Arctic Fox in Iceland Winter 2023 Expedition Report

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.

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