As is tradition on my blog, I like to do a “What’s in Store” post for the coming year as well as reflect back, and wrap up the year that was. In terms of stats over the course of the 2015 year this blog was viewed over 620,000 times across 159 countries. Which means if it were a concert at Madison Square Garden it would take more than 30 sold out performances for that many people to see it. Thats a huge increase over the previous year and quite a humbling feeling. The busiest day of the year was August 2nd with 11,459 views. The most popular post that day was How to Improve your Wildlife Photography without Spending a Lot of Money. Interestingly, one of the most popular posts remains one I made back in 2012 on Big Stopper Filters. I don’t often write about equipment and gear, but there is no denying that posts on equipment are extremely popular. Over the course of the 2015 year I made 110 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 596 posts.
In equipment or ‘gear’ terms 2015 was an interesting year with the introduction of the Canon EOS 5DS and 5DSR 50+ mega pixel cameras (long overdue some would argue) as well as the surprise new Canon 11-24mm F4L super wide angle zoom lens. Both of these have found a home in my equipment cupboard and I have utilised both extensively during workshops and expeditions in the later half of 2015. Although I still prefer the Canon EOS 1DX camera for the majority of my photography, there is no denying the huge resolution advantage of the 5DS/R when making giant prints. The 11-24mm F4L has proved a superb optic and although the use of such a wide angle lens is limited it has nevertheless proved a very useful tool thus far. 2015 also marked the year I ditched gimbal heads for long lens work and moved to a Sachtler FSB-6 Fluid head. There is simply no comparison between working with a fluid head vs. a gimbal and outside of the weight and cost difference the fluid head offers significant benefits that has resulted in a far higher ratio of ‘keepers’. This move represents what was probably the best equipment investment I made in 2015 in terms of improving my photography. My gear pick of the year for 2015 however goes to the Eizo CG-318 4K Wide Gamut monitor that I reviewed a couple of months ago here on my blog. Whilst its far from inexpensive, the Eizo CG-318 is a superb monitor that makes working with high resolution images, soft proofing and making prints an absolute pleasure. As I said in my review: If you have the means I highly recommend picking one up.
2016 will be a very interesting year in equipment terms as it is both an Olympic and Photokina year. As such, I expect to see the introduction of the Canon EOS 1DX MKII by no later than the end of April as well as several new L series lenses. However, the jury is still out on what lenses Canon will actually deliver. Expect the 1DX MKII to have an all new focus system, 4k video capability, and to set a new standard for high ISO images. I expect resolution to be around 22 mega pixels which is more than enough for 90%+ of my photography. Rumours persist of a new 600mm F4 DO lens (a patent has been filed by Canon) as well as a new 800mm F5.6 lens. A new 800mm lens will have to offer something really extraordinary as the current 600mm F4L IS MKII with a MKIII 1.4 TC is as good as the current 800mm F5.6 with greater reach and greater flexibility. I would not be surprised if we see a new 800mm F5.6 lens with an inbuilt 1.4 Teleconverter; although such a lens would be highly specialised and very expensive.
Book pick for the year for me was a close call between Ragnar Axelssons’s magnificent Last Days of the Arctic (Review coming Soon) and Vincent Munier’s opus Arctique (Read the Review). Both were stand out books for me packed with some of the best photography I have seen from the Arctic. Ultimately, I am giving the nod to Vincent Munier’s Arctique – an absolutely superb presentation that deserves a place in any photographic library.
Over the course of this year I published my own favourite twelve photographs here on my blog. Please be sure to check them out and let me know what you thought. I don’t usually have an overall favourite from a given year, although I definitely have a soft spot for this photograph of the back lit Polar Bear with is breath steaming in the Arctic winter light. I also gave away more than a dozen fine art prints over the course of the year that have gone around the world and that have found their way onto the walls of homes and offices. The chance to give something back in 2015 has been something I have very much enjoyed and the feedback I have received from those who have won a print throughout the year has been incredibly fulfilling. I would very much like to continue this series going forward, but due to a very heavy travel schedule next year I will just not have time to regularly make and send out the prints. I will return to this print giveaway at a future date however.
In competition terms, 2015 was a solid year for me with finalist positions in the 2015 Canon APPA Professional Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Photographer of the Year as well as finalist in the Epson 2015 Professional Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Photographer of the Year. I was also a finalist in the 2015 Outdoor Photographer of the Year and 2015 Travel Photographer of the Year competitions as well being short listed in BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Natures Best Photography. It was a great year and I have been thrilled with the results. Three of my photographs (including the polar bear above) will be published in the 2015 Outdoor Photographer of the Year competition book that is now available for pre-order.
2015 was also the biggest year yet for me both with destinations visited and sheer number of international miles travelled. 2015 also marked the year I finally returned to the United States and photographed in Yellowstone in Winter (something I have long wanted to do and am planning to do again in early 2017). I have no idea how many actual miles I covered in 2015 in total, how many aeroplanes I boarded, how many times I went through airport security or how many tens of hours I spent waiting around in airports for connecting flights, but it was an awful lot. 2016 will certainly have its fair share of flights and layovers and I am trying to work through as much office work as possible in the next few weeks before I board the next plane in February.
2015 kicked off with a brand new Yellowstone in Winter workshop followed by a four day extension to the spectacular Grand Tetons (Read the Trip Report). Although we did not have great snow at this time we were fortunate to see and photograph the Lemaire Valley wolf pack as well as the Canyon and Yellowstone packs. Seeing wolves in the wild is an amazing experience and the chance to photograph them was fantastic. They are a haunting animal and it is no wonder they are still shrouded in so much mystery. We also had some superb conditions for landscape photography inside the park. Although the majority of photographers travel to Yellowstone for the wildlife, the landscape is in many ways the real gem of the area. The combination of geothermal activity with snow and ice can make for some very evocative imagery. I am planning a future workshop to Yellowstone in Winter in early 2017 that will focus on both landscape and wildlife. Details will come early in the new year.After Yellowstone Daniel Bergmann and I ran our annual Winter Iceland workshop (Read the Trip Report) that included destinations in both the north and south of the Island. Iceland in winter is an incredible experience and this workshop provided us with wonderful opportunities in a snow covered landscape. This year saw a return to cooler temperatures during winter in Iceland than recent years as well as greater snowfall; both of which made for some fabulous photography.After Iceland I travelled to Svalbard where I participated in a small group snow mobile expedition for Polar bears and other wildlife in the winter landscape of Svalbard. This exploratory expedition resulted in some remarkable photographs and is something I hope to repeat early in 2017. I will also have a new offering in 2017 to photograph from small ship in the middle of winter – Details to come soon.After Svalbard I returned to Iceland and continued work on my Arctic Fox Project. I am getting close to completing the project now and hope to finish the project in 2016.After Iceland, I ran my annual two week New Zealand South Island workshop which saw us circumnavigate the South Island via private 4-wheel drives and that included significant helicopter time over the spectacular southern Alps as well as the Teanu region. We visited Milford Sound, Queenstown, Fox Glacier, Mount Cook and a great many other off the beaten track locations during the workshop. We also visited the now very popular Moraki boulders area where I was able to make this image that for me really captures the essence of these amazing rocks. (Read the Trip Report) I also spent an extra two weeks photographing in New Zealand with my good friend Martyn before we returned to Australia for some Great Ocean Road photography.After a short break, I then travelled back to Svalbard for my Wild Polar Bears expedition (Read the Trip Report). This was a fabulous expedition that saw us circumnavigate Spitsbergen (something I had not done before) during the ten day trip. We had numerous close encounters with Polar Bears, Arctic Fox and Walrus and some fabulous images resulted.
I then returned to Iceland for the Summer season and lead my annual summer trip with Daniel Bergmann (Read the Trip Report). I never tire of returning to Iceland and eagerly look forward to each return visit. The 2016 Winter workshop is long sold out, but there are still a few places remaining on the 2016 summer workshops if you would like to join us. Just drop me an email to register your interest.
After Iceland Daniel Bergmann and I travelled back to Svalbard for our Kingdom of the Ice Bear expedition. This year I teamed up again with the crew from Untitled Film works to produce a short movie on what it was like to travel on a dedicated photography expedition to the Arctic for Polar Bears. The short film we released a few months ago has been a huge hit and we have received some truly wonderful feedback. If you haven’t yet seen the movie yet you can click on the image below. Be sure to watch it full screen, dim the lights and crank the music. Enjoy.In November I travelled to South Georgia Island for a fifteen day expedition that saw us photographing in some of the world’s best locations for wildlife (full trip report coming soon). I have really been enjoying seeing the fantastic photographs being shared on social media taken by all who participated on this expedition. Just as an interesting aside, I noticed a significant increase in the number of small birds in South Georgia this year which is a testament to the effectiveness of the rat eradication program that has been running for the last few years. It was wonderful to see so many South Georgia Pipits this year after seeing none the previous year.
At the conclusion of this expedition I lead a small group workshop to the Falkland Islands. During our time in the Falklands we flew from Stanley to both Saunders and Sea Lion Islands where we photographed many of the fabulous bird species found in these world class locations (full trip report coming soon). The highlight for me was finding and photographing the magnificent Short-eared owl on Sea Lion Island.After the Falklands I travelled to Punta Arenas in Chile where I boarded a Soviet Ilyushin jet (The Russian equivalent of an American Hercules) and flew down to Union Glacier in Antarctica where we landed on a naturally occurring blue ice runway just 500 nautical miles from the South Pole. The purpose of this scouting trip was in preparation for the Emperor Penguin expedition next year. This was a truly remarkable experience and I will have a lot more to say about this experience in future posts.I then lead one final expedition to the Antarctic peninsula to finish up the 2015 year before arriving home two days before Christmas. All up I led a total of ten separate international workshops and expeditions in 2015 spread across the globe (not including some local private workshops to the Great Ocean Road as well as one-on-one Print workshops). A brief count tallies up more than thirty five international plane rides and well over thirty thousand exposures (wish they were all keepers!) and a lot more than thirty hours of lost sleep. It was a fantastic year and I just want to thank all of you who I was fortunate to meet, travel and photograph with throughout the year. It was real privilege to share in such remarkable destinations with so many fantastic photographers – thank you.
2016 is shaping up to be an even bigger year than 2015 in terms of both miles and locations and I am really excited about whats in store. In February I will lead a sold out expedition to the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. The Weddell Sea is a very different experience to the more often visited eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula and is home to some really huge Adelie Penguin colonies as well as giant tabular icebergs. There has been a huge amount of ice this year coming out of the Weddell Sea (more than I have ever seen before) and I expect we will encounter some truly gigantic icebergs during this expedition. After the Weddell Sea I will travel directly to Iceland where I will spend ten days in the remote north working on my project on the Arctic Fox. This will be my third year working on this project and I hope to gather the final images from this trip and complete the project in 2016. A portfolio of prints celebrating this remarkable animal will be available early in the new year, followed up by a book in the later part of 2016.After I finish in the north of Iceland I will lead my annual Winter Aurora workshop to Iceland (Sold Out) with my good friend Daniel Bergmann. We have a slightly different itinerary in store to last year and will spend the majority of our time this year in the frozen north. We are looking forward to frozen waterfalls, ice caves and with a little luck some spectacular northern lights. After Iceland I will travel to Lofoten in Norway where I will lead a brand new workshop for winter landscapes in this spectacular part of Norway. The Lofoten Islands have long been on my wish list to visit and photograph and I am very excited to be travelling to these spectacular islands in winter with a small group of photographers.After Lofoten I am heading straight to Namibia in Africa for a private small group overland safari. We are planning to visit a number of different areas for landscape photography including the ghost town of Kolmonskop as well as the incredible sand dunes of Sossusvlei and the salt pan of Dead Vlei. This safari has long been sold out, but due to a recent cancellation there is now one single place available. Please drop me an email if you would like further details.In May I am going to make the short hop across to the South Island of New Zealand to co-lead a Masterclass workshop with friend Phillip Bartlett (Sold Out). We have some really exciting locations lined up for this trip that include helicopter access into the remote back country and an extension to the coastal town of Kaikoura. I always look forward to any chance to photograph in this spectacular country.
In July I will head back to Svalbard to lead my Wild Polar Bears expedition. We will depart from the small town of Longyearbyen and sail up to the edge of the permanent pack ice where we will spend out time searching for and photographing the king of the Arctic.
At the conclusion of this trip I am flying to Iceland where Daniel and I will lead our Iceland Highland Expeditions (still a few places available). Please drop me an email if you would like further details. In November 2016 I will travel deep into the interior of Antarctica where I will lead a small group on a dedicated expedition for photography of Emperor Penguins (Sold Out). This expedition has been several years in the planning and I am extremely excited to be taking a small group of passionate and dedicated photographers on this trip. The opportunities for photography in this incredibly remote part of Antarctica are nothing short of breath taking. In late November I will travel to the Falkland Islands (our departure point) for a photographic expedition to South Georgia Island and Antarctica. Unlike the expedition I led in 2015; which visited only South Georgia, this expedition will also take us down to Antarctica. Its going to be a very busy and hectic year and I am keen to make a start in Antarctica in the Weddell Sea in just a few weeks time.
In other projects, I had planned to finalise and publish my book ‘Extreme Latitude’ in 2015 (this long overdue project has been sitting ‘mostly’ finished on my hard drive for the last couple of years) but travel commitments got in the way and the project has languished unfinished. I now plan to split this project into several books – the first of which I hope will be available by the end of 2016.
A final sneak peak into 2017 for those of you who have managed to read this far: I will be announcing at some stage next year another winter Yellowstone workshop for a small group of photographers. This workshop will be via private snow coach and will include an extension to the spectacular Grand Tetons. I will also be announcing a completely new trip to Svalbard in winter and I will have more to say about this opportunity next year.
Lastly, I want to wish all of you a very safe and happy New Year and may 2016 be one of amazing light and experiences for all of you.