2017 A Retrospective and 2018 Whats in Store?

As is tradition on my blog, I like to do a “What’s in Store” post for the coming year as well as reflect back, and wrap up the year that was (its a great way for me to keep a record of my travels and photography and also helps me prepare for the coming year. 2017 was a jam packed year and when I look back at all the destinations and all of the photography its actually hard to reconcile that it all happened in a single year. It was a year that included some absolutely fantastic photographic destinations and some really incredible experiences.

In equipment or ‘gear’ terms 2017 was relatively quiet for me with no major changes to my camera line-up. To date, I haven’t bothered with the 5D MK4; quite honestly (and as I wrote last year), the Canon EOS 1DX MKII remains the best DSLR camera I have ever used regardless of price, brand or model. In resolution terms the the 1DXMKII is more than sufficient for the vast majority of my work and my only justification for a 5DMKIV would be a lighter weight body for hiking (and I already own the 5DSR for that purpose). I did add the excellent Canon 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS MKII lens to my arsenal; primarily for ship based photography where I wanted something lighter and easier to hand hold than the Canon 200-400mm F4L IS. More recently I also purchased the outstanding Canon 400mm F2.8L IS MKII. I have been on the fence about purchasing the 400mm F2.8L IS MKII for some time and finally decided to pull the trigger and add this lens to my wildlife kit. My hope is it will prove more versatile than the 600mm f4L IS MKII with the addition of the 1.4X and 2X teleconverters. I was also lusting after that creamy bokeh of the f2.8 aperture.

My gear pick for the 2017 year (I always choose something I actually own) is somewhat of a tough choice. I am torn between the 400mm f2.8L IS MKII and the 100-400mm MKII lens. Both offer outstanding optics and both are industry leading in their categories. Both are also relatively recent purchases so its hard to be definitive as I have not spent a lot of time in the field with either as yet. Certainly both are destined to become long term keepers for me with specific needs for each piece of glass.

2018 should be a very interesting year in equipment terms. It is an Olympic year which means I expect to see several new L series lenses from Canon (although I highly doubt we will see any new pro bodies). Rumours remain persistent of a new 600mm F4 DO lens (a patent has been filed by Canon and they have shown a prototype) and I am starting to think it may actually eventuate in the later half of 2018 (just my gut feel).

Last year I gave my book pick of the year to the very deserving Adelie by Vincent MunierAdelie was an absolutely superb presentation that deserves a place in any Nature photographers library. If you don’t yet own a copy you should pick one up immediately. This year I am giving the nod to Ragnar Axelsson’s excellent Faces of the North. Although I haven’t had time to review it, I definitely recommend you check it out and consider adding it to your library.

2017 also marked the year I published the open soft cover edition of Melrakki. The culmination of three years of winter photography in the extreme north-west of Iceland, Melrakki is available now as a soft cover (Limited Edition hard bound fine-art book is long sold out). Copies can be ordered online HERE.Over the course of this year I also published my own favourite twelve photographs here on my blog. Please be sure to check them out and let me know what you thought. I don’t usually have an overall favourite from a given year, although I definitely have a soft spot for the photographs I made in Svalbard in Winter. Be sure to check out the full portfolio of images at my website www.jholko.com in the Winter Svalbard Portfolio.In competition terms, 2017 was a solid year for me with the overall win as the Victorian Documentary Photographer of the Year. This year I was also a finalist  in the Epson 2017 Professional Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Photographer of the Year. I was also short listed in BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and was also a semi-finalist with multiple photographs in Natures Best Photography 2017 Polar Passion Category. Overall, it was a solid year and I am very pleased with the results.

2017 was also another huge year for me both with destinations visited and sheer number of international miles travelled. The year kicked off in early February with a winter scouting trip to Kuusamo in the North of Finland (my first visit to Finland). The purpose of this trip was to scout out the opportunities and set up a future workshop for both winter wildlife and landscape. The trip was a great success with some superb wildlife and landscape and as such I will be offering a new workshop to the north of Finland in the winter of 2019 (I will have full details next year – but you can get a sneak peak now on my website at www.jholko.com).

From Finland I travelled to Iceland where I lead my annual winter workshop with Daniel Bergmann (Read the Trip Report). This was actually the last year for the foreseeable future that I will be running this workshop. Iceland has in recent times become over run with general tourism and much of the magic of the south coast has been lost (perhaps when the next economic collapse hits or a major volcano explodes tourism may drop off again). In order to minimise the tourist factor we chose to base ourselves predominately in the north-east of Iceland which provided us with some  great photographic opportunities.At the conclusion of my Iceland landscape winter workshop I travelled north to the remote Hornstrandir Nature reserve  in the extreme north-west of Iceland where I lead my annual expedition to photograph Arctic fox in winter. Unlike most of Iceland, the Hornstrandir Nature reserve is only accessible by boat in winter and as such it is mercifully free from tourists. During our expedition we stayed in a small cabin on the remote peninsula and had fantastic encounters with several arctic fox over the course of our stay (Read the Trip Report).In March I travelled to Svalbard where I spent a week with my good friends Abraham and Dom from Untitled Film Works photographing and filming Ghosts of the Arctic. The short film on the hunt for Polar Bears in the winter landscape has subsequently been a runaway success and has been screened at film festivals all around the world. In addition it has been featured on countless news sites including Daily Mail, National Geographic, Peta-Pixel and many more.After the filming of Ghosts of the Arctic I lead my new winter expedition in Svalbard for stunning ice covered landscapes and Arctic Wildlife (Read the Trip Report). Svalbard in winter is nothing short of breathtaking (Its not just the cold that steals your breath away either!). The landscape is plastered in snow and ice and the low angle of the sun bathes the landscape in sublime golden light.From Svalbard I travelled to the South Island of New Zealand (with only a brief stop in Australia in between) to lead my annual South Island Masterclass (Read the Trip Report). I have been leading this workshop to the South Island for quite some years now and the landscape in this part of New Zealand never disappoints. In late May I returned to the north of Iceland and Grimsey Island to lead a new workshop dedicated to the photography of Atlantic Puffins and other Arctic birds (Read the Trip Report). We actually had over fifty species of birds during the workshop and Grimsey Island (located north of Iceland, inside the Arctic Circle) proved to be a fantastic location for both Puffins, Razor Bills and landscape and I am looking forward to returning again next year.In July I returned to Svalbard to lead my annual summer Polar Bears of Svalbard expedition (Read the Trip Report). Svalbard has become one of my absolute favourite places in the world to photograph. With everything from Polar Bears to Walrus, Arctic Fox, Reindeer, countless bird species, many different species of whales and incredible landscape there is just about something for every genre of outdoor photography. Garnish it all with fantastic light and you have photographic nirvana.In late September and October I lead back-to-back expeditions with Daniel Bergmann to Greenland and the Scoresby Sund fjord system (Read the Trip Reports).There are few places on our planet as spectacular as the remote and wild east coast of Greenland. Its precipitous and towering glacier scarred mountains that line the many divergent fjords have created an otherworldly landscape that is just about photographic paradise. The entire primordial setting is festooned with a plethora of gigantic icebergs that drift slowly on currents through the system and that provide an endless and ever-changing series of subject matter for the photographer. These two expeditions were a runaway success and Daniel and I will be returning to Greenland and Scoresby Sund in September 2019. We will have further details on this expedition early in the new year.I finished up the 2017 year with back-to-back expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula (Read the Trip Report) – Antarctica White Nature. The expeditions were deliberately timed as the first of the season as typically this is when the weather is still quite unstable in Antarctica and there is the greatest chance of dramatic weather and light. Expeditions later in the season (December, January and February) typically have more settled weather and far less snow coverage on the ground. For wildlife photography this can be problematic as it can be difficult to find clean snow backgrounds for the penguins (Read my guide on how to choose a photographic expedition to Antarctica).

I had planned to have a week in Atacama at the end of the expeditions, but quite honestly I was pretty exhausted by the end of the second expedition and was glad of my decision to put down the cameras for a while and have the extra week at home.All up I led a total of ten separate international workshops and expeditions in 2017 spread across the globe (not including some local private workshops to the Great Ocean Road as well as one-on-one Print workshops). A brief count tallies up well over fifty plane segments and just over fifty thousand exposures (not all keepers unfortunately!) It was a fantastic year and I just want to thank all of you who I was fortunate to meet, travel and photograph with throughout the year. It was real privilege to share in such remarkable destinations with so many fantastic passionate photographers – thank you.

2018 is shaping up to be pretty full on and I am really excited about whats in store. In February I will be heading back to the Lofoten Islands in Norway to lead my second (SOLD OUT) workshop in this picturesque location. I was last in Lofoten in 2016 (Read the Trip Report) and found it to offer amazing opportunities for landscape photography. In fact, Lofoten is very much landscape paradise and the combination of precipitous mountains, dusted with fresh winter snow and the stunning Aurora Borealis can make for incredible photography.From Lofoten I will travel directly to northern Iceland where I will lead my annual (SOLD OUT) expedition to the Hornstrandir Nature reserve to photographic wild Arctic Fox. 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. We will be staying in a small remote cabin that is rustic, but functional and clean and we will have up to 10 hours of good light during the day with which to photograph the Arctic foxes. With luck, we may also see and photograph the spectacular Northern lights.After Iceland I will spend the remainder of the Arctic winter in Svalbard where I am going to be working on a combination of personal work from snow mobile and a SOLD OUT ship based expedition. The Arctic in Winter is a place to inspire the imagination. It is a white landscape bathed in golden light. The ship based expedition is unique and is the only one of its type to venture north of Longyearbyen by ship in winter.The main focus of this expedition will be Arctic winter light, landscape and wildlife. In March and April the light conditions in Svalbard are magical. Usually winter to Svalbard are limited to day trips on snow mobiles quite close to the town of Longyearbyen. With our expedition ship we will explore a much bigger area including the western and northern areas of Spitzbergen. This expedition has been sold out for some time, but I am now starting to take bookings for 2019. You can register your interest by dropping me an email.

This expedition has been designed to provide the very best possible opportunities to experience and photograph Svalbard in winter light. We expect to meet wildlife such as Polar Bears, Walruses, Seals, Arctic Foxes and Reindeer. At this time of year the sea birds will also be returning to their breeding grounds. Its a very exciting time to be in Svalbard and I am looking forward to it very much.

In May I am going to make the short hop across to the South Island of New Zealand to co-lead a Masterclass workshop with friend and New Zealand local, Phillip Bartlett. We have some really exciting locations lined up for this trip that include extensive helicopter access into the remote back country and aerial photography over the spectacular Southern Alps. I always look forward to any chance to photograph in this beautiful country. We only have two places remaining before the trip will be sold out and this will be the last year that I offer this workshop for the foreseeable future. Please drop me an email if you are interested in joining us. There are more details on my website at www.jholko.comIn early May I will be based in Australia and will be the keynote speaker on both Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th at VAPS  – The Victorian Association of Photographic Societies – convention in Warrnambool. I will have more details on this convention next year, but am very much looking forward to presenting at the conference.

After the VAPS conference I will be heading straight back to Iceland to co-lead my Arctic Wings of Iceland workshop with Daniel Bergmann. The workshop is dedicated to photography of the Atlantic Puffin and other birds of Iceland including Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots (Murres), Arctic Terns and Razorbills (Read the 2017 Trip Report). Iceland is one of the best places in the world to photograph Puffins and other Arctic birds in their natural environment. We will visit a number of different locations during this workshop where we will have outstanding access to the Puffins living in burrows on the edge of sea cliffs. We have timed our 2018 workshop to ensure we are in the best locations at the best times to photograph these wonderful birds. We will have hours of golden light under the spectacular midnight sun – ideal conditions for photography of the Atlantic Puffin. We still have a few spots available before the workshop will be sold out. Please drop me an email if you have any queries or are interested in joining us. In July I will head back to the Svalbard archipelago to lead my annual summer Polar Bears of Svalbard Expedition (only a couple of places remaining before it will be sold out). We will depart from the small town of Longyearbyen and sail up to the edge of the permanent pack ice where we will spend out time searching for and photographing the king of the Arctic. With 24 hour daylight under the midnight sun we will have hours and hours of light for photography.

We will search the sea ice north of Svalbard for Polar Bears, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Arctic Birds and spectacular Arctic landscapes. Whilst Polar Bears and other wildlife are the main attraction on an expedition such as this it needs to be said that the landscape opportunities in Svalbard are nothing short of breathtaking. Soaring bird cliffs, plunging glaciers and dramatic mountainous scenery means there is quite literally something for every photographer. If you have never been to Svalbard you should absolutely put it on your bucket list.In September I will be travelling to Finland as guest speaker at the international Finnish Nature festival in Kuusamo. I will be speaking both about my polar photography in Antarctica as well as the landscape and wildlife opportunities in Australia. Whilst there I will also take some extra time and maximise the opportunity to try and photograph Bears, Eagles and Wolverine.

In October I am heading back to Africa and the epic desert sands of Namibia. I was last in Namibia in 2016 (Read the Trip Report) and very much look forward to returning to this incredible country. I have lead three workshops to Namibia in recent years and have absolutely fallen in love with the desert and wildlife found across this dramatic country. We will be visiting the surreal ghost town of Kolmonskop, the massive dunes and seemingly endless sand dune landscape of Sussesvlei as well as the wildlife rich region of Etosha. There are already only a few places remaining before the workshop will be sold out. Drop me an email if you are interested in reserving one of the remaining places. After Namibia I will be heading back to New York to speak at the Photo Plus convention (more details to come later). I was last in New York in 2016 and am looking forward to returning to the big apple and catching up with friends in the states.

Finally, I will finish up in November with my third visit to the remote sea ice at Gould Bay in Antarctica to photograph the mighty Emperor Penguins .We will be travelling by privately chartered transport jet deep into Antarctica where we will land on a pre-prepared ice-runway at Union Glacier. From our basecamp only 600 miles from the South Pole we will then take a privately chartered Twin-Otter ski aircraft to the remote Emperor Penguin colony on the sea ice. We will establish a field camp on the sea ice and spend our time photographing the Emperors and Emperor Penguin Chicks on the sea ice against a backdrop of incredible mountains, icebergs and pressure ridges. We will photograph throughout the night when the light is soft and golden in an expedition opportunity dedicated to photography of Emperors. If you are excited by the idea of travelling to one of the remotest regions in Antarctica to live and photograph with the majestic Emperor Penguins now is the time to register for the last available place.  On top of all of the above it is my hope that 2018 will be the year I publish my new fine-art book on Antarctica. The preliminary layout is mostly complete and I hope to finish most of the text and final details early next year with a view to publication in the later half of 2018. It is going to be a very exciting (and very busy) year and I am looking forward to getting underway.

For those of you who have made it this far – A sneak peak into 2019 includes brand new workshops to the Faroe Islands and Finland as well as new expeditions to the remote east coast of Greenland and possibly something new and special to Greenland in winter. More on this later.

Lastly and certainly not least, I want to wish all of you a very safe and happy New Year and may 2018 be one of amazing light and experiences for all of you. See you in the New Year!

2014 A Retrospective and What’s in Store for 2015?

As has become a tradition for me I like to do a “What’s in Store” post here on my blog for the coming year as well as reflect back, and wrap up the year that was. 2014 was a huge year for me both with destinations visited, sheer number of international miles travelled as well as competition results. 2014 also marked the year I finally visited Africa and completed the seven continents. I have no idea how many actual miles I covered in 2014 in total, how many aeroplanes I boarded, how many times I went through airport security or how many tens of hours I spent waiting around in airports for connecting flights, but it was a lot – an awful lot. I wish I was better at taking advantage of layover time to catch up on email and office work but the reality is I am usually in a semi-vegitative state from jet lag and in no fit state to focus on any actual work. The positive flip side being I have such a love and passion of photography in the Polar regions that I could not ever imagine doing anything else. Airport layovers are therefore nothing more than an unfortunate means to a much loved end. 2015 will certainly have its fair share of flights and layovers and I am trying to work through as much office work as possible in the next few days before I board the next plane.

Over the course of this year I published my favourite twelve photographs here on my blog. Please be sure to check them out and let me know what you thought. I don’t think I have an overall favourite this year, although I definitely have a soft spot for this photograph of the giant sand dune and ghost forest I photographed in Namibia early this year. To those of you who have emailed me asking if and when I will be offering a future Namibia workshop the answer is unfortunately not in 2015 as I have too many other commitments. However, I am tentatively planning a future workshop for early April 2016 and will have more to say on this at a later date.

Ghost Forest

In competition terms, 2014 was my biggest year yet and winning the 2014 Canon APPA Professional Science, Nature and Environment photographer of the year as well as the highest scoring print in this category was a massive honour and thrill that I am still buzzing from. To pick this award up after already winning the Science, Nature and Environment category at the Victorian State Awards as well as 2014 Epson Professional Creative Photographer of the Year, Highest Scoring Print of the Year and overall win for Epson 2014 Professional Victorian Photographer of the Year was just about the perfect result and I quite honestly couldn’t be more thrilled. It was all topped off with wining the 2014 Travel Photographer of the Year in the Wild and Vibrant category a couple of weeks ago; which was just about the perfect news to receive on returning from Antarctica. It was a fantastic year and I have been really humbled by the results – thank you.

Australian Professional Photography Awards: Science, Environment and Nature Category Winner 2014
Australian Professional Photography Awards: Science, Environment and Nature Category Winner 2014

2014 was also my biggest year yet for workshops and expeditions. The year kicked off with an ‘almost’ local two week New Zealand South Island workshop which included helicopter time over the spectacular southern Alps. We visited Milford Sound, Queenstown, Kaikoura, Mount Cook and a great many other off the beaten track locations during the workshop and were treated to some fantastic weather and light (Read the Trip Report). New Zealand is a country made for photography and it is always fantastic to return to this wonderful country. Below is a short snippet of raw video from the workshop.NZVideoDaniel Bergmann and I then ran our annual Winter Iceland workshop (Read the Trip Report) that included destinations in both the north and south of the Island. Iceland in winter is an incredible experience and this workshop provided us with wonderful opportunities in a snow covered landscape. I then backed up Iceland in Winter by flying straight to Africa for two back-to-back Namibia overland Safaris (Read the Trip Reports). Namibia was a truly amazing experience and its ancient landscapes are ideally suited to the intrepid landscape photographer – even if it is hot!

After a short break, I then returned to Iceland for the Summer season and lead two back-to-back Ultimate Summer workshops that saw us circumnavigate the Island twice and photograph a great many of Iceland’s incredible locations (Read the Trip Report). I never tire of returning to Iceland and eagerly look forward to each return visit. The 2015 Iceland Highlands workshop is sold out, but I will soon be announcing the 2016 schedule for those of you who would like to get the drop on securing an early place. Just drop me an email to register your interest – no obligation at this point.

After Iceland I led a two week expedition that departed from Isafjord in the north of Iceland and sailed across the Denmark Strait to Greenland and Svalbard ‘The Jewels of the Arctic‘. During the expedition we explored and photographed many of Greenland’s incredible mountain lined fjords, rugged landscapes and arctic tundra slopes before we sailed across the Greenland sea to Svalbard (Read the Trip Report). Greenland has some of the most amazing geology of any place I have ever visited and in combination with gigantic icebergs it offers unique opportunities for photography.

In November I travelled to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica for a twenty one day expedition that saw us photographing in some of the world’s best locations for wildlife. We sailed from Ushuaia aboard our expedition ship stopping at several places in the Falklands along the way. We then spent several days in South Georgia before sailing to Antarctica. I have really been enjoying seeing the fantastic photographs being shared on social media taken by all who participated on this expedition – and although I suffered quite badly from sea sickness during this voyage it really was remarkable.  I hope to post a trip report as well as more photographs over the coming weeks. In the meantime, this was a photograph I made at Grytviken in South Georgia Island of a very curious baby Elephant Seal. The photograph was taken with a Canon EOS 1DX with a 16-35mm F4L IS lens and an Aquatech Underwater Sport Housing with wide-angle dome port. My sincere thanks to Aquatech for their support with equipment for this expedition. Baby Elephant Seal

At the conclusion of this expedition I travelled with friends to the Argentinian side of Patagonia to spend some time hiking in the back country and relaxing before I led one final expedition for the year to the Antarctic Peninsula. This was the second time I have been to Patagonia; although it was the first time I have visited the Argentinian side. Last year I spent a week on the Chilean side of Patagonia and it was interesting to experience the difference between the two areas.  In terms of sheer impact, I have to say I prefer the Argentinean side; although both are spectacular and both are equally exposed to ferocious winds. Patagonia is a wild place and you have never truly experienced the power and ferocity of Nature’s winds until you have travelled and hiked in this area of the world. I took the opportunity to put down my cameras whilst in Patagonia and although I made a few photographs I really took the opportunity to have some down time and just share the experience with good friends. I really needed time to recharge my batteries before the final Antarctic expedition and Patagonia was the perfect experience.

The final expedition to Antarctica proved about as perfect an experience as one could hope for in terms of weather. This was the first time I can recall visiting Antarctica and not loosing any time or landings due to wind and weather. Although I prefer moody, dark and overcast skies for my photography it was nice to see some blue sky and visit a few new locations during this trip. This photograph of the old whaling ship ‘The Governor’ was taken at Enterprise Island and is a good example of the kind of weather we experienced. This was the first time I have visited Enterprise Island but it will most certainly be on the hit list for future expeditions.The GovernorAll up I led a total of nine separate international workshops and expeditions in 2014 spread across more than ten countries (not including some local private workshops to the Great Ocean Road as well as one-on-one Print workshops). A brief count tallies up more than thirty international plane rides and more than thirty thousand exposures (wish they were all keepers!) and a lot more than thirty hours of lost sleep. It was a fantastic year and I just want to thank all of you who I was fortunate to meet, travel and photograph with throughout the year. It was real privilege to share in such remarkable destinations with so many fantastic photographers – thank you.

2015 is shaping up to be an even bigger year than 2014 in terms of both miles and locations and I am really excited about whats in store. In February I will lead a sold out trip to Yellowstone in Winter. Yellowstone in winter has long been on my wish list and I am very excited to be travelling to the USA again with such a small group of fantastic friends and photographers. We are looking forward to photographing Bison, Elk, incredible snow covered landscapes and with a little luck perhaps even Wolves and Lynx.

Yellowstone Sold OutIn March I will lead my annual Winter Aurora workshop to Iceland (Sold Out) with my good friend Daniel Bergmann. We have a  slightly different itinerary in store to last year and will be visiting both the south east and south west coasts during this workshop. At the conclusion of this trip I am going to fly over to Svalbard and spend some time in the backcountry via snowmobile photographing Polar Bears and Arctic Fox in winter. I will then fly back to Iceland to continue my Arctic Fox project in the north of the country. I hope to share a lot more of this project over the coming year as I continue to assemble the images but you can get a preview on my website in the Arctic Fox Project.Arctic Fox AttackIn May I am going to make the short hop across to the South Island of New Zealand to co-lead a Masterclass workshop with friend Phillip Bartlett. The South Island of New Zealand is breathtaking and was made for landscape and Nature photography. We have some really exciting locations lined up for this trip that include helicopter access into the remote back country. Click on the image below for a video preview of whats in store.


In July I will head back to Svalbard to lead my Wild Polar Bears expedition (Sold Out) from Longyearbyen up to the permanent pack ice. At the conclusion of this trip I am flying to Iceland where Daniel and I will lead our Iceland Highlands expedition (Sold Out). We both then return to Svalbard for our Kingdom of the Ice Bear expedition. Untitled Film Works will be joining us on this expedition and will be producing a short film of our experiences as we photograph the King of the Arctic. This will be the second film Untitled Film works will have shot and produced for me and I am looking forward to working with them again. You can watch the first Polar Photography Experience movie by clicking on the image below.polar-experience-videoKingdomoftheIceBear2015In November I will travel to the Falkland Islands (our departure point) with Norwegian friend Ole Jorgen for a dedicated fifteen day photographic expedition to South Georgia Island. Unlike the expedition I led this year which also took in Antarctica this new expedition will focus solely on the wilds of South Georgia Island. We have secured a permit for a much longer stay than usual and will instead have ten full days of photography in this incredible location. We intend to explore many of the more rarely visited and out of the way locations as well as some of the major highlights. It is sure to be an absolute wildlife fiesta. There are currently only two places remaining on this expedition before it will be sold out. KingPenguinsAt the conclusion of the South Georgia expedition I will remain in the Falkland Islands for a one week extension to photograph at two of the worlds best hot spots for Birds – Sea Lion Island and Saunders Island. This will be a very small group of photographers and we will move between the islands via small charter plane. The Falklands is a world class location for photographing Albatross as well as King Penguins and Rock Hopper Penguins and I am looking forward to returning to this remarkable area.

I then have one final expedition to Antarctica for the year that will take me right through until Christmas and wrap up 2015. Its going to be a very busy and hectic year and I am keen to get make a start in Yellowstone in just a few weeks time.

In other projects, I am also aiming to finalise and publish my book ‘Extreme Latitude’ early next year. This long overdue project has been sitting ‘mostly’ finished on my hard drive for the last couple of years and it is time to pull it all together and complete it.

A final sneak peak into 2016 for those of you who have managed to read this far: I will be announcing at some stage next year a unique once in a lifetime expedition to travel deep into Antarctica via snow plane and snow mobile to live, camp and photograph with the mighty Emperor Penguins. The expedition will likely be early November 2016 and be strictly limited to a very small number of photographers. I will have more to say about this opportunity next year.

Lastly, I want to wish all of you a very safe and happy New Year and may 2015 be one of amazing light and experiences for all of you.

Spirit of Antarctica 2014 Complete – Heading Home

After nearly two months of solid photography in South Georgia Island, Antarctica and Patagonia I am finally headed home later today in time for Christmas with my family. The last two months has been nothing short of a phenomenal experience that was as always a sheer pleasure to share with so many like minded and passionate photographers.

I am currently in Puerto Williams in Chile having just docked a couple of hours ago after returning from my last Antarctica expedition of the year. We were fortunate to have a relatively mild Drake crossing on the return which was a pleasant and welcome surprise. Another pleasant surprise has been I just learnt that I have won the 2014 Travel Photographer of the Year Award for the Wild and Vibrant Category. The winning photograph was shot last year in Svalbard.VPPY - Gold Award

I admit to being pretty shattered at this point having existed on little sleep over this last two months. With so much exposure to the midnight sun so far south my body clock is a bit of a mess. The one benefit of this state of exhaustion is that I am likely to at least catch up on some sleep on the long haul flights home. I quite honestly have no idea when I will get a chance to process some of the photographs I have made during this time away as my time at home is very limited before I next head overseas. In the meantime, I am very much looking forward to walking in my front door, seeing my family and spending Christmas with my kids.

If you have been following along on my blog you will know that I will only be home for a two weeks before I will head back to South America and Antarctica for a scouting trip to photograph the mighty Emperor Penguins at the beginning of 2015. I am super excited about this new opportunity and am looking forward to heading deep into remote Antarctica where the Emperors make their home. The intention of this scouting trip is to spend a week camping and living on the sea ice with the Emperors in order to ensure everything is in place for a future small group photographic expedition in 2016. I will have more to say about this expedition soon. For now, if you are interested in a future expedition to visit, camp, photograph and live with Emperor Penguins you can drop me an email to express your interest – no obligation at this point.

Now, its time to head to the airport in Puerto Williams and start the long trek home. See you in Australia.

Departing on The Spirit of Antarctica Expedition 2014

My friend Antony Watson and I recently finished up ten days trekking and photography in the back country of Patagonia and have spent the last few days in Ushuaia at the bottom of South America. I admit, that at this point South America is starting to feel like my home away from home and that my Spanish is now about as good as my Icelandic! Later today we depart on our final Antarctica expedition for the year to the Antarctic Peninsula where we hope to encounter more amazing icebergs, landscapes and polar wildlife. We have a ship full of keen and passionate photographers all eager to get underway and get some polar frames in the can. The enthusiasm of a ship full of photographers about to embark on an Antarctic odyssey is a fantastic energy resource and one can’t help but get swept up in the excitement. 20141125_Patagoniaiphone_02073111As expected Patagonia was a mixed bag of weather and light (or should I say wind, wind and more wind!). The scenery of this amazing location is breathtaking – the precipitous peaks, the plunging mountains and wild terrain is really phenomenal. Hiking through this terrain really puts a perspective on the sheer scope and scale of the geological uplift. I have personally found Patagonia a challenging place to photograph in the past and this trip was no different. The scenery really needs just the right combination of weather and light to really create great images. I have seen a lot of photography from Patagonia over the years and those images that really stand out for me are those that have captured the most dramatic weather and light. Patagonia remains for me one of those places that is dramatic to behold but photographically elusive. I am sure I have some good images from Patagonia, but I am not sure I have any definitive ones as yet. I need to look at my photographs with fresh eyes in a couple of months to really get a feel for what I did or did not accomplish. I took a laid back approach to my photography in Patagonia and was happy in many instances to simply take it in and leave the cameras in the bag.  I did very much enjoy our long days of hiking through Patagonia and was very appreciative of the light weight 5D MKIII loaned to me by my good friend Martyn. The thought of schlepping one of my Canon EOS 1DX’s up some of those mountains would have in all likelihood seen me choose to stay at the bar. In fact, it is worth noting that the hiking was fairly arduous and I am not ashamed to admit I arrived at our campsite several evenings tired and sore. Hiking the back country of Patagonia with good friends was one of those life experiences you never forget and the memories from this trip will I hope stay with me forever. I hope to write more about our experiences in Patagonia over the coming months as my thoughts congeal from both our hiking and photographic experiences. Until then, its time to turn my attention again to Antarctica.

We will be sailing down the Beagle Channel in a few hours and making our way across the Drake Passage bound for Antarctica. No two Antarctic expeditions are ever the same and I am looking forward to seeing what this one has in store for us. As always we will chase the weather and light for the best possible photography opportunities. Sleep will as always be kept to an absolute minimum as we search for spectacular midnight sun polar light. This will be my final post for the next two weeks before we dock back in Ushuaia. Bon Voyage.

Antarctica and South Georgia Island 2014 Expedition Complete

Andy Biggs and I have now wrapped up our twenty one day South Georgia Island and Antarctica photography expedition.  We docked yesterday in Ushuaia after experiencing some of the most incredible polar landscapes and wildlife experiences of my photographic career. It was a unique experience and an absolute joy and pleasure to share it with so many other passionate and keen photographers. I recall something renowned photographer Art Wolfe once said – “If you can only visit one place in the world for wildlife photography it should be South Georgia Island”. He was most definitely right. From what I have already seen from those aboard there were some incredible photographs created during this voyage. No doubt, more will emerge over the coming weeks and months as everyone gets a chance to sort through the plethora of images we made during this expedition. Our ship was abuzz with excitement during our voyage and the recounting of our daily experiences over the evening meal that included everything from wildlife encounters to talk of dramatic landscapes, weather, photography and myriad of other topics made the whole shared experience simply wonderful.SouthGeorgiaThis brief post is not intended to be a full trip report as that will come later once I have had a chance to fully digest our experiences and sort and process a few more of the many thousands of photographs I made during this voyage. After twenty one days of pretty much non stop landscape and wildlife photography my cameras and lenses are smoking and my shot count well in excess of seven thousand images – including many underwater and split (half above / half below) photographs thanks to Aquatech who kindly provided sponsorship equipment for this expedition. It is going to take me a long time to sort and edit the photographs from this expedition, but I do hope to publish a few images when I get home just before Christmas. On top of that, my good friend and fellow photographer Antony Watson was tasked with shooting video for the duration of the expedition and we hope to cobble that together into a short movie of our experiences to be shared at a later date.For now, Antony, Martyn, Louisa and I have a day to rest and recover in Ushuaia before we fly out for ten days trekking and photography on the Argentinean side of Patagonia. The last time I visited Patagonia a year ago with my my friend and fellow photographer Martyn Lucas we experienced horrendous winds for six out of the seven days we were in the park and photography was more or less impossible. We have high hopes for better conditions this time. It will certainly be very nice to stretch the legs with some long hikes in the Patagonian back country after twenty one days of being at sea.Zodiac CruisingJust by way of a small teaser announcement for a future expedition: Once I finish in Patagonia I will return to Ushuaia for one more Antarctic expedition this season to the Peninsula with my friend Antony before I fly home in time for Christmas. I will be home for just over a week before I will return to Antarctica at the end of the year for a scouting trip to photograph Emperor Penguins in a very remote region of Antarctica. This scouting trip is something I have been working on for more than a year now and it is my hope that this test trip will result in a future photographic expedition to photograph the world’s largest and most majestic penguin – The mighty Emperor.