2020 A Retrospective and 2021 Whats in Store?

As is traditional on my blog, every year I do a “What’s in Store” post for the new year as well as reflect back, and wrap up the year that was. I think it’s fair to say that 2020 will go down in history as unique and unlike anything experienced in recent memory. It was a year that went off with a bang and then exploded like a grenading 1950’s test rocket.

In equipment terms 2020 was a fairly big one for me as I upgraded both my Canon EOS 1DX MK2 cameras to the new Mark 3 versions. Unfortunately, due to the world wide COVID lock down I only got to use them briefly in Iceland on my Arctic Fox Winter expedition and briefly in Greenland in Winter while I was searching for Polar Bears before I was forced to make a speedy retreat back to Australia (more on this below). Nevertheless, the time I have spent with these cameras in the field has convinced me more than ever that they are absolutely the best tool for wildlife work in inclement weather. I made no changes to my lens line up in 2020 and the only other gear acquisition I made were the brand new Gura Gear Chobe 2.0 13″ and 16″ carry on camera bags. You can check out my first look and review below.

My gear pick for the 2020 year (I always choose something I actually own) is not surprisingly the Canon EOS 1DX MK3. The MK3 is everything its predecessor was and much more. Better Auto Focus, better focus options, better battery life, better movie options, and the list goes on (it even shed some weight). In 2021 we are likely to see a new mirrorless Pro camera from Canon as well as a higher mega pixel mirrorless offering. I will be testing the Pro version in due course. My big concern is how the EVF will stand up to extreme cold – we shall see. This is the primary reason I have not yet moved to a mirrorless system.

Last year I gave the nod to Tibet by Vincent Munier for my book pick of the year. For 2020 I am giving the ribbon to Carsten Egevang’s  The Greenland Sled Dog. Carsten has established himself as a standout Arctic photographer in recent years for his documentary style approach. I definitely recommend you check it out and consider adding it to your library. Over the course of this year I also published my own favourite twelve photographs here on my blog. Please be sure to check them out and let me know what you thought. Oh! I almost forgot.. my own new book ‘Never Cry Wolf is now available for pre-order with shipments expected in the first few months of 2021. You can Pre-order online Here. My Polar Bear book is also now in the final stages of editing and should also be available in the first half of 2021.

In competition terms, 2020 was somewhat of a quiet year for me with both the state and national AIPP print awards cancelled because of the COVID pandemic. Nevertheless I managed to rack up a finals place in the 2020 ANZANG Australia and New Zealand Nature Photographer of the year as well as taking out both the 2nd and 3rd places in the inaugural AIPP Silver Lining Awards in the Wild category. I was also selected to represent Australia for the third time at the World Photographic Cup (currently in judging) and was a finalist in the iTravelled and Wildlife Portfolio for Travel Photographer of the Year 2020 (currently in judging for the winners). Lastly, I was also a finalist in the Windland Smith Natures Best Photography 2020. Everything chose to enter in 202 I either made the finals in or took out a place. In a COVID year I am overall pretty happy with those results.

With COVID shutting down international travel across the globe, 2020 was my quietest year for travel in more than a decade. The year kicked off in mid January with a winter trip for Snowy Owls to Canada (Read the Trip Report).  This trip proved fruitful with some great photographic opportunities of these magnificent owls in a winter setting. We were a little short on owls this year, but the owls we did have were extremely co-operative. I will be leading a return trip to this part of Canada in early 2022 (postponed from 2021). There are now just two places remaining for the workshop will be sold out. Drop me an email if you would like further details.

From Canada I raced back to Australia to quickly wash clothes and repack before making my way just a couple of days later to New Zealand for a thirty day expedition to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica (Read the Trip Report). I won’t elaborate further on this trip here as I wrote a fairly detailed and comprehensive trip report. Suffice to say, this was most definitely a trip with a great many sea days.

On return from the Ross Sea I headed north again to lead my annual expedition to photograph Arctic Fox in the far north of Iceland (Read the Trip Report). This was my first outing with the new Canon EOS 1DX MK3 and it proved everything I could have hoped for. Its capability to focus in extreme blizzard conditions is unmatched in my experience.

From Iceland I then headed further north for two brand new winter expeditions to photograph Polar Bears and Musk Ox on the East Coast of Greenland (Read the Trip Report). This expedition started well, with fantastic snow and ice conditions and high expectations (the scenery in this region of Greenland is stunningly beautiful). Unfortunately, despite ideal conditions we were not able to locate any Polar Bears in the few days we had before the Danish government announced the imminent closure of Greenland in an effort to keep the country COVOD free. Forced to beat an extremely hasty retreat on short notice (or be stranded in Greenland indefinitely) we reverse engineered ourselves back to Iceland with a charter helicopter flight back to Constable Point and an onward twin-otter aircraft back to northern Iceland. From there it was the long haul back to Australia on what turned out to be one of the very last commercial flights into the country before mandatory hotel quarantine.

Since my return from Greenland earlier this year we have endured one of the harshest and longest COVID lock down periods in the world. In the state where I live, we experienced a 120+ day lockdown with a strict 8pm curfew, mandatory masks, a one hour exercise allowance outdoors and absolutely no gatherings. It was about as dystopian as Orwells 1984. The net result of this harsh lockdown is that my state (and most of Australia) is now COVID free.

All of the subsequent workshops and expeditions I planned for this year (2020) post Greenland – including: Svalbard in Winter, Svalbard in Summer, Greenland East Coast, Finland in Autumn, Antarctica Emperor Penguins and Mongolia in Winter for Snow Leopard and Pallas Cat were subsequently delayed and pushed back into 2021 and 2022. All my early 2021 trips including Yellowstone in Winter, Canada for Snowy Owls and Iceland for Arctic Fox have all be pushed back into 2022.

As a result of all these delays, my first planned expedition for 2021 is now Svalbard in Winter (that was supposed to run in 2020). Suffice to say, I am really looking forward to getting back up to the Arctic in Winter.
As a result of a cancellation there are two places remaining on this expedition. Please contact me for further details.

At the conclusion of Svalbard in April I will return to Australia until July when I will head back north for my Summer Svalbard expedition.

In September I will lead a sold out expedition to the East Coast of Greenland aboard the magnificent schooner the Rembrant Van Rijn. This expedition will see us explore the stunning landscape of the Scoresby Sund fjord system before we return sail to northern Iceland.

From Iceland I will make the hop over to Finland for my Autumn Wolves and Wolverine workshop. Finland has become my top destination for Wildlife in both Autumn and Winter. With Wolves, Bears, Wolverines and fantastic bird life it is a wildlife photographers paradise.

Then to round out and finish the 2021 year I will return to Mongolia to lead two seperate sold out expeditions; the first for Pallas Cat and the second for Snow Leopard.

At this point I usually hint at something new and exciting coming down the pipeline. This year however, I am simply going to say I hope we have an effective vaccine rolled out so that we can all get back to normal life and that we can all begin the road to emotional and fiscal recovery.

Lastly and certainly not least, I want to wish all of you a very safe and happy New Year and may 2021 be COVID free and one of travel, amazing light and experiences for all of you. See you in the New Year!

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