2022 A Retrospective and 2023 What’s in Store?

With the official end of the pandemic, 2022 was always going to be a frantic year of travel, jam-packed with back-to-back workshops and expeditions. In fact, I had to cancel two planned workshops in 2022 due to timing issues – it was just impossible to fit everything in with the backlog of trips. Both my winter workshop for Snowy Owls and landscapes and wildlife in Yellowstone were canceled due to scheduling conflicts. Subsequently, my long-planned expedition to Wrangle Island in late July for Polar Bears was also canceled due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Wrangle Island is Russian territory). Even with the canceled trips, I still led twelve workshops and expeditions in 2022. After two years of thumb-twiddling and painting the house, getting back out into the field with like-minded, passionate photographers was terrific. 

2022 kicked off in February when I led my annual expedition to photograph the Arctic Fox in the far north of Iceland in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. This is an expedition I have been leading for many years now and remains very near and dear to my heart. Conditions for 2022 were perfect, and some incredible photographs were taken by all who participated (Read the Trip Report).

After Iceland, I traveled directly to Finland for a Winter workshop to photograph wild Wolves, Wolverine, Golden eagles, and other arctic and sub-arctic birds in snow and ice-covered landscape. The Wolves remained elusive this winter, but the Wolverine did make an appearance (Read the Trip Report). I returned to Australia from Finland to make final preparations for Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic.

In March, I lead my first expedition to the incredibly remote Ellesmere Island in search of the White Wolf, Arctic Hare, and Polar Bear. This was undoubtedly the coldest, hardest, and most challenging expedition I have ever led or participated in. Our warmest day was a balmy -35º Celsius, and we had several days below -50º Celsius. Most days averaged around -45º Celsius. Although the white Wolf remained elusive (I did have a brief distant sighting), we had fantastic opportunities with Arctic Hare (Read the Trip Report).

From Ellesmere Island, I circled the globe via London to Svalbard and led a private snowmobile expedition out onto the sea ice at Monbukta in search of Polar Bears and dramatic landscape, followed by a ship-based expedition in and around the archipelago of Svalbard. Both trips produced many fantastic photographs, including one of my favorites for the year of the blue iceberg frozen in place in winter sea ice. Svalbard remains one of my favorite destinations for wildlife photography (despite the ever-increasing, ever-ridiculous regulations that the Norwegian government is continually imposing to squeeze out tourism). Read the Trip Report.

From Svalbard, I returned briefly to Australia, dumped the cold weather gear, grabbed a few safari shirts, and headed to South Africa to lead my ground-level wildlife masterclass workshop in Zululand. This was my first workshop at this incredible location. Within a day, I was hooked on the opportunity to photograph African wildlife from wonderfully equipped luxurious hides at ground level, and as a direct result of this amazing trip experience (Read the Trip Report), I will be returning in both 2023 and 2024. There are limited places available for both workshops, so please contact me to register your interest. If you have long wanted to jump out of a safari vehicle so you can photograph the wildlife at ground level, then this is the workshop for you.

In July, I returned to Svalbard to lead my annual ship-based expedition north of Longyearbyen in search of Polar Bears, Walrus, and other Arctic wildlife. This expedition proved a wonderful opportunity for Walrus, with one of the best sessions I can recall photographing these amazing animals. We also had a superb close-up encounter with a large male Polar Bear on a fresh seal kill (Read the Trip Report).

With my Svalbard expedition complete, I made my way to Sweden to meet my newly discovered relatives on the coast of Schern, before spending a few wonderful weeks exploring Sweden’s gorgeous countryside. Other than the close encounter with a Moose that ran in front of the car that got my heart started, it was some much-needed R&R.

In late August and early September, I helped lead an expedition to Scoresby Sund on the east coast of Greenland before leading my own land and ship-based expeditions both to the South-east coast of Greenland and Scoresby Sund. All three of these expeditions took in incredible landscapes and icebergs off the east coast of Greenland. We were extremely fortunate to experience quite a lot of fog during our time in Greenland, which provided outstanding opportunities. The east coast of Greenland remains, in my view, the best place on earth to photograph icebergs (Read the Trip Report One, Two, and Three).

From Greenland, I went back to Finland via Iceland to lead my annual workshop to photograph wild Wolves in the Taiga forest. The Wolves put on a wonderful show for us this year in Finland’s amazing autumnal colors (Read the Trip Report). We also had fantastic encounters with several Brown Bears. After this workshop, I hired a car and traveled north for a test visit to a brand-new location that allowed me to photograph both the Golden Eagle and the Eagle Owl from custom-designed hides. This turned out to be time well spent, and I will be returning late next year (2023) to lead a small group to this new location as a direct extension to my Wild Wolves of the Taiga forest. Please contact me if you are interested in these trips, as only a few places remain.

A very brief respite in Australia saw me packing the cold weather gear again for my hotly anticipated expedition to Gould Bay in Antarctica to photograph Penguins at the world’s most southerly Emperor penguin colony (another expedition that had been delayed from 2020). Our expedition ran full length this year and took in everything from strong winds and blowing snow (my favorite conditions) to blue sky and soft clouds. Outstanding images were produced by all who participated in this intense experience (Read the Trip Report).

In 2022 I visited approximately a dozen different countries and totaled 57 flights (most of them international). While I am not proud of the carbon footprint that so many flights entail, I did pay the extra wherever possible to offset it with carbon credits. For the statisticians amongst you, 57 flights for the year work out to a flight every 6.4 days. I have not calculated the total number of miles or kilometers traveled (it’s an awful lot), but a full flight schedule is included below for passing interest. 

During the year, I also published twenty-four podcast episodes (or two every month). This was less than I had hoped but serves as a benchmark to improve on for 2023.

In competition terms, 2022 was relatively quiet as I continued my hiatus of avoiding digital-only photographic competitions for nearly two-thirds of the year. There was no Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA) this year due to the regrettable closure of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP). As a true lover of photographic print as the final expression of a photograph, I am still very much lamenting the loss of APPA. Whether you were an AIPP fan or not, APPA was undisputedly one of the world’s greatest print competitions. I did enter the AIPP Silver Lining Awards before they closed and was happy to take out the win and first place in the Nature category with my Phantom of the Opera photograph of a Snowy Owl. I was also very pleased to represent Australia again at the World Photographic Cup (the Olympics of Photography) in Rome and take out the Silver Medal in the Nature category with the same photograph.

I also managed to sweep the Asia / Pacific Photography Awards in the Nature Category, taking out the First, Second, and Third places and being named runner-up Grand Champion for the three highest-scoring photographs across all categories. The winning photographs included a Gold and two Silver Merit awards.

I was also fortunate to be selected as a contributing photographer through the online digital competition for the Remembering Bears project

On top of the above, I was also announced as a multiple semi-finalist in Nature’s Best Photography (a competition still in the final stages of judging). I will have a future update on this once the next round of judging is completed. To date, 2022 has been a solid year; despite my lack of entries in the various competitions, I managed to either win, place or be a semi-finalist in everything I entered.

In equipment terms, 2022 was my first full year as a mirrorless camera convert, and put bluntly, it has been a wonderful one. The Canon EOS R3 has been nothing short of a game-changing tool and has served me faithfully in everything from the extreme -55º Celsius of Ellesmere Island in Winter to the heat of the African desert. The EOS R3 has world-leading autofocus, extraordinary class-leading High ISO capability, blackout-free shooting, and incredible image quality. It quickly gets my vote for camera equipment of the year. I purchased many new lenses this year in the transition from EF to RF; my favorite is the highly versatile 14-35mm f4L IS, which I used extensively in Greenland this year. I am also highly impressed by the new Swarovski Pure 12 x 42 binoculars that are a step up in reach and image quality over my much loved Leica Ultravid HD binoculars (may they RIP after being run over by my snowmobile – oops). 

In clothing terms, I have been delighted with the 66º North Jökla winter parka I tested in Antarctica on my Emperor Penguin expedition. This down parka is exceptional, warm, comfortable, and ideal for shooting in very cold and extremely cold weather. It has many pockets, which makes it suitable for the field photographer. It is also quite a bit lighter than my Fjallraven Polar One Parka.

My book pick for the year goes to my recently reviewed Tibet (Listen to the Podcast) by Vincent Munier. This is not the first time Vincent has graced my book of the year list, and this 2022 addition should be no surprise, as I am a big fan of his work. 

If I had to sum up 2022 in one word, it would be ‘gratitude.’ I am grateful to have gotten back into the field after a two-year hiatus and to share my passion for photography with many like-minded individuals. I am likewise grateful for a safe and prosperous year and for the incredible experiences throughout the year. My sincere thanks to all who traveled and participated in one of my trips this year; it was beautiful to have such fantastic shared experiences. It was an incredible year of travel and photography that sometimes left me breathless at the pace and intensity. Don’t forget to check out my twelve favorite photographs for the year HERE.

2022 Flight Schedule:

  • 1. Melbourne, Australia – Doha Qatar
  • 2. Doha, Qatar – Copenhagen Denmark
  • 3. Copenhagen, Denmark – Reykjavik Iceland
  • 4. Reykjavik Iceland – Isafjord Iceland (internal flight)
  • * Return journey from Isafjord to Reykjavik by car (flight canceled due to weather)
  • 5. Reykjavik, Iceland – Copenhagen Denmark
  • 6. Copenhagen, Denmark – Helsinki Finland
  • 7. Helsinki Finland – Kajaani Finland
  • 8. Kajaani Finland – Helsinki Finland
  • 9. Helsinki, Finland – Doha Qatar
  • 10. Doha Qatar – Melbourne Australia
  • 11. Melbourne, Australia, Sydney Australia
  • 12. Sydney, Australia – Vancouver Canada
  • 13. Vancouver, Canada – Ottawa Canada
  • 14. Ottawa Canada – Iqaluit, Nunavut Canada
  • 15. Iqaluit, Nunavut Canada – Arctic Bay, Nunavut Canada
  • 16. Arctic Bay, Nunavut Canada – Pond Inlet, Nunavut Canada
  • 17. Pond Inlet, Nunavut Canada – Resolute , Nunavut Canada
  • 18. Resolute, Nunavut Canada – Grise Fjord, Nunavut Canada
  • 19. Grise Fjord, Nunavut Canada – Resolute, Nunavut Canada
  • 20. Resolute, Nunavut Canada – Pond Inlet, Nunavut Canada
  • 21. Pond Inlet, Nunavut Canada – Arctic Bay, Nunavut Canada 
  • 22. Arctic Bay, Nunavut Canada – Iqaluit, Nunavut Canada
  • 23. Iqaluit, Nunavut Canada – Ottawa Canada
  • 24. Ottawa, Canada – Vancouver Canada
  • 25. Vancouver, Canada – London UK
  • 26. London UK – Oslo Norway
  • 27. Oslo Norway – Longyearbyen Svalbard
  • 28. Longyearbyen Svalbard – Oslo Norway
  • 29. Oslo, Norway – Doha Qatar
  • 30. Doha Qatar – Melbourne Australia
  • 31. Melbourne, Australia – Dubai
  • 32. Dubai – Durban, South Africa
  • 33. Durban South Africa – Zululand South Africa (private charter flight)
  • 34. Zululand South Africa – Durban South Africa (private charter flight)
  • 35. Durban, South Africa – Dubai
  • 36. Dubai – Melbourne Australia
  • 37. Melbourne, Australia – Doha Qatar
  • 38. Doha, Qatar – Oslo Norway
  • 39. Oslo Norway – Longyearbyen Svalbard
  • 40. Longyearbyen Svalbard – Oslo Norway
  • 41. Oslo, Norway – Reykjavik Iceland
  • 42. Reykjavik Iceland – Tasilak Greenland
  • 43. Tasilak Greenland – Reykjavik Iceland
  • 44. Reykjavik Iceland – Constable Point Greenland (private charter flight return to Reykjavik by ship)
  • 45.  Reykjavik, Iceland – Helsinki Finland
  • 46. Helsinki Finland – Kuopio Finland (return to Helsinki by rental car)
  • 47. Helsinki, Finland – Doha Qatar
  • 48. Doha Qatar – Melbourne Australia
  • 49. Melbourne, Australia – Sydney Australia
  • 50. Sydney, Australia – Santiago Chile
  • 51. Santiago Chile – Punta Arenas Chile
  • 52. Punta Arenas Chile – Union Glacier Antarctica
  • 53. Union Glacier Antarctica – Gould Bay Antarctica
  • 54. Gould Bay Antarctica – Union Glacier Antarctica
  • 55. Union Glacier Antarctica – Punta Arenas Chile
  • 56. Punta Arenas Chile – Sydney Australia
  • 57. Sydney, Australia – Melbourne Australia 

Looking ahead into 2023

The dust has not yet settled on 2022, but 2023 is only days away, and I have been preparing for another frantic year of travel and photography. 

2023 is kicking off with the chime of the new year with sold-out back-to-back expeditions to Mongolia in winter to photograph both the Pallas Cat and Snow Leopard. I have been itching to return to Mongolia since my last visit and am very much looking forward to returning to this winter wilderness. For those who have enquired about future expeditions to Mongolia, please stand by for more information soon. I will very likely have a future trip for Snow Leopard.

From Mongolia, I will return briefly to Australia to repack before making my way back to Iceland to lead my annual expedition to photograph Nature’s most remarkable feat of engineering – the Arctic Fox. Both my 2023 and 2024 expeditions for Arctic Fox are sold out, but bookings are now open for 2025 (limited places remaining only). Drop me an email to register your interest or for more information.

After I finish in Iceland, I will head to Finland for a private workshop for Wolves in Winter. Private workshops are available on demand and can be custom tailored to the individual’s requirements. 

From Finland, I will head back to Australia to repack before I make the long journey to Ellesmere Island to lead two sold-out expeditions for the White Wolf and a subsequent sold-out expedition for Polar Bears. After these expeditions, I will head directly back to Svalbard, where I will lead a private snowmobile expedition to the east coast for Polar Bears and a ship-based expedition around the archipelago. This will be my last planned Svalbard expedition as a result of the changing regulations regarding both landing sites and approaching Polar Bears. There are only two places remaining before this expedition is sold out.

In May, I will return to Africa for my Zululand ground-level wildlife masterclass. There are only a couple of places left now on this workshop before it is also sold out. Please email me if you are interested in the unique and special opportunity to photograph wildlife in a private game reserve at eye level. 

From Africa, I will travel to Barrows in Alaska for another private workshop for Arctic birds. The key species for this trip will be the remarkable Spectacled Eider in its breeding plumage. I am also hoping for opportunities with the Stellers Eider and Snowy Owl. Barrows have long been on my wish list of places to visit, and I am very much looking forward to donning the waders and spending many hours under the midnight sun with the many species of birds found in this location at this time of the year.

In September, I will co-lead a soldout expedition Scoresby Sund on the East coast of Greenland with my good friends Martyn Lucas and Phillip Bartlett. It has been a few years since Phillip, and I last worked together on the South Island of New Zealand, and I am looking forward to another shared expedition together.

After Greenland, I will return to the north of Finland for my annual wild Wolves of the Taiga forest workshop, followed by an all-new optional extension for Eagle Owls and Golden Eagles. Only three places are remaining before these workshops will both be sold out.

I will round out the year with a fully chartered photographic expedition on Polar Pioneer to the Antarctic Peninsula. It has been quite a few years since I last visited the peninsula, and I am excited to return. Even more so, as I have a whole charter on the vessel and thus can totally control the landing times and keep the emphasis squarely on photography in the best possible light. If you have always wanted to go to Antarctica but wanted to make sure you had the best possible photographic opportunities, then this is the expedition for you. Contact me for further details.

For those of you who have managed to make it this far and wanted a glimpse into 2024 and beyond, I have now uploaded most of 2024 and a hint of 2025 to the workshops page of my website at www.jholko.com/workshops. With Russia and the Siberian Tigers currently shut down indefinitely, I am working on a Puffin trip to Grimsey Island north of Iceland (limited places remaining) and several other large cat projects. More to come next year.

Last and certainly not least, I wish all of you a very safe and happy New Year, and may 2023 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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