lens or camera and running straight out into the field, but it does cost a lot less money and provides a far great return on investment in photographic terms. The next time you plan to go out and photograph wildlife it is well worth taking some time out and doing some research and reading on your chosen subject. You will almost certainly learn something about your subject and you will capture better photographs as a result. I will be leaving for the Arctic in a couple of days to lead two photographic expeditions for Polar Bears and I will certainly be brushing up on my reading with a couple of new Polar Bear books on the long flights from Australia. Happy Reading…

AIPP The Event Conference Wrap Up in Perth Western Australia

I returned home from the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) Event conference in Perth Western Australia a little over a week and a half ago where I was presenting on both Polar Wildlife Photography and Extreme Latitude landscape photography over the course of two days during the event. This was a really fantastic conference to attend and over the course of the four days I was in Perth I met some really fantastic people and was not only afforded the opportunity to talk about my photography, but also to network with the trade (an opportunity I do not often get because of my travel commitments).theeventWhat was really fascinating for me (and it has taken me a few days to come to this realisation) is that during the course of the two one and half hour seminars I presented there were almost no questions about which cameras I had used to make the photographs. This was an incredibly refreshing revelation and has in many ways re-envigorated my enthusiasm for sharing my photography. Instead, questions ranged from how to expose in these extreme environments to what sort of clothing I wear and how to prepare for this sort of photography as well as what I look for when I press the shutter. In this era of gear fascination that dominates all things photography (particularly in social media and forum circles) this was quite honestly an incredibly refreshing revelation. I feel as photographers (be it professional or amateur) we tend to get far to focused on equipment in the pursuit of better photographs. We constantly chase the next new thing in the belief it will improve our photography when the reality is it likely will do little for our photography other than drain our wallets.

I read a very interesting article a few weeks back on the pursuit of material possessions in our daily lives and how the scales for the majority of people are skewed towards acquiring and owning ‘things’ rather than having ‘experiences’. Whilst I cannot recall the exact website where I came across the article it struck a chord with me and I think there are some really interesting parallels we can draw with photography.

The idea of owning a new piece of camera equipment is very appealing to photographers (myself included). We get drawn into the marketing hype and specification creep of new models and before we know it we are caught in a never ending upgrade cycle that does little to nothing to improve our image making. It is the pursuit of material things in a false belief. Granted, there are occasions when a new piece of equipment does offer a quantifiable increase in quality of image making – but those instances are rare and more often than not the opposite in fact occurs as we struggle with the new equipment. I have written about this phenomena before in a series of Articles on creating photographs with Mystery and Emotion and the problem of our brain focusing on working as a technician, rather than working creatively.

I would advocate that we would be better off diverting our attention and efforts (at least some of them) toward experiences and education. In particular experiences and education that will likely improve our image making. To this end I am going to share a few of the discussion points from my lectures at the Event here on my blog over the course of the coming days – the first of which will be a sure fire way to improve your wildlife photography without spending much money. Stay tuned.

Iceland the Highlands Workshops 2016 Open for Bookings

I am very excited to announce that I will be leading two workshops to Iceland in summer next year with my good friend and Iceland local Daniel Bergmann. Both workshops will have an emphasis on different regions of the Highlands as well as different coastal areas. These are workshops that will get you off the usual tourist route and into some of the more inaccessible, interesting and least visited areas of Iceland. We all also visit a few of the iconic locations as well as a few tucked away gems we want to keep up our sleeves. If you have never been to Iceland before and want to avoid the tourist traps, or if you are an Iceland regular and want to get into new territory then these are the workshops for you.The first workshop will run from August 14th until August 23rd 2016 and will focus on the Highlands and Northern area of Iceland.  We will also visit the precipitous basalt cliffs and rock formations of the Snaefellsness Peninusla, amongst many other areas. You can download a detailed itinerary and information PDF form for the first workshop HERE.The second workshop will run from the 28th of August until the 6th of September 2016 and will focus on the Southern Highlands and eastern coastal regions of Iceland. Our intention on this workshop is to focus on some of the lesser known highland areas in the southern part of Iceland. We will also visit the precipitous ocean lined mountains at Stokksnes as well as vising the spectacular Laki Volcano and the world famous Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon. You can download a detailed itinerary and information PDF form for the second workshop HERE.

_MG_4121-Edit22014We have chosen August and early September for these workshops as this is an ideal time to visit Iceland for photography. The days are still long with Sunrise around 5 a.m. and sunset just before 10 p.m. The best light for landscape photography is therefore during the evening and early morning. This means that we may have an early dinner and then head out to photograph and sometimes be out before breakfast for a morning shoot. On cloudy days we’ll have a more normal routine. What we’ll do exactly on any given day will be decided around the weather and other conditions and there will be small changes to our original plan to make the most of our time in each area.

Super Moon Rising at Landmannalaugar Iceland

A small group of participants (maximum of 12 plus leaders per workshop) guarantees a more personal and intimate experience than bigger tours can provide. This is a unique opportunity to travel and photograph with two experienced professionals who have a combined total of more than 40 years of photographic experience and can take you to the best locations that are off the beaten track, and at the right time – when the light is best. We will be travelling in a large off road ‘super jeep’ 4-wheel drive to give us plenty of space for camera equipment and gear. _MG_2174-Edit12014Cost: The cost for each workshop is $7,450 USD. There is no single supplement and single rooms will be provided wherever possible.

Duration: 11 days/10 nights for each workshop
Includes: Accommodation for ten nights in single rooms. Food and beverages (excluding alcohol). All transport during the duration of the workshop in a modified 4-wheel drive vehicle. All tuition and guiding services.
Excludes: International flights, travel insurance and alcohol
Group size: 12 per workshop

Due to initial bookings and expressions of interest places on both these workshops is already limited. If you would like to register your interest for one of the remaining places or would like additional information please contact me at

Svalbard Governor fines Tourists for Death of Polar Bear

If you have been following my blog for sometime you will know that earlier this year I spent some time north of Longyearbyen in Svalbard photographing Polar Bears and other wildlife during the Arctic winter. One of the Polar Bears I photographed was very sadly shot dead only a few days after I made the image below as a direct result of irresponsible tourist behaviour (you can read my original post on the shooting). At the time this occurred I was extremely upset by the stupidity of the behaviour that led to the death of this bear. Not only was it an unnecessary shooting, but it was also completely avoidable. Local guides and visitors were aware the bear was hunting in the area where the camp had been set up. There has been an ongoing investigation into the tragedy and the findings have now been released by the Governor of Svalbard. I was very pleased to learn late last night that for the first time in Norwegian history a person has been fined for putting both people and polar bears in danger in Svalbard.

“For the first time in Norwegian history, a person gets fined for having put people and bears in danger on Svalbard.”

There are questions about the required safeguards. We feel that they had not. They did not have a guard/watch, and they had only one activated tripwire placed so high that the bear could go under, said deputy Sysselmann, Jens Olav Sæther, NRK.”

“The decision is evaluated against the new penal provision to Svalbard Environmental Act of 2012. “

Although I am still upset by the unnecessary death of this bear I am pleased to hear that a fine of $10,000 dollars has been levied against those deemed responsible. A precedent has now been set that it is not ok to act irresponsibly in Svalbard in the domain of Polar Bears. You can read the full report ONLINE.

Polar Bear Blues