Over the last few years, I have penned a number of different guides to help with the selection of Polar expeditions for Photographers. There are many ‘gotchas’ to watch out for in the cruise industry and these guides are designed to help both first-timers and season travelers navigate their way onto the best expedition experience. Whether it is your very first Polar expedition, or if you are a long-time veteran, you will find useful information in these guides that will help ensure you have the best possible experience. All three guides are now available for download both here on my blog and on my website
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT SHIP-BASED PHOTOGRAPHY EXPEDITION
Choosing the right ship-based Polar Photography expedition can be a bit of a minefield if it’s your first time traveling to the Polar regions. There are a lot of places where what might seem the smart or logical choice at first blush will end up resulting in a sub-optimal experience if photography is your primary goal. Choosing a large luxury cruise liner will certainly secure you a wonderful luxury experience, but it does come at the cost of significant photographic opportunities. One of the first decisions you are going to have to make (after deciding where you want to go) is are you going to choose a dedicated photographic expedition; or a mixed tourist trip? And what are the differences between the two?
HOW DO I CHOOSE THE RIGHT EXPEDITION TO ANTARCTICA?
Choosing the right photographic expedition to Antarctica is a critical decision that is going to have a very significant impact on the portfolio of photographs you collect during your experience. For many, a photographic expedition to Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As such, be sure to read our guide on how to choose the right expedition for your photographic needs.
I have spent the better part of the last ten years photographing Polar bears in the Arctic during both the summer and winter seasons and I want to share what I have learned about photographing this incredible apex predator. We are going to cover a number of different aspects of polar bear photography and look at how can you maximize your chances of capturing a fantastic photograph of this increasingly endangered and rare mammal.
In mid-September of 2022, I ran an all-new landscape photography workshop in the South-east of Greenland with my long-time friend and co-photographer Martyn Lucas. This workshop saw us fly from Reykjavik in Iceland to Kulusuk in the South-east of Greenland – a flight time of approximately one hour and forty-five minutes. From Kulusuk we took a private charter boat to the small remote town of Tasiilaq (a journey of approximately one hour); that was to serve as the base for our workshop for the duration of our time in Greenland. Our accommodations were a small hotel located near the top of the town. The hotel, although basic and functional, provides all the usual amenities one would expect to find including private rooms and bathrooms with hot water. It also serves three basic buffet meals a day making it an ideal base for our operations.
The town of Tasiilaq is tucked into the South-east corner of Greenland and is a remote Inuit community of approximately two thousand people. It is also home to some of the most extraordinary landscapes and icebergs to be found anywhere in Greenland. Giant icebergs that carve off the many glaciers in this region drift down the fjord systems before the tidal forces and ocean currents carry them on the next stage of their journey along the coast. Many of the icebergs wash into the bay near the town where they become stranded in the shallower water, whilst others drift along the Greenland coast providing stunning photographic subject material against the backdrop of jagged peaks and mountains.
During this workshop, we made daily excursions by both private boat and car. The majority of our time was spent cruising the nearby fjord systems in search of architecturally interesting icebergs. Photographing icebergs is something I never tire of – their unique beauty and transient nature make them just superb photographic material. We were fortunate to also have some fog during several of our outings that provided excellent opportunities for minimalism. One of the mornings also provided superb light as the rising sun began burning off the sea fog in a blaze of orange and yellow. No words can fully describe the sensation of sailing and photographing amongst monumental icebergs as the dawn sun slowly rises above the horizon lighting up the fog in a blaze of color.
We also visited an abandoned world war 2 base deep in one of the fjord systems at Ikkatteq. The base was originally built and operated by the United States and served as a secret outpost for operations during the war. Now, all that remains are thousands of abandoned oil drums and other rusted relics (including numerous vehicles) of a bygone era. If you are a photographer into rusty bits, it’s just about nirvana. The base is surrounded by stunning precipitous mountains that make for the ideal backdrop. The combination of artifacts, relics, and autumnal colors is a delight for any landscape photographer. There is a wealth of photographic opportunities at this location and as such, we took the opportunity to visit twice during our time in this area of Greenland.
For the most part, we had favorable weather conditions for our daily excursions; although we did lose the better part of two days to relentless drizzle and strong ocean winds. Outside of the bay that houses Tasiilaq the coast of Greenland is fully exposed to the Atlantic Ocean and thus conditions need to be relatively calm to venture too far outside the security of the bay and fjords.
During this time we took the opportunity to venture outside of town via vehicle and explore the nearby landscape. Travel via car is quite limited in this region of Greenland and it’s only possible to venture a few kilometers from town before running out of road.
We were also extraordinarily fortunate to have quite a few days of fog during the trip. As I have written before, fog and icebergs go extremely well together and are a marriage made in heaven. The combination of soft fog and crisp ice makes for ethereal, other-worldly photographs that are highly emotive. Fog also adds a sense of mystery and drama to the scene and greatly assists in cleaning up the background. I will have a future post and video on the post-production of icebergs in fog and what tools work best in Adobe Lightroom to get the most from your files.
This expedition to the South-east of Greenland is very much for those interested in the other-worldly landscapes and gigantic icebergs. Outside of a few species of birds, there is little in the way of wildlife to be found in this southern region of Greenland. However, the landscapes, the icebergs, rusted relics, and the opportunity to create something truly special and unique make this a landscape photographer’s jam.
This first trip to Tasiilaq was a chance to ascertain the photographic possibilities in this rarely-visited region of Greenland. Fortuitously, this area of Greenland offers quite a different experience to Scoresby Sund and is a wonderful counterpoint to cruising the world’s largest fjord system. I plan to return to Tasiilaq again in September of 2024 and preliminary details for this expedition are now on my website at www.jholko.com/workshops. Due to the limited boat size, I can only take a maximum of five photographers on this experience as a precursor to my 2024 Scoresby Sund expedition. If this expedition appeals to you please drop me an email to register your interest.
Footnote: As a result of my continuing ongoing travel, I have not as yet had time to edit or post produce any of the photographs from this expedition. I will update this post at a future date with photographs from the expedition.
Just a quick update that I will be offline for the next twelve days whilst I guide an expedition to Scoresby Sund and the East Coast of Greenland. If you are contacting me via email, please be patient and I will get back to you on my return. I will have both a podcast update and a trip report on the South East Greenland expedition shortly after my return.
Travel Tip: If you are traveling to an area without internet on your next photography workshop or expedition, be sure to open any software you plan to use that requires online verification to activate before you go offline. There really is nothing more frustrating than finally arriving at your destination and being unable to open the software you planned to use because it needs to ‘phone home’ for subscription verification. Any of the Adobe subscription plans require online verification and my recommendation is to open the software whilst you are online and then leave it open for the duration of your trip.
My 2024 November expedition to the remote Sea Ice of Gould Bay in Antarctica to photograph the mighty Emperor Penguins is already sold out – thank you. I was last in Gould Bay back in 2018 (Read the Trip Report). This years 2022 sold-out expedition will be my fifth sojourn to Union Glacier and the remote sea ice at Gould Bay. This is a region of Antarctica that is extremely remote and that is home to one of the largest Emperor Penguin colonies in Antarctica. It is an absolutely incredible and surreal place to visit and photograph these remarkable birds.