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

Master the Craft Step One – Getting past the Camera

Forgive me, I don’t intend it to start this series of articles with a rant, but I do feel the need to vent a little at this early stage and point out that somewhere along the line that ‘we’ (thats the collective we as photographers) seem to have lost sight that it is the ‘image’ that matters and not the camera (which is just a tool) that made it. Perhaps most importantly, its an observation that just because a photograph was made with the latest camera doesn’t make it a good photograph! In fact, the opposite holds true most of the time. Almost universally the current wave of photographs from the latest cameras that adorn our favourite virtual social hangouts (and latest camera news websites) are the latest form of pixel drivel.

Photography is about photographs. It is not about cameras and memory cards.

I want to make an observation that runs the risk of offending the odd person (you cant make an omelette without breaking a few eggs). You see, I have noticed a general down turn in recent times in the quality of photography I am seeing across the internet. I am speaking generally here, and confine my comments to those images I see predominately gracing the pages of social media channels and those websites that espouse camera news and reviews above actual image making. Oh, I am seeing all the latest cameras being used and abused to produce these images, but they are being used to produce imagery that is at best banal in the vast majority of cases. It is as if we are supposed to believe that all you need in your hand is the latest camera system and your photograph is instantly elevated to ‘celebrity status’. What utter nonsense.It seems to me that with every new camera or lens announcement that spreads like wildfire across the pages of the internet that there is an increase in the hype, hyperbolae and (lets call it what it is) ‘fanboysim’ associated with the latest piece of ‘kit’. Frankly, I am pretty tired of it. This hype that manufacturers (and a great many ‘You Tubers’) spew forth with every new camera announcement is designed to do nothing more than sell boxes and gain subscribers. It is an insidious vitriol that has become monotonous, predictable and even nauseating. It is frankly a cancer that is detrimental to quality photography and its high time someone called them out for what they are. They do nothing to improve photography and serve no one but themselves in the process (are you still with me?).

Let me be crystal clear on this point. If you want to improve your photography and create better photographs than the vast majority (not hard) all you need to do is follow three steps. If you follow these steps I guarantee your photography will improve exponentially and that you will produce far better images than the vast majority of people out there who loosely call themselves photographers. Follow the steps and you will Master the Craft. It has been my experience that the vast majority out there foolishly believe that their next camera purchase is all they need to improve their photography and that their current camera is somehow holding them back from producing better photographs. They could not be more wrong. A decent camera is all you need to make a great photograph. After that, no amount of money thrown at the problem is going to improve your photography and falling into the never ending upgrade cycle will do nothing but empty your bank account. The problem of how to improve your photography is not one you can solve by throwing money at. You are going to have to do some actual real work instead. Sorry.

With that said, lets be far more positive and talk about the three steps you can take to vastly improve your photography. Step one is to learn how to use the tool you already own properly. And, this is very important, educate yourself on what makes a good photograph; thats Step Two. But, of even greater importance, you need to seperate yourself from the emotional investment in your own work; and thats Step Three. Let me give a very clear and blunt example of what I am referring to in Step Three:  Just because you (or me) travelled to the other side of the planet to make our photograph, doesn’t make it a good photograph! In fact, our emotional investment in our travels makes us probably the worst person to make the call on the quality of the photograph. But I am getting ahead of myself…

Lets take this step by step. Step one is the easiest of the three steps and is to learn the tool you already own. Before I go any further, I will stop myself right here and say that if you think the latest camera that was just announced or released (or that you need a sensor with more dynamic range or more pixels) is going to improve your photography then you need to immediately stop and rethink what it is that makes a really great photograph. If you fall into this category then there is nothing I can do to help you. You are stuck in a never ending upgrade loop that is going to continually empty your bank account. Your only hope to break out of this vicious circle is going to come in the form of a revelation. You have to open yourself up to the reality that its not the camera that matters and realise its you that is the limiting factor. Problem is, most people who are stuck in this loop are completely oblivious and believe wholeheartedly that what I am writing applies to everyone but themselves.

If I take myself as an example, there is a very good reason I shoot with the Canon EOS 1DX MKII and the EOS 1DX before that.  You see, I ‘know’ the tool’. I know it so well that if you handed me my camera I could set an ISO, f-stop and shutter speed blindfolded in less than 2 seconds (heck I can change focus cases and customise each case blindfolded, without even thinking). I can do this, because I have mastered the tool. I have a starting ISO, f-stop and shutter speed on both my 1DX MKII cameras. I know exactly what they are set to when I pick them up, and I know exactly how to change them in milliseconds without even thinking. My fingers know exactly where each button is and exactly what it does. Its muscle memory for me to change the settings on these cameras. Do you know what happens when operating your camera controls becomes muscle memory? It frees up your brain up to be creative! You are no longer constrained by the technical limitations of your brain and fingers. Your brain is free to create. You can be an artist and NOT a technician. This is so important that I am going to say it again…. When you master your camera you free yourself from the boundaries of any technical knowledge you require to operate the tool of your trade. Your brain can focus 100% on creating the photograph instead of worrying about any technical limitations that impede the quality of your photography. You are now truly free to create. You can focus on the play of light in front of you and on capturing the magical decisive moment (it exists as much in Landscape as it does in Wildlife and Street photography). At this point of the development of your photography you have transcended the technical boundaries of your camera and you are now only constrained by your ability to create (thats Step Two). Step three we will come to later as its a necessity to understand once you master step one and step two.

I can hear the masses now.. I know my camera they are chanting! (pitchfork in hand). But how many out there could truly set their camera controls blindfolded without even thinking about it. How many could even turn on the camera and attach a lens without thinking? Truly knowing your camera means it becomes an extension of your arm and hand. You don’t have to think about using it in any way. It is merely an extension of your body and nothing more than something you put to your eye before you press the shutter. Its not a party trick to set your camera controls blind folded without having to engage your brain. Its an absolutely essential skill to get past being a technician and to start creating great photographs. Next time you stop the car because you see something you want to photograph ask yourself at what point does your brain focus 100% on creating the image and not on cameras or equipment? Is it when you first saw the potential photograph? When you step out of the vehicle? When you finish setting up the camera? The answer is it should be before you even saw the potential. Your brain should be creating and thinking about composition, light and the image all the time when you are out making photographs. Getting the camera out, setting it up and making the exposure should be something that you do without even thinking about.

Just as an aside: Over the last week or so I have fielded quite a few questions about the new Canon mirrorless system asking what my thoughts are, when will I buy one and will it replace my current 1DX MKII cameras. To cut to the chase, I will likely not be purchasing a Canon mirrorless R system in the foreseeable future (and I have played with a pre-production sample and the new 24-70mm f2 lens). There are a number of different reasons for this decision; not the least of which is the limitation of five frames per second – which is just too slow for wildlife and the unanswered question over its capabilities to deal with extreme cold. More importantly, though is that the camera offers absolutely nothing that is going to improve my photography. Sure, it offers me a small weight saving and a few extra megapixels (which I don’t need) over my 1DX MKII cameras, but frankly that isn’t worth the learning curve of a whole new tool, let-alone the cash outlay. If I was to invest in this new camera my photography would likely degrade until such time as I came to grips with the new tool and mastered the new camera. That is something I am only willing to accept if there is an obvious advantage in the long run and quite honestly at this point I don’t believe there is. With that said, I do very much like the ergonomics of the new mirrorless system and it is the first mirrorless camera I have picked up that actually felt good in my hand.

To close out Part One of Getting Past the Camera it is important to recognise that it is possible to make a brilliant photograph with pretty much any camera (even one more than five years old!). The technology has matured to the point that the camera is in virtually every single case no longer the limiting factor in anybodies photography. We have more megapixels than we need and we have more dynamic range than we need. We have cameras that focus faster, shoot faster and are capable of taking more photographs than ever before. Modern cameras are simply no longer the limiting factor in anyones photography. Understanding and accepting that a new camera will not improve your photography is a necessity to actually improving the quality of your photographs. Once you accept this fact you can get on with learning and mastering the tool that you already own. And as an added bonus you just saved a bunch of money!

In Step Two of Master the Craft we are going to talk about educating yourself on what is a good photograph. It might seem a simple thing, but you would be surprised how many photographers out there have no idea what makes a great photograph. Part two and part three are sort of linked, but we are going to deal with them separately as Part three is more about feelings and emotion where as Part two is more about education and understanding.

Departing for Namibia Desert Fire Safari 2018

The couple of weeks I have had to unpack, catch up and repack since I returned from the Nature Festival in Finland has quickly come and gone and very early tomorrow I am heading back to the airport to start the trek over to Africa for my 2018 Namibia Desert Fire Safari. It has been two years since I was last in Africa and I am very much looking forward to returning to the oldest desert in the world and the fantastic and diverse opportunities that Namibia always presents.On this safari we are going to visiting the ghost town of Kolmonskop, the giant sand dues of Sossusvlei (and of course the iconic Deadvlei), the spectacular skeleton coast and the wildlife rich region of Etosha. On top of this we have many other stop off locations planned along our journey. This year we will be kicking off our safari by flying down to Luderitz from the capital city of Windhoek. Flying saves us two days on the road and gives us even more time for photography in the field.This safari is a combination of both landscape and wildlife and as such I am packing both wide angle and super-telephoto lenses. All of this will pack into my F-Stop Lightroom Roller which I will use to get the equipment through the transit stage of my travels. I will then re-pack it on location into my F-stop backpack.

F- Stop Lightroom Roller Camera Bag:

  • 2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII
  • 2 X Canon EOS 1DX MKII Spare Batteries
  • 1 x Canon 16-35mm F4L
  • 1 x Canon 24mm F3.5L TSE
  • 1 x Canon 24-70mm F4L IS
  • 1 x Canon 70-200mm F2.8L IS MKII (I am unsure if I will upgrade to the MKIII at this stage)
  • 1 x Canon 400mm F2.8L IS MKII
  • 1 x Canon 1.4 TC MKIII Teleconverter

In my checked luggage I am bringing the following:

  • 1 x Sachtler Flowtech Carbon Fire Tripod (the new model I have absolutely fallen in love with)
  • 1 x Arca Swiss Geared Tripod head
  • 1 x Canon 1DX MKII Battery Charger and Lens Cleaning Kit

Why No Canon Mirrorless R? 

I will have more to say about the new Canon mirrorless camera (and many of the other new cameras recently announced) in a new series of posts I am calling ‘Master the Craft’. I hope to publish the first of this new series while I am on the road.

Post Script – An update on the torn lateral tendon in my right elbow for those of you who kindly emailed me to see how it is progressing.  After very intensive physiotherapy over the last few months I have turned the corner and can again lift my camera without pain and discomfort. I am hopeful that this Namibia safari will be the first trip since Antarctica last year that I can work freely without pain in my right arm.

See you in Africa!

Canons New Mirrorless Camera Thoughts and Musings

Over the last couple of weeks I have fielded a few emails and phone calls asking me my thoughts on the new mirrorless camera coming from Canon (to be announced officially in the next few days – Nikon’s is now formally announced). Honestly, I have not been given any information on this camera from Canon. None of my Canon contacts have mentioned it even in passing or provided any detail about a mirrorless camera whatsoever (nor have I bothered to ask). Even if they had, I would no doubt be under an NDA (which I am not) and unable to talk about it. Regardless, the specifications for the new Canon mirrorless camera have leaked on-line over at Canon Rumours and I have now had a bit of chance to gather my thoughts on the published specifications and what it might mean for my own photography. In case you missed the published specifications they are included below: (keep in mind none of this has been confirmed by Canon).Canon EOS R Specifications (still not confirmed by Cannon)

  • 30.3mp Full Frame CMOS
  • Dual pixel CMOS AF
    • 100% vertical x 88% horizontal AF coverage (We think)
  • EV -6 low brightness autofocus
  • 4K video
  • Touchscreen LCD
  • Articulating screen
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Microphone jack
  • Headphone jack
  • Dustproof
  • Drip-proof
  • Magnesium body
  • Battery: LP-E6N
  • Battery grip: BG-E22
  • Size: Width of about 136 mm × height of about 98 mm
  • Weight: Approximately 580 g
  • Mount: inner diameter 54 mm, flange back 20 mm, 12 pin
  • Mount adapter: “Mount adapter EF – EOS R” “Control ring mount adapter EF – EOS R” “Drop – in filter mount adapter EF – EOS R”

A new mount?

From what I can surmise from the information available online it does indeed appear that the new Canon RF mount on this new mirrorless camera is a shorter registration than the EF mount, and it therefore will require an adapter to use EF lenses. That is sure to please some that want to adapt lenses to the RF mount, and will disappoint others (myself included) that were hoping for native EF compatibility. As of today we have no idea what (if any) implications there are for requiring an adapter for EF lenses, but the bottom line is a native EF mount would have zero implications – and that would have been my preference.

Am I about sell my DSLR’s and jump to mirrorless?

Before I answer that question it is important to understand that mirrorless cameras fill a certain niche. If you are street photographer, wedding, or a general jack-of-all trades shooter then mirrorless may well be the answer to all your prayers. However, contrary to what you might have read from the many zealots and pundits online mirrorless is not the be all and end all of cameras and it certainly doesn’t spell the extinction of the mirror SLR camera. Mirrorless cameras suffer from a number of different problems not the least of which is predictable and consistent failure in cold climates (and questionable weather sealing). Over the last few years I have seen numerous mirrorless cameras fail (including latest models from Sony, Fuji  and others) in extreme cold on workshops and expeditions and whilst they come back to life once warmed, the shot has been long missed (along with many others). Simply put, with current technology EVF’s (Electronic View Finders) cannot be relied on in temperatures below about -10º Celsius. In temperatures of -20º Celsius and below you can expect failure to occur in as little as just a few minutes. This makes mirrorless useless for a lot of the winter photography I do in extreme cold. Just as an aside, once temperatures reach -20º Celsius and below you can expect problems even with most DSLR’s. Focus points start to ‘ghost’, batteries drain super quickly and electronics freeze and fail. Only the toughest and most rugged cameras such as Canon’s 1DX MKII and Nikon’s D5 can be relied on these sort of conditions. To date, I have never had a 1DX or 1DX MKII fail in extreme cold and have used these cameras for many hours at a time in temperatures as low as -40º Celsius. Try that with mirrorless and see how you get on…

With the issue of cold temperatures aside, mirrorless offers many advantages (not the least of which is a smaller size and less weight) that are extremely appealing and put simply I am excited about Canon’s new mirrorless camera. And yes, I will almost certainly be purchasing one and adding it to my camera kit. However it is important to understand that it certainly wont be replacing my DSLR’s any time soon. The new mirrorless camera will serve me as a lightweight travel camera and landscape camera for all but sub zero conditions. Mirrorless will not replace my DSLR cameras for wildlife in the foreseeable future (irrespective of climate).

I am still formulating my thoughts on what a new RF mount means for me, but its unlikely I will purchase new RF lenses in the foreseeable future. I will instead adapt my current EF lenses to the mirrorless camera. Of most interest to me is the option to adapt my Tilt Shift lenses to the new camera for landscape work.

As yet I have no idea when Canon will actually be able to deliver this new mirrorless camera (keep in mind its not even officially announced yet). I hope (although I think its unlikely) it will be in my hands in time for my Namibia workshop early next month.