Upcoming and Future Workshops and Expeditions Update 2018

It has been a long time between drinks for a major update on upcoming workshops and expeditions – things have just been very busy! Now that I have wrapped up the big VAPS convention in Warrnambool in Victoria though I have a bit more time and wanted to bring everyone up to date with what is coming up soon, in the future and what is in the early planning stages. Some of the workshops and expeditions I have not as yet formally announced, but all are included below for the coming 2018 / 2019 year:

Polar Bears of Svalbard – July 25th to August 4th 2018 – SOLD OUT

In July this year I am leading my annual expedition to Svalbard to photograph Polar Bears living and hunting on the pack ice. This expedition is sold out, but I will be running this trip again in 2019 – Please see below for further details.

Namibia – Desert Fire Safari – October 6th – October 18th –  3 Places

In October I am leading my semi-annual safari to the desert landscape of Namibia. Namibia is an extraordinary country with some of the best landscape and wildlife to be found anywhere in Africa and the goal of this safari is to photograph the breathtaking desert landscapes and wildlife of Namibia. If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the last remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this workshop be sure to check out my Namibia Portfolio.

On the South Western Coast of Africa, where the icy Atlantic ocean meets the world’s oldest desert lies a place that is known for its landscapes as much as the Serengeti is known for its abundant wildlife. The unique combination of desert, grassland and cold ocean current form a one-of-a-kind terrain found only here. For this reason landscape photographers from all over the world journey to the Namibia Desert to try and capture its ethereal beauty.

In this captivating region of Namibia lies a maze of mountainous valleys that look like they were carpeted from slope to slope by ivory colored grass, criss-crossed by ancient riverbeds and dotted with a collection of photogenic acacia trees. The final unique touch is added by the large snake like dunes that rise from the grasslands like the roof of some subterranean world. These stark and compelling landscapes are something to behold with the human eye, but when it’s sweeping meadows, barren mountains and blood red dunes are captured and transformed into a two dimensional image, it becomes obvious why this place is so beautifully addictive to photographers.

The Emperors Expedition – November 18th – November 26th – 1 Place Only

The Emperor Penguin is the world’s largest and heaviest Penguin. It lives in some of the most remote and most inaccessible areas in Antarctica. The Emperor has long been one of the most desired subjects for wildlife photographers and is considered by many to be the ultimate Polar survivor. Every year expeditions try and reach the remote Emperor Penguin rookeries by ship but most fail due to sea ice and weather conditions.

With the Emperor Penguins living so far south on the sea ice this expedition will be utilizing a privately chartered transport jet to access our first base camp at Union Glacier deep in Antarctica. We will then utilize a privately chartered Twin-Otter aircraft to take us to the remote Emperor Penguin colony where we will establish a field camp for the duration of our expedition. This expedition has been more than two years in the planning and has been designed to provide the very best possible opportunities to Photograph Emperor Penguins in their natural environment. By using chartered planes we can avoid the problems and uncertainty associated with ship based expeditions not being able to reach the colony due to sea ice conditions.

This exclusive opportunity to camp, photograph and live with Emperor Penguins is for a strictly limited number of just 8 photographers plus leader and expedition staff. The expedition is dedicated to the photography of the world’s largest Penguin – The Mighty Emperor.

The main activity of this expedition is Emperor Penguin photography. However, you will also be able to take guided walks in the local area across the sea ice and take advantage of the spectacular landscape. Other wildlife that we may photograph includes Antarctic petrels, snow petrels, Weddell seals and leopard seals. A dedicated guide will accompany us and share their knowledge of this majestic wildlife during the course of this expedition.

If you are excited by the idea of traveling to the edge of the permanent pack ice to photograph Emperor Penguins in their natural environment with a small group of dedicated photographers now is the time to secure your place. Places are extremely limited and once they are spoken for that’s it.

If you are interested in joining us and securing the last remaining place you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this expedition be sure to check out my Emperor Penguin Portfolio.Finland – February 1st to February 10th 2019 – 1 Place Only

In February 2017 I travelled to Finland in winter on a scouting trip and in early 2019 will now offer this as both a Wildlife and landscape workshop. Although our workshop is primarily based in Kuusamo, will actually begin in Kajanni in the north of Finland where we will be working from private hides in an effort to photograph Wolves, Wolverine and Golden eagles.

During our time in Kuusamo we will be based in a scientific research station which is basic, but comfortable and clean. Located a short drive from the majority of our primary shooting locations we will have access to areas that will provide us fantastic wildlife and landscape opportunities. If we are lucky and blessed with clear skies, we will be able to witness the Aurora Beorealis and the magic of the Northern Lights as they flicker across the night skies. During February, the days are short with sunrise at approximately 8:55am and sunset around 3:30pm. Given our northern location, the sun will be low in the sky providing soft, magnificent light conditions, for all day photography.

The main activity of this workshop is wildlife photography. However, you will also be able to take advantage of the spectacular winter landscape. A dedicated local guide will accompany us and share their knowledge of the area and wildlife we may encounter during the workshop. This exclusive opportunity to photograph the wildlife and landscapes of northern Finland in Winter is for a strictly limited number of just 6 photographers plus leader and guide – with only two places remaining before it will be sold out.

If you are interested in joining us and securing the last remaining place you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE.Arctic Fox – February 22nd to February 28th 2019 – 2 Places

This is a unique and specialized opportunity to photograph wild Arctic Foxes in the remote north-west of Iceland during winter. This exclusive expedition is open to just five photographers (only two places remaining) who will travel to the remote Arctic peninsula in the Hornstrandir Nature reserve to photograph what is perhaps Nature’s greatest survivor – The Arctic Fox.

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.

This photography expedition will last for 7 days (6 nights). We will be staying in a small remote cabin that is rustic, but functional and clean. During our stay in the cabin we will have a dedicated staff member to clean and prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for us (all included). However, this expedition is all about photography and we will be putting in long hours in the field in order to ensure we give ourselves the best possible opportunities to photograph the Arctic Fox. With luck, we may also see and photograph the spectacular Northern lights.

The cabin we will be using for the duration of the expedition is privately owned and is in the process of being restored. 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.

If you are interested in joining us and securing the last remaining place you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this expedition be sure to check out my Arctic Fox PortfolioSvalbard in Winter by Snow Mobile – March 18th to March 23rd 2019 – SOLD OUT

In March of 2019 I am leading a sold out invitation only expedition to Svalbard to photograph winter landscape by snowmobile.

Svalbard in Winter – March 26th to April 3rd 2019 – SOLD OUT

In late March of 2019 I will lead my annual winter expedition north of Svalbard in search of Polar Bears, Walrus, Arctic Fox and dramatic winter landscape.

Great Ocean Road and Tasmania I – May 10th to May 21st 2019 – SOLD OUT

In May of 2019 I will co-lead a brand new workshop to the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania with professional Photographer and friend Phillip Bartlett. This workshop is sold out. Details on the second workshop are included below.

Great Ocean Road and Tasmania II – June 1st to June 12th 2019 –  3 Places

Due to initial demand Phillip and I will be running a second workshop to the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania.  The workshop is strictly limited to no more than six photographers and has been designed to provide the very best photographic experience in some of the best locations across the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania. It is for photographers looking for a fantastic experience who want to be in the right place at the right time – when the light is at its absolute best.

This photography workshop will last for twelve days (eleven nights). We will be staying in high quality accommodation with private rooms and bathrooms for each person at each location. Breakfast and dinners will usually be held either at our hotels or nearby restaurants. However, this workshop is all about photography and we will be putting in some long hours in the field in order to ensure we give ourselves the best possible opportunities to capture dramatic and powerful photographs. We may take food and drink with us into the field in some areas to ensure we are in position and ready to photograph during the best light of the day. In May we will have sunrise at approximately 7:00am and sunset around 5:30pm giving us plenty of time for photography. We will be working in the style of professional landscape photographers and as such we will be most active during the early mornings and late evenings. Our transportation for the duration of the workshop will be in large, comfortable 4-Wheel Drive vehicles (three participants per vehicle plus one guide driver). Each vehicle has sufficient space for our luggage and camera equipment.

If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the last remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE.

Svalbard the High Arctic – July 13th to July 22nd 2019 – 6 Places

The High Arctic is a place to inspire the imagination. Nowhere is it more accessible than the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, located deep within the Arctic Circle. Nowhere else can the Polar Bear be seen more reliably in its natural habitat, and photographing these magnificent animals and the dramatic polar landscape will be our main objective. We will also search for walrus and the other wildlife of the region. Dramatic glaciers, plunging cliffs and beautiful drift ice formations will all be present as well.

This expedition has been designed to provide the very best possible opportunities to Photograph Polar Bears in their natural environment. With the reduction in Arctic sea ice the Polar Bears in Svalbard are dwindling in number and the number of years left to photograph them is unfortunately limited. June and July is the ideal time to photograph Polar Bears north of Svalbard due to the dwindling sea ice around the archipelago. This exclusive expedition is for a strictly limited number of just 12 participants plus leader and is dedicated to the photography of the High Arctic.

Our intention is to sail directly north from the small town of Longyearbyen in Svalbard to approximately 80o degrees north, to the very edge of the permanent pack ice. At our northerly most point we will likely be less than 600 miles from the North Pole and depending on the sea ice we may get even closer. We will be using the ice hardened expedition ship M.S Freya that will enable us to skirt the edge of the pack ice searching for and photographing landscape and Polar Bears. M.S Freya is widely regarded as one of the best ships in the Arctic for Photography. With low-lying decks we can photograph at eye level with wild Polar Bears and other wildlife. Our expedition ship is also equipped with sufficient zodiacs (2 x Zodiac MKV models) and crew for all photographers to be shooting simultaneously with plenty of room to spare for camera equipment – So bring what you need!

If you are excited by the idea of traveling to the edge of the permanent pack ice to photograph dramatic polar landscapes and Polar Bears in their natural environment with a small group of dedicated photographers now is the time to secure your place. The remaining places are very limited and once they are spoken for that’s it. On this expedition we will also likely photograph Walrus, Seals, Whales, Arctic Foxes and the many Arctic sea birds including the rare and angelic Ivory Gull.

If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the last remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this expedition be sure to check out my Svalbard Portfolio

Mystical Faroes – August 8th to August 16th 2019 – 3 Places

In August I am running a one time only workshop to the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands are comprised of eighteen small rugged and rocky islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The island’s position is unique and is the frame for breathtaking views; beautiful mountains, majestic fjords, dramatic sea cliffs; all in all a photographers paradise. The islands have a rich bird life, Including the largest colony of storm petrels in the world and over 305 bird species including Razor Bills and Atlantic Puffins.

This workshop is for dedicated landscape photographers who are willing to work for their images. A small group of participants (maximum of 6 plus leaders) guarantees a more personal and intimate experience than bigger tours can provide.

If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the last remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE.

Greenland I & II – September 4th to September 11th 2019 – 3 Places

September 11th to September 18th 2019 –  4 Places

In early September Daniel Bergmann and I will run two back-to-back expeditions to the remote east coast of Greenland.

Greenland is an incredible place to inspire the imagination and fuel your photographic desires. Home to some of the most extraordinary geology to be found on earth, the red and orange glacial scarred landscape of Greenland stands in stark contrast to the electric blue icebergs that carve off its many glaciers and drift slowly down its precipitous fjords.

We have chosen early to mid-September for our expeditions. This is the time of year when we can expect the Arctic vegetation to be in autumn colours and it’s also the time for soft golden light and potentially more interesting cloudscapes than during the summer, when it’s quite common to have just blue sky.

Our expeditions will take place in the Scoresbysund fjord system in Eastern Greenland, which is the largest and most spectacular fjord system on the planet. We’ll fly from Iceland to Constable Point where we’ll board the expedition schooner Donna Wood, which will be our home for 7 nights while we explore the fjords and circumnavigate Milne Land. We’ll then fly back to Iceland on the eight day.

Living on board the traditional sailing ship Donna Wood for seven amazing days is an experience in itself. It’s a perfect ship for exploring Scoresbysund. It’s small size allows us to navigate shallow bays and this beautiful two mast oak ship also acts as a strong photographic subject amongst large icebergs and towering mountains. The group size will be limited to just 11 participants plus the two leaders.

We will be photographing from the ship as we cruise the fjords but will also be making numerous landings where we’ll photograph from the coastlines or do walks on the Arctic tundra. We’ll also use the two Zodiacs on board to cruise among grounded icebergs, such as at Rødeø (Red Island).

If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this expedition be sure to check out my Greenland Portfolio

Antarctica The Ross Sea – January 10th to February 8th 2020

A sneak peak into 2020! The year is going to kick off with an extended expedition to the very rarely visited Ross Sea region of Antarctica!

Antarctica is miraculous; a remote, white continent of stark and beautiful desolation. For Nature photographers, Antarctica is without doubt the gold standard against which all other photography destinations are measured. Nowhere else on earth offers such incredible landscape and wildlife in such a pristine and remote environment. Best of all, our Ross Sea expedition will take us to some of the most spectacular and least visited areas of Antarctica. For photographers the Ross Sea is nothing short of virgin territory.

This expedition to Antarctica is a co-operation between Joshua Holko (Wild Nature Photo Travel) and Heritage Expeditions. The expedition is for a strictly limited number of 50 participants plus photography guides and expedition leader. We are utilizing the ice hardened expedition ship Spirit of Enderby with a highly experienced crew so that we can get as close as possible to giant icebergs for the best photographs. Our expedition ship is equipped with sufficient zodiacs and crew for all photographers to be shooting simultaneously with plenty of room to spare for camera equipment. So bring what you need!

The Ross Sea region of Antarctica is one of the most remote places on Planet Earth and one of the most fascinating places in the continent’s human history. With shipping restricted by impenetrable pack ice to just two brief months each austral summer, few people have ever visited this strange and beautiful territory, with opportunities for non- scientific personnel limited to a handful of tourist expedition ships. This expedition voyage is on its own fully equipped and ice-strengthened ship, crewed by some of the most experienced officers and sailors in the world and staffed by some of the most passionate and knowledgeable Guides. This is a unique opportunity to experience nature on a scale so grand there are no words to describe it.

We invite you to join us on a 30 day photography expedition to the Ross Sea, Antarctica in January 2020. Get ready for the ultimate Antarctica Ross Sea Expedition! If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE.

There are numerous other things in the early planning stages for 2020 and beyond and I will have more details over the coming months as things are firmed up. Stay tuned..


New Zealand South Island Masterclass Workshop 2018 Report

This years Masterclass workshop report is going to be a departure from previous years reports (its also my last New Zealand South Island Masterclass for the next few years). Rather than write my own report I am instead going to publish the report from Sebastien who documented our Masterclass on a day-by-day basis. My sincere thanks to all who participated on this workshop with extra special thanks to Sebastien for allowing me to post a summary of his report here. Be sure to check out his full report (including videos) and more of his photography from our workshop on his website HERE.

New Zealand South Island Masterclass Workshop

I’ve experienced a once in-a-life time photo expedition to New Zealand. This has been a dream come true and thus, I decided to document every location and photo session to share with everyone what this beautiful country has to offer. Every day, I made three to four minute-videos for each day.

It’s a long way from home

I don’t handle long flights very well. I can’t sleep upright and I get a bit claustrophobic after a while. I knew New Zealand was far from Toronto. What I didn’t know is that it was going to be a 23 hour journey to Christchurch. I’m bringing with me all sorts of ridiculous pillows, an eye mask, earplugs and every single gadget you can imagine to keep myself entertained.

Still no passport

My flights departs in less than 24 hours (Friday) and I still don’t have a (Canadian) passport to travel. I’m seriously stressed. You see, only two days ago (Tuesday) I became a Canadian Citizen (hurray) and right after the ceremony, the government takes away any travel documents you may have had earlier (Visa, Permanent Resident card…). They explicitly ask you during the ceremony to wait two business days before you can apply for the passport. Well, I can’t wait two business days or I’ll have to reschedule my flights. No way! I decided to wait one business day and apply for it today at 7 am (Thursday). Phew! I am in their system… I paid a hefty sum to get it as soon as possible and I’m getting my passport Friday morning, only hours before I board. I can breath. It’s sinking in. I’m going to New Zealand.

Itinerary & format

I’m going for 12 days to a place I’ve never been, with people I’ve never met, to do an activity that I’ve never done. In case you were wondering, I’m not going on my own and I didn’t plan this trip on my own. I’m going with a small group of six people led by two professional photographers: Phillip Bartlett and Joshua Holko;  I highly encourage you to take a look at their breath-taking portfolios. I’m always a bit nervous of traveling with strangers, but in this case, I already know all these people share a passion for photography, the outdoors, the adventure and that is comforting in a way.

The workshop starts Monday the 30th of April at Christchurch and we’ll be staying in the South Island for the rest of the trip. Some of the places are not accessible by foot or car, so there will be two helicopter trips involved and the opportunity to do some arial photography.  

I made it!

I’m exhausted, but excitement is keeping me alive. If you’re reading this on a Saturday, I’m writing you from the future; here at Christchurch it’s already Sunday.

  • Toronto -> Vancouver = 5 hours
  • Vancouver -> Auckland = 14 hours
  • Auckland -> Christchurch = 1 hour

I arrived at my hotel around 9 am, took a one hour nap and now I’m off to explore the town. The group will be meeting after 5 pm, if I make it until then. The adventure begins tomorrow…

Day 1- Christchurch to Twizel

I woke up at 4:30 am, but had a good sleep. We meet at 8:45am at the hotel lobby to drive close to four hours to Twizel where we’ll stay for the next two nights. Time to get a cup of coffee and some food at the Black and White Coffee.

2:00 PM – After making a quick stop at an iconic and very touristy landmark called the Church of the Good Sheppard, we made it to a little village called Twizel where we will stay for two nights. We’ve checked in at out our hotel and we’re off to catch the sunset. The drive was amazing, full of colours and contrasts. There is a mix of autumn foliage and snow which I’ve never seen before and apparently is very rare, so I’m looking forward to shooting some amazing photos. It’s a bit overcast but it’s starting to clear up.

8:00 PM – It’s been a long day and productive day. We went to lake Ohau… A crystal clear turquoise lake surrounded by mountains and despite not having any sunlight, I was able to get a few good shots . I will share a few of them with you tomorrow but for now, I’ll post this one below. We ended up the day going to a restaurant near the hotel where I ate what could very well be the best lamb curry I’ve ever had in my life. Tomorrow we start at 6 am so goodnight for now!Day 2 – Twizel / Mt. Cook

Sunrise is at 7:35 am so we meet at 6:00 sharp to drive to an undisclosed location near Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. It was still dark and for 45 minutes I could barely see where we’re heading but I can see the sky covered in clouds and I’m concerned we’ll even get a sunrise at all.  The road is infested with wild rabbits and near the end of our trip, we came close to hitting a dear. I’m awake now.

We finally arrive around 6:50 am but the sky is still covered in clouds, it’s cold and I still have some doubts we’ll see anything spectacular… but then, the mountain peaks start to appear out of nowhere…

I did most of my shots with the 70-200mm lens, mostly at 200. My intention was to get a portrait of the mountains; get up close and personal. This turned out to be a phenomenal morning. No wind, great clouds and beautiful light.

Day 3 – Twizel to Moeraki

Today must have been one of the most challenging shoots so far. By now you may have figured that we’re doing sunrise and sunset shoots and today was no exception. A fifteen minute drive from Twizel at 6:30 am to a secret location to get a fantastic photo of the mountains and their reflection. Setting up our gear was quite challenging as it was not only dark but it was in a “swamp”. The peak of the mountains lit up with a pink glow as the sun started to rise.

Once done, we went for breakfast at 10:00 am and made our way South East to the coast. We’re spending the night at a famous location called Moeraki, known for its beach boulders. It’s a well known place which means you’ll inevitably find the occasional tourist bus, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. According the their official website, “the Moeraki Boulders are a group of large spherical ‘stones’ on Koekohe Beach near Moeraki on New Zealand’s Otago coast. They originally started forming in ancient sea floor sediments around 60 million years ago, and the largest boulders are estimated to have taken about 4 million years to get to their current size. We’re spending the night here to take a few pictures at sunset and another session at sunrise at a time where we should have the place to ourselves.

The afternoon session was the most challenging so far due to the high tide, the waves crashing, the tripod legs sinking in the sand, my bare feet freezing in the cold water and nailing the exposure and shutter speed to get that silky smooth water effect. Without a doubt, this has been one of my favourite sessions so far and I look forward to doing it again tomorrow morning. Here’s one of my favourite photos of the afternoon shoot.

Day 4 – Moeraki to Te Anau

We started our day at the Moeraki Boulders at 6:30 am to photograph them during the sunrise. Unlike last night’s shoot, this time the sun would rise from the sea which will make a completely different photograph with an impressive sky on the background. Luckily for us, the weather was cooperating, there was little to no wind and there were enough high clouds in the sky to add texture and retain the colours. The high tide has passed and this time I was able keep my shoes on.

By 9:00 am it’s over, the sun’s out, the hordes of tourists are in. It’s time for breakfast and to head out for a four and a half hour drive for a completely different challenge. Te Anau which will be our base for the next three days.

We arrive at Te Anau at 3:00 pm sharp, take a break and we head out at 5 to a quick photoshoot. It’s a bit overcast so take a different approach to photographing sunsets and we go for a (4 minute) long exposure. with the help of Joshua and Phillip, I’m able to capture this photo.

We finished the day by going to the Redcliff caffe for an amazing dinner. Tomorrow morning we’ll take our first helicopter ride up to the mountain to a location that is not accessible by car. Should be a good one!
Day 5 – Te Anau (Helicopter #1)
We depart this morning at 6:30 am to take our first helicopter ride to the mountains to get a different perspective. This is a 5 to 10 minute ride just to takes us to the top, but unlike the coming helicopter, this one is closed doors and only meant to get us up there. Once up, it’s starting to rise and we have a stunning 360 degree view. Everywhere I look is a different photo, different light and different composition. It’s a bit overwhelming and need to make a decision before the sun rises. I stick to a composition for a few minutes and work my way from there. One hour later, the photo opportunities are over; the light is flat,  but the view is still gorgeous, it’s so peaceful and calm.
Day 6 – Milford Sound
My alarm goes off at 5:00 am. We hit the road at 5:30 and head to Milford Sound, one of the most iconic places in the South Island of New Zealand carved by glaciers. This was one of the places that actually made me come to New Zealand. It rains 99% of the time which makes a very dark and moody shot; and that’s what I’m trying to go for. However, the sun starts creeping in and the sky starts to gain some colour. After I try different angles and walk around a bit, we head to take a two hour boat tour that takes you around the fiord. All of a sudden I’m surrounded by high peaks with waterfalls, fur seals and heavy rain. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
On the way back to Te Anau, we stop a couple of times to photograph the crystal clear rivers and waterfalls next to the road. It’s now pouring and it’s hard to keep the lenses clean.
Day 7 – Te Anau to Wanaka
At 10 am leave Te Anau and depart to Wanaka where we’ll spend the night to photograph the Wanaka tree in the morning. After breakfast we’ll depart to Fox Glacier where we’ll spend our last three days and will be taking the second helicopter ride. We’re saving the best for last.
Day 8 – Wanaka to Fox Glacier
At 6:30 am we head towards the Wanaka Tree to get a prime spot before the rest of the tourists arrive. We’re the first ones there, it’s still dark and I immediately setup my trip and start shooting some long exposures (2 minutes). The Wanaka Tree is one of the most photographed icons in New Zealand so it’s hard to get an original shot but that doesn’t make it any less aesthetic. The tree has lost all its leaves and there are some birds resting on it; the scene has an eerie style to it so I go for that look.
We depart to Fox Glacier for the last three nights of our photography trip. At Fox, we’ll be waiting for the right conditions to take an open-door helicopter for thirty minutes to photograph the glacier from the top. This is the cherry on top, but it could very well not happen if we get rain and gust winds for the next three day.

During the road trip, the scenery and landscape quickly change and we begin driving through winding road surrounded by layers of mountains covered by a dense conifer forrest. Rain doesn’t stop and there are waterfalls everywhere you see. We make a few stops on the way to Fox to break the trip. Around 5:00 pm we finally make it to our destination. It’s raining so we call it a day, take some rest and we go for dinner where we celebrate my birthday :).

Day 9 – Fox Glacier
It’s pouring rain in the morning so we get to sleep in. Around noon, the rain seems to stop and while it’s still overcast,  we take a chance and we drive about 20 minutes to a couple of place. With little light in the sky, the idea is to work with tonalities, low clouds and local trees and vegetations which makes it a great challenge.
It hasn’t stoped raining so at 2 pm we call it a day. We gather around 4 pm at a local coffee place to review some of our best shots and get some critique by professional photographers Joshua Holko and Phillip Bartlett. At 6 pm we regroup for dinner and we get instructions on how to setup our camera settings for tomorrow’s helicopter shoot over the glacier. It’s trickier than I though due to the fast movement, the brightness of the ice and the vibration and movement of the helicopter. I can’t wait, I’m so very excited about this!

Day 10 – Fox Glacier (Over the Glacier)

Today, to say the least, is the cherry on top, the climax of this trip. Just today, I shot a little over 800 times and that should tell you everything. But without a nice, clear morning, this wouldn’t have happened, so let me start there.

I’m in the final stretch of my trip and I’m just getting used to the timezone, bummer. I woke up at 7:00 and noticed there was more light than usual. I looked outside my window and there wasn’t a single cloud. The grass was covered in frost, there was some mist in the fields and everything looked calm so I decided to grab my camera and get out. That meant changing all the setting I had set the night before to get ready for the helicopter. I don’t have much time before we need to leave so I walk around 10 minutes from our motel to stumble upon this gorgeous sunrise.

At 9 am we head to the helicopter pad which is only a ten minute drive from our hotel. I make sure to wear a lot of layers as we will be flying as high as 9000 ft with no doors so we can get a clear shot, so it’ll get chilly. At 10:30 am, it’s lift off time. It takes us another five minutes to get to the top of the glacier, it’s swift. The pilot takes his time so that we can get the right shots and he is directed by Joshua and Phillip to make sure he has the right altitude and distance. Twenty five minutes later, we come down. I’m overwhelmed.

We go out again at 5:30 pm and the light changes, it is softer…warmer. This time around I try to leave the emotions behind and think a little more about composition, leading lines, textures and abstract shots but it’s not easy.

Day 11 & 12 – Fox Glaciar to Greymouth to Christchurch

Our time at Fox Glaciar has come to an end and for our last photo shoot at this location we head to Lake Matheson at 6:15 am. This requires a 35 minute hike with our headlamps as it is still pitch dark.  Once there, we setup our tripods and wait for the light to happen but it’s overcast, and starts to rain. The sunrise never arrives but I’m still able to capture this with a 120 second exposure in the complete darkness.

At 11 am we pack our things and start making our way back to the East. This is a two day drive with a one night stop at Greymouth. We arrive on location at 4:30 pm, set our tripods, look for a composition and wait for the high tide to bring some big waves. What you want is for the water to climb up the the rock formations, into an upwards spray. We wait for about an hour but the tide is not high enough, it’s not happening. I get a “nice shot” but nothing more than a souvenir. Still, we enjoy the view and the weather .
Day 13 – Thoughts and closing remarks. 

It’s been a week since I arrived back home to Toronto and I’m still going through more than 2000 shots. Yes that’s a two with three zeros to the right. The variety of landscapes, the changing light and weather conditions and the helicopter rides justify it. This has been an intense two weeks, constantly thinking about composition, shutter speed, aperture priority, exposure compensation, filter options (…) to try to get the perfect shot. It’s hard to make this country justice with just still shot and that’s why I thought of making these videos that hopefully give you a better picture (pardon the pun) about the experience, the landscapes, the vegetation, the winding roads… [Edit – Check out Sebastiens website for the videos].

I’m back with a different perspective on landscape photography and a broader and more refined skills that I will be applying in other photography styles such as street and cityscapes.

What now? In the next week or two I’ll be selecting a dozen or so photos that I will add to my portfolio and that would look stunning hanging on my or anyone’s walls. I will be updating this blog as soon as that happens. In the meantime, I leave you with one last video that sums up the best moments of this phenomenal trip. Thank you for letting me share this with you; farewell.

Sebastien Le Calvez

Polar Bears of Svalbard Expedition 2018 SOLD OUT

My 2018 expedition to photograph Polar Bears on the pack ice north of Svalbard this July is now sold out. Thank you to all those who enquired on the last two  places that became available. I am very much looking forward to this expedition!Bookings are now also open for my 2019 High Arctic Expedition. If you couldn’t make 2018, and would like to venture into Arctic territory to photograph the wildlife and landscape of this incredible region please drop me an email to register your interest – no obligation.  I will also shortly be announcing a prior expedition with good friend Daniel Bergmann that will have a great emphasis on the birdlife of the Arctic – more details to come shortly.A friendly reminder that I am also appearing as the keynote speaker on both Saturday and Sunday at the big VAPS convention this coming weekend in Warnambool. If you are coming down for the event be sure to say hello. More details are available HERE.

VAPS Victorian Association Photographic Societies Keynote Speaker

The Big VAPS Victorian Association of Photographic Societies convention is being held next weekend at Warnambool in Victoria. Kicking off with an official opening on Friday the 25th and wrapping up on Sunday the 27th of May, I will be attending as the special guest keynote speaker for both the Saturday and Sunday and will be presenting on both my Arctic and Antarctic photography (I will also be showing prints!).

The 2018 VAPS Convention and Interclub exhibition will be held at Deakin University Campus in Warrnambool this year. Hosted by the Warrnambool Camera Club it promises to be a fantastic weekend full of learning and photographic opportunities.

Commencing on Friday 25th May through to Monday 28th May the convention will kick off with an official welcome cocktail party and viewing of the Interclub print exhibition on the Friday night. The Saturday and Sunday programmes are full of excellent speakers and workshops that will have everyone engaged in informative photographic sessions along with photographic opportunities on Monday to round off a great long weekend of photography.

Headlined by renowned Global Arctic Photographer of the Year, Joshua Holko, who will present two outstanding talks on his amazing Arctic Circle photography.


Melrakki Open Edition for Sale at the Arctic Fox Centre in Iceland

For those of you heading to Iceland this season open edition, soft cover copies of my book Melrakki – the Arctic Fox project, are shortly to be available for sale at the Arctic Fox Centre in Sudavik in Iceland. All proceeds from sales go directly to the Arctic Fox centre. Large format fine art prints from the project will also be on display at the centre in the coming weeks.“The Arctic Fox Centre is a non-profit research and exhibition center, focusing on the arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) – the only native terrestrial mammal in Iceland. The Arctic Fox Centre was established on September 15th 2007 in Sudavik Westfjords. Founders were 42, mostly local people, tourist operators and municipalities in the Westfjords. All of which share their interest in the arctic foxes and believe in increasing ecotourism in Iceland. The idea of the Arctic Fox Centre comes from prof. Pall Hersteinsson, University of Iceland and he serves as a quality witness for the center.”