Departing for New Zealand South Island Masterclass 2018

Tomorrow evening I am making the short hop across the pond to New Zealand where I will guide my 2018 Masterclass workshop in the South Island with friend Phillip Bartlett. This is the last year I am offering and guiding this masterclass in New Zealand for the foreseeable future. Next year I will have a brand new offering to the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania for a small group of just six photographers (more details on that later).As a few of you are aware I am currently nursing a torn lateral tendon in my right elbow which precludes me from lifting or carrying anything heavy (including cameras). As such, I am sort of restricted to shooting on a tripod at the moment and will be travelling quite light (by my standards anyway). Since this workshop is predominantly all about landscape there is no need for big fast (and heavy) telephoto lenses so I can cut down my luggage quite considerably. I am going to take my two tilt and shift lenses as I find I really love these for landscape work on the tripod, as well as my 100-400mm lens for any long lens requirements. I am sure it is going to be quite liberating to travel this light.

F-Stop Red Bull Anja (Carry on Luggage)

– 1 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII body (with spare battery)
– 1 x Canon 17mm TSE F4L Lens
– 1 x Canon 24mm TSE F3.5L Lens
– 1 x Canon 24-70mm F4L IS Lens
– 1 x Canon 100-400mm F4.5 – F5.6L MKII IS Lens
– 1 x Canon 1.4 TC MKIII
– 1 x LEE Filter Kit with Assorted Filters
The South Island of New Zealand is always a spectacular place to visit and photograph and my hope is that this year we have timed our trip perfectly with the peak of Autumn colour. There was a large dump of snow over the last few days so it should be at its most picturesque! See you in New Zealand…

Ghosts of the Arctic Wins 2018 Webby Award

Late yesterday evening I received the exciting news that Ghosts of the Arctic has won a 2018 Webby Award in the film and video travel and adventure category. With over 13,000 entries from all 50 U.S. states and 70+ countries—and 3 million votes cast by 700,000 people in the Webby People’s Voice Awards—the 22nd Annual Webby Awards was the biggest in its history. 

Svalbard in Winter 2018 Expedition Report

In late March this year (2018) I lead my second ship based expedition to Svalbard in Winter to photograph the wildlife and arctic landscapes of this remote archipelago in a winter setting. The primary reason for choosing late March was at this time of the year (and at this latitude of nearly 80º North) the sun is very low in the sky all day and thus there is hours of golden light available for photography. Dawn and twilight light at this time of year typically last three or more hours and even at midday the sun is still very low in the sky. This situation provides hours and hours of superb light for photography. There is also something about the quality of light in winter at this latitude that translates very well into photographs. The light is soft and ethereal and often has wonderful pink and blue pastel shades not found at other times of the year. For the landscape photographer this combination of light, snow and ice is simply unmatched in my experience.This expedition was for just twelve photographers and utilised the same ice-hardened expedition class ship I have been using for Polar Bear photography over recent years. Amongst the twelve photographers was my surprise special guest for the expedition – French wildlife photographer Vincent Munier. It was an absolute pleasure to host Vincent for this expedition and on a personal note, it was a thrill for me to photograph the wildlife and landscape of Svalbard together (in particular the evening we spent photographing the full moon rising over the snow caped mountains). Our wildlife count for the trip included five Polar Bears, three Arctic fox, seven Walrus, seven Ivory Gulls plus a plethora of Reindeer and other sea birds.Temperatures during our expedition ranged between -0º celsius and -28º Celsius plus wind chill factor. Our coldest day was around -35º Celsius with wind of around 7 metres a second and air temperature of -28º celsius. These sort of temperatures can be quite demanding on body and camera. However, the wonderful thing about ship based expeditions such as this is its easy to walk back inside the ship (where its around plus 20º degrees celsius) and warm up with a hot drink. Being outside and making photographs in these sort of temperatures does require some thought and planning in terms of both equipment and clothing but if you are properly prepared its quite possible to spend very long periods of time out on deck making photographs.The landscape opportunities in Svalbard in winter rate as the very best I have ever experienced (even better than Antarctica). The formation of new sea ice is nothing short of spectacular and set against a back drop of snow covered peaks and glaciers with sea smoke billowing off the open areas of ocean and you quite literally have one of Natures most dramatic and breathtaking scenes.One of the great pleasures of ship based photography is that the scene is constantly changing as the boat moves slowly through the ice filled fjords. Opportunities for photographs are everywhere and part of the experience is watching the incredible landscape roll past. I particularly enjoy this sort of landscape photography as no two images are ever the same.Svalbard (and the Arctic in general) in winter is not for the faint of heart. With temperatures well below freezing it can be challenging to both person and equipment. However, the rewards for those brave enough to take on the challenge are absolutely extraordinary and not to be missed. In my own personal opinion Svalbard in Winter offers the most extraordinary opportunities for dramatic landscape imagery I have had the good fortune to experience. It is quite literally breathtaking.If you are interested in travelling to the Arctic and photographing the incredible landscapes and wildlife of the Svalbard archipelago in a winter setting I am repeating this expedition in late March next year (March 26th – April 3rd 2019). Late March offers us the best opportunity for wonderful light over the dramatic winter landscape. Due to initial registrations and bookings places are already extremely limited – In fact there is only one place remaining before the expedition will be sold out! If you would like more information or a detailed itinerary please just drop me an email.

Lofoten Island Winter Workshop Report 2018

In March 2018 I led my second winter landscape workshop to the Lofoten Islands in Norway with long time good friend and fellow landscape photographer Martyn Lucas (I was last in Lofoten back in Winter 2016). As I have written previously,  the landscape of these islands are 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. It is just this magical landscape that attracts so many photographers to this spectacular part of Norway. This workshop was a for a small group of just six experienced landscape and nature photographers. We based ourselves primarily in the small town of Reine and made daily excursions to various locations around the Island for photography.Lofoten-4779-EditLofoten has been discovered on mass by photographers in recent times and many of the iconic locations are now close to saturated with photographers. I will have more to say on this later, but I personally find it quite uninspiring to watch large groups of photographers all lined up waiting their turn to make the same photograph. I am not sure what it is about the human psyche (and it may be particular to photographers) that compels people to want to take exactly the same photograph as thousands before them. Be that as it may, there are some photographs that can be considered ‘money-shots’ in Lofoten and no trip to these islands would be complete without at least one visit to these locations.  Generally though we made an effort to get off the beaten track and visit some of the more hidden gems.Like much of the Arctic, photography in Lofoten in winter is heavily weather dependant. It is entirely possible to be socked in for days with heavy cloud and bad weather in this part of the world (a risk you have to be prepared to accept when you venture so far north in winter). Its common on this sort of trip to loose at least one or two days to bad weather – its par for the course. Fortunately, we had very good weather and light for most of our trip with perhaps a few more blue sky days than I would have preferred. Lofoten-4536-EditBeing surrounded by water Lofoten offers  great opportunities for seascape photography at just about every turn and we took 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 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 spent quite a lot time exploring and photographing various areas of coastline and some really interesting photographs resulted. In the right conditions, Lofoten in winter also has the added benefit of snow down to sea level for even more interest.On our last day we mixed things up and took a private charter boat out to photograph White-Tailed Sea Eagles fishing off the coastline. As we discovered in 2016, this proved a worthwhile exercise with a couple of hours of really wonderful eagle photography in mostly soft overcast light. Photographing fishing sea eagles from boat in winter in the Arctic is a lot of fun. We were able to get quite close to some of the eagles (so close my 400mm F2.8L IS MKII was occasionally too much lens and I had to switch out to the 70-200mm F2.8L IS MKII).Visiting Lofoten in Winter also provides an opportunity for cultural photography. At this time of year the cod are being fished around the Islands; they are then processed and hung to dry on the many cod racks dotted around the Islands (yes, you can smell them long before you see them). Every part of the cod is used and even the heads are hung to dry. I am personally not a street or cultural photographer but the process is nevertheless interesting to watch and photograph.

To those of you who have already expressed interest in a future workshop to Lofoten in 2019 or 2020:  At this stage I will not be running a future trip to Lofoten (due mostly in part to it being overly saturated with photographers). I would however, like to thank Martyn for his assistance in guiding the group to some fantastic locations and to all who participated and contributed to this workshop. We were blessed with some great conditions for photography and some really strong images resulted from our experience and time in Lofoten. Small, intimate groups for this sort of landscape photography workshop are the ideal way to ensure you capture the best possible photographs.

Polar Bears of Svalbard Expedition 2018 – Two Places Remaining

This July (July 25th – August 4th) I am leading my annual expedition to Svalbard in search of Polar Bears, Walrus, Arctic Fox and spectacular Arctic landscapes. Whilst Polar Bears and other wildlife are the main attraction on an expedition such as this it needs to be said that the landscape opportunities in Svalbard are nothing short of breathtaking. Soaring bird cliffs, plunging glaciers and dramatic mountainous scenery means there is quite literally something for every photographer. You can read the expedition report from last year on my blog HERESummer in the high arctic is a very special time for photographers. With twenty-four hours of daylight the photographic possibilities are quite literally as abundant as the day is long. In fact, what would normally pass for night time is actually one of the best times for photography in the Arctic summer as the light is often soft and ethereal with subtle golden overtones.

If you are interested in travelling to the high Arctic to encounter and photograph polar bears and incredible arctic landscapes then now is the time to act. Places are strictly limited to twelve participants (only two places remaining before it will be sold out). To get an idea of what it is like to participate in an expedition such as this be sure to check out the short film Kingdom of the Ice Bear below. You can download a complete PDF itinerary of the expedition HERE or drop me an email to register your interest.