Frozen Planet Svalbard Expedition in Winter and Spring 2020

In April and May next year I will be leading a new Winter / early Spring expedition to the Svalbard archipelago in search of Polar Bears, Walrus, Reindeer, Arctic Fox and of course spectacular polar landscapes. The Arctic in Winter and Spring is a place to inspire the imagination. It is a white landscape bathed in golden light. The main focus of this expedition will be late Arctic winter and early spring light, landscape and wildlife. In March and April the light conditions in Svalbard are magical. Usually winter trips 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 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.

This exclusive expedition is for a strictly limited number of just 12 participants plus leader and is dedicated to winter photography in Svalbard. As of a few days ago, we are now down to just the last couple of places before the expedition will be sold out.

We will be using the ice hardened expedition ship M.S Freya that will enable us to skirt the edge of the pack ice searching for and photographing landscapes and wildlife. M.S Feya is widely regarded as the best ship in the Arctic for Photography. Our expedition ship is also equipped with sufficient zodiacs (2 x Zodiac MKV models) and crew for all photographers to be shooting simultaneously with plenty of room to spare for camera equipment – So bring what you need!

Meals will be held onboard the ship and shall consist of breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea/coffee and two course dinner (three course dinner the last evening). Coffee and tea will be available 24 hours a day. The mealtimes shall be held at regular times, but the catering crew has been informed that photography has priority on this expedition and flexibility is necessary. If you have special dietary requirement you will be accommodated – please just be sure to let us know when you make your booking.

If you are excited by the idea of traveling to Svalbard in winter with a small group of dedicated photographers now is the time to secure your place. Once the last places are spoken for that’s it.

Departing for Polar Bears of the High Arctic Expedition 2020

Tomorrow I will be leaving the cold damp of Melbourne’s Winter and making the long journey up to Svalbard in the the Arctic for my 2019 Polar Bears of the High Arctic expedition (where ironically it is likely to be warmer than my home state at this time of year!). The 2019 expedition has been sold out for many months, but there are still a few places left on the 2020 expedition. If you are interested in photographing Polar Bears in their natural environment in one of the most spectacular parts of the Arctic then drop me an email for further details.

For this expedition I will be taking the usual assortment of equipment with a few recent upgrades as noted below. My cameras for this expedition will remain my two Canon EOS 1DX MKII cameras. I am leaving my EOS R mirrorless in the studio as this camera really works for me as a landscape camera on the tripod and the emphasis on this expedition is most definitely wildlife.

  • 2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII Cameras with spare batteries
  • 1 x Canon 600mm F4L IS MKIII (recently updated from the MKII)
  • 1 x Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS MKIII (recently updated from the MKII)
  • 1 x Canon 24-70mm f4L IS
  • 1 x Canon 11-24mm f4L
  • 1 x Canon 1.4TC MKIII
  • 1 X Sachtler Carbon Tripod and FSB-6 Fluid Head

I never tire of the wonders of the Arctic and am literally itching to get underway and get some ice under my feet. Bring on the Polar Bears!

Wolverines, Wolves and Bears of Finland in Autumn – Availability 2019

There are now just two places 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.

Great Ocean Road and Tasmania Workshop Reports 2019

In May and June of 2019 I lead two back-to-back landscape workshops to the Great Ocean road region of Victoria and both the East and West coasts of Tasmania with my co-leader and friend Phillip Bartlett. Both of these workshops were structured to provide outstanding and varied opportunities for landscape photography as well as the opportunity to see and experience the wild coastal region of the Great Ocean Road and World Heritage Wilderness areas of Tasmania. Both of these locations offer world class landscape opportunities, yet both remain relatively unknown on the world stage (at least for now). We planned to not only photograph the fantastically varied landscape of these two locations, but also enjoy the fantastic fresh food and produce both of these locations are well known for.

In May and early June in southern Australia we are in the transitional phase from Autumn to Winter and the weather is often varied and unsettled. It can be quite cold, occasionally wet, but also extremely beautiful. Sunrises and sunsets are often intermixed with dramatic cloud and when the wind is up it can result in wild weather as storms and squalls roll in from Antarctica to smash into the coastline. As it turned out and as expected, we experienced a little bit of everything weather wise during both workshops. Our workshops were deliberately timed in the hopes of some dramatic weather and light and we encountered both during the two workshops. As also expected we lost a day, or part thereof on each trip due to intermittent rain, but we more than made up for it with beautiful light on several occasions.

We began our workshops with three days of intensive landscape photography along the spectacular Great Ocean Road and Otway forest region of Victoria. I have been travelling and photographing this part of Victoria for many, many years now and over this period of time have discovered many wonderful locations to photograph and learned a lot about the ideal time to visit these locations. Contrary to popular thought, many of the more obvious locations for sunset actually work much better at sunrise with the massive sandstone sea stacks picking up their own equivalent of an alpine glow before the sun crests the horizon. Sunset is in many ways too obvious for the westward facing sea stacks and experience has shown me sunrise usually provides better light and better opportunities. Typically, there also fewer photographers around and one almost always has the location to themselves – as we frequently did. Knowing where and when to photograph is key to getting great results along the Great Ocean road and there is simply no substitute for local knowledge in this regard. This time I decided to include a fellow participant for scale to show just how gigantic some of these sea stacks truly are.

During our time in Victoria we also made several stops at some of the Otway Ranges waterfalls. On both workshops we were blessed with ideal shooting conditions that included low cloud and mist – perfect conditions for this sort of forest photography. Despite Victoria being somewhat unknown for its waterfalls we do actually have several fantastic places that offer superb opportunities when the conditions are optimal. My own preference is always overcast light with low cloud for the soft box light effect. The addition of mist or light rain also adds a further element to really add mood to the photographs. Recent rains ensure the waterfalls are in full flow and at their best for making photographs.

After we finished in Victoria we returned to Melbourne and made the short flight down to Tasmania where we spent the next few days exploring and photographing the world heritage region at Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Claire National parks. Cradle Mountain is without doubt the jewel in the crown and heart of Tasmania. This rugged and wild region of the island offers an opportunity for mountain and forest photography that is as unique as it is impressive. Cradle mountain itself forms an ideal photographic back drop to Dove Lake (the large alpine lake that rests in front of the mountains), whilst the surrounding old growth forest adds a primordial feel that gives the whole place that fantastical ‘Tolkien’ look. The opportunities for dramatic and unique imagery in this area are as expansive as they are untapped and we explored and photographed quite extensively during our time in the area. With our luxury accomodation just outside the park we were perfectly positioned to maximise our time in this area. Some of us even took the opportunity to hike to Marions look-out and walk many of the forest trails. For those that were keen there was also wildlife opportunities with Wombats and Wallabys in abundance.

From Cradle Mountain we travelled south to the small seaside town of Strahan on the wild West Coast where we were based for two nights. During our time in Strahan we took a day cruise out to Hells Gates (the narrow entrance to the harbour) and then on up the Gordon river – an extremely scenic journey into the pristine old growth world heritage forest. Our cruise included a stop at Sarah Island on our return. Overcast light with low cloud and mist is again ideal for this sort of forest photography and we made the most of the opportunities provided to us. We were also fortunate to get fantastic reflections on the river. On our first trip we also tried to find and photograph the Fairy penguins (now known as the Little Penguin) at Bonnet Island but had only marginal success with only a couple of penguins arriving on the island well after dark. The population of Fairy penguins has been in decline at Bonnet Island in recent times and my feeling is this is now pretty much a dead end for penguin photography.  In lieu of the penguins we took an opportunity to photograph Tasmanian Devils on the second workshop at the sanctuary near Cradle Mountain which proved productive and worthwhile.

From Strahan we travelled East to Coles Bay in Freycinet National Park where we spent several more days exploring and photographing this rugged and exposed peninsula. The Freycinet peninsula possess some of the most amazing granite boulders to be found anywhere on earth. Pink and orange granite boulders adorn both sides of the rocky peninsula and offer limitless opportunities for landscape photography. Perhaps best of all, this hidden gem is virtually untouched and un-photographed by world standards. During the many hours we spent photographing in this region at both sunrise and sunset we did not encounter a single other photographer – a rare treat these days.

From Freycinet we travelled South to Hobart where we wrapped up with a final sunrise photography session atop the rock riddled, Mount Wellington. The days are short this time of year in Tasmania; with sunrise around 7:30am and sunset around 5pm. This timeline is absolutely perfect for this type of workshop and meant we could get in a full days photography from sunrise to sunset before ending our day with a fantastic locally produced meal in one of the nearby restaurants. With many of the towns in Tasmania located on or near the coast the fresh seafood on offer is amazing with some of the best fish, oysters and scallops to be found anywhere.

Landscape photography in Tasmania is an absolute joy. Free from the crowds of tourists and photographers that have inundated many other corners of the world, Tasmania remains a quiet back water, mercifully blessed with fantastic food and wine, and world class landscape for the travelling photographer. Although I have been to Tasmania many times in my life, I never tire of returning to this small Island just a short stones throw from my home in Melbourne. The landscape is as irresistible as the fresh seafood and as such I will return again next year for one more workshop to the Apple Isle. You can drop me an email to register your interest.

Footnote: On the second workshop I decided to take a Canon EOS R mirrorless camera with me. This was the first time I had spent with the camera in the field and I was quite surprised with my findings. I will have some more detailed thoughts in another post in the next few days. My conclusions might surprise you.

Photo of the Month June 2019 – Golden Eagle Landing

The photograph of the month for June 2019 is of a magnificent Golden Eagle coming into land on the snow in northern Finland in winter. Photographed from a private hide during my Finland workshop in February earlier this year (Read the Trip Report); the image was captured with a Canon EOS 1DX MKII and 600mm F4L IS MKII Lens (I had not yet updated to the MKIII). The key to capturing really sharp, powerful moments of birds in flight such as this is a combination of anticipating the animals behaviour and having everything set and ready on your camera so that once the action starts you are immediately shooting and not fumbling with settings. In this case, I knew it would be really difficult to accurately track the eagle with a single focus point  (even with surrounding focus points) as it came in to land at high speed, so I used multiple points with ‘Case 3’ Auto Focus (telling the camera to instantly focus on objects as they came into frame). I also ensured I stopped down the lens enough for adequate depth of field in case the focus points grabbed the tip of the wing (as they are prone to do) to give me the best possible chance. I set my cameras shutter speed to at least 1/1000th of a second and to high speed capture at 12 frames per second which meant as long as I could keep the eagle in frame I was going to get sharp images.