Multi-award-winning Arctic photographer Joshua Holko talks polar travel essentials and his love affair with the world’s coldest destinations.
Did you always want to be a photographer?
Yes, but it took me many years to work out what I really wanted to photograph. In the early days, when I was shooting slide film, I was mostly shooting rock climbing and the landscapes of Australia; it was not until I first visited the polar regions that I really found my calling and knew what I wanted to photograph full-time.
Can you tell us the story behind your winning shot, Protecting the Kill?
The photograph was taken on the frozen Templefjord, north of Longyearbyen, during a personal snowmobile expedition to Svalbard, Norway, one winter. It shows a female polar bear backlit by the setting winter sun. Her breath was steaming in the freezing air as she guarded a recent
bearded seal kill.
What photographic gear do you usually take on an expedition?
I usually bring at least three camera bodies as I like to photograph with multiple bodies at the same time. This can be really helpful in photographing quickly moving wildlife, where a lens change would result in a missed shot. I also take an assortment of lenses with me, from an ultrawide angle (11mm) all the way to super-telephoto (typically 600mm).
Can you give us some tips on how to capture the Arctic world?
The Arctic is incredible for its grandeur and scale, but it can be difficult to capture in a single image. I tend to focus more on details and look very hard for objects that help give a sense of scale to the photograph. Wildlife is fantastic for this, but I might equally include an expedition ship in the image or perhaps even a solitary bird on an iceberg. I also like to photograph wildlife in the context of their environment. It’s very important to get down low to eye level with your subject in order to connect with it and to create more intimate images.