Great Ocean Road & Van Diemens Land Workshop Departure

My new workshop to the Great Ocean Road and Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) has quickly rolled around and tomorrow morning my co-leader Phillip and I will be getting underway on our two week adventure with our small group of participants. This is the first of two sold out back-to-back workshops and I am really looking forward to getting underway. These workshops are primarily landscape based and as such my choice of lenses is quite different to the usual long lens wildlife work I have specialised in over recent years. I will still be shooting with the Canon EOS 1DX MKII as my main camera, but have substituted my long telephoto lenses for my wide angle tilt shift lenses (and will very much enjoy the reduction in weight!). I am also packing my Sachtler tripod and a selection of neutral density and graduated ND Filters. The addition of the 1.4 Teleconverter is specifically for the 24mm TSE lens as I frequently find a need for a 35mm TSE in my landscape work. If time permits I will try and post a few updates from the field. See you along the Great Ocean Road and in the wilds of Tasmania!

  • Canon EOS 1DX MKII Camera Body

  • Canon 17mm F4L TSE Lens

  • Canon 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE Lens

  • Canon 1.4 TC MKIII

  • Canon 24-70mm F4L IS Lens

  • Canon 100-400mm F4-5.6L MKII Lens

 

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!

 

Upcoming and Future Workshops and Expeditions Update 2018

It has been a long time between drinks for a major update on upcoming workshops and expeditions – things have just been very busy! Now that I have wrapped up the big VAPS convention in Warrnambool in Victoria though I have a bit more time and wanted to bring everyone up to date with what is coming up soon, in the future and what is in the early planning stages. Some of the workshops and expeditions I have not as yet formally announced, but all are included below for the coming 2018 / 2019 year:

Polar Bears of Svalbard – July 25th to August 4th 2018 – SOLD OUT

In July this year I am leading my annual expedition to Svalbard to photograph Polar Bears living and hunting on the pack ice. This expedition is sold out, but I will be running this trip again in 2019 – Please see below for further details.

Namibia – Desert Fire Safari – October 6th – October 18th –  3 Places

In October I am leading my semi-annual safari to the desert landscape of Namibia. Namibia is an extraordinary country with some of the best landscape and wildlife to be found anywhere in Africa and the goal of this safari is to photograph the breathtaking desert landscapes and wildlife of Namibia. If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the last remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this workshop be sure to check out my Namibia Portfolio.

On the South Western Coast of Africa, where the icy Atlantic ocean meets the world’s oldest desert lies a place that is known for its landscapes as much as the Serengeti is known for its abundant wildlife. The unique combination of desert, grassland and cold ocean current form a one-of-a-kind terrain found only here. For this reason landscape photographers from all over the world journey to the Namibia Desert to try and capture its ethereal beauty.

In this captivating region of Namibia lies a maze of mountainous valleys that look like they were carpeted from slope to slope by ivory colored grass, criss-crossed by ancient riverbeds and dotted with a collection of photogenic acacia trees. The final unique touch is added by the large snake like dunes that rise from the grasslands like the roof of some subterranean world. These stark and compelling landscapes are something to behold with the human eye, but when it’s sweeping meadows, barren mountains and blood red dunes are captured and transformed into a two dimensional image, it becomes obvious why this place is so beautifully addictive to photographers.

The Emperors Expedition – November 18th – November 26th – 1 Place Only

The Emperor Penguin is the world’s largest and heaviest Penguin. It lives in some of the most remote and most inaccessible areas in Antarctica. The Emperor has long been one of the most desired subjects for wildlife photographers and is considered by many to be the ultimate Polar survivor. Every year expeditions try and reach the remote Emperor Penguin rookeries by ship but most fail due to sea ice and weather conditions.

With the Emperor Penguins living so far south on the sea ice this expedition will be utilizing a privately chartered transport jet to access our first base camp at Union Glacier deep in Antarctica. We will then utilize a privately chartered Twin-Otter aircraft to take us to the remote Emperor Penguin colony where we will establish a field camp for the duration of our expedition. This expedition has been more than two years in the planning and has been designed to provide the very best possible opportunities to Photograph Emperor Penguins in their natural environment. By using chartered planes we can avoid the problems and uncertainty associated with ship based expeditions not being able to reach the colony due to sea ice conditions.

This exclusive opportunity to camp, photograph and live with Emperor Penguins is for a strictly limited number of just 8 photographers plus leader and expedition staff. The expedition is dedicated to the photography of the world’s largest Penguin – The Mighty Emperor.

The main activity of this expedition is Emperor Penguin photography. However, you will also be able to take guided walks in the local area across the sea ice and take advantage of the spectacular landscape. Other wildlife that we may photograph includes Antarctic petrels, snow petrels, Weddell seals and leopard seals. A dedicated guide will accompany us and share their knowledge of this majestic wildlife during the course of this expedition.

If you are excited by the idea of traveling to the edge of the permanent pack ice to photograph Emperor Penguins in their natural environment with a small group of dedicated photographers now is the time to secure your place. Places are extremely limited and once they are spoken for that’s it.

If you are interested in joining us and securing the last remaining place you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this expedition be sure to check out my Emperor Penguin Portfolio.Finland – February 1st to February 10th 2019 – 1 Place Only

In February 2017 I travelled to Finland in winter on a scouting trip and in early 2019 will now offer this as both a Wildlife and landscape workshop. Although our workshop is primarily based in Kuusamo, will actually begin in Kajanni in the north of Finland where we will be working from private hides in an effort to photograph Wolves, Wolverine and Golden eagles.

During our time in Kuusamo we will be based in a scientific research station which is basic, but comfortable and clean. Located a short drive from the majority of our primary shooting locations we will have access to areas that will provide us fantastic wildlife and landscape opportunities. If we are lucky and blessed with clear skies, we will be able to witness the Aurora Beorealis and the magic of the Northern Lights as they flicker across the night skies. During February, the days are short with sunrise at approximately 8:55am and sunset around 3:30pm. Given our northern location, the sun will be low in the sky providing soft, magnificent light conditions, for all day photography.

The main activity of this workshop is wildlife photography. However, you will also be able to take advantage of the spectacular winter landscape. A dedicated local guide will accompany us and share their knowledge of the area and wildlife we may encounter during the workshop. This exclusive opportunity to photograph the wildlife and landscapes of northern Finland in Winter is for a strictly limited number of just 6 photographers plus leader and guide – with only two places remaining before it will be sold out.

If you are interested in joining us and securing the last remaining place you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE.Arctic Fox – February 22nd to February 28th 2019 – 2 Places

This is a unique and specialized opportunity to photograph wild Arctic Foxes in the remote north-west of Iceland during winter. This exclusive expedition is open to just five photographers (only two places remaining) who will travel to the remote Arctic peninsula in the Hornstrandir Nature reserve to photograph what is perhaps Nature’s greatest survivor – The Arctic Fox.

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.

This photography expedition will last for 7 days (6 nights). We will be staying in a small remote cabin that is rustic, but functional and clean. During our stay in the cabin we will have a dedicated staff member to clean and prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for us (all included). However, this expedition is all about photography and we will be putting in long hours in the field in order to ensure we give ourselves the best possible opportunities to photograph the Arctic Fox. With luck, we may also see and photograph the spectacular Northern lights.

The cabin we will be using for the duration of the expedition is privately owned and is in the process of being restored. Facilities include shared bathroom, toilet and shower as well as a kitchen with hot and cold water, a communal eating area and lounge. There is even an outdoor sauna available for use. Bedrooms are a shared bunk bed arrangement. The cabin is heated with both a hydronic heating system and a log fire.

If you are interested in joining us and securing the last remaining place you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this expedition be sure to check out my Arctic Fox PortfolioSvalbard in Winter by Snow Mobile – March 18th to March 23rd 2019 – SOLD OUT

In March of 2019 I am leading a sold out invitation only expedition to Svalbard to photograph winter landscape by snowmobile.

Svalbard in Winter – March 26th to April 3rd 2019 – SOLD OUT

In late March of 2019 I will lead my annual winter expedition north of Svalbard in search of Polar Bears, Walrus, Arctic Fox and dramatic winter landscape.

Great Ocean Road and Tasmania I – May 10th to May 21st 2019 – SOLD OUT

In May of 2019 I will co-lead a brand new workshop to the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania with professional Photographer and friend Phillip Bartlett. This workshop is sold out. Details on the second workshop are included below.

Great Ocean Road and Tasmania II – June 1st to June 12th 2019 –  3 Places

Due to initial demand Phillip and I will be running a second workshop to the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania.  The workshop is strictly limited to no more than six photographers and has been designed to provide the very best photographic experience in some of the best locations across the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania. It is for photographers looking for a fantastic experience who want to be in the right place at the right time – when the light is at its absolute best.

This photography workshop will last for twelve days (eleven nights). We will be staying in high quality accommodation with private rooms and bathrooms for each person at each location. Breakfast and dinners will usually be held either at our hotels or nearby restaurants. However, this workshop is all about photography and we will be putting in some long hours in the field in order to ensure we give ourselves the best possible opportunities to capture dramatic and powerful photographs. We may take food and drink with us into the field in some areas to ensure we are in position and ready to photograph during the best light of the day. In May we will have sunrise at approximately 7:00am and sunset around 5:30pm giving us plenty of time for photography. We will be working in the style of professional landscape photographers and as such we will be most active during the early mornings and late evenings. Our transportation for the duration of the workshop will be in large, comfortable 4-Wheel Drive vehicles (three participants per vehicle plus one guide driver). Each vehicle has sufficient space for our luggage and camera equipment.

If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the last remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE.

Svalbard the High Arctic – July 13th to July 22nd 2019 – 6 Places

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 and the dramatic polar landscape 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 all be present as well.

This expedition has been designed to provide the very best possible opportunities to Photograph Polar Bears in their natural environment. With the reduction in Arctic sea ice the Polar Bears in Svalbard are dwindling in number and the number of years left to photograph them is unfortunately limited. June and July is the ideal time to photograph Polar Bears north of Svalbard due to the dwindling sea ice around the archipelago. This exclusive expedition is for a strictly limited number of just 12 participants plus leader and is dedicated to the photography of the High Arctic.

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 landscape and Polar Bears. M.S Freya is widely regarded as one of the best ships in the Arctic for Photography. With low-lying decks we can photograph at eye level with wild Polar Bears and other wildlife. Our expedition ship 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!

If you are excited by the idea of traveling to the edge of the permanent pack ice to photograph dramatic polar landscapes and Polar Bears in their natural environment with a small group of dedicated photographers now is the time to secure your place. The remaining places are very limited and once they are spoken for that’s it. On this expedition we will also likely photograph Walrus, Seals, Whales, Arctic Foxes and the many Arctic sea birds including the rare and angelic Ivory Gull.

If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the last remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this expedition be sure to check out my Svalbard Portfolio

Mystical Faroes – August 8th to August 16th 2019 – 3 Places

In August I am running a one time only workshop to the Faroe Islands. 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.

This workshop is for dedicated landscape photographers who are willing to work for their images. A small group of participants (maximum of 6 plus leaders) guarantees a more personal and intimate experience than bigger tours can provide.

If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the last remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE.

Greenland I & II – September 4th to September 11th 2019 – 3 Places

September 11th to September 18th 2019 –  4 Places

In early September Daniel Bergmann and I will run two back-to-back expeditions to the remote east coast of Greenland.

Greenland is an incredible place to inspire the imagination and fuel your photographic desires. 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.

We have chosen early to mid-September for our expeditions. This is the time of year when we can expect the Arctic vegetation to be in autumn colours and it’s also the time for soft golden light and potentially more interesting cloudscapes than during the summer, when it’s quite common to have just blue sky.

Our expeditions will take place in the Scoresbysund fjord system in Eastern Greenland, which is the largest and most spectacular fjord system on the planet. We’ll fly from Iceland to Constable Point where we’ll board the expedition schooner Donna Wood, which will be our home for 7 nights while we explore the fjords and circumnavigate Milne Land. We’ll then fly back to Iceland on the eight day.

Living on board the traditional sailing ship Donna Wood for seven amazing days is an experience in itself. It’s a perfect ship for exploring Scoresbysund. It’s small size allows us to navigate shallow bays and this beautiful two mast oak ship also acts as a strong photographic subject amongst large icebergs and towering mountains. The group size will be limited to just 11 participants plus the two leaders.

We will be photographing from the ship as we cruise the fjords but will also be making numerous landings where we’ll photograph from the coastlines or do walks on the Arctic tundra. We’ll also use the two Zodiacs on board to cruise among grounded icebergs, such as at Rødeø (Red Island).

If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE. To get an idea of the sort of photographs you can make on this expedition be sure to check out my Greenland Portfolio

Antarctica The Ross Sea – January 10th to February 8th 2020

A sneak peak into 2020! The year is going to kick off with an extended expedition to the very rarely visited Ross Sea region of Antarctica!

Antarctica is miraculous; a remote, white continent of stark and beautiful desolation. For Nature photographers, Antarctica is without doubt the gold standard against which all other photography destinations are measured. Nowhere else on earth offers such incredible landscape and wildlife in such a pristine and remote environment. Best of all, our Ross Sea expedition will take us to some of the most spectacular and least visited areas of Antarctica. For photographers the Ross Sea is nothing short of virgin territory.

This expedition to Antarctica is a co-operation between Joshua Holko (Wild Nature Photo Travel) and Heritage Expeditions. The expedition is for a strictly limited number of 50 participants plus photography guides and expedition leader. We are utilizing the ice hardened expedition ship Spirit of Enderby with a highly experienced crew so that we can get as close as possible to giant icebergs for the best photographs. Our expedition ship is equipped with sufficient zodiacs and crew for all photographers to be shooting simultaneously with plenty of room to spare for camera equipment. So bring what you need!

The Ross Sea region of Antarctica is one of the most remote places on Planet Earth and one of the most fascinating places in the continent’s human history. With shipping restricted by impenetrable pack ice to just two brief months each austral summer, few people have ever visited this strange and beautiful territory, with opportunities for non- scientific personnel limited to a handful of tourist expedition ships. This expedition voyage is on its own fully equipped and ice-strengthened ship, crewed by some of the most experienced officers and sailors in the world and staffed by some of the most passionate and knowledgeable Guides. This is a unique opportunity to experience nature on a scale so grand there are no words to describe it.

We invite you to join us on a 30 day photography expedition to the Ross Sea, Antarctica in January 2020. Get ready for the ultimate Antarctica Ross Sea Expedition! If you are interested in joining us and securing one of the remaining places you can download a complete itinerary with costings and all details HERE.

There are numerous other things in the early planning stages for 2020 and beyond and I will have more details over the coming months as things are firmed up. Stay tuned..

 

2017 A Retrospective and 2018 Whats in Store?

As is tradition on my blog, I like to do a “What’s in Store” post for the coming 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. 2017 was a jam packed 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 fantastic photographic destinations and some really incredible experiences.

In equipment or ‘gear’ terms 2017 was relatively quiet for me with no major changes to my camera line-up. To date, I haven’t bothered with the 5D MK4; quite honestly (and as I wrote last year), the Canon EOS 1DX MKII remains the best DSLR camera I have ever used regardless of price, brand or model. In resolution terms the the 1DXMKII is more than sufficient for the vast majority of my work and my only justification for a 5DMKIV would be a lighter weight body for hiking (and I already own the 5DSR for that purpose). I did add the excellent Canon 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS MKII lens to my arsenal; primarily for ship based photography where I wanted something lighter and easier to hand hold than the Canon 200-400mm F4L IS. More recently I also purchased the outstanding Canon 400mm F2.8L IS MKII. I have been on the fence about purchasing the 400mm F2.8L IS MKII for some time and finally decided to pull the trigger and add this lens to my wildlife kit. My hope is it will prove more versatile than the 600mm f4L IS MKII with the addition of the 1.4X and 2X teleconverters. I was also lusting after that creamy bokeh of the f2.8 aperture.

My gear pick for the 2017 year (I always choose something I actually own) is somewhat of a tough choice. I am torn between the 400mm f2.8L IS MKII and the 100-400mm MKII lens. Both offer outstanding optics and both are industry leading in their categories. Both are also relatively recent purchases so its hard to be definitive as I have not spent a lot of time in the field with either as yet. Certainly both are destined to become long term keepers for me with specific needs for each piece of glass.

2018 should be a very interesting year in equipment terms. It is an Olympic year which means I expect to see several new L series lenses from Canon (although I highly doubt we will see any new pro bodies). Rumours remain persistent of a new 600mm F4 DO lens (a patent has been filed by Canon and they have shown a prototype) and I am starting to think it may actually eventuate in the later half of 2018 (just my gut feel).

Last year I gave my book pick of the year to the very deserving Adelie by Vincent MunierAdelie was an absolutely superb presentation that deserves a place in any Nature photographers library. If you don’t yet own a copy you should pick one up immediately. This year I am giving the nod to Ragnar Axelsson’s excellent Faces of the North. Although I haven’t had time to review it, I definitely recommend you check it out and consider adding it to your library.

2017 also marked the year I published the open soft cover edition of Melrakki. The culmination of three years of winter photography in the extreme north-west of Iceland, Melrakki is available now as a soft cover (Limited Edition hard bound fine-art book is long sold out). Copies can be ordered online HERE.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 photographs I made in Svalbard in Winter. Be sure to check out the full portfolio of images at my website www.jholko.com in the Winter Svalbard Portfolio.In competition terms, 2017 was a solid year for me with the overall win as the Victorian Documentary Photographer of the Year. This year I was also a finalist  in the Epson 2017 Professional Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Photographer of the Year. I was also short listed in BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and was also a semi-finalist with multiple photographs in Natures Best Photography 2017 Polar Passion Category. Overall, it was a solid year and I am very pleased with the results.

2017 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 scouting trip to Kuusamo in the North of Finland (my first visit to Finland). The purpose of this trip was to scout out the opportunities and set up a future workshop for both winter wildlife and landscape. The trip was a great success with some superb wildlife and landscape and as such I will be offering a new workshop to the north of Finland in the winter of 2019 (I will have full details next year – but you can get a sneak peak now on my website at www.jholko.com).

From Finland I travelled to Iceland where I lead my annual winter workshop with Daniel Bergmann (Read the Trip Report). This was actually the last year for the foreseeable future that I will be running this workshop. Iceland has in recent times become over run with general tourism and much of the magic of the south coast has been lost (perhaps when the next economic collapse hits or a major volcano explodes tourism may drop off again). In order to minimise the tourist factor we chose to base ourselves predominately in the north-east of Iceland which provided us with some  great photographic opportunities.At the conclusion of my Iceland landscape winter workshop I travelled north to the remote Hornstrandir Nature reserve  in the extreme north-west of Iceland where I lead my annual expedition to photograph Arctic fox in winter. Unlike most of Iceland, the Hornstrandir Nature reserve is only accessible by boat in winter and as such it is mercifully free from tourists. During our expedition we stayed in a small cabin on the remote peninsula and had fantastic encounters with several arctic fox over the course of our stay (Read the Trip Report).In March I travelled to Svalbard where I spent a week with my good friends Abraham and Dom from Untitled Film Works photographing and filming Ghosts of the Arctic. The short film on the hunt for Polar Bears in the winter landscape has subsequently been a runaway success and has been screened at film festivals all around the world. In addition it has been featured on countless news sites including Daily Mail, National Geographic, Peta-Pixel and many more.After the filming of Ghosts of the Arctic I lead my new winter expedition in Svalbard for stunning ice covered landscapes and Arctic Wildlife (Read the Trip Report). Svalbard in winter is nothing short of breathtaking (Its not just the cold that steals your breath away either!). The landscape is plastered in snow and ice and the low angle of the sun bathes the landscape in sublime golden light.From Svalbard I travelled to the South Island of New Zealand (with only a brief stop in Australia in between) to lead my annual South Island Masterclass (Read the Trip Report). I have been leading this workshop to the South Island for quite some years now and the landscape in this part of New Zealand never disappoints. In late May I returned to the north of Iceland and Grimsey Island to lead a new workshop dedicated to the photography of Atlantic Puffins and other Arctic birds (Read the Trip Report). We actually had over fifty species of birds during the workshop and Grimsey Island (located north of Iceland, inside the Arctic Circle) proved to be a fantastic location for both Puffins, Razor Bills and landscape and I am looking forward to returning again next year.In July I returned to Svalbard to lead my annual summer Polar Bears of Svalbard expedition (Read the Trip Report). Svalbard has become one of my absolute favourite places in the world to photograph. With everything from Polar Bears to Walrus, Arctic Fox, Reindeer, countless bird species, many different species of whales and incredible landscape there is just about something for every genre of outdoor photography. Garnish it all with fantastic light and you have photographic nirvana.In late September and October I lead back-to-back expeditions with Daniel Bergmann to Greenland and the Scoresby Sund fjord system (Read the Trip Reports).There are few places on our planet as spectacular as the remote and wild east coast of Greenland. Its precipitous and towering glacier scarred mountains that line the many divergent fjords have created an otherworldly landscape that is just about photographic paradise. The entire primordial setting is festooned with a plethora of gigantic icebergs that drift slowly on currents through the system and that provide an endless and ever-changing series of subject matter for the photographer. These two expeditions were a runaway success and Daniel and I will be returning to Greenland and Scoresby Sund in September 2019. We will have further details on this expedition early in the new year.I finished up the 2017 year with back-to-back expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula (Read the Trip Report) – Antarctica White Nature. The expeditions were deliberately timed as the first of the season as typically this is when the weather is still quite unstable in Antarctica and there is the greatest chance of dramatic weather and light. Expeditions later in the season (December, January and February) typically have more settled weather and far less snow coverage on the ground. For wildlife photography this can be problematic as it can be difficult to find clean snow backgrounds for the penguins (Read my guide on how to choose a photographic expedition to Antarctica).

I had planned to have a week in Atacama at the end of the expeditions, but quite honestly I was pretty exhausted by the end of the second expedition and was glad of my decision to put down the cameras for a while and have the extra week at home.All up I led a total of ten separate international workshops and expeditions in 2017 spread across the globe (not including some local private workshops to the Great Ocean Road as well as one-on-one Print workshops). A brief count tallies up well over fifty plane segments and just over fifty 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.

2018 is shaping up to be pretty full on and I am really excited about whats in store. In February I will be heading back to the Lofoten Islands in Norway to lead my second (SOLD OUT) workshop in this picturesque location. I was last in Lofoten in 2016 (Read the Trip Report) and found it to offer amazing opportunities for landscape photography. In fact, Lofoten is very much landscape paradise and the combination of precipitous mountains, dusted with fresh winter snow and the stunning Aurora Borealis can make for incredible photography.From Lofoten I will travel directly to northern Iceland where I will lead my annual (SOLD OUT) expedition to the Hornstrandir Nature reserve to photographic wild Arctic Fox. 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.After Iceland I will spend the remainder of the Arctic winter in Svalbard where I am going to be working on a combination of personal work from snow mobile and a SOLD OUT ship based expedition. The Arctic in Winter is a place to inspire the imagination. It is a white landscape bathed in golden light. The ship based expedition is unique and is the only one of its type to venture north of Longyearbyen by ship in winter.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. Usually winter to Svalbard are limited to day trips on snow mobiles quite close to the town of Longyearbyen. With our expedition ship we will explore a much bigger area including the western and northern areas of Spitzbergen. This expedition has been sold out for some time, but I am now starting to take bookings for 2019. You can register your interest by dropping me an email.

This expedition has been designed to provide the very best possible opportunities to experience and photograph Svalbard in winter light. We expect to meet wildlife such as Polar Bears, Walruses, Seals, Arctic Foxes and Reindeer. At this time of year the sea birds will also be returning to their breeding grounds. Its a very exciting time to be in Svalbard and I am looking forward to it very much.

In May I am going to make the short hop across to the South Island of New Zealand to co-lead a Masterclass workshop with friend and New Zealand local, Phillip Bartlett. We have some really exciting locations lined up for this trip that include extensive helicopter access into the remote back country and aerial photography over the spectacular Southern Alps. I always look forward to any chance to photograph in this beautiful country. We only have two places remaining before the trip will be sold out and this will be the last year that I offer this workshop for the foreseeable future. Please drop me an email if you are interested in joining us. There are more details on my website at www.jholko.comIn early May I will be based in Australia and will be the keynote speaker on both Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th at VAPS  – The Victorian Association of Photographic Societies – convention in Warrnambool. I will have more details on this convention next year, but am very much looking forward to presenting at the conference.

After the VAPS conference I will be heading straight back to Iceland to co-lead my Arctic Wings of Iceland workshop with Daniel Bergmann. The workshop is dedicated to photography of the Atlantic Puffin and other birds of Iceland including Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots (Murres), Arctic Terns and Razorbills (Read the 2017 Trip Report). Iceland is one of the best places in the world to photograph Puffins and other Arctic birds in their natural environment. We will visit a number of different locations during this workshop where we will have outstanding access to the Puffins living in burrows on the edge of sea cliffs. We have timed our 2018 workshop to ensure we are in the best locations at the best times to photograph these wonderful birds. We will have hours of golden light under the spectacular midnight sun – ideal conditions for photography of the Atlantic Puffin. We still have a few spots available before the workshop will be sold out. Please drop me an email if you have any queries or are interested in joining us. In July I will head back to the Svalbard archipelago to lead my annual summer Polar Bears of Svalbard Expedition (only a couple of places remaining before it will be sold out). 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.In September I will be travelling to Finland as guest speaker at the international Finnish Nature festival in Kuusamo. I will be speaking both about my polar photography in Antarctica as well as the landscape and wildlife opportunities in Australia. Whilst there I will also take some extra time and maximise the opportunity to try and photograph Bears, Eagles and Wolverine.

In October I am heading back to Africa and the epic desert sands of Namibia. I was last in Namibia in 2016 (Read the Trip Report) and very much look forward to returning to this incredible country. I have lead three workshops to Namibia in recent years and have absolutely fallen in love with the desert and wildlife found across this dramatic country. We will be visiting the surreal ghost town of Kolmonskop, the massive dunes and seemingly endless sand dune landscape of Sussesvlei as well as the wildlife rich region of Etosha. There are already only a few places remaining before the workshop will be sold out. Drop me an email if you are interested in reserving one of the remaining places. After Namibia I will be heading back to New York to speak at the Photo Plus convention (more details to come later). I was last in New York in 2016 and am looking forward to returning to the big apple and catching up with friends in the states.

Finally, I will finish up in November with my third visit to the remote sea ice at Gould Bay in Antarctica to photograph the mighty Emperor Penguins .We will be travelling by privately chartered transport jet deep into Antarctica where we will land on a pre-prepared ice-runway at Union Glacier. From our basecamp only 600 miles from the South Pole we will then take a privately chartered Twin-Otter ski aircraft to the remote Emperor Penguin colony on the sea ice. We will establish a field camp on the sea ice and spend our time photographing the Emperors and Emperor Penguin Chicks on the sea ice against a backdrop of incredible mountains, icebergs and pressure ridges. We will photograph throughout the night when the light is soft and golden in an expedition opportunity dedicated to photography of Emperors. If you are excited by the idea of travelling to one of the remotest regions in Antarctica to live and photograph with the majestic Emperor Penguins now is the time to register for the last available place.  On top of all of the above it is my hope that 2018 will be the year I publish my new fine-art book on Antarctica. The preliminary layout is mostly complete and I hope to finish most of the text and final details early next year with a view to publication in the later half of 2018. It 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 2019 includes brand new workshops to the Faroe Islands and Finland as well as new expeditions to the remote east coast of Greenland and possibly something new and special to Greenland in winter. More on this later.

Lastly and certainly not least, I want to wish all of you a very safe and happy New Year and may 2018 be one of amazing light and experiences for all of you. See you in the New Year!

Testing a New Lens – The Things You See…

Today I took some time in the late afternoon to test a new lens – the Canon 400mm f2.8L IS MKII (I have long wanted to add this exotic piece of glass to my arsenal for both its super fast aperture and superb bokeh). Camera (1DX MKII) and lens (400mm f2.8L IS MKII) in hand, I grabbed a portable hide and wandered down to the local park where Eastern Grey Kangaroos often frequent the open grass areas at dusk. Finding myself a secluded spot just inside the tree line I set up the camera and crawled inside the hide expecting a rather long wait…

From my concealed position I could see a group of Kangaroos out in the field ahead of me; perhaps at 800mm+ range, but too far for anything more than a record shot. They were not particularly active and were grazing in the shade of a large gum tree. A few moments later from around the corner on the walking path comes a lady walking her German Shepard. She spots the Kangaroos, stops and looks around to see if anyone else is around or watching her (she doesn’t see me concealed in a blind inside the tree line). Satisfied she is on her own she lets her dog off the leash and points for it to chase the Kangaroos. Of course, the dog charges off for the Kangaroos, startles them and they scatter. One of the smaller Kangaroos bolts in my direction and I snap off some frames from my hidden position. It was just about perfect with the Kangaroo coming almost directly toward me at full tilt.

Of course, the dog had no chance of catching the Kangaroo and it quickly tired of the chase when it realised it was outclassed. Satisfied the dog had done well the woman called back her dog and went on her way, none the wiser that I had observed the entire fiasco. In fact, neither the Kangaroo, the dog or the woman ever knew I was there. Despite the fact her behaviour was inappropriate the woman had inadvertently set up a great shot for me with exactly what I had been hoping for – a Kangaroo at full gallop coming almost straight toward me. Just about the perfect test for this lens – ISO400 f2.8 1/2000th of a second.