These are some of my personal favourite photographs from throughout each calendar year – one for each month. Higher resolution versions of all of these photographs can be seen on my portfolio website at www.jholko.com. None of my photographs are HDR (High Dynamic Range) or composite images. All photographs are captured from single exposures in the field. The majority of my photographs are processed in Adobe Lightroom.
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The photograph of the month for December (and the last for the 2017 year!) is from my winter snowmobile expedition to Svalbard earlier this year. Taken on the sea ice on the East coast, this large male Polar Bear was climbing this wonderful blue ice to get to the female bear (out of sight behind the ice). I was extremely fortunate to encounter this bear in some absolutely wonderful soft light right at the very end of the day. This was one of many photographs I made during a period of just a few minutes as the bear climbed across the ice. I am looking forward to heading back to Svalbard in March next year for a month of winter photography.November 2017
The photograph of the month for November 2017 was taken on the second of two back-to-back expeditions to the East Coast of Greenland (read the trip report) in September and October this year. On the cusp of winter, the skies were heavily overcast and the sea was beginning to freeze in one of the many fjord systems we were exploring. I used the Canon 11-24mm F4L lens at 11mm and simply leant right over the side of the boat to get as low as possible. The aim with this sort of photograph is to try and lead the eye from the foreground ice to the distant icebergs and mountains. The key to making it work is to get as low as possible whilst still maintaining perspective and depth. October 2017
The cusp of winter is an incredible time to travel and photograph in the Arctic regions. The sea can freeze over, the sun is low in the sky and there is an ethereal quality to the light that is unmatched by any other season in my experience. This photograph of a winter landscape was taken in March this year on my winter Svalbard expedition (read the trip report). With the sea frozen in around our expedition ship, the sun low in the sky and a gentle low fog hanging in the distance the conditions were absolutely ideal for landscape imagery. This photograph was the result of simply being in the right place at the right time. Taken with the Canon ultra-wide 11-24mm lens I simply stood at the bow of the ship and leaned over to capture the delicious textures of the foreground ice with the wonderful cracks and ice features providing the perfect leading lines up to the distant mountains.September 2017
This photograph from winter in Svalbard this year is my photograph of the month for September 2017. I actually wanted to post this last month but was saving it up for the 2017 APPA awards so that the judges would see it with fresh eyes. What makes this photograph work so well is the body language and position of the bear in relation to the snow drift, the quality of the light and of course that wonderful gesture of the dragging paw all crusted in ice. Winter in Svalbard is often best time of the year in my experience for Polar Bear photography as you have optimum light conditions. With the sun low in the sky this sort of rosy pink glow is only found on the very cusp of winter. August 2017
As featured in the credits of my recent Ghosts of the Arctic short film, the photograph of the month for August 2017 is of Reindeer in winter in Svalbard. Taken during freezing temperatures and howling wind the simplicity of this photograph greatly appeals to my penchant for simple, but evocative and powerful photographs. The making of this photograph was anything but simple though as conditions were extremely difficult to work in with temperatures below -30º Celsius with wind chill. Nevertheless the resultant photograph for me captures the essence of Reindeer in winter.July 2017
I doubt there are many subjects more difficult to track and photograph in flight than Puffins. At full tilt I doubt there is an auto focus system in the world that can keep up with a Puffin and accurately track it as it moves across the ocean at speed and distance. They are incredibly difficult to track and capture and it takes a lot of practice and a lot of frames to capture something truly special. And to make things even more difficult the goal is not only to try and capture a sharp photograph, but to capture the subject in beautiful light and with ‘gesture’. All these difficulties make it incredibly rewarding when it all comes together in just the right photograph.
This photograph was taken out at Grimsey Island on my recent Ultimate Puffins workshop (Read the Trip Report) and really works for me in terms of subject, light and gesture. It is ultimately a very simple photograph, yet it holds wonderful emotion. I was standing near the edge of a 400+ foot cliff in strong winds near midnight. The Puffins were soaring on the wind currents and the late evening light was bathing them in a warm glow. I used the Canon EOS 1DX MKII with the Canon 300mm F2.8L IS MKII lens. I don’t recall how many photographs I made that evening in an effort to capture moments such as these, but was a great many.June 2017
It is timely to have a landscape photograph from Antarctica as my photograph of the month for June both because I am currently reviewing my entire Antarctic Portfolio for a new large format fine art book to be released late next year and because I am starting to think about what equipment and lenses I am planning to take with me to Antarctica this November (this year I will also take with me an underwater housing which somewhat complicates the packing arrangements). This particular photograph was made last year on my Antarctica / South Georgia expedition from zodiac during overcast conditions and heavy snowfall on what was I felt our best day for photography. I used the Canon 11-24mm wide angle lens with the Canon EOS 1DX MKII camera held down low over the side of the zodiac just above the water line. I absolutely love the heavy brash ice in the foreground, the deep overcast sky and the beautiful shape and texture of the iceberg in the distance. I also prefer this sort of limited colour palette as I find it representative of the very best Antarctica has to offer (blue skies make nothing more than postcards). For me, these are the most evocative images of Antarctica that truly speak to me about the sublime beauty and ethereal tranquility of this stunning and most precious white continent.May 2017
The photograph of the month for May was taken this Winter on the east coast of Svalbard and is of a large male Polar Bear climbing some blue ice on the frozen sea. We were extremely fortunate to have the bear on blue ice with some wonderful winter sunset light. April 2017
A few days ago I returned back to Australia after more than two months of back-to-back expeditions to Finland, Iceland and Svalbard in winter (I will have trip reports over the coming weeks). During the course of these travels I shot over thirty thousand images and now have many weeks of editing ahead of me. One of my initial selects is of a mother Polar Bear and her cub playing on the sea ice at twilight. This photograph was made on a private snow mobile expedition on the East coast of Svalbard during which we were filming for a new short film on polar photography to be released later this year. The cub was rolling around on the ice playfully as the mother watched on. We were extremely fortunate to have some absolutely superb winter light on the distant mountains.March 2017
Yesterday I returned to Reykjavik after leading a new expedition to the remote north-west of Iceland to photograph Arctic Fox in winter. I have been travelling to this remote nature reserve in the north of Iceland for the last four years to photograph Arctic Fox but this was the first time I have taken a group with me. We had some amazingly close encounters with several Blue Morph Arctic Fox during our time in the north and I will have a full trip report soon. As well as Arctic Fox we also took some time to photograph some of the dramatic landscape found this far north in Iceland. This particular photograph of snow being blown from one of the surrounding peaks at sunset from my 2016 expedition is my photograph of the month for March 2017.February 2017
The photograph of the month for 2017 comes from my recent expedition to the Emperor Penguins on the sea ice at Gould Bay in Antarctica (Read the Trip Report). This particular image is very evocative for me of the life the Emperor Penguins lead out on the sea ice. The blowing snow that surrounds the huddled penguins really bring this photograph to life.January 2017
I am kicking off 2017 here on my blog with my photograph of the month for January. An image I made in the Arctic in August 0f 2015 of a large Polar Bear cub resting on an ice flow in Svalbard. We were fortunate to spot this Polar Bear and to be able to manoeuvre close in our small ship M.S Origo. M.S Origo is the same ship I have chartered for a dedicated Polar Bear photography trip in late July in 2017 (one place remaining before the expedition will be sold out). M.S Origo is widely regarded as the best ship in the Arctic for photographing Polar Bears due to its low decks and operable portholes a mere fifty centimetres above the waterline. This enables the photographer to get down to eye level with wild Polar Bears living and hunting on the pack ice. I made this particular photograph with the Canon EOS1DX and Canon’s 200-400 F4L IS with inbuilt 1.4 Teleconverter. This photograph was recently High Honoured by Natures Best Photography in the Polar Passion Category.