New Zealand South Island Masterclass 2017 Sold Out

I had been planning for some time to formally announce my New Zealand South Island Masterclass workshop for next year (2017) here on my blog; but realised yesterday the trip is actually already sold out. _MG_5661If you are interested in travelling to New Zealand and photographing in the spectacular South Island you can still register your interest to be put onto the wait list. Like the 2015, and 2016 workshops, the 2017 Masterclass workshop also includes extensive use of helicopters for accessing some of the most remote and spectacular country as well as aerial photography of the spectacular Southern Alps and glaciers. Full details of the workshop are available on my website as a PDF HERE.

NewZealand-1988I will be announcing dates soon for the 2018 New Zealand South Island Masterclass. If you would like to get the jump and be one of the first to be notified when dates are confirmed you can register your interest now by dropping me an email. No obligation at this point. You can read a trip report from the 2016 Masterclass HERE.

CamFi Remote Camera Controller Product Review

Over the last couple of years I have been investigating different options for remotely triggering cameras for wildlife photography (mostly for my project with the Arctic Fox). One of the solutions I settled on after much research was the Camptraptions camera trap system which I reviewed here (Read the REVIEW) some months ago now (and have subsequently used to photograph Arctic Fox). More recently I came across an alternate (but different) solution from a company called CamFi that utilises a smart phone for remote camera control. Now, I know that smart phone control of a DSLR is nothing new. There are a number of different products on the market that offer varying levels of camera control from smart devices. Just being totally upfront, I have historically not really been a fan of camera control from smart phones. Mostly because I find it cumbersome to use a smart phone in the sort of cold weather environments I am often shooting (plus iPhone battery life in the cold is really appalling). However, the CamFi system is so feature rich and the control is so slick that I believe the system could work reasonably well even in quite hostile conditions.  Of course, much depends on your smart phone device in these sort of environments. So with the Caveat that I have not as yet had a chance to test this in either the Arctic or Antarctica you can read on…camfiCamFi is at its most basic, a way for photographers to control their Nikon or Canon DSLR wirelessly. The list of cameras supported by CamFi is steadily growing and a complete list of currently supported cameras can be found on CamFi’s website HERE). The device mounts on the hot shoe of compatible DSLRs and creates a Wi-Fi network that you can connect to using a PC or Mac as well as Android and iOS mobile devices. The wifi network created by the CamFi trigger is by default unsecured and open (it needs to be so you can connect to it). Once you have connected to the device from your phone you can access the settings in the application and quickly and easily secure the network. Anyone using the device in dense urban areas should probably keep this in mind and secure the network as a first order of business. Wireless range is more than reasonable and will I imagine be more than sufficient for the majority of applications.CamFi_sliderWith dedicated apps CamFi will allow for Live View on a mobile device, as well as capturing images and controlling camera settings such as AF points, metering mode, exposure compensation, aperture, shutter speed and ISO (so it can do a lot more than a pair of pocket wizards for example). You can also configure CamFi to automatically display images as they are taken and connect to an Amazon Fire Stick for viewing on TV sets (a bit gimmicky, but might be of use in a studio environment). Additionally you can browse, delete and view images, including EXIF data on your camera from your mobile device or computer, and a robust built-in time-lapse feature is included. I wont go into detail on every feature of the CamFi as that would require a lot of explanation. Suffice to say, there are some explanatory videos on the CamFi website that outline the many features of the product and these are worth investing some time in if you have an interest in remote control of your DSLR Camera.1-bigscreenAccording to the manufacturer, CamFi has a six hour battery life. In my own initial testing I found battery life to be +/- an hour or so from manufactures specified time. I suspect battery life in cold environments to be radically reduced (although I have not as yet had time or the opportunity to test this). I suspect battery life is also going to be heavily dependant on how much you are using the device; but I have not really had time to do extensive testing to date. Given the size of the device and the requirement for it to create and communicate via a wireless network I find the battery life to be more than acceptable.

In my testing with the Canon EOS 1DX MKII and EOS 5DSR to date I have found the CamFi to be simple, responsive and intuitive to use. One might gripe that the unit that mounts on the hot shoe is bigger than it needs to be; but it would be a quibble and given the unit weighs almost nothing I don’t find the size objectionable (its not much larger than a Pocket Wizard). The unit is charged via a micro usb port and so can be plugged into any computer to charge. The CamFi is supplied with a cable appropriate to your camera at time of order and the unit itself also includes a LAN Port (LAN cable not included).

The application to control CamFi  is also available for the Mac / PC. So you can control the camera from a computer as well as from a smart phone. The Camfi software is compatible with devices and computers running at least iOS 7.0, Android 4.0, Windows XP or Mac OS X 10.10.  CamFi is currently listed at $130 USD on Amazon and at this price is well below manufacturer-provided options for high-end DSLRs. I find it cheap for the features and functionality it offers.

Conclusion: I have to admit that when I first received the CamFi I thought it was a bit of a gimmick and not really a serious tool for photography. However, the application offers just about every level of control you could possibly want from your camera (even live view!) and is simple and easy to operate. In real world use the software is slick, robust and quick to use. There really isn’t much to dislike about the product and I expect it will prove useful in a number of different circumstances. I can envisage a situation where I might use it to photograph Aurora Borealis at night from the comfort and warmth of my vehicle. Simply set up the camera, retreat to the warmth of the vehicle and do the rest from inside the truck!

There are a few things I would like to see in a future generation of the product. First and foremost it would be beneficial to have a battery indicator to show how much charge is remaining in the CamFi.  I would also like to see the product incorporate some robust weather sealing for use in hostile environments and inclement weather. As it currently stands, the LAN port and USB ports are fully exposed, so I am not sure I would be comfortable using this device in pouring rain.

I would also very much like the ability to see a live histogram on the controlling device before I take a photograph (this feature is currently missing). You can see a full RGB histogram after you take a photograph (along with all other relevant metadata) so the lack of live histogram isn’t exactly a deal breaker; it would just be nice to have.

Summing up, CamFi is a pretty cool hardware and software system that enables remote WiFi control of many Canon and Nikon DSLR models. The CamFi iPhone App has a better interface and is more feature rich than the Canon and Nikon equivalent software. Critically, it allows you to change exposure settings as well as other key camera settings like ISO and metering. For the many DSLRs that do not have WiFi capability, it could be an important tool for remote shooting and quickly sharing photos to social media. In my own photography it will no doubt find various uses as I continue to experiment with the device.

Polar Bears of Svalbard 2016 Expedition Report

In late July 2016 I lead my annual Polar Bears of Svalbard photographic expedition to the edge of the permanent pack ice north of Svalbard to photograph Polar Bears living and hunting in their natural environment. During the expedition we also photographed incredible arctic landscapes as well as other wildlife of the Arctic region including Walrus, Arctic Fox, Whales, Seals and a plethora of sea birds including the rare Ivory Gull (the rare Ross’s Gull remains an elusive species for me in Svalbard). This expedition was for a small group of just twelve passionate photographers and utilised a small ice hardened ship that enabled us to sail north directly into the pack ice in search of the king of the Arctic.Svalbard2016-5959-EditImportantly, our ship had very low decks that were very close the waterline which enabled us to make photographs at eye level for more intimate images. The choice of ship for expeditions such as these is critical to the ability to put yourself in the best possible place to make powerful and emotive photographs. Large ships that are unable to penetrate the ice and with high decks  where you have to compete for space with other passengers are far from ideal and unsuited to photography expeditions. During the expedition we were fortunate to see and photograph an incredible twenty Polar Bears in the just the first three days! Two of these bears were also on recent seal kills. Seeing a Polar Bear on a seal kill is a very rare event and as luck would have it were able to photograph the kills and all aboard were able to capture some really fantastic photographs. What was even more special was the even rarer encounter we had with a mother and her 6 month old cub on the sea ice. This was truly a special moment with a very curious cub and a very calm mother we were able to approach very close in our zodiacs for some really superb photography. As one participant put it “It was two hours photography that was better than his previous six visits to Churchill National ParkSvalbard2016-24158This year we undertook a different route to my 2015 expedition and instead of heading south and circumnavigating Spitzbergen we headed directly north for the pack ice. This turned out to be the perfect decision with twenty polar bear encounters in the first three days in the ice. The Arctic pack ice is a vast area and just finding Polar Bears in this maze of ice can be quite the challenge. Encountering so many bears in such a short space of time was truly miraculous.Svalbard2016-5843-EditAfter three days in the ice we continued our northerly travels encountering light to moderate winds in the Hinlopen strait. In this area we explored and photographed the spectacular 200 mile+ long glacier face Bråsvellbreen and the plunging bird cliffs at Kapp Fanshawe. The sights and sounds of thousands of nesting birds against such a precipitous cliff is an awe inspiring sight. I have been fortunate to visit this area a number of times now and it never ceases to impress. Being surrounded by thousands of Arctic birds is a very special experience.  Svalbard2016-12283-EditWhen it was time to head south again we made several stops in the spectacular Kongsfjorden; where we photographed Arctic Fox and spectacular glacial fronts. We rose very early one morning for a wonderful session photographing Walrus in fantastic light. During the expedition we were also fortunate to see and photograph several rare Blue whales (unfortunately I did not get a good photograph). Blue whales are quite tricky to photograph as they rarely reveal to much of their body above the waterline. Nevertheless the experience of seeing this massive mammal is an experience that stays with you forever.Svalbard-0404At our furthest northerly most position we were just shy of 82º North – less than 500 Nautical Miles from the North Pole. In total we travelled a total distance of 1148 nautical miles (2126 kilometres). Our total wildlife count for the expedition was twenty Polar Bears, two Arctic Fox, four Humpback Whales, three Blue Whales, two Beluga Whales, one Minke Whale, More than twenty Walrus and eight Reindeer. On top of this we had many different species of Arctic Birds. This was a fabulous result that netted some amazing photographs from all aboard.

During the expedition we took advantage of great light at every opportunity and often worked at night when the light was soft and ethereal. One of the most fantastic things about photography in the Arctic is the 24 hours of daylight and the extensive opportunities this provides for image making at any time of the day or night. One of the best moments for me personally was capturing a fog as it burnt off across the top of one of the glacial fronts.Svalbard2016-28772-EditThe high Arctic remains one of the most spectacular locations I have ever visited and I look forward to returning again next year when I will lead another two expeditions to the pack ice north of Svalbard – Polar Bears of Svalbard and Winter in Svalbard (Winter is already Sold out). The summer expedition will depart on the 25th of July from Longyearbyen and is dedicated to the photography of Polar Bears living and hunting on the sea ice. If you would like more information about this expedition please drop me an email at Be sure to check out the video below to experience just what this expedition is really like. There are now only a few places remaining before the expedition will be sold out.KingdomoftheiceBear

Moab by Legion Paper – Featured Photographer at Photo Plus New York

If you are headed to Photo Plus in New York in October this year be sure to stop past the Moab and Legion paper stand where several of my photographs from Antarctica will be on display as large prints on the new Moab Juniper Baryta paper. Just a reminder as well, the good folks over at the BenQ stand will be giving away limited edition postcards of several of my images from Antarctica and Svalbard. One of the photographs was a finalist and was subsequently highly honoured in the recent Nature’s Best Photography awards and two others were finalists in the 2016 Australian Antarctica Photographer of the Year competition. Photo Plus is the biggest Photo Event in the USA and runs from October 20th to October 22nd. I will be attending Photo Plus for the first time this year (on the 21st and 22nd) and will be floating between the BenQ and Moab and Legion Paper stands. I will be giving a presentation at the BenQ stand on Polar Photography on the 21st and 22nd at 2pm. If you are around be sure to stop past and say hello!An Epic Sense of Scale

Travel Photographer of the Year International Touring Exhibition

The Travel Photographer of the Year touring exhibitions are now underway and the first is now happening in Malta (running until October 8th). This is the first international exhibition for Travel Photographer of the Year and the first retrospective.  The second retrospective opens in Beijing from October 15th and will run until October 23rd this year. The Malta exhibition is being held at  Spazju Kreattiv, St James Cavalier, Valletta, Malta (they are on Twitter etc.) and the Beijing exhibition is part of Photo Beijing.

Several of my photographs will be on display as part of these exhibitions. The polar bear and seal kill is on display in both the Malta and Beijing exhibitions, whilst the image of the blue iceberg on the beach in Iceland is on show in Malta. If you happen to have a chance to visit any of the exhibitions please be sure to drop me an email and let me know what you thought.VPPY - Gold Award