Lofoten Winter February 2018 Workshop Announcement

In February next year I will lead a winter landscape workshop to the spectacular Lofoten Islands in Norway with long time good friend and fellow landscape photographer Martyn Lucas. If you are unfamiliar with Lofoten let me assure you that the landscape of these islands is really quite something to behold. Precipitous and ominous peaks that rise straight out of the ocean loom over small fishing villages that comprise of bright red houses lining the shorelines. With a dusting of fresh snow and arctic winter light the entire scene is akin to a fairy tail location and subsequently the photographic opportunities can be truly superb.The Lofoten Islands are approximately 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, west of Norway. Lofoten’s natural beauty, with incredible mountains and magnificent fjords offers our small, and intimate group (maximum six participants plus leaders – only 3 places remaining before it will be sold out) a chance to explore these remarkable and unique landscapes and seascapes. The breathtaking village of Reine on the island of Moskenesoya will be our base for six nights situated in some of the most picturesque mountain scenery rising precipitously out of the fjords. Reine has often been described as one of the most beautiful places on earth. If we are lucky and blessed with clear skies, we will be able to witness the Aurora Borealis and the magic of the Northern Lights as they flicker across the night skies. Besides the incredible wealth of photographic locations in the vicinity of Reine, we will use the local Fjordskyss ferry service to Vinstad and to the tiny hamlet of Kjerkfjorden, both of which are surrounded by towering granite mountains. Our private transportation will allow to access some of the iconic beaches near Leknes which might be covered in snow.Our home away from home while on Lofoten and in Reine, will be a quaint and venerable traditional house (built in 1906) which makes it a very cosy, but basic place that we will have all to ourselves. All guests of the house share one bathroom. Additionally, we will also have the use of a Rorbu, a style of housing historically associated with seamen now converted into homely accommodations complete with private bathroom and small kitchen. Our second base for two nights is Leknes where we will stay at a comfortable hotel. From here we can easily access the beautiful coastal beaches of Utaklieve, Haukland and Skagsanden.

During February, the days are short with sunrise at approximately 8:25am and sunset around 4:15pm. Given our northern location, the sun will be low in the sky providing soft, magnificent light conditions, for all day photography.

During our workshop we are also very likely to experience and photograph the Aurora Borealis (northern lights). Lofoten is blessed with fantastic mountains that rise almost vertically straight out of the ocean and that make for a superb back drop for the Aurora. As is always the case with Aurora photography the real key to getting interesting photographs is to try and include some sort of foreground and background elements. There is a temptation to focus entirely on the Aurora itself when photographing the northern lights and it is easy to be seduced by the colour and activity alone. The solution is to try and photograph the lights in the context of the environment around you. Much like wildlife, where the key is to place the animal in context; you need to put the Aurora into context with its surroundings. During this workshop we will be visiting very specific locations where we know from experience it is possible to get fabulous foreground. We will be providing hands on instruction on how to set up your camera for Aurora photography as well as how to compose and post process Aurora photographs.

Lofoten-0431-EditBeing surrounded by water Lofoten offers  great opportunities for seascape photography at just about every turn and we plan to take advantage of this by visiting and photographing many different beaches and areas of coastline. Much of the coastline is rocky or dotted with large boulders (JCB’s – Otherwise known as Joe Cornish Boulders) which provides limitless opportunities for foreground interest. Many of the beaches are also very accessible and only a short walk from car parks or pull off areas. We plan to spend quite a lot time exploring and photographing various areas of coastline.  In the right conditions, Lofoten in winter also has the added benefit of snow down to sea level for even more interest.Lofoten-4973-EditIt is worth noting that Lofoten isn’t just about landscape photography. During this workshop we will also take a private charter boat out to photograph White-Tailed Sea Eagles fishing off the coastline. The opportunity to photograph these remarkable raptors up close is not something to be missed.Lofoten-1554-EditFrom the moment the workshop begins in Leknes, Lofoten until it ends 9 days later, all costs are included – transportation, food, drinks (excluding alcoholic beverages), and accommodation based on a single room per person. If you have special dietary requirements you will be accommodated – please be sure to advise when booking. Packed lunches will be taken in the eld and we suggest you bring a thermos ask for soup, coffee or tea.

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.


Dates: 10-02-2018 until the 18-02-2018
Duration: 8 Nights / 9 Days
Participants: Maximum 6 Photographers plus leaders Investment: $7,450 USD (only three places remaining)

Start: Town of Leknes in the Lofoten Islands Norway Finish: Leknes Airport Lofoten Islands Norway
Trip Leader: Joshua Holko
Trip Guide: Martyn Lucas

Trip Highlights: Stunning Mountains, Incredible Vistas and Landscape scenery, Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), White-tailed Sea Eagles and small group size

If you are interested in joining this workshop or if you would like additional information please do not hesitate to drop me an email. Places are filled strictly on a first come first served basis.

Iceland Winter Arctic Fox Expedition 2017 Expedition Report

In early March 2017 I lead a new expedition to the extreme north west of Iceland for a small group of five photographers to photograph what is perhaps Nature’s greatest survivor: Vulpes lagopus – The Arctic Fox.

I have been travelling to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve (Hornstrandir is Iceland’s northernmost peninsula, covering 580 km² at the northern end of the Westfjords, to the north of the Jökulfirðir and to the northwest of Drangajökull) in Iceland during the winter months for four years now specifically to photograph Arctic Fox in winter. Late last year I released a new limited edition book on the Arctic Fox (Melrakki) which was the culmination of three years of winter photography.For the uninitiated, Arctic Foxes are unfortunately hunted and shot across most of Iceland making them extremely shy and difficult to find (and even more difficult to photograph). In the remote north-west however the Arctic Foxes are protected inside the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve and can be more easily approached and photographed. What is especially compelling for wildlife photographers is that Iceland is one of the very few places in the world where it is possible to reliably photograph the Blue Morph Arctic Fox (the rarer of the two colour morphs across most of the Arctic). White morphs are also found in Iceland, but in smaller numbers.We began our expedition in the small town of Isafjord in the north-west of Iceland on the morning of the 8th of March with a visit to the Arctic Fox centre in the nearby town of Sudavik. Here we all had an opportunity to learn a little bit more about the biology and history of the Arctic Fox in Iceland before we departed on our expedition in the early afternoon.

From the small town of Isafjord, we travelled by private charter boat to the remote north-western Hornstrandir Nature Reserve (approximately one and a half hours by boat) where we  stayed for the next six nights in a small remote private cabin. The Hornstrandir Nature reserve can only be accessed by private charter boat (there are no roads or other services into this part of Iceland – and hence no tourists). Once we arrived in the reserve we had no contact with the outside world except via satellite phone for emergencies. The cabin we stayed in for the duration of the expedition is privately owned and facilities include shared bathroom, toilet and shower as well as a kitchen with hot and cold water, a communal eating area and lounge. There is even an outdoor sauna available for use. Bedrooms are a shared bunk bed arrangement. The cabin is heated with both a hydronic heating system and a log fire. During our stay in the cabin we had a dedicated person to clean and prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for us each day; which enabled us to focus solely on our photography. The house was originally built in 1921. In 1948 (just 27 years later), the last inhabitants left this isolated arctic peninsula in search of a better life. The cabin was abandoned for many years and has only recently been restored. Although no one lives there permanently, the cabin was a great getaway and the perfect place to accommodate us whilst we searched for and photographed Arctic Foxes. Curious Arctic Foxes frequently stopped past the cabin to investigate during our stay and it was even possible to photograph them from right outside the cabin on several occasions.Arctic Foxes are predominantly territorial animals that roam and patrol vast areas of the Arctic. The Arctic Foxes of Iceland are particularly tough and hardy. They have to deal with constant freezing and thawing conditions throughout the winter months in areas where this is little or no food available. During our winter expedition we experienced temperatures a few degrees either side of freezing (0º Celsius) plus wind chill. Although this was a low snow year we were fortunate to still have sufficient covering during most of the expedition.  We also had a real mix of weather and light which provided us with a lot of different opportunities during our time in the reserve.During our expedition we saw and photographed four individual blue morph foxes. As the foxes are territorial they visited us repeatedly on a daily basis (often several times per day) which provided us with multiple opportunities to photograph them. Arctic Foxes are by their nature inherently very curious animals and on many occasions approached within just a few feet of our cameras. Best of all the foxes are most active in the morning and evening – when the light is usually at its best for photography.

In addition to the Arctic Foxes there was also bird life along the coastline including Iceland Gulls, Eider Ducks, Ravens and Ptarmigan in winter plumage. I have in the past also seen and photographed Gyr Falcon in this area of Iceland and Eagles are also seen on occasion.The winter landscape in this part of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is simply stunning in its wild beauty. As a  result, there were also many opportunities to make landscape photographs during this expedition. Several participants also took advantage of clear skies and solar activity to make some wonderful Aurora Borealis images.We were met by the boat again on the morning of the 15th of March for our return trip back to Isafjord and were transferred to the airport in time for our return flights to Reykjavik. We concluded our expedition in the evening of the 15th of March in Reykjavik.

During the expedition the participants made between ten and twenty five thousand plus photographs per person which gives you a really good idea of just how many incredible opportunities and encounters with Arctic Foxes we experienced during our time in the Nature reserve. Many of our encounters lasted several hours and on multiple occasions we had the luxury of choosing our backgrounds and angle of view for our photographs. If you are interested in photographing wild Arctic Fox I will be repeating this expedition early next year (2018) for a small group of just five photographers (only two places remaining before the expedition will be sold out). Full details are on my website at www.jholko.com or you can register your interest in one of the two remaining places by dropping me an email.

Guest Photographer: Dallas Thomas Svalbard Winter Expedition 2017

A few years ago I started a new segment on my blog for photographers with whom I have travelled before in order to provide an outlet for them to share some of their own writing and photography amongst a wider audience. It has been a while since the last post (read Here) but I wanted to share some thoughts and photographs from Dallas Thomas who recently accompanied me on my Winter Svalbard Expedition. It was a pleasure travelling and photographing with Dallas and all aboard this expedition and I just wanted to pass on my thanks to him for both his participation and for sharing some of his thoughts and photographs from this expedition here on my blog. All text and photographs by Dallas Thomas .

Svalbard Winter 2017 – My High Arctic Adventure Dallas Thomas

I had the privilege of spending 10 nights in the arctic in Svalbard in late March, it’s located 2,000km north of Oslo, Norway. A geographically remote place it’s the most northern permanent settlement in the world The North Pole is about 1,300km north.Eight of these nights were on the MS Origo exploring the fjords of Svalbard looking for polar bears and other wildlife to photograph. I have included a short film “Kingdom of the Ice Bear” made 2 years by our expedition leader Joshua Holko, the film was shot later in the season than we experienced. Unfortunately we only saw three polar bears, but seeing these magnificent animals in their natural environment was something I will never forget.

What did surprise and sadden me was the naturist onboard told us 90% of fish caught in the area that were tested had some form of plasticised evident. This was so surprising given the pristine environment we were in. Yes Dallas is starting to turn green!!

You may ask was it cold, the answer is hell yes, the 2nd day out it was – 29 and when the chill was factored in call it -50. The Captain later told us he has never experienced colder weather!

We went as far north as the conditions would allow, the sea ice stopped our voyage at 79’43’38’ for the technical minded, this well inside the arctic circle which starts at 66’.
The landscape is brutal, harsh yet very beautiful.
My advise is if you are thinking of visiting a wilderness like this do it now while you still can.
More photographs can be found on my website www.atstudioeleven.com.au under travel Norway. I have many more images yet to process so feel free to check frequently.
If you are interested in travelling and photographing in Svalbard in Winter I will be running another expedition in March next year. Please contact me for further details (limited places already remaining).

The Making of a WPPI Award Winning Film – Kingdom of the Ice Bear

Rangefinder magazine has just published a short article on the judges thoughts and notes on the short film Kingdom of the Ice Bear (watch the video) that took out First Place at this years WPPI awards in the Commercial / Illustrative category.If you are interested in travelling to the high Arctic and photographing Polar Bears, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Reindeer and the incredible landscapes found in the Arctic then there is one place remaining on my expedition to Svalbard this July before it will be sold out. You can register your interest by dropping me an email at info@jholko.com

Photo of the Month April 2017 – Polar Bear Play

A few days ago I returned back to Australia after more than two months of back-to-back expeditions to Finland, Iceland and Svalbard in winter (I will have trip reports over the coming weeks). During the course of these travels I shot over thirty thousand images and now have many weeks of editing ahead of me. One of my initial selects is of a mother Polar Bear and her cub playing on the sea ice at twilight. This photograph was made on a private snow mobile expedition on the East coast of Svalbard during which we were filming for a new short film on polar photography to be released later this year. The cub was rolling around on the ice playfully as the mother watched on. We were extremely fortunate to have some absolutely superb winter light on the distant mountains.