Finlands Frozen North 2019 Wildlife Safari Workshop Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wolverines and Wolves of Finland 2019 Availability

A place has just become available on my Wolverines and Wolves workshop this October in northern Finland. We will be photographing in mid Autumn conditions: We can expect everything from sunny days to cloud, fog or even heavy rain. This variety of weather, landscape and lighting conditions will provide you with the opportunity to create a diverse, creative and professional portfolio of these predators. We will be photographing almost exclusively from hides as these animals are extremely shy and very elusive. Each hide is equipped with everything you need to spend hours (even overnight) out in the field. We will have a number of different hides from which to choose, with various viewing angles.

On this workshop we will be staying in private cottages located deep inside a Nature Reserve only a few miles from the Russian border. Each cottage can accommodate up to four people, but is available for single use at no extra cost. Breakfast will be taken at our accommodation. Lunch and dinner will be a combination of food in the field, and home cooked meals prepared for us by a chef at our cabins. If you have special dietary requirements please be sure to let us know at time of booking.

If you are interested in photographing these apex predators along with black bears and White-Tailed Eagles from private hides during the fiery Autumn colour of Finland then please drop me an email to register your interest.

 

 

In Search of the Wolverine in Finland in Winter

Late yesterday I wrapped up six days of personal photography in northern Finland (in no mans land on the Russian border) trying to photograph Wolverine in winter. I decided to keep a daily video journal of the time I spent in the hide trying to photograph this elusive and shy animal. I uploaded the videos daily to social media via a pretty good 3G connection, but have now compiled them into a chronological time-line that I hope gives some insight into what it is like to spend day after day in a hide waiting for the opportunity to photograph rare and elusive wildlife. Peta-Pixel have now also picked up this story and have published it on their website.

I am now headed to Iceland to lead my annual expedition to the Hornstrandir Nature reserve in the North West fjords to photograph Arctic Fox in winter. I am really looking forward to returning to this remote area and the opportunity to again photograph these incredible animals with a small group of dedicated and passionate photographers. Perhaps best of all is that no hides are required in this area!

Departing for the Arctic in Winter 2019

We are more than half way through January and well and truly rolling  into 2019 now. It feels like Christmas and the New Year evaporated under the heat of the Australian sun (and it has been very hot this summer). I know I frequently say it, but I really do feel like time is speeding up! Tomorrow I will be leaving Australia to kick off my year with expeditions and workshops to the Arctic in Winter. My first stop is northern Canada to complete my scouting trip for the Snowy Owls workshop I will lead back there in December this year. From northern Canada I will travel to northern Finland for my winter wildlife and landscape workshop. And from Finland I will travel back to Iceland for my annual Arctic Fox expedition into the Hornstrandir Nature reserve. After that I will return to Svalbard for both a personal snow mobile expedition as well as leading an expedition with clients before I wrap up winter with a ship based expedition north of Longyearbyen. Winter is without doubt my favourite time of the year to visit the Arctic and I am itching to get up into the cold, ice and snow and escape the oppressive heat of the Australian summer.

This series of trips takes in more than a dozen flights and countless lay overs, security screenings and customs clearances. Quite honestly I am not looking forward to the customs and securities formalities. Airports have become so impersonal in recent years and any joy that was to be found between actual flights has been exterminated by the overlords like something out of a George Orwell novel. There is literally nothing glamorous about airline travel these days! With that said I am trying to pack a little lighter (hilarious I know…) than I might otherwise do to try and ease my airport travel. Although I need the two big north face duffels for all my winter clothing I am trying to keep camera gear to a minimum- well, as minimum as can be. My list for these trips as below:

  • 2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII Cameras
  • 2 x 1DX MKII Spare batteries
  • 1 x Canon 16-35mm F4L IS (Id like to take the 11-24mm.. but the extra weight and size made me remove it).
  • 1 x Canon 24-70mm F4L IS
  • 1 x Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS MKII
  • 1 x Canon 300mm f2.8L IS MKII
  • 1 x Canon 600mm F4L IS MKII
  • 1 x Canon 1.4 TC MKIII
  • 1 x ProFoto B10 AIR TTL Portable Light System & OFC Magnum Light Shaper

I would like to take my Go Pro system, a gimbal and various accessories but something has to give and this time the video equipment will stay at home.  Instead, I am taking a new ProFoto B10 Light – more on what I intend to use this for later. Time permitting, I will do my best to post some updates from the road and hopefully some photographs as well. See you in Canada!