Finlands Frozen North 2019 Wildlife Safari Workshop Report

In early February of 2019 I lead a new winter wildlife and landscape safari to the North of Finland in search of both its amazing wildlife and spectacular snow and ice covered landscapes. Finland is well known for both its amazing winter trees and fantastic wildlife that includes Wolves, Wolverine, Eagles, Owls, Reindeer and a great many Arctic and sub-sub-arctic bird species. It should also be said that winter in Finland whilst cold, is absolutely incredible and well worth the frozen fingers and toes.

Our intention on this safari was to try and photograph winter wildlife as well as take advantage of the snow and ice  covered landscape . Northern Finland is blanketed in snow more than six months of the year which means the forests are draped in a wonderful layer of frozen snow and ice. It is truly other worldly and makes for beautiful and surreal photographs.

On our first and second day in Northern Finland we spent our time in some of the private photography hides just on the edge of no mans land on the Russian border. It was our hope to try and photograph both Wolverine and Wolves in a winter setting. Whilst conditions were ideal, the Wolverine and wolves eluded us this time, although we did have excellent opportunities to photograph Siberian Jay, Eurasian Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker and even Golden Eagles.

Our third day took us to the Kuusamo region where we spent time searching for otters whilst photographing Dippers and the frozen river landscape.

On day four and day five we headed up to one of the private hides frequented by  a pair of Golden Eagles. One of the largest eagles in the world, the Golden Eagle is splendid and magnificent; its golden feathers a stunning contrast to the white snow. We had many hours with the eagles as well as Black Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey headed woodpecker, Siberian Jays, Siberian and Crested Tits and more. These were highly productive days that produced some fabulous images.

On Day six we spent the majority of our time photographing playful otters during frequent snow showers on the banks of one of the many frozen lakes. Otters are fantastic critters to photograph as they play in the snow and water. We also took some time to look for both Hawk Owl and Great Gray Owls but were unsuccessful in our search. Owls can be elusive and this time we were not able to find or photograph them (despite having access to many spotters in the field).

On Day seven we photographed both the landscape area of Kuusamo including the wonderful U-bend river as well as returning for the otters.

On our final day we took snow mobiles on a 65km return journey up to the Russian border on top of one of the regions hills to photograph the incredible frozen trees. We were not blessed with great light unfortunately and the heavily overcast conditions meant contrast was extremely low. The alien like forms of the frozen trees are are extremely photogenic however and there were good opportunities despite the low cloud and lack of contrast.

Winter is simply a wonderful time to visit Northern Finland. And as such I will be returning to this region again in February of 2021 to lead another Winter safari to both the Kajaani and Kuusamo regions. If you would like to join me, or would like any more information please just drop me an email at info@jholko.com No obligation at this point.

Arctic Fox Winter 2019 Expedition Report

In February of 2019 I lead my annual expedition to the remote Hornstrandir Nature reserve in the far north west of Iceland to photograph Arctic Fox in winter. I have been travelling and photographing Arctic Fox in this part of Iceland for many years now and it never ceases to be any less exciting or wonderful. Being in a beautiful and spectacular remote location in the depths of winter, surrounded by wild Arctic Fox is quite literally a wildlife photographers nirvana.

This year we were extremely fortunate to encounter a total of six individual foxes including five blue morphs and one white morph (although the white morph was at a distance). Even more exciting was that we experienced and photographed some truly superb interactions and behaviour between the foxes as they went about their daily lives. This year, perhaps more than any other, we had the opportunity to catch the foxes fighting and squabbling amongst themselves.

Winter was late to arrive this year in Iceland with generally lower than previous years snowfall. However, we did experience one day of absolutely incredible snow and wind that provided simply wonderful photographic opportunities (our best day).  We experienced a variety of weather during this expedition that included everything from overcast, sunshine, to rain and snow blizzard. The variety of weather gave us many different opportunities; with the driving snow being my preferred option.

I lost track of how many hours we spent this year photographing the foxes, but it would be fair to say that we put in a solid days photography every day with almost all of our time spent in the field behind the camera. We had very little down time in the field as the foxes were extremely active the majority of the time.

As per previous years we took the opportunity to visit the Arctic Fox centre in Sudavik (this time at the conclusion of our expedition) where we had the opportunity to learn a little more about this amazing mammal. It was also a personal thrill for me to see my photographs now adorning the walls of the centre.

My 2020 Winter expedition to photograph Arctic Fox in the remote north west Hornstrandir Reserve in Iceland is long sold out. If you missed out and are keen to photograph this tenacious little predator in a spectacular winter setting then I am now taking bookings for the 2021 expedition. The 2021 expedition will run from February 1st until February 6th (6 Days / 5 Nights) and includes return private transfer in a charter boat to our private cabin (departing from the town of Isafjord), accomodation in private rooms in the cabin, breakfast, lunch and dinner for the duration of the expedition and all photographic instruction.

Our accommodation for the expedition is a cozy but rugged haven for photographers to enjoy a great atmosphere after a day out in the cold photographing Arctic FoxesThe house was originally built in 1921. In 1948 (just 27 years later), the last inhabitants left this isolated arctic peninsula in search of a better life. The cabin was abandoned for many years and has only recently been restored. Although no one lives here permanently, the cabin is a great getaway and the perfect place to accommodate us whilst we photograph wild Arctic Foxes. Curious Arctic Foxes frequently stop past the cabin to investigate visitors and it is possible to even photograph them from right outside the cabin on occasion. Life is simple in the cabin and you’ll be taken back in time as you enjoy how people lived in the area more than sixty years ago.

If you are interested in photographing one of Nature’s greatest feats of engineering in a beautiful and private winter setting then please drop me an email to register your interest.

Arctic Foxes of Iceland in Winter 2021 Expedition

The detailed PDF itinerary for the 2021 expedition to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the North West of Iceland to photograph Arctic Fox is now online. You can get an idea of what this photographic expedition is like by reading the 2018 Trip Expedition Report HERE (I will have the 2019 Report online in the next few days). The 2020 Expedition is already sold out – but bookings are now open for 2021. Just drop me an email to register your interest. Please visit the Arctic Fox Portfolio on my website to get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this unique and very special expedition.