Departing for Greenland and Finland 2019 Expeditions

My whirlwind stop at home in Melbourne, Australia has already come to an end (yes, I really do live here!) and as soon as I finish this post I am heading back to the airport to start the long haul north back to Iceland then onto Greenland for my two back-to-back expeditions to the East Coast and Scoresby Sund with Daniel Bergmann. Honestly, it feels like my feet have not even touched earth here in Australia and I am definitely not fully recovered from my Faroe Islands jet lag (Read the TRIP REPORT). Despite the fading case of jet lag I am really excited to be returning to Greenland. The massive icebergs and rugged landscape of Greenland are a a dynamic paradise for photographers. In particular the East Coast may just be my favourite place on earth to photograph.  Check out the Adobe Spark Presentation HERE.

After I finish in Greenland I will be having a few days off in Helsinki before I start my Autumn workshop in the north of Finland for Wolves, Wolverines and Bears. Autumn is a gorgeous time to photograph in the forests of Northern Finland and with a little luck we will have some fantastic photographic encounters during our time on the Russian border. Finland is in my experience one of the most underrated wildlife destinations on earth. Not only does it offer up Bears, Wolverine, Wolves, Otters, Pine Martin and more, but it is also home to White-tailed Sea Eagles, Golden Eagles, Siberian Jays, Black and Spotted Woodpeckers and a host of other Arctic and Sub Arctic birds.

Packing for the East Coast of Greenland and Finland in Autumn presents a minor challenge. Although both will be similar in terms of temperature, they require quite different photographic approaches. With the emphasis in Greenland on landscape and the emphasis in Finland on Wildlife it requires quite a bit of thought on what equipment to actually pack in order to avoid taking absolutely everything.  All of the below fits in my new Gura Gear Kiboko backpack (just!). Although I generally prefer a roller bag for airports (that I can then re-pack into a backpack) on this occasion a backpack makes more sense as I need to carry all my equipment from the airport at Constable point to our point of embarkation on our boat.

2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII Cameras with 2 x Spare Batteries

1 x Canon 8-15mm Fish Eye

1 x Canon 11-24mm

1 x Canon 24-70mm F4L IS Lens

1 x Canon 100-400mm F3.5-5.6 IS MKII Lens

1 x 600mm F4L IS MKIII Lens

1 x 1.4 TC MKIII Teleconverter

1 x Lecia 10 x 42 HD Binoculars

If I had the space I would love to take a tilt shift lens or two with me as well as I find these really useful when working from ship. The keen eyed amongst you may notice I am not taking the EOSR or a tripod. Greenland is an active and dynamic place and I have found in the past a tripod is often more of a hindrance than a benefit; especially when things are happening quickly (such as icebergs rolling over). I will shoot handheld for these expeditions (or on a bean bag for my long lenses). For Finland I am packing my Sachtler fluid head to mount the 600mm inside the hides.

If you missed out on a place on the 2019 and 2020 expeditions but would like to travel to the East Coast of Greenland to photograph this amazing region then I will be repeating this very special ‘Winters Cusp’ expedition in September of 2021 (some places and cabins already spoken for). Full details are now available for download from my website at www.jholko.com including a complete PDF itinerary.

Lastly, there is no internet access during my time on the East Coast of Greenland; so if you contact me via email please be patient and I will get to you on my return as soon as possible. See you in Greenland!

 

Mystical Faroe Islands Workshop Report 2019

In August of 2019 I led my first landscape workshop to the Faroe Islands; a series of remote islands south of Iceland (north of Scotland) that offer some of the most rugged and beautiful sea cliffs I have been fortunate to experience and photograph. The Faroe islands archipelago is actually an autonomous country of the kingdom of Denmark. The islands cover a total area of approximately 1,400 square kilometres with a population of just 52,000 people. The climate is sub polar oceanic and such the weather is renowned as wet, windy, cloudy and cool (not what we experienced). Temperatures average above freezing because of the islands location in the Gulf Stream.

The landscape (specifically the sea cliffs) of the Faroe Islands is about as spectacular as one can imagine. Dramatic and plunging cliffs that rise sharply (at some points greater than 800 feet) out of the ocean make for a very dramatic back drop for photography.

Prospective photographic suiters should arm themselves with the knowledge that the Faroe Islands is ripe with locations and vistas you cant simply drive up to and photograph. You absolutely must be prepared to walk and/or hike; and often over some fairly uneven terrain at distances that can exceed ten or more kilometres. Additionally, many of the local land owners have now gated (due to the recent and steep rise in tourism) their properties and are charging admission to hikers and photographers. This currently unregulated practice means that there is quite a variation in entrance fees depending on where you choose to visit. Some locations are now closed to the public without a local guide. We had pre-scouted all of the locations for our workshop and as such avoided any nasty access surprises.

We had planned to schedule our daily activities around the often highly variable weather that the Faroe Islands is known for. As it turned out we experienced weather that could perhaps be said to be ‘too good’ with many warm sunny rain free days that were also mercifully low on wind. In fact, the only rain we experienced during our entire stay was our last morning as we made our way to the airport to say our farewells. I never touched my cold weather clothing the entire trip and lived in a light base layer with the occasional mid layer and light weight wind proof jacket.

Our daily itinerary for this workshop took us across several of the islands and included quite a bit of hiking to reach the best vantage points. The longest of these hikes was out to Drangarnir Arch and Tindholmur; a fairly arduous hike with a superb and highly rewarding vista. If you are planning to visit the Faroes please be aware that access to this location is now closed without a local guide.

We also visited the island of Mykines where we photographed the Atlantic Puffins that nest on the sea cliffs. I have been fortunate to photograph Atlantic Puffins at two of the best locations in the world in Iceland and was pleasantly surprised to find Mykines was just about as good as any of them. The Puffins are very approachable and one can sit quietly near the cliff edge and photograph them as they come into land with food in their mouths for their chicks. Some of us also took an option hike out to the lighthouse. Although the Puffins are quite approachable the island of Mykines is a tourist hot spot and you do have to contend with a great many day trippers also keen to attempt to photograph the puffins with their smart phones (an unfortunate reality of life these days).

Some of the other locations we visited during our workshop included Traelanipan Cliffs and Bosdalafossur Waterfall and Sørvágsvatn Lake. We also visited and photographed the iconic sea stack Trollkonufingur as well as Gasadalur and Mulafossur waterfall. We also took the ferry to the island of Kalsoy for a walk and scenic photograph of the lighthouse as well as the seal lady at Mikladur. We also visited the Islands of Kunoy, Bordoy and Vidoy and hiked the hillside for amazing views over the fjord and photographed the the Risin & Kellingin sea stacks.

Generally speaking the distances between locations in the Faroe Islands are short and the road conditions mostly excellent (although the roads are very narrow in parts). Tunnels connect some islands whereas others require ferry or car ferry access. In the case of ferry access, you absolutely must either pre-book or arrive very early (in cases where booking is not possible) to avoid disappointment. The Faroes has become very popular in recent years as a photographic destination and as such it is rare to have any of the iconic locations to yourself.

Due to my travel commitments I have not as yet had the time to process many of the landscape photographs I made during our time in the Faroes (and I am leaving for Greenland and Finland in just a few days), but I hope to share more of these beautiful islands over the coming months as time allows. 

Greenland East Coast 2019 & 2020 Expeditions Sold Out!

Both my back-to-back 2019 and 2020 expeditions to the remote East Coast of Greenland on the cusp of Winter are now SOLD OUT.  If you have not travelled to and photographed the Scoresby Sund region of Greenland then you absolutely must put it on your bucket list. The East coast of Greenland is one of the most spectacular locations on our planet. Speaking candidly, if I could only photograph one place for the rest of my life it would be Scoresby Sund and the East Coast of Greenland.  It is absolutely miraculous on every level.

If you missed out on a place on the 2019 and 2020 expeditions but would like to travel to the East Coast of Greenland to photograph this amazing region then I will be repeating this very special ‘Winters Cusp’ expedition in September of 2021 (some places and cabins already spoken for). Full details are now available for download from my website at www.jholko.com including a complete PDF itinerary. Dont forget to also check out  the Adobe Spark Greenland Presentation.

Faroe Islands Workshop 2019 Packing List

With time marching ever onward my brief respite at home in Australia after my recent Svalbard High Arctic expedition (Read the Trip Report) has already come to an end and early tomorrow morning I am heading back to the airport to start the trek back north (via London and Copenhagen) for my 2019 workshop to the Faroe Islands with good friend Martyn Lucas.

Packing for the Faroe Islands is a bit of a compromise for me. Although the primary emphasis on this workshop is definitely landscape, we will also be taking the opportunity to photograph Atlantic Puffins and the many sea birds found along the Islands precipitous sea cliffs. As such, I need to pack some wildlife kit as well as my usual landscape equipment. Although I could probably get by with just my 100-400mm lens for the Puffins the reality is that I know I will miss the 400mm 2.8L IS MK3 and as such this lens is a must take for me. With that in mind, my equipment for this workshop as follows:

– Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera with RRS L Bracket (and spare batteries)

– Canon EOS RF to EF Adapter

– Canon 16-35mm F4L

– Canon 24-70mm F4L IS

– Canon 100-400mm F3.5 – 5.6 IS MKII

– Canon EOS 1DX MKII (with spare battery)

– Canon 400mm F2.8L IS MKIII

– Nisi Filter Kit including Graduated ND Filters, ND Filters and Circular Polariser

– Gitzo Carbon Fibre Tripod with Arca Swiss D4 Geared Head

– Cable Release

The Faroe Islands have long been on my list to photograph as part of a workshop and I am really excited to get underway with a small group of passionate attendees. See you in the Faroes in a few days! The below photograph courtesy Martyn Lucas.

Winner 2019 AIPP Epson Victorian Professional Nature Photographer of the Year

Over the last few days The AIPP Australian Institute of Professional Photography Victorian State awards (VPPY) were held here in my home town of Melbourne at Melbourne Polytechnic Fairfield Campus. The AIPP Annual state and national awards are my two absolute favourite photographic competitions to participate in because all entries (in the categories I choose to enter) are judged in print and not digitally. Those of you who follow my blog regularly are already well aware that I am a huge advocate of the print as the finished medium of choice for my own photography – enough said. The AIPP National and State awards remain two of the few remaining competitions to actually judge the finished print and they do so using a panel of judges all deemed experts in their respective genres and accredited as Masters of Photography through their years of success in this arena.

About the Print Judging: In case you are unfamiliar with either of these competitions the prints are judged in a controlled lighting environment and assessed for their content, originality as well as technical craftsmanship. The judging is enthralling to watch (it was live-streamed to the internet this year) and can be quite nerve wracking if you are a first time entrant as the standard of work is incredibly high. In brief, prints are scored out of 100 with images judged less than 70 being deemed not of professional standard. Prints judged between 71 and 79 are considered strong professional practice and entrants receiving scores in this area are considered to be producing professional quality prints. Images judged 80-84 are awarded a Silver and are considered strong professional practice of an award standard that demonstrate skill beyond strong professional practice. Scores of 85-89 are given a Silver with Distinction and demonstrate superior imagination, craft and skill that elevates the print far above professional practice. Prints judged 90-94 exhibit excellence in visual communication, craft and skill and are considered stunning and exceptional in every way. This level of print far exceeds professional practice and is reserved for only the highest quality prints. And finally those rare few images that reach 96-100 are considered to have exceptional vision, creativity, innovation, master craftsmanship and skill. Very, very few prints ever score Gold awards in these competitions.  Out of the hundreds and hundreds of print entries this year (over 700 prints) fewer than two dozen received Gold awards and only two Gold Distinctions were awarded.

This year I entered the Nature, Documentary and Landscape categories, entering the maximum allowable twelve prints spread across the three categories. I wanted to put what I felt were my strongest four prints into the Nature category, but also wanted to test the other eight prints and see how they performed in different categories. This turned out to be the right approach for me and I was absolutely thrilled to take overall first place in the Nature Category as well as being a finalist in both the Landscape and Documentary categories. The Nature category is very near and dear to my heart and winning it is a huge honour. On top of winning my chosen category I also took out the Highest Scoring Print award for the Nature category. As someone who is so passionate about the ‘print’ and the craft of fine art printing this was an incredible honour.

Below are the winning prints. All of the prints were printed on Moab Somerset Museum Rag. This wonderfully sublime paper has continued to remain my stock of choice for all my fine art photography prints. If you love printing and are not familiar with this paper I urge you to check it out and get a sample pack.

To help provide some insight into the judging I captured and uploaded the live-stream video of the judging of my four photographs in the Nature category. I did not bother with the Documentary and Landscape categories as these were more or less my ‘seconds’ and it was really the Nature category that I was interested in. If you are keen to check out the judging of my Landscape and Documentary prints you can find the full livestream on You Tube. It is both insightful and  interesting to hear the judges thoughts, comments and perspectives. Keep in mind, you are listening to individual opinions – hence a panel of five judges.

Face-Off in a Blizzard –  GOLD Award Nature Category

Lost in a Blizzard –  GOLD Award Nature Category

Family Reunited –  Silver with Distinction Award Nature Category

 

Arctic Fox Snow Storm –  Silver with Distinction Award Nature Category

Sinuous –  GOLD Award Landscape Category

Mars –  SILVER Award Landscape Category

Hanging Glacier –  SILVER Award Landscape Category

Greenland –  SILVER Award Landscape Category

Top of the World –  SILVER with Distinction Award Documentary Category

Wolverine –  SILVER Award Documentary Category

Polar Bear –  SILVER Award Documentary Category

Lone Hunter –  SILVER Award Documentary Category