Australia World Photographic Cup Selection 2019 Nature Category

In some exciting news, I recently learned that one of my photographs from APPA this year (READ the Round Up) has been selected to represent Australia in the World Photographic Cup Nature category.  This is the second time one of my photographs has been chosen to represent Australia in this prestigious competition. Last time it was the reportage category with one of my photographs taking out the Bronze Medal. I cant as yet share which photograph has been selected – but will do so as soon as I am able.

The WPC was founded in 2013 as a cooperative effort by The Federation of European Photographers (FEP) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Its singular goal is to unite photographers in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. A Governing Committee has been created to conduct the ongoing affairs of the competition, also supported by UAPP (United Asian Professional Photography) and AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography). The brotherhood and sisterhood of photography is a bond that transcends language, culture, and geography. That’s the foundation behind the World Photographic Cup, an one of a kind international team competition. Sure, there are lots of other competitions, but there is just one World Photographic Cup.

Further information can be found here: http://www.worldphotographiccup.org/

Photo of the Month November 2019 – Arctic Fox Blizzard

The photograph of the month for November 2019 comes from my 2019 expedition to photograph Arctic Fox in the north of Iceland (Read the Trip Report) and is of a blue morph arctic fox during a blizzard at Kviar. This was I felt our best day with soft overcast light and falling snow that added the magical element to the mix. Blue Morph Arctic Fox are my favourite morph to photograph in these conditions. There is a wonderful contrast between the fur of the fox and the white snow that really works for me.

Wolverines and Wolves of Finland Workshop Report 2019

In October of 2019 I lead a dedicated wildlife workshop to the northern region of Kajaani in Finland. This workshop was dedicated to the photography of Wolves, Wolverines and Bears. I arrived a week early to pre-scout many of the locations I wanted us to try to photograph in order to ascertain which hides (and in what locations) were having the most activity and at what time of the day. By pre scouting I ensured we had the best possible opportunities with the most action for our time in this beautiful part of Finland. This was well worth the effort and time as everyone who participated in this trip came away with a spectacular portfolio of photographs.

To my knowledge, there is no where else in the world you can get so close, so reliably and so often to wild wolves and wild wolverine. At various times during our photography sessions we would have Wolves, Wolverine and Brown Bear within just a few feet of our hides. This provided us with unique and incredible opportunities to produce a really strong and powerful body of work of these apex predators.

Wolves, Wolverines and Bears are typically most active first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening so this is when we concentrated our efforts. As it turned out, most of the action ended up occurring in the afternoon and early evening so we quickly abandoned the mornings and focused our efforts on the afternoons. With the evenings being so incredibly productive we were able to make many thousands of photographs during just a few hours each day. It also freed up our mornings for some informal landscape photography around some of the lakes at the peak of fall colour. The landscape opportunities in this area of Finland at this time of year are well worth a visit alone.

Many of the hides we used to make our photographs are actually located in no mans land between Finland and Russia and special permission is needed to enter this demilitarised zone. The benefit of being in this remote restricted region is that we have it completely to ourselves. No other human being for many kilometres. Of perhaps even greater importance is that there is no hunting allowed of any kind in this zone. With hunting pressure across much of Finland (for Grouse, and unfortunately also for Bear and Wolves) the animals are pushed into this region and concentrated more closely than they might otherwise normally be.

During the week we spent in this remote part of Finland we had what can only be described as some of the most amazing, unusual and incredible encounters with wildlife anyone could ever hope for. We had a pack of six wolves (two Alphas and four one year old pups) that were consistently coming within just a few metres of our hides on a daily basis. To have wild wolves within just a few meters of you is virtually unheard of. We also had close encounters with Wolverine and brown bears; often close enough that they were approaching minimum focusing distance!

During one early afternoon we were waiting to go into the hides when a wild wolverine emerged from the forest and promptly came straight up to us to investigate. This is extremely unusual behaviour for what is notoriously an extremely shy and elusive animal.  With the wolverine so close I took the opportunity to use my iphone and grab some video of this once in a lifetime encounter.

Due to my continual travel schedule this year, I have not as yet had time to sort, edit and process the many thousands of photographs I made during this week in Finland, so rather than delay my trip report I am instead including a few snippets of video I shot on my iphone during the workshop. I will post final images at a later date once I have had time to edit and process them.

This years workshop was such a success that I have decided to repeat the workshop again next year from the 14th of October until the 21st of October. As per this year, I will take just five photographers with me for this experience. We will be based in a quaint and cozy remote cabin just a few kilometres from the Russian border where we will make daily sojourns to our hide locations for photography of Wolves, Wolverine and Bears. Drop me an email to register your interest as places are strictly limited and some are already spoken for. Full details on my website at www.jholko.com 

Greenland East Coast Back-to-Back Expeditions Report 2019

In  September of 2019 I ran two back-to-back expeditions to Scoresby Sound and the East Coast of Greenland with long time friend and fellow pro-photographer (Or as he prefers – the ‘Bus Driver’) Daniel Bergmann. For these two expeditions we flew by private charter flight from Reykjavik in Iceland to Constable Point on the East Coast of Greenland where we boarded our sailing ship, the Donna Wood. Flying across the Denmark Strait (the body of water between Iceland and Greenland) saves at least two days of sailing in both directions and gave us more time for photography in the field.

For both our expeditions we chose to sail north to the rugged and scenic Bjørneøer Islands (Bear Islands) where we made landings at both sunset and sunrise for contemplative landscape photography. Along the way we photographed many of the gigantic icebergs that drift as giant sentinels silently through the fjord system. For our landings in this area we were blessed with a magnificent iceberg with a full arch that was grounded against a stunning mountainous backdrop and we spent many hours in this location with the late afternoon and early evening light. The landscape topography in these islands is a landscape photographers paradise with beautiful boulders and stunning back drops in every direction.

From Bear Islands we sailed west through Øfjord as we rounded Milne land. This region of Scoresby Sound offers stunning glacial scared mountains that were freshly dusted with late Autumn snow that serve as a majestic backdrop for the plethora of transient icebergs that drift through this system. We rounded Storø island into Rodefjord and made our way down to iceberg alley at Red Island. This iceberg graveyard offers up some of the most incredible iceberg photography I have ever experienced anywhere on the planet (I actually rate it as the worlds best iceberg graveyard for photography). With perfectly still conditions and heavily overcast skies (absolutely ideal conditions for iceberg photography) we photographed for hours amongst the gigantic icebergs on both expeditions as we drifted on our zodiacs through the ice maze.

From Red Island we travelled east through Fønfjord for more gigantic iceberg photography as we made our way to the small Inuit village of Ittoqqortoørmit (first expedition only) where we did a short landing before making or way back to Constable Point to conclude our expedition.

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 almost certainly be Scoresby Sund and the East Coast of Greenland.  It is absolutely miraculous on every level.

Due to hunting pressure the wildlife is often skittish and hard to find in Greenland. Local inuit are unfortunately still allowed to hunt and shoot up to thirty six Polar Bears a year and Musk Ox and Arctic Hare are hunted relentlessly and without mercy. Despite the general lack of wildlife in the area we did encounter and photograph Musk Ox, Bearded and Ring Seals and quite a few Arctic bird species. We did not encounter or sight any Polar Bear during these expeditions (although we had a report of a mother and cub in our area)

If you missed out on a place on the 2019 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 (the 2020 expedition already sold out). Full details are now available for download from my website at www.jholko.com including a complete PDF itinerary. Drop me an email for further information.

Polar Bears of the High Arctic 2020 – Now Limited Availability

There is now only a few places left available on my Polar Bears of the High Arctic expedition this July before the expedition will be sold out (Read the report from last years expedition). The expedition runs from the 6th of July until the 15th of July and is strictly limited to twelve participants.

The High Arctic is a place to inspire the imagination. Nowhere is it more accessible than the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, located deep within the Arctic Circle. Nowhere else can the Polar Bear be seen more reliably in its natural habitat, and photographing these magnificent animals will be our main objective. We will also search for walrus and the other wildlife of the region. Dramatic glaciers, plunging cliffs and beautiful drift ice formations will be present as well.Our intention is to sail directly north from the small town of Longyearbyen in Svalbard to approximately 80o degrees north, to the very edge of the permanent pack ice. At our northerly most point we will likely be less than 600 miles from the North Pole and depending on the sea ice we may get even closer. We will be using the ice hardened expedition ship M.S Freya that will enable us to skirt the edge of the pack ice searching for and photographing Polar Bears. M.S Freya is widely regarded as the best ship in the Arctic for Polar Bear Photography. With low-lying decks we can photograph at eye level with wild Polar Bears. Our expedition ship has private cabins (no need to share unless you wish) and is also equipped with sufficient zodiacs (2 x Zodiac MKV models) and crew for all photographers to be shooting simultaneously with plenty of room to spare for camera equipment – So bring what you need! Watch the expedition video ‘Kingdom of the Ice Bear’ to get an idea of what this expedition entails.If you are excited by the idea of traveling to the edge of the permanent pack ice to photograph Polar Bears in their natural environment with a small group of dedicated photographers now is the time to secure the very last place. You can download a detailed PDF itinerary HERE. Drop me an email to register your interest or to register for one of the last remaining places.