A few days back in Australia have already come and gone, and in a little over an hour, I am departing for the airport (again) and the long haul of eight flights to Grise Fiord in Ellesmere Island, high in the Canadian Arctic. It has been a year since I was last in the Canadian Arctic, and I look forward to returning to this fantastic, remote location. Ellesmere Island is one of the very last truly wild places on earth, and it offers a unique opportunity to experience the harsh but beautiful Arctic winter. Of course, we are hoping for extraordinary encounters with wildlife, but cognisant of the realities of trying to find and photograph one of the hardest-to-find animals on earth, the white Arctic Wolf. The eve of an expedition such as this is always full of excitement and anticipation, and I look forward to meeting up with the team in Canada and heading out into the field.
I will be offline for most of March while I guide several expeditions for White Arctic Wolves and Polar Bars on Ellesmere. If you are trying to contact me during this time, please be patient, and I will get back to you on my return as soon as possible.
As my time here in Australia has been so limited between trips, I have not made a formal packing list for these expeditions; but I briefly discussed the equipment I am taking in my latest podcast HERE. If time permits, I will try and record a podcast or two during the expedition for later upload. See you in Ellesmere!
I have just published Episode 65 of my Wild Nature Photography Podcast. In this episode, I briefly discuss my preparations for the upcoming back-to-back expeditions to Ellesmere Island in the high Canadian Arctic for both White Arctic Wolves and Polar Bears; as well as the follow-on winter ship-based expedition to Svalbard. The main topic of the podcast is my thoughts on the art of cropping in Wildlife and Nature Photography. This episode also debuts the new podcast artwork.
Some sad news; I learned very early this morning that ‘Basil’; the old male Arctic Fox I have been photographing for years in the far north of West Iceland (that I posted a video of a few days ago) has passed away. From what I have been able to find out, he passed in his sleep. His body has been taken back to the Arctic Fox research centre for aging and further research. Rest in peace Basil. You were a great friend and will be greatly missed.
In early February 2023, I led my annual winter expedition to the remote Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in north-western Iceland to photograph the Arctic Fox. This is an expedition I have been leading every year for many years now (excluding the COVID pandemic) and is one I always eagerly look forward to.
As I have written before, the Arctic fox is Nature’s most remarkable feat of engineering and is an incredibly photogenic subject in the snow-covered Iceland landscape. In the far north of Iceland, the Arctic fox is protected inside the Nature reserve, and it is possible to get extremely close to these wild animals. Over the years, I have come to know several of the foxes that frequent the cabin we stay in, and my time with them has become extremely precious.
This year our workshop was preceded by several days of winter storms that saw flights from Reykjavik to the small northwestern town of Isafjord delayed by two days. Fortuitously, this did not affect our departure time, and our group could convene in Isafjord around lunchtime on our scheduled departure day. We then took the one-hour boat ride across the fjord on calm seas to our remote cabin – our warm and cozy home for our week-long workshop.
This year we had six individual foxes around the cabin that we photographed on all but one day. I have been photographing several of these foxes, including the dominant female and old male, for years, and we are very much old friends. Seeing at least two first-year cubs active in the area was also fantastic. The old male I had affectionately named ‘Basil’ is likely in his last winter. He moves slowly, shows many grey hairs and is at least eight to nine years old – outstanding innings for an Arctic fox.
Winter in Iceland can be particularly fickle, and this year we began our workshop with absolutely fantastic snow conditions that saw us photographing many hours across the first two days. The foxes are typically most active in the early morning and late afternoon, which at this time of year meant we were out shooting from about 9:30am until roughly 4:30pm. The winter light is short this time of year in Iceland, but the sun’s low angle makes for superb photography throughout the day.
Day three of the expedition saw the weather take a significant turn for the worse, with temperatures rising above zero degrees celsius, with driving rain and gale force winds that forced us to take refuge in our warm cabin and spend our day downloading, editing and processing photographs from the last two days. The near hurricane force winds made for huge swells and charging horses in the ocean, even in the relative security of the fiord. Although photography was impossible on our third day, watching the storm from the comfort of our warm cabin was extremely dramatic.
Over the next few days, we experienced various conditions that perfectly summarised Iceland’s freeze/thaw climate. Conditions for our workshop this year ranged from absolutely superb to just about impossible on day three during the storm. We had everything from breaking sun to blizzard conditions, providing an excellent opportunity to create a diverse portfolio of images during the workshop.
I will return to the far north of Iceland in the winter of 2024 to lead another workshop for the Arctic Fox in Winter and then again in 2025. 2024 is long sold out, but a few places remain on my 2025 expedition. If you have ever wanted to photograph Nature’s most remarkable survivor in Winter, this is your opportunity. Our remote cabin is ideally situated as a home away from home and provides a beautiful base from which to photograph the Arctic Fox. Places are minimal; please contact me for complete details.
For those who appreciate wildlife photography and would like to own some of the photographs from these expeditions, you can order my book on the Arctic Fox from my online publishing house – Melrakki Publishing.
I have just published Episode 64 of my Wild Nature Photography Podcast. In this episode, I briefly wrap up my 2023 Winter Arctic Fox expedition in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in north-western Iceland (full trip report coming soon) and discuss my preference for cold weather hunting clothing when photographing wildlife over the far more popular and expensive mountaineering brands.