Finland Kuusamo Nature Photo Festival 2018 – Guest Speaker

In a few days time I am heading north up to Finland to be one of the guest speakers at the big European Nature Photo festival being held in Kuusamo. I will be speaking on Saturday the 8th in the morning at 9:45am about photography in Antarctica – Antarctica White Nature and then again on Sunday at 9:00am about Nature photography in Australia.

Slide Show One: Antarctica – White Nature

Specialist Polar photographer and full time professional nature photographer Joshua Holko presents Antarctica – White Nature. A veteran of more than twenty-four expeditions to Antarctica Joshua has extensive experience working and photographing in Antarctica. Antarctica – White Nature showcases Joshua’s incredible portfolio of both landscape and wildlife imagery from one of the worlds last true wilderness areas.

Slide Show Two: Australian Nature Photography

Full time professional nature photographer Joshua Holko presents Australian Nature Photography; a look at both the spectacular coastal landscapes and varied wildlife of Victoria in Southern Australia. Perhaps best know for its marine wildlife, southern Australia is also home to a plethora of bird species as well as marsupials including the Kangaroo, Koala Bear and more.

If you are coming to the festival be sure to come and say hello! And of course, I will be staying on a few extra days for some photography. Although I have photographed in Finland before in the Winter, this will be my first summer visit and I am looking forward to the opportunity for Wolves, Bears and with some luck even Wolvernine! See you in Finland…

APPA – Australian Professional Photography Awards Finalist Nature Category 2018

The 2018 APPA (Australian Professional Photography Awards) awards wrapped up this evening with the awards ceremony and Gala dinner in Melbourne. Due to some personal commitments I was not able to attend the ceremony and dinner in person this year, but I did very much enjoy judging on the Saturday and Sunday. The standard of work this year was particularly strong (especially in the Nature category) with some absolutely outstanding images in all categories.

This year I chose to enter my four photographs into the Wildlife sub-category of Nature and was very pleased to have all four score extremely well. Whilst I didn’t quite reach my stretch goal of 6 points (I scored 5) I did accrue enough overall points to make the finals in the category (which in many ways is even better!) My individual prints scored 91 Gold Award (2 Points), 87 Silver with Distinction (1 Point), 85 Silver with Distinction (1 Point) and 85 Silver with Distinction (1 Point). I am now just one point (one point!) away from my 2nd Gold Bar and a double Master of Photography – M.Photog II. That honour will have to wait until APPA 2019 though. Importantly for me, I now have the five required Gold Awards (I already had the 10 required Silver with Distinctions) for the honour of Grand Master of Photography. That will come in a few more years I hope if I can amass enough points. In the meantime, my images from APPA 2018 below and congratulations to the winners of each category and the overall PPY winner. See you at APPA 2019…

Mother and Cub – 87 Silver with DistinctionPolar Bear on Blue Ice – 91 Gold AwardPolar Bear For-play – 85 Silver with DistinctionLone Gentoo – 85 Silver with Distinction

Ghosts of the Arctic Highly Honoured Natures Best Photography 2018

I received some news this morning that Ghosts of the Arctic has just been highly honoured in the 2018 Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Selected from more than 26,000 images and videos from photographers in 59 countries, the finalists in each category will be published in the 2018 Fall/Winter Special Awards Edition of Nature’s Best Photography magazine. Approximately 1,000 photos and videos made it into the semi-final round of judging to select the 123 current winners and highly honoured images.

Australian Professional Photography Awards 2018 – APPA this Weekend!

Contrary to the theory of relativity time appears to have marched on an at an ever increasing speed and as a result this weekend will see the running of the 2018 Australian Professional Photography Awards at the Melbourne Olympic Park Function Centre (feels like the dust is still settling on the 2017 awards!).

This year, I will be judging the Nature, Landscape and Travel categories on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. If you are planning to stop past and check out this years entries (I recommend you do if you are in Melbourne) and you get the opportunity, be sure to stop past and say hello (I will likely be floating between the judging rooms depending on the final schedule and timing).As we approach the weekend and the stress level of entrants rises I wanted to share a few of my own thoughts on APPA (as a regular entrant) that might help as-sway some of the fear, anxiety and doubt for first time, or indeed even long term entrants.

For those of you who might not be all too familiar with APPA its a bit of a strange competition that has its own somewhat ‘oddball’ culture. It really is a unique competition (I have never seen another like it) that sees just about the full gamut of diversity in people, personalities, opinions and photographs. At its heart, its a photographic print competition and being a photographer who is ‘all about the print’ this places it very near and dear to my heart. On the other hand, its also a competition that sees some very strange idiosyncratic results at times. I have seen prints score extremely high, that barely (in my opinion) made professional practice and I have likewise seen a great many prints barely scrape in a Silver award that should have gone Gold or Gold with Distinction. As a result long term entrants often refer to APPA as a ‘lottery’ and in many ways they might be right. Much can depend on the prevailing mood of the judging panel, each individuals experience on the panel (with the subject at hand), their own biases to the print, and of course the quality of the actual print. There are many factors that need to come into alignment for a print to score true to its soul and the judges (myself included) don’t always get it right.

In many ways the best man (or woman) doesn’t always win at APPA; but that isn’t what is important. Understanding its not winning that makes APPA important is the key to an individuals success at APPA.  Whilst we do crown an ‘Australian Photographer of the Year’ (as well as individual category winners – I won my chosen category in 2014) this isn’t at the heart of what APPA is truly about. And entering with a laser beam vision to winning is a short, quick road to disappointment (and oh the tears do flow at APPA!). They real key to success at APPA is understanding that you are competing against yourself – not other entrants. The best approach is to set yourself a realistic goal and work towards that goal. Whilst it might be nice to envision yourself as the winner of your chosen category (or even the grand prize winner!) its far healthier to set an expectation that is more easily obtainable. If you are a first time entrant then strive for prints that are the best you can do and set the expectation of reaching ‘professional practice’ (a solid result for a first time entrant!). If you are  a regular entrant, then strive to beat last years result. Or, strive to make enough points for your next merit award. Always produce the best work you can, and always create your work with a vision to it being the absolute best it can be. But set your expectations realistically and strive to beat yourself. Adopt this approach and APPA becomes a far more enjoyable event that will see you benefit in exactly the way APPA intends. It is after all, an opportunity for professional photographers to self improve.

In my own case, I am sitting this year six points short of my 2nd Gold Bar and a Double Master of Photography honour. Six points is a lot to achieve in a year. Is it possible? In theory, sure it can be done as eight points is the maximum achievable in a single year (and I have done it in previous years), but it is far from an easy goal. For me, this will be my stretch goal for this year. I hope to achieve Silver or better with each print with a stretch to make enough points to make that next honour. Will I get it? We will find out at the conclusion of APPA 2018. See you there!

Polar Bears of Svalbard 2018 Expedition Report

This July and August 2018 I lead my annual expedition north of Svalbard in search of Polar Bears, Walrus, Arctic Fox and of course spectacular Arctic landscapes – Polar Bears of Svalbard. With our small group of just twelve photographers and our ice hardened expedition class ship we were perfectly prepared for ten days of Arctic photography under the midnight sun (it turned out to be an absolute gem of an expedition). July and August are just a fantastic time of the year to visit Svalbard. With twenty four hours of daylight (the sun never sets this time of year) the opportunities for photography are literally non-stop and we took advantage on many occasions to photograph late into the evening and early hours of the morning. Working late into the night (when the sun is still low in the sky) not only extends the amount of time available for photography but it also offers the opportunity to work in a variety of lighting conditions. Typically late evening and early morning provide the softest light in Svalbard this time of year. With the option of working through the night we also have the luxury of being able to choose the best time of day or night to photograph in a given location.This year we had to go well north of 82º degrees to reach the edge of the permanent pack ice, with our northerly most position being 82.5º north according to the GPS in my Canon EOS 1DX MKII (less than 900 nautical miles from the North Pole). This was the farthest north I have ever had to travel to reach the edge of the ice and was a clear indication of just how rapid and how devastating the summer melt has been this year. As tragic as it sounds, I believe we may now be less than a decade away from an ice free summer in the Arctic. What this means for the Polar Bear remains to be seen; but one thing is for sure, without sea ice to hunt the future of the Polar Bear is in serious question.We were lucky to experience favourable weather for photography during our expedition, encountering only minimal fog and only a small amount of swell on our journey north to the ice. One of my biggest fears for weather in Svalbard at this time of year is zero visibility because of giant fog banks. Whilst I love fog and find it extremely photogenic it can also be massively problematic in Svalbard in summer. Finding bears in the ice is extremely difficulty with good visibility; finding them in heavy fog is just about impossible. My other fear for weather is ‘blue sky days’ which creates contrast that is just far too strong for artful photography. Thankfully we experienced only a couple of blue sky days with the majority of days during our expedition being heavily overcast; making for superb photographic conditions.This year we were extremely fortunate with our bear encounters; encountering a total of eighteen bears during our ten day expedition. Our first encounter was at the island Karl the XII (on our way north to the ice) where we found five bears stranded south of the ice on the small island. Whilst this was an easy tick for five bears for those who had never seen a Polar bear before the photo opportunities were not the best. I find Polar bears on land to be not the most photogenic of subjects and very much prefer to photograph them on the ice in their prime.  Fortunately, the majority of the rest of the bears we encountered turned out to be fantastic photo bears with wonderful close encounters around our vessel in the ice. Several of the bears came right up to the ship to satisfy their curiosity and we were able to spend many hours of fabulous photography with these apex predators.In addition to bears on the ice we also had two encounters with Polar Bear cubs during our expedition. The first was with a mother and two very young cubs at the base of one of the main bird cliffs in Hinlopen Strait and the second was in Kongsfjord near the site of an Arctic Fox den. Both encounters were very emotional moments for all aboard. Small cubs (born this year) are not only extremely cute (and photogenic), but are walking emotional reminders of how fragile life is in the Arctic. Seeing young cubs gives me hope that the Polar bear may yet have a viable future.

We also had a wonderful photographic encounter with Walrus from our zodiacs during our expedition. We were able to drift on gentle currents in calm seas in one of the fjord systems whilst a large group of Walrus sated their curiosity at our presence. Walrus are best photographed in the water in my experience and we were extremely fortunate to get such a wonderful and close experience. This was only the second time in my many expeditions to the Arctic I have had such a great encounter with Walrus in the water.During our time in Svalbard we also explored the Kongsfjord system where we encountered Arctic Fox, Bearded Seals and a great many of the Arctic bird species found in this part of Svalbard including the Pomarine jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus), pomarine skua. This was only the second time I have had such a great opportunity to photograph this bird in the Arctic. In terms of bird life we also had fantastic Ivory gulls up in the ice as well as a great many others during the expedition including Puffins, Glaucous Gulls, Eider ducks, Snow Buntings, Guillemots, Purple Sandpipers, Fulmars and more. We also spent many hours cruising the ice filled bays and glacier fronts which offer limitless opportunities for landscape photography – both the grand landscape and the intimate scene. Watching ice carvings from the many glacier fronts from the safety of our zodiac is a real experience not to be missed.Lastly, we rounded out our expedition with several hours of photography of some extremely playful Arctic Fox cubs on our return to Longyearbyen. This location also provided a much welcomed opportunity to photograph Reindeer against some spectacular landscape backdrops. All up, our 2018 expedition to Svalbard was a fantastic success with outstanding opportunities for wildlife and landscape photography.I have been travelling to Svalbard several times a year since 2013 and it remains one of the most incredible and photogenic locations in the Arctic I have been fortunate to visit and photograph. I will be returning to Svalbard next summer in July for my High Arctic expedition. If you are interested in joining there are already only a few places remaining before the expedition will be sold out. You can register your interest or make a booking by dropping me an email. If you want to get an idea of what this expedition is like be sure to read the testimonial from Rob Young from this years expedition and check out the Kingdom of the Ice Bear video below.