Why the DSLR is Here to Stay for Many Years to Come

Very recently F-Stoppers published a short article titled ‘Why the World’s Best Photographers are sticking with DSLR’s‘. Whilst I find the articles title to be nothing more than a poorly veiled ‘click bait’ effort; the nuts and bolts of the article are both accurate and profound (and I find myself in full agreement with the articles conclusions based on my own experience in the field). The article is well worth five minutes of your time if you want to understand why the DSLR is still the weapon of choice for a great many professional photographers, why photographers (myself included) still choose a DSLR for our serious photography and why the DSLR is going to be around for many years to come (as a matter of supplementary evidence Canon has stated several times in recent weeks it is not finished with EF lens development!) You can read the full article over at F-Stoppers HERE.

 

Prepare Yourself for Storage Failure in the Field

Recently I had a very expensive 128 GB SanDisk C-Fast card fail on me in the field in Iceland when I was between Winter workshops. This was the first time in well over a decade of digital photography that I have personally had a card fail in a manner that was completely unrecoverable. I have on several occasions seen other brands of card fail and have several times been able to rescue files from cards that had been accidentally erased by clients in the field (using SanDisk’s excellent Rescue Pro software).  In this case however, the card had become completely corrupt with absolutely nothing recoverable. In fact, inserting the card into the camera would actually cause the camera to refuse to even turn on (same result in different cameras).  Trying to read the card in any computer would simply show either no files, or a drive that would not mount. Trying to run Rescue Pro (or SanDisk’s other ‘clear format’ software) resulted in ‘Drive not available’ errors. In short, my expensive card had become completely corrupt.

Of course, the first thing I did when I had access to the internet was to contact SanDisk (a painful process) and lodge a ticket for a faulty card. I had to supply photographs of the card (front and back), describe the failure in excruciating detail via several emails and provide proof of purchase via a photograph of the original purchase receipt. The entire process was exceptionally painful and longwinded and had the card not been worth around $500 I probably would have just thrown my hands up, thrown the faulty card in the bin and ordered another. Given the cost however, I decided to persevere and see it through to a resolution.

What caused this card to fail so catastrophically I cannot say for certain, although I have my suspicions it was caused by turning the camera on and off very quickly (hint – don’t do this). Irrespective of the cause, what is important to note is that I was not able to recover any of the photographs on this card – zero. To SanDisk’s credit they did replace the card (although it took over a month); although they offered zero viable options to recover any files outside of sending the card at my own significant expense to a third party data recovery company. Had the images on the card been really important to me I would have proceeded down this path; but given there were just a few landscape images I shot between workshops on the card I decided to save the expense and consign any potentially recoverable files to the digital gods. It was made crystal clear by SanDisk as a matter of policy that they take no responsibility for any lost data under any circumstances (interesting policy from a storage company – what exactly do they take any responsibility for then?).

The net result of this card failure was a bunch of lost photographs and a month without a replacement card (no big deal). What the experience taught me above all is the importance of being able to shoot to dual cards simultaneously in the field to avoid this sort of potential tragedy. Shooting to dual cards was something I always did with the previous generation Canon EOS 1DX camera. However, its a practice I subsequently dropped with the release of the Canon EOS 1DX MKII since the cameras frame rate slows down too much when shooting to both the CFast and CF card (and Canon in their wisdom and effort to be backward tech friendly did not give us dual CFast slots). Now, on the eve of the Canon EOS 1DX MKIII I find myself praying that the good people at Canon will PLEASE give us dual CFast slots on the new body when it is announced later this year.

As card storage sizes have continued to increase with every generation released the chance for failure of a card that holds an entire trip or holidays work becomes greater and greater. Imagine loosing your entire next workshops work because you were shooting to one of the huge 512GB+ cards that subsequently critically failed. Cards of this size mean that you could shoot for days (or even weeks) before you had the need to download and empty onto a hard drive. Thats a huge amount of work to be stored on a card that is not backed up and that ‘might’ fail at any time. Something to think about the next time you are preparing to go out and shoot in the field. There just might be method in the madness of shooting either to dual cards where possible, or to multiple smaller cards instead of one gigantic card.

Canon Photography Equipment for Sale

Recently I upgraded some of my long lenses to MKIII versions and as such have a few lenses now for sale that need to find a good home. All have been checked and serviced by Canon here in Australia in the last few weeks. All were purchased locally from Canon Australia. Prices are all in AUD Australian Dollars. Deduct approximately thirty percent for USD based on exchange rate of 70cents AUD to the USD. Inspection and test of all lenses in Melbourne is welcome. Buyers pays shipping / courier costs. Drop me an email for interest in any of the items (Photographs of actual lenses on request).

Canon 600mm F4L IS MKII -$10,000 AUD

Lens is in excellent condition. Optics are Perfect AAA+++ Very small scratch on the metal plate on the lens barrel. And small scratch on lens hood 8/10. Lens is supplied with all original packaging including lens trunk, paperwork and original shipping box. Just serviced and checked by Canon Australia

Canon 400mm f2.8L IS MKII – $10,000 AUD

Lens is in as new Mint condition. Perfect AAA+++  10/10 (I have actually only used it once) Lens is supplied with all original packaging including lens trunk, paperwork and original shipping box. Just serviced and checked by Canon Australia

Canon 300mm f2.8L IS MKII – $5,000 AUD

Lens is in excellent condition. Optics are Perfect AAA+++ Very small scratch on the metal plate on the lens barrel. And small scratch on lens hood 8/10. Lens is supplied with original lens trunk.

Canon 85mm f1.2L MKII – *** JUST SOLD ***

Lens is supplied with all original packaging including lens pouch, paperwork and original shipping box.

Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS MKII – $1,800 AUD

Lens is in excellent condition. Optics are Perfect AAA+++ Very small scratch on lens barrel 9/10. Lens is supplied with all original packaging including lens pouch, paperwork and original shipping box. Just serviced and checked by Canon Australia

2018 A Retrospective and 2019 Whats in Store?

As is tradition on my blog, I like to do a “What’s Coming Up” post for the new year as well as reflect back, and wrap up the year that was (its a great way for me to keep a record of my travels and photography and also helps me prepare for the coming year). Even though I ran less workshops than the previous year, 2018 was a frantic year and when I look back at all the destinations and all of the photography its actually hard to reconcile that it all happened in a single year. It was a year that included some absolutely superb photographic destinations and some really incredible experiences.

In equipment terms 2018 was relatively quiet for me with no major changes to my camera line-up. As I wrote both last year and the year before, the Canon EOS 1DX MKII remains the best DSLR camera I have ever used regardless of price, brand or model. I actually managed to get through an entire year without purchasing a new camera or a new lens! I cannot recall the last time I managed to do that! It was a close call on the new Canon mirrorless camera, but after trying one I decided it did not really offer me anything that would improve my photography at this point. Perhaps future generations of the mirrorless system might better suit my needs.

My gear pick for the 2018 year (I always choose something I actually own) is somewhat of a tough choice as I did not actually purchase a new camera or lens. I did however purchase the newly designed Sachtler Flowtech 75 tripod and this has definitely become my favourite tripod. Its super fast to set up in the field, its light, strong, exceptionally sturdy and extremely versatile with its spiked and rubber feet. I also very much like the flexibility that comes with different positions when splaying the legs.

2019 should be a fairly interesting year in equipment terms. I expect to see several new L series lenses from Canon that will predominantly be in the new RF mount. I highly doubt we will see any new pro DSLR bodies until early 2020 – a 1DX MKIII announcement late 2019 is probable. The much rumoured 600mm F4 DO lens (a patent has been filed by Canon and they have shown a prototype) has not as yet eventuated and my gut feeling is that when it finally does it will almost certainly appear in an RF mount only. In fact, I expect the majority of new lenses Canon releases in 2019 to be in RF mount only.

Last year I am gave the nod to Ragnar Axelsson’s excellent Faces of the North for my book pick of the year. For 2018 I am giving the guernsey to Inherit the Dust by Nick Brandt. Nick has continued to lead the charge in black and white elephant photography; producing absolutely superb imagery that is both emotional and timeless. His style and approach are highly imitated, but rarely if ever matched. Inherit the Dust is a wonderful (although sombre) look at what we are doing to our planet. 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. I don’t usually have an overall favourite from a given year, although I definitely have a soft spot for the Wolverine I photographed in northern Finland in Autumn this year during a scouting trip. As below, I have a new workshop for Wolverine and Wolves that will kick off next Autumn in Northern Finland (only two places remaining before it will be sold out).

In competition terms, 2018 was a great year for me with the overall win as the Victorian Documentary Photographer of the Year. This was the second year in a row I have taken out the win in this category. This year I was also a finalist  in the AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards – Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Photographer of the Year. I was also short listed in BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, ANZANG Australian New Zealand Nature Photographer of the Year and was also Highly Honoured in Natures Best Photography Nature in Motion Category for Ghosts of the Arctic as well as being a Finalist and Highly Commended in the Hot and Cold Category of Travel photographer of the Year. Overall, it was a solid year and I am very pleased with the results.

2018 was also another huge year for me both with destinations visited and sheer number of international miles travelled. The year kicked off in early February with a winter workshop to Lofoten (Read the Trip Report).  The landscape of these islands are really quite something to behold. Precipitous and ominous peaks that rise straight out of the ocean loom over small fishing villages that comprise of bright red houses lining the shorelines. With a dusting of fresh snow and arctic winter light the entire scene is akin to a fairy tail location and subsequently the photographic opportunities were truly superb.

From Lofoten I travelled to Iceland to lead my annual expedition to photograph Arctic Fox on the north-west peninsula in Winter (Read the Trip Report).  This was only the second time I have taken a small group with me into the nature reserve as this is an area very near and dear to my heart. During the expedition the participants made between ten and twenty thousand plus photographs per person which gives you a really good idea of just how many incredible opportunities and encounters with Arctic Foxes we experienced during our time in the Nature reserve. Many of our encounters lasted several hours and on multiple occasions we had the luxury of choosing our backgrounds and angle of view for our photographs.

From Iceland I travelled north to Svalbard for both a personal snow mobile expedition to photograph Polar Bears on the sea ice in Winter and to subsequently lead my annual winter workshop in search of Polar Bears, Arctic Fox, Reindeer and dramatic Arctic landscapes (Read the Trip Report).  I spent nearly three weeks exploring the archipelago of Svalbard in winter via snow mobile in temperatures as low as -30º Celsius in search of Polar Bears. Bears were thin on the ground and extremely hard to find this year. In three weeks I drove over three thousand kilometres on my snow mobile and found only one Bear. My winter ship expedition was much more successful with some fantastic bear and wildlife encounters. 

From Svalbard I travelled closer to home to the South Island of New Zealand where I lead my annual landscape workshop with my good friend Phillip Bartlett (Read the Trip Report). Although this was a very successful trip for all who participated it was a difficult and somewhat frustrating trip for me as I was suffering quite badly with a torn lateral tendon in my right elbow at this point and was unable to lift my camera for most of the trip. As it turned out I did actually make some photographs I was very happy with during the workshop. I was also finally able to get my elbow back in shape with some very intensive physiotherapy on return to Melbourne.

From New Zealand I returned to Svalbard for my yearly expedition north of Longyearbyen to photograph Polar Bears living and hunting on the sea ice (Read the Trip Report). With our small group of just twelve photographers and our ice hardened expedition class ship we were perfectly prepared for ten days of Arctic photography under the midnight sun and it turned out to be an absolute gem of an expedition. July and August are just a fantastic time of the year to visit Svalbard. With twenty four hours of daylight (the sun never sets this time of year) the opportunities for photography are literally non-stop and we took advantage on many occasions to photograph late into the evening and early hours of the morning.

After a short break I returned to the deserts of Namibia to lead my bi-annual workshop for both landscape and wildlife to this fantastic country (Read the Trip Report). This was my fourth workshop to the desert of Namibia and the first time I had ventured north into the wildlife rich region of Etosha. It was also the first time I have scheduled this workshop for October (instead of April / May when there is often more cloud). October was a deliberate choice for this safari as it is the end of the dry season in Etosha. Water is at its most scarce and the wildlife is thus forced to congregate around the last few remaining watering holes whilst they wait for the rains and the start of the wet season.

I then wrapped up the year with my expedition to photograph Emperor Penguins on the remote sea ice at Gould Bay in Antarctica (Read the Trip Report). The colony at Gould Bay is actually the most southerly Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica and is also one of, if not the most, difficult colonies to reach. This was my third expedition to this remote region of Antarctica and it proved extremely productive. This was also the first time I have been able to properly explore and photograph one of Antarctica’s dry valleys – a location not far from Union Glacier known as the Elephants Head. I also took the opportunity on this expedition to shoot some video and I hope to get some time in the new year to edit it all together into a short experience video to share here on my blog and website.

All up I led a total of seven separate international workshops and expeditions in 2018  spread across the globe (not including personal work, some local private workshops to the Great Ocean Road as well as one-on-one Print workshops). A brief count tallies up over fifty plane segments and nearly sixty thousand exposures (not all keepers unfortunately!) It was a fantastic year and I just want to thank all of you who I was fortunate to meet, travel and photograph with throughout the year. It was real privilege to share in such remarkable destinations with so many fantastic passionate photographers – thank you.

2019 is ready to get underway and I am really excited about whats in store. In mid January I will be making my first trip to northern Canada in winter to photograph Snowy Owls. Snowy Owls have been on my wish list for many years and I now finally have the right local contact to photograph them in the wild on private land. This exploratory trip is the precursor to an already sold out workshop to photograph these magnificent birds that I will lead back to this part of Canada in late 2019.

From Canada I will travel back to Finland in winter to lead my Sold Out workshop for Wolverine, Wolves, Eagles, Owls and winter landscapes. Northern Finland has quickly become one of my favourite destinations for wildlife photography. Not only does it offer fantastic opportunities for wildlife, but it does so in an absolutely superb winter setting. The opportunities for a landscape draped in fresh winter snow and the stunning Aurora Borealis can make for incredible photography.

From Finland I will travel back to Iceland for my annual SOLD OUT expedition to photograph Arctic fox in the Hornstrandir Nature reserve in winter. Arctic Foxes are unfortunately hunted and shot across most of Iceland making them extremely shy and difficult to find (and even more difficult to photograph). In the remote north-west however the Arctic Foxes are protected inside the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve and can be more easily approached and photographed. We will be staying in a small remote cabin that is rustic, but functional and clean and we will have up to 10 hours of good light during the day with which to photograph the Arctic foxes. With luck, we may also see and photograph the spectacular Northern lights.

From Iceland I will travel directly to Svalbard for both personal work (on snow mobile) and to lead a brand new SOLD OUT expedition via snow mobile  for both wildlife and landscape in a stunning winter setting. I have been returning to Svalbard in Winter for quite a few years now and have found the opportunities afforded by exploring via snow mobile to be truly unique and very special. Be sure to check out the video below that my friend Abraham shot during the filming of Ghosts of the Arctic.

At the conclusion of the snow mobile expeditions I will lead my SOLD OUT annual winter ship expedition in search of Polar Bears, Arctic Fox, Reindeer and Arctic landscapes. The main focus of this expedition will be Arctic winter light, landscape and wildlife. In March and April the light conditions in Svalbard are magical. The 2019 expedition is long sold out and places are already limited for the 2020 expedition. If you would like more information or would like to reserve one of the remaining places for 2020 please drop me an email at any time.

From Svalbard I will return to Australia for a short break before I lead two brand new back-to-back landscape workshops to the Great Ocean Road and wild landscapes of Tasmania with my New Zealand co-leader and friend Phillip Bartlett. I am really excited about these new Tasmania workshops. Tasmania is still very much an undiscovered gem on the global scene with huge potential for dramatic and unique landscape photography. The first workshop is long Sold Out, but there are still two places remaining on the second trip if you would like to join Phillip and myself. Just drop me an email to register your interest.

From Tasmania I will head north again to Svalbard for my annual SOLD OUT Polar Bear expedition to the High Arctic. We will depart from the small town of Longyearbyen and sail up to the edge of the permanent pack ice where we will spend out time searching for and photographing the king of the Arctic. With 24 hour daylight under the midnight sun we will have hours and hours of light for photography.

We will search the sea ice north of Svalbard for Polar Bears, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Arctic Birds and spectacular Arctic landscapes. Whilst Polar Bears and other wildlife are the main attraction on an expedition such as this it needs to be said that the landscape opportunities in Svalbard are nothing short of breathtaking. Soaring bird cliffs, plunging glaciers and dramatic mountainous scenery means there is quite literally something for every photographer. If you have never been to Svalbard you should absolutely put it on your bucket list. As above the 2019 expedition is sold out, but I am already taking bookings for 2020 – full details on my website in the Workshops section.

From Svalbard I will head to the Faroe Islands to co-lead a brand new ‘small-group’ landscape workshop to this spectacular archipelago with friend Martyn Lucas.The Faroe Islands are comprised of eighteen small rugged and rocky islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The island’s position is unique and is the frame for breathtaking views; beautiful mountains, majestic fjords, dramatic sea cliffs; all in all a photographers paradise. The islands have a rich bird life, Including the largest colony of storm petrels in the world and over 305 bird species including Razor Bills and Atlantic Puffins. There are still two places remaining if you would like to join Martyn and myself. Just drop me an email to register your interest.

From the Faroes I will travel back to Iceland to co-lead back-to-back ship based expeditions to Scoresby Sund and the incredible east coat of Greenland with Daniel Bergmann. Both of these expeditions are ‘fly-in, fly-out’ trips that will depart from Reykjavik via charter plane and land at Constable Point in Greenland. Flying to Greenland saves us two days sailing across open ocean in either direction and means we have more time for exploration and photography.

A few words on Greenland: Home to some of the most extraordinary geology to be found on earth, the red and orange glacial scarred landscape of Greenland stands in stark contrast to the electric blue icebergs that carve off its many glaciers and drift slowly down its precipitous fjords. It is a remote land of untamed and unbridled beauty that is rarely visited and even less rarely photographed. It is an incredible place to inspire the imagination and fuel your photographic desires. There are still a few places remaining on each expedition if you would like to join Daniel and myself. Just drop me an email to register your interest. You can check out a portfolio of photographs from Greenland on my website at www.jholko.com

After Greenland I will return to northern Finland to lead my new workshop for Wolverine and Wolves in a fiery Autumn setting. I first scouted this trip in Autumn this year and found it to be an absolutely superb time of the year for photography in Northern Finland. At this time of year the Wolverines and Wolves are active and the bears have not yet begun to hibernate. Additionally the Autumn colour is in full swing which makes for outstanding backgrounds. This workshop is for a small group of just five photographers – only two places remaining before it will be sold out.

And finally to round out the 2019 year I will again return to Northern Canada to lead my new Sold Out workshop for Snowy Owls. 2019 is going to be a very exciting (and very busy) year and I am looking forward to getting underway. For those of you who have made it this far – A sneak peak into 2020 includes brand new expeditions and workshops to the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica as well as a new and very special expedition to the remote east coast of northern Greenland on the very cusp of winter. More on this later.

I wrote last year that it was my hope that 2018 will be the year I published my new fine-art book on Antarctica. Unfortunately time conspired against me and I simply ran out of days to complete the project. I wont jinx myself by making a statement that I hope to finish it in 2019, but I will say I am going to try and allocate more time to completing this project. I have had some preliminary negotiations with a large international publisher and am now in the final throws of deciding wether to self publish or take up their offer for publication and distribution.

Lastly and certainly not least, I want to wish all of you a very safe and happy New Year and may 2019 be one of amazing light and experiences for all of you. See you in the New Year!

 

BenQ ScreenBar e-Reading Lamp

Over the last week since I returned from Antarctica I have been testing a clever new product from BenQ called the ScreenBar e-Reading Lamp. In a nutshell the idea of ScreenBar is to reduce eye strain by softly lighting the screen and surrounding area without introducing any glare. Although the design concept is extremely simple, the problem ScreenBar tries to solve is actually quite complex and has been tackled in various forms and with varying degrees of success by different manufacturers over the years.  This is the first time however, that I have seen a solution that offers not only a soft dimmable glare free light, but that also offers colour temperature control, auto dimming and is powered solely by USB.

Wether its working late hours, watching online videos, extensive word processing or any other kind of non-critical colour work a task light can help reduce and even prevent eye strain. When we sit in front of our computer we look directly into the monitor and our eyes are subsequently affected by the reflected glare. This where the ScreenBar changes the game. The video below show just how simple and easy it is to set up and install ScreenBar.

Personally, I spend a lot of time in front of my computer dealing with email, websites and general running of a business (not to mention time I spend processing and printing photographs) and as a result I often suffer from eye strain after extended sessions in front of my display. To be clear, I don’t use the ScreenBar light when I am editing, processing and printing my photographs, but I have been using it extensively for all my other computer work and I really like the way it eases eye fatigue. I also love the simplicity of the design, the ability to dim the light, set a colour temperature and power the entire device from just a single USB port. Currently I have the Screen Bar installed on my BenQ 4K monitor and a second unit on my iMac.  For general day-today computing needs I have found I prefer to have the light on all of the time and am only turning it off for colour critical work and printing work. In short, I have found significant reduction in eye fatigue with the ScreenBars and I am therefore keeping both lights (although I am going to have to order a third as my son has already stolen the one from my iMac for his own computer).

Screen Bar Key Features

Auto Dimming. Optimal Brightness Instantly: Thanks to the built-in ambient light sensor, ScreenBar adjusts the brightness level automatically and instantly. It can be manually dimmable with the touch sensor control as well.

Space Saving. No Lamp Base, More Desk Space: A specially designed clip makes the attachment onto monitors easy and stable. No need for screws or tape that damage monitors. The clip fits any monitor with thickness from 0.4” to 1.2” (1 to 3 cm).

Screen Bar is available to purchase from Amazon the following countries: (these are not affiliate links)

US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B076VNFZJG

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07GGVNXSW

DE: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B0785D93KD

AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B076VNFZJG

JP: https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07D7PDF8L