For those of you heading to Iceland this season open edition, soft cover copies of my book Melrakki – the Arctic Fox project, are shortly to be available for sale at the Arctic Fox Centre in Sudavik in Iceland. All proceeds from sales go directly to the Arctic Fox centre. Large format fine art prints from the project will also be on display at the centre in the coming weeks.“The Arctic Fox Centre is a non-profit research and exhibition center, focusing on the arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) – the only native terrestrial mammal in Iceland. The Arctic Fox Centre was established on September 15th 2007 in Sudavik Westfjords. Founders were 42, mostly local people, tourist operators and municipalities in the Westfjords. All of which share their interest in the arctic foxes and believe in increasing ecotourism in Iceland. The idea of the Arctic Fox Centre comes from prof. Pall Hersteinsson, University of Iceland and he serves as a quality witness for the center.”
In February 2018 I lead my special small group expedition to the extreme north west of Iceland for a group of just five photographers to photograph what is perhaps Nature’s greatest survivor: Vulpes lagopus – The Arctic Fox. This is 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.I have been travelling to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve (Hornstrandir is Iceland’s northernmost peninsula, covering 580 km² at the northern end of the Westfjords, to the north of the Jökulfirðir and to the northwest of Drangajökull) in Iceland during the winter months for five years now specifically to photograph Arctic Fox in winter. I released both a limited edition and open edition book on the Arctic Fox (Melrakki) which was the culmination of three years of winter photography. Prints from this book are now on display at the Arctic Fox centre in Sudavik and the book can be purchased directly through Melrakki Publishing. For the uninitiated, 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. What is especially compelling for wildlife photographers is that Iceland is one of the very few places in the world where it is possible to reliably photograph the Blue Morph Arctic Fox (the rarer of the two colour morphs across most of the Arctic). White morphs are also found in Iceland, but in smaller numbers.We began our expedition in the small town of Isafjord in the north-west of Iceland with a somewhat delayed start due to a winter storm that made flying impossible on our original planned departure day from Reykjavik. We had planned to have one night in Isafjord before we departed but as it turned out we spent that evening Reykjavik. The next day the weather was still touch and go, but after a bumpy landing we arrived safely in Isafjord. After a quick visit to the Arctic Fox centre in the nearby town of Sudavik where we all had an opportunity to learn a little bit more about the biology and history of the Arctic Fox in Iceland we departed on our expedition in the early afternoon.From the small town of Isafjord, we travelled by private charter boat to the remote north-western Hornstrandir Nature Reserve (approximately one and a half hours by boat) where we stayed for the next seven nights in a small remote private cabin. The Hornstrandir Nature reserve can only be accessed by private charter boat (there are no roads or other services into this part of Iceland – and hence no tourists). Once we arrived in the reserve we had no contact with the outside world except via satellite phone for emergencies. The cabin we stayed in for the duration of the expedition is privately owned and 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. During our stay in the cabin we had a dedicated person to clean and prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for us each day; which enabled us to focus solely on our photography. 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 there permanently, the cabin was a great getaway and the perfect place to accommodate us whilst we searched for and photographed Arctic Foxes. Curious Arctic Foxes frequently stopped past the cabin to investigate during our stay and it was even possible to photograph them from right outside the cabin on several occasions.Arctic Foxes are predominantly territorial animals that roam and patrol vast areas of the Arctic. The Arctic Foxes of Iceland are particularly tough and hardy. They have to deal with constant freezing and thawing conditions throughout the winter months in areas where this is little or no food available. During our winter expedition we experienced temperatures a few degrees either side of freezing (0º Celsius) plus wind chill. Although this was a low snow year (yet again) we were fortunate to still have sufficient covering during most of the expedition. We also had a real mix of weather and light which provided us with a lot of different opportunities during our time in the reserve.
During our expedition we saw and photographed four individual blue morph foxes. As the foxes are territorial they visited us repeatedly on a daily basis (often several times per day) which provided us with multiple opportunities to photograph them. Arctic Foxes are by their nature inherently very curious animals and on many occasions approached within just a few feet of our cameras. Best of all the foxes are most active in the morning and evening – when the light is usually at its best for photography. Several of us also spotted a white morph fox further down the coast, but it proved shy and elusive for photography. In addition to the Arctic Foxes there was also bird life along the coastline including Iceland Gulls, Eider Ducks, Ravens and Ptarmigan in winter plumage. I have in the past also seen and photographed Gyr Falcon in this area of Iceland and Eagles are also seen on occasion.
The winter landscape in this part of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is simply stunning in its wild beauty. As a result, there were also many opportunities to make landscape photographs during this expedition.
We were met by the boat again on the morning of the 1st of March for our return trip back to Isafjord and were transferred to the airport in time for our return flights to Reykjavik. We concluded our expedition in the evening of the 1st of March in Reykjavik.
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.
If you are interested in photographing wild Arctic Fox I will be repeating this expedition early next year (2019) for a small group of just five photographers (only three places remaining before the expedition will be sold out). Full details are on my website at www.jholko.com or you can register your interest in one of the two remaining places by dropping me an email.
The 2018 AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) Victorian Professional Photography Awards concluded last night with the awards presentation at 1140 Studios in Melbourne (Judging was held on Tuesday and Wednesday this week). I was very pleased to be honoured as the overall winner for the EPSON Victorian 2018 Professional Documentary Photographer of the Year as well as being a finalist in the Nature category. I have previously won the Nature Category (formally the Science, Wildlife and Wild Places category) in 2014 and was also a finalist in 2015, 2016 and 2017. I also won the Documentary category last year so its fantastic to back that up with a repeat win.
Like last year I decided to split my print entries across the Documentary and Nature categories for 2018. All of the images were awarded either Gold, Silver with Distinction or Silver awards.Documentary Category – Adelie Penguins Ride Blue Ice in Antarctica – Silver Award 83Documentary Category – Lone Gentoo Penguin Antarctica – Silver with Distinction 86Documentary Category – Mother and Cub – Silver with Distinction 89 (one point from Gold)Documentary Category – Male Polar Bear on Blue Ice – 90 Gold AwardNature Category – Hawk Owl – 83 Silver Award Nature Category – Atlantic Puffin Fly By – 80 Silver Award
Nature Category – Back Lit Polar Bear – 84 Silver AwardNature Category – Polar Bears at Play – 84 Silver Award
From my previous post on these awards: The AIPP National and State awards are two of the few remaining competitions to actually judge the finished print and they do so using a panel of judges all deemed experts in their respective genres and accredited as Masters of Photography through their years of success in this arena. Prints are judged in a controlled lighting environment and assessed for their content, originality as well as technical craftsmanship. The judging is enthralling to watch and can be quite nerve wracking if you are a first time entrant as the standard of work is incredibly high.
Late yesterday I returned to Reykjavik and wrapped up my 2018 expedition for Arctic Fox in the far north-west of Iceland (full trip report coming soon). We had fantastic encounters with Arctic Fox over the course of the expedition; with several encounters within just a metre of our cameras. I have not as yet had time to do anything more than download my photographs from the expedition; but this image from a previous year of a white morph fox that has just caught a field mouse during a passing snow shower.There are still some places available on the 2019 expedition for Arctic Fox and if you are interested in joining this expedition you can register your interest by dropping me an email.
Tomorrow I will make my way up to Svalbard for a few weeks of personal photography before I lead my final Arctic expedition for 2018 north of Spitzbergen in search of Polar Bears, Walrus and spectacular winter landscapes.
This afternoon I arrived in Iceland after my recent Lofoten Winter workshop. As always, it is wonderful to be back in the land of fire and ice during the arctic winter months. Contrary to conditions at the same time last year Iceland has born the full front of winter this year with frequent storms blowing down from above the Arctic circle. As a result there have been many road closures and flight cancellations. It is my hope that tomorrow all will go well for our groups flight up to Isafjord and subsequent boat ride out to the remote Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Reports of deep snow across the reserve have me itching to get underway to photograph Arctic Fox in a beautiful winter setting.It is little known outside of Iceland, but the Hornstrandir Nature reserve is one of the best and most reliable places in the Arctic to photograph both the white and blue morph Arctic Fox. For the last five years I have been travelling to Hornstrandir to photograph the fox during the winter months. With access to a remote and recently renovated house we have all the feature comforts of home for our stay in the reserve.
If you are interested in photographing Arctic Fox bookings are now open for my 2019 expedition. expedition is limited to just five photographers and will run from the 22nd – 28th of February 2019. Places on the expedition are extremely limited and once spoken for thats it. You can download a complete PDF on the expedition HERE and register your interest by dropping me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org