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.

Photo of the Month October 2019 – Winter Ptarmigan

The photograph of the month for October 2019 comes from my last snow mobile expedition to Svalbard in winter this year and is of a Ptarmigan in its winter plumage. I had been wanting to try and photograph this bird properly in a winter setting for some years now and this year I was afforded several opportunities over the period of two weeks I spent on snow mobiles in the winter landscape (mostly searching for Polar Bears). Whenever I am photographing wildlife like this I make every effort to get down as low as possible so that I can be at eye level with my subject and create a stronger connection between the viewer and the photograph. In this case, I lat down in the snow and actualyl partially buried my lens in the soft snow to create the soft transition between the snow and bird. The key to all of this style of wildlife photography is to carefully choose your background and then work with the subject to achieve the ‘look’ you want. In this case, a combination of a clean background with just a sudden gust of wind to ruffle the birds feathers and create some movement.

Keynote Speaker Melbourne Portrait Conference November 2019

Scheduled to be held on November 12th and 13th at Melbourne’s Docklands, the Melbourne Portrait conference will provide two days of education by nine leading photographers. I will personally be headlining the conference as the keynote speaker and will be presenting and speaking on Wildlife portrait photography Tuesday 12th November at 9.30am. I will be showing photographs from both the Arctic and Antarctic. Attendees will get a look at previously unseen behind the scenes footage from my field work in the polar regions. The conference is open to both amateur and professional photographers. If you have not yet registered there is still some time. More information can be found HERE.

Workshop and Expedition Update 2019

It has been more than six months since I last did a blog post on what is coming up for Workshops and Expeditions and a major update is well and truly over due. I have a crazy travel schedule to round out 2019 with both workshops and expeditions as well as personal travel (photography related) that includes the opening of my new exhibition ‘Antipodes’ in Cuba opening in November. I will also be undertaking a new scouting trip to the far wilds of Mongolia (more on this below) and so my time at home is preciously short for the rest of 2019.

On return from Greenland and Finland (I am currently in Greenland for another week or so, before I head to Finland for my Wolverines and Wolves workshop) I will have just a few days in Melbourne before I leave for the USA and Cuba. Time is working against me and I will unfortunately have just a few days in the states for a private print workshop before I make my way to Cuba for the opening of Antipodes.  I was hoping to make it to PhotoPlus in New York again this year, but time has not aligned and this will have to wait until 2020. I plan to spend just under a week in Cuba before I return to Australia for a few days (I will be speaking on wildlife photography at the Portrait Conference in Melbourne) and then make my way to a remote area of Mongolia on a new scouting trip to attempt to photograph an extremely rare, elusive and shy cat (not the snow leopard). I will be spending two weeks in this remote region of Mongolia tent camping in winter and I am expecting it to be quite arduous and primitive. I am nevertheless extremely excited at the prospect and potential this trip could yield and will have more to say about this as we get closer.

After Mongolia I will return to Australia for the Christmas period and some brief travel respite before I fly out New Years Eve bound for Canada and my Sold Out Snowy Owl workshop. Snowy Owls are my absolute favourite bird to photograph – they are simply magnificent and I am excited to be offering this workshop again for a small group of photographers in mid January 2021. You can download a complete PDF HERE.

From Canada I will return to Australia for a week before I make my way to the South Island of New Zealand where we will be departing on my thirty day Sold Out Ross Sea Antarctica expedition. This will be my first expedition into the Ross sea region of Antarctica and I am very excited to be venturing into this rarely visited area of the great white continent. Because of the duration (thirty days plus travel time) of this expedition it will likely be the first and only time I take a group of photographers into this region of Antarctica. The time commitment required precludes most people from being able to join and the significant cost of the ship for a month makes this a very difficult expedition to repeat. Nevertheless it promises to be an extremely special experience. One of the trip highlights will be the chance to see and photograph Emperor Penguins on icebergs – something I have wanted to do for a very long time (although I have photographed them on the sea ice at Gould Bay many times). By way of a forward tease – I will be offering a future Antarctica trip to the Peninsula  – likely to be October 2022.

On return to Australia I will have a week off before I head back to the far north of Iceland for my annual Arctic Fox expedition.  The 2020 expedition has long been sold out – but I am now taking bookings for the 2021 expedition. This is a ‘deep immersion’ expedition into Arctic fox photography. We will be staying in a small, homely and remote cabin that provides us immediate and incredible access to this tenacious little predator. If you want to photograph Arctic fox this is the workshop for you.  You can drop me an email to register your interest.

At the completion of the Arctic Fox expedition I will take some personal time and head to the northern region of Norway to photograph Puffins and Snow Hares in winter. This scouting trip is a precursor to a future workshop I will lead with David Gibbon for a small group of just six photographers in March of 2021 – You can download a complete PDF of the 2021 Trip HERE.

After I finish in Norway I will travel back to Iceland and onto Greenland for a Sold Out invitation only winter polar bear expedition. This will be the first time I have travelled to Greenland in winter and I am just so very excited to try and photograph Polar Bears in winter in the landscape of Greenland.  Once we finish our Polar Bear expedition we will stay on in Greenland for another new and sold out expedition for Musk Oxen in winter. It has been a lot of logistics work to put these two expeditions together into the East Coast in winter, but it should offer up some really unique and very special opportunities.

After Winter in Greenland I will return to Australia for a few weeks before I again head north for Svalbard in late Winter / early Spring. April / May is a wonderful time of the year to visit this part of the Arctic. With the sun low in the sky the quality of the light is sublime and the photographic opportunities are limitless. The birds are returning this time of year and the area will still be heavy with ice and snow.  There are now just two places remaining on this expedition before it will be sold out. Check out the Kingdom of the Ice Bear Video Below.

I will return again to Svalbard in July for my annual Polar Bears of the High Arctic expedition. (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 (some places already spoken for).

From Svalbard I am travelling to northern Alaska where we will depart on my first expedition to the Russian Arctic territory of Wrangle Island. This expedition is a co-operation between myself and Heritage Expeditions and promises to offer up some amazing landscape and wildlife if this years trip reports were anything to go by. Wrangle Island has long been on my destination wish list and I am very much looking forward to this expedition. You can download a complete PDF itinerary of this expedition HERE.

In September I am returning to Greenland for a sold out Winters Cusp expedition to the east coast and Scoresby Sund fjord system. For those of you who missed out on a place on the 2019 and 2020 expeditions I will be repeating this expedition again in September of 2021. Places are already limited – you can drop me an email for more information. Watch the Adobe Spark Presentation on Greenland.

I will then finish up the 2020 year with another expedition to sea ice of Gould Bay in Antarctica to photograph the mighty Emperor Penguins. This expedition to camp, photograph and live with Emperor Penguins is the only one of its kind to offer this incredibly special experience. This will be my fourth expedition to Gould Bay and I look forward very much to the incredibly special experience of living with Emperor Penguins. For the 2020 expedition I will take just six photographers (only two places remaining before it will be sold out. Drop me an email to register your interest.

For those of you who have made it this far and wanted an update on the Russian winter trip for Siberian Tigers……Well, I am afraid it is a case of no news at the moment. Things just move very slowly in that part of the world and although I am doing my best to actively drive this project forward I am encountering quite a few road blocks that are causing very significant delays. As soon as there is forward progress I will make a post update on the site.

If you want to get a peek into 2021 and what is coming up then you can check out the workshops page HERE on my website.

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!