Day four of mandatory self isolation includes a photograph I made this February of a young female Gyr Falcon on the south west coast of Iceland. I have been wanting to photograph Gyr Falcon in Iceland for literally years and finally a few days after the completion of my Arctic Fox workshop this year (Read the Trip Report) I was fortunate to have a great opportunity with this young bird on a Greylag goose kill. We had spotted the bird on the kill from some distance away with binoculars and were able to sneak too within 600mm range by crawling along the snow on our stomachs behind a snow bank. Once I peeked out to shoot the falcon the bird immediately spotted me and took off. I was able to squeeze off just three frames from my 1DX MK3 (at 16 FPS) before the bird was gone.
The photograph was taken hand held with the brand new Canon EOS 1DX MK3 with the Canon 600mm F24L IS MK3. Camera Settings: ISO800 f6.3, 1/1000th of a second.
In February of 2020 I ran my annual workshop / expedition to Hornstrandir Nature reserve in the extreme north-west of Iceland for Arctic Fox. Winter has hit northern Iceland this year with its full force and for the first time in recent years there has been a huge amount of snow in the north with consistent wintery conditions. By contrast, recent years have seen warming temperatures and little snow so it was very nice to see the landscape blanketed in a beautiful white carpet of snow.
The conditions this year were in fact the best I can recall in recent years. Next years expedition is a couple of weeks earlier than this year which should promise similar conditions with deep, soft snow that makes for superb backgrounds for this tenacious little predator. Blizzard and blowing snow are my absolute favourite conditions to work in with Arctic wildlife and we experienced an abundance of this during our stay in the reserve.
It is perhaps not well known outside of Iceland, but what makes the Hornstrandir Nature reserve so truly special is that it is the one place in Iceland where the fox are protected and not shot by farmers and hunters more or less on site. Their protection inside the reserve and close proximity to the cabin means that they are far more approachable than on the rest of the island and thus they can typically be approached much more easily. It was common during our expedition this year to be photographing the fox with 70-200mm lenses. In fact, the majority of photographs I personally made this year were with my 70-200mm lens. Anything longer than 200mm this year was almost impossible due to flying snow and poor visibility.
Our accommodation for the expedition was a cozy but rugged haven for photographers to enjoy a great atmosphere after a day out in the cold photographing Arctic Foxes. The house was originally built in 1921. In 1948 (just 27 years later), the last inhabitants left this isolated arctic peninsula in search of a better life. The cabin was abandoned for many years and has only recently been restored. Although no one lives here permanently, the cabin is a great getaway and the perfect place to accommodate us whilst we photograph wild Arctic Foxes. Curious Arctic Foxes frequently stop past the cabin to investigate visitors and it is possible to even photograph them from right outside the cabin on occasion; which we did so on many occasions during our expedition this year.In fact, we did most of our photography within 50 yards of the cabin this year with one particular female Arctic fox frequenting the cabin every day.
As an interesting aside, this years expedition was also the first chance for me to truly test the Canon EOS 1DX MK3’s auto focus system in the field (in winter). Conditions were absolutely ideal for testing during the expedition with strong wind and blizzard conditions that were perfect for torture testing the cameras autofocus. Visibility was often near zero and the air was literally full of blowing snow. During our shooting sessions we had to frequently clean the front lens elements from blowing snow. With temperatures hovering around -6º Celsius the cameras were frequently covered in snow and frozen. Despite the difficult conditions the 1DX MK3 auto focus proved truly superb. I was consistently and reliably able to obtain focus lock and tracking in white out blizzard conditions where focus would previously have been all but impossible (or at best extremely unreliable). The new tracking system (when set to Case 2 for these type of conditions) provided an extremely high keeper rate; even in the heaviest blowing snow blizzard conditions. I doubt there could have been more difficult conditions for any camera to auto focus and in comparisons between my own findings and those shooting Sony A9 MKII cameras we found the results comparable in terms of the cameras ability to lock and track focus. If there are any differences between either cameras ability to lock and track focus in these sort of conditions they are a quibble. The differences however between the 1DX MK3 and other DSLR cameras ability to lock and track focus are huge. The 1DX MK3 represents nothing short a significant quantum leap in auto focus capability for DSLR cameras. Of course, you can also lock up the mirror on the 1DX MK3 and expand the focus points further and add eye tracking on top of head tracking for even better performance.
If you are keen to photograph this mischievous little predator in a spectacular winter setting then I am now taking bookings for the 2021 expedition. The 2021 expedition will run from February 1st until February 6th (6 Days / 5 Nights) and includes return private transfer in a charter boat to our private cabin (departing from the town of Isafjord), accomodation in private rooms in the cabin, breakfast, lunch and dinner for the duration of the expedition and all photographic instruction. If you are interested in photographing one of Nature’s greatest feats of engineering in a beautiful and private winter setting then please drop me an email to register your interest.
Day three of mandatory self isolation includes another follow up photograph of a blue morph arctic fox I photographed on my Arctic Fox workshop this February (full trip report coming very soon). This was also shot on our craziest day (and I felt our best) of weather with very strong winds in excess of twenty metres per second and loads of flying snow. Visibility was only about ten feet with temperatures somewhere around -25º Celsius with wind chill. The snow was flying so thick and fast that the poor fox was just plastered and constantly having to roll over to clean the snow from its face.
Similarly to the image I posted yesterday, this photograph works for me because of the incredible sense of drama generated by both the flying snow, and the gesture of the snow plastered fox. The photograph was taken hand held with the brand new Canon EOS 1DX MK3 with the Canon 70-200mm F2.8L IS MK3. Camera Settings: ISO800 f6.3, 1/1500th of a second.
Day two of mandatory self isolation includes a follow up photograph of a blue morph arctic fox I photographed on my Arctic Fox workshop this February (full trip report coming very soon). This was our craziest day (and I felt our best) of weather with very strong winds in excess of twenty metres per second and loads of flying snow. Visibility was only about ten feet with temperatures somewhere around -25º Celsius with wind chill.
This photograph works for me because of the incredible sense of drama generated by both the flying snow, and the gesture of the snow plastered fox. The photograph was taken hand held with the brand new Canon EOS 1DX MK3 with the Canon 70-200mm F2.8L IS MK3. Camera Settings: ISO800 f6.3, 1/1500th of a second.
Very early this morning (around 12:30am) I returned from the East Coast of Greenland to my home in Australia. My earlier than planned return was obviously a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently sweeping around the globe (I had planned to stay in the Arctic the better part of another month). The East coast of Greenland in winter is not the easiest place in the world to return from and my journey began with a snow mobile ride from the remote cabin at Kap Tobin at the entrance to the Scoresby Sund fjord system to the small inuit village of Ittoq. From there I took a helicopter to the small airport at Constable Point and then a charter flight back to Akureyri in the north of Iceland. A short internal flight to Reykjavik followed with a couple of days in Reykjavik to sort onward travel logistics. I was able to change my flights to come home via a 2-hour transit in Singapore, but those plans were kiboshed at the very last minute when Singapore announced its borders were closing to non-citizens. Several panicked emails later to my travel agent and assistant I was able to take an Iceland Air flight to Heathrow and connect with Emirates to Dubai and then onto Melbourne Australia. As it turned out I made the very last Emirates flight out of Dubai before it also shut down. The entire travel process was complicated by the fact that I have either a herniated or bulging disc in my lower back and am suffering constant pain down the sciatic nerve. I was very glad to make it home this morning and walk in my front door.
Of course, as is mandatory I am now the subject of a two week self isolation period; which means I am now locked in my office (which thankfully has an attached bathroom). I knew one day there would be a benefit to having a home office! I thought I would take the opportunity to try and post an image a day here on my blog during this fourteen day period as well as record some image processing tutorials which I will upload and make available free of charge on my You Tube channel.
Kicking off the image for day one is a photograph of a blue morph arctic fox I photographed on my Arctic Fox workshop this February (full trip report coming very soon). This particular female fox is one I have been photographing since 2016. Over the last four years I have built trust with this fox to the point she will now come to within just a few feet of me, lie down in the snow, curl up and go to sleep. She is now toward the end of her life and this is probably her last winter. I will miss her dearly and pray I may see her again for one more season next year.
This photograph works for me because of the wonderful feeling of movement and gesture in the foxes stride, the curl and sweep of the tail and the raised front paw. Of course, the addition of the snow plastered to the foxes face and body adds a sense of drama and is the icing on the cake. The photograph was taken hand held with the brand new Canon EOS 1DX MK3 with the Canon 400mm F2.8L IS MK3. Camera Settings: ISO800 f5.0, 1/1000th of a second.