Snowy Owl Workshop Report 2020

In late December 2019 / early January 2020 I ran a photographic workshop for Snowy Owls in Ontario, Canada in winter. I had previously scouted this part of Canada and location back in January of 2019 (Read the Trip Report) and had found the owls to be of sufficient quantity to make it viable. Importantly, It was also a location where it was possible to get sufficiently close to the owls.

Two weeks prior to our workshop things were looking really promising for fantastic snow cover as there had been a good dump of snow to cover the local farmland in a white blanket. Unfortunately, temperatures warmed in the days prior to our arrival and by the time we were on site the snow had pretty much melted. As a result our first day was spent photographing the owls mostly in flight as we had no opportunity for static shots in snow.

The weather gods heard our pleas over our welcome dinner on the first evening and we had good snow fall our first night and on our second day with enough of the white stuff to sufficiently cover the ground. It then continued to snow on occasion throughout the rest of our workshop and it wasn’t until our second last day that temperatures again started to warm.

We spent our days during the workshop photographing Snowy owls both in the morning and late afternoon when the owls are at their most active. Typically we were in the field shortly after first light and shooting until 11am and then back in the field by 2pm and shooting until we lost the light. During the midday hours the owls tend to be less active and are effectively resting. This gave us plenty of opportunity to photograph the owls.

Overcast light is generally preferred in my experience for this sort of photography. Minimalist backgrounds and white on white high key images are more evocative than messy farm land backgrounds and we made every effort to work to this mantra during our shoots. Our second and third days proved the most productive with photographs of the Snowy owls in wonderful snow and snowfall. We also had some good sightings of Hawk Owl, but it was at quite a distance and the photographic opportunities were limited.

Due to my extensive travel schedule this year (I am leaving for New Zealand and onward travel to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica in just a few days) I have not had time to process any more than the few photographs I am posting here on my blog and on social media.  If you would like to see additional photographs please be sure to check out the Canada portfolio on my website at www.jholko.com which includes photographs from my 2019 scouting trip.

Snowy Owls remain my absolute favourite bird to photograph. They are incredibly majestic, beautiful birds that are extremely photogenic with their yellow eyes and speckled white feathers. The opportunity for high key, monochromatic photographs of these stunning birds in a winter setting is fantastic in this part of Canada and I will again return in January of 2021 to lead another workshop dedicated to the photography of Snowy Owls. If you are interested in joining us there are now only three places remaining before we will be sold out. You can drop me an email to register your interest.

Departing for Canada and Snowy Owls 2020

Christmas has come and gone and early tomorrow morning I am already heading back to the airport (one last time this year!) to make my way to Canada for my sold out Snowy Owl Workshop. For this workshop I am packing the usual assortment of cameras and lenses (I do not yet have the Canon EOS 1DX MKIII, but I am told I will have it very soon). Since this is a very specialised workshop I am packing only a few lenses. Based on previous experience most of the images will be around the 400mm mark so the new Canon 400mm f2.8L IS MKIII will be my primary lens.

  • 2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII Cameras with spare batteries
  • 1 x Canon 400mm f2.8L IS MKIII
  • 1 x Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS MKIII
  • 1 x Canon 24-70mm f4L IS
  • 1 x Canon 1.4 MKIII TC

If you are interested in photographing Snowy Owls in a winter setting there are now only a couple of places left on my 2021 workshop before it will also be sold out. You can drop me an email if you have any queries or to register your interest. You can also check out the sort of photographs you can make of these magnificent owls in the Canada portfolio on my website at www.jholko.com.

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.

Snowy Owls of Canada 2019 Scouting Trip Report

In January of 2019 I travelled to northern Canada to scout a new trip to photograph Snowy Owls in winter. This was actually my first time to Canada (although I am returning later this year in late December) and I thoroughly enjoyed the winter experience. I managed to time my experience in Canada jut about perfectly as it coincided with a severe cold snap of weather that provided some wonderful opportunities (albeit in very cold conditions).

The landscape in the part of Canada I chose to photograph the owl wouldn’t be described as visually spectacular, but it was absolutely ideal for the task at hand, with flat snow covered farm land serving as the perfect environment to photograph this truly amazing bird.

For those of you who are joining me for this new Snowy Owl workshop in December I am pleased to say that the location is just about perfect with a number of different birds (around half a dozen or so) in the local area.

Snowy Owls are wonderful birds to photograph and of all the species I have photographed around the world they are most definitely my favourite. The combination of their white plumage with mottled markings and glowing, iridescent yellow eyes set against a backdrop of soft snow is just gorgeous and makes for superb imagery.

I have uploaded a small portfolio of photographs from my scouting trip to my main website here: Snowy Owls of Canada

My new Snowy Owl workshop in December this year is long Sold out, but I will be repeating this new workshop again in January of 2021 and bookings are now open. I will only be taking a total of five photographers so if you are interested in photographing this magnificent bird then please drop me an email to register your interest. Places are strictly limited and once spoken for thats it. Just drop me an email to register your interest (no obligation at this point).

Photo of the Month April 2019 – The Magic of the Snowy Owl

The photograph of the month for April 2019 comes from my January scouting trip to northern Canada to photograph the majestic Snowy Owl in winter. This was my first trip to Canada (long overdue) and my first time photographing this magnificent bird.  During my time in this part of Canada I spent the better part of two weeks searching for and photographing Snowy Owls. This particular photograph of a large female beautifully perched on a snow drift in a soft fog was taken during a severe cold snap with temperatures down around -30ºCelsius.  I actually spotted the Owl from the side of the road and was able to approach relatively closely to where it was perched and then position myself to frame the shot with the included grass for balance. These sort of cold temperatures can be difficult to work in but the results can be absolutely stunning for those willing to make the effort.

I will be returning to this area of Canada at the end of this year to lead a small group of photographers on a workshop to photograph these fabulous birds. The 2019 workshop is long sold out – but I will very soon be announcing dates for January 2021. If you want to get the drop on the official announcement just drop me an email to register your interest (no obligation at this point).