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 November 2019 comes from my 2019 expedition to photograph Arctic Fox in the north of Iceland (Read the Trip Report) and is of a blue morph arctic fox during a blizzard at Kviar. This was I felt our best day with soft overcast light and falling snow that added the magical element to the mix. Blue Morph Arctic Fox are my favourite morph to photograph in these conditions. There is a wonderful contrast between the fur of the fox and the white snow that really works for me.
The photograph of the month for October 2019 comes from my last snow mobile expedition to Svalbard in winter this year and is of a Ptarmigan in its winter plumage. I had been wanting to try and photograph this bird properly in a winter setting for some years now and this year I was afforded several opportunities over the period of two weeks I spent on snow mobiles in the winter landscape (mostly searching for Polar Bears). Whenever I am photographing wildlife like this I make every effort to get down as low as possible so that I can be at eye level with my subject and create a stronger connection between the viewer and the photograph. In this case, I lat down in the snow and actualyl partially buried my lens in the soft snow to create the soft transition between the snow and bird. The key to all of this style of wildlife photography is to carefully choose your background and then work with the subject to achieve the ‘look’ you want. In this case, a combination of a clean background with just a sudden gust of wind to ruffle the birds feathers and create some movement.
The photograph of the month for September 2019 is of Emperor Penguin chicks and comes from my last visit to Gould Bay in Antarctica in November of 2018. This photograph and print scored a Gold award at the 2019 Epson Victorian AIPP State awards and a Silver with Distinction at the 2019 APPA National Awards. It was also part of my winning portfolio for Nature Photographer of the Year at the 2019 Victorian State Awards. I used a 400mm f2.8L IS MKII lens to compress the distance between the small creche of penguin chicks and played with a number of different f-stops to achieve the depth of field effect I was after. The intention was to have the distant colony of penguins soft but still distinctly obvious as penguins. I lay down as low as I could on the ice in order to maintain eye level contact with the penguin chicks and to maintain as much intimacy as possible in the photograph.
The photograph of the month for August 2019 comes from my winter snow mobile expedition to Svalbard earlier this year (Read the Trip Report) and is of two Reindeer facing off for a small patch of turf during a heavy blizzard in the wilds of the Svalbard winter landscape. This was a very difficult photograph to make with strong blowing snow and extreme cold in very difficult conditions. Although I pre-visualised the exact moment I wanted in relation to the juxtaposition of the Reindeer I had to move very quickly to secure the shot. Depth of field, shutter speed, camera angle and split second timing were all critical capture the moment of eye connection between the animals with perfect leg and body placement. It was also critical to maintain separation of the antlers. This photograph was part of my winning portfolio of images for the 2019 Victorian AIPP Epson Nature Photographer of the Year.
The headline photograph for my new and upcoming exhibition ‘Frozen in Time‘ is also the photograph of the month for July 2019. Photographed in Svalbard during the frigid winter month of March earlier this year, the image was one of a number I captured of this Arctic Fox high on the hillside just outside the town of Longyearbyen. I vividly recall the specifics of this particular series of photographs as the fox was nestled high up on the side of the hill and I had to park my snow mobile down the bottom and hike up the slippery and steep hillside in deep snow (t was not an easy shot to get!). Luck was with me on this occasion and the fox, curious about my presence allowed me to approach quite close during the heavy snowstorm.
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.
The photograph of the month for May 2019 is from my recent Svalbard Snow Mobile Expedition (Read the Trip Report). One of the greatest joys for me of photography in the Arctic in winter is the monochromatic colour palette (along with the driving snow). The combination of a muted monochromatic palette with fresh wind blown snow on the fur of the Reindeer (with its perfect antlers) is highly evocative. This is a very simple, yet very elegant photograph that tells a great story about the environment the animal lives in.
The photograph of the month for April 2019 comes from my January scouting trip to northern Canada to photograph the majestic Snowy Owl in winter. This was my first trip to Canada (long overdue) and my first time photographing this magnificent bird. During my time in this part of Canada I spent the better part of two weeks searching for and photographing Snowy Owls. This particular photograph of a large female beautifully perched on a snow drift in a soft fog was taken during a severe cold snap with temperatures down around -30ºCelsius. I actually spotted the Owl from the side of the road and was able to approach relatively closely to where it was perched and then position myself to frame the shot with the included grass for balance. These sort of cold temperatures can be difficult to work in but the results can be absolutely stunning for those willing to make the effort.
The photograph of the month for March 2019 comes from my Winter Arctic expedition last year aboard M.S Origo and is of the full moon rising above the snow draped mountains of Svalbard. Photographed from the back deck of our expedition ship with friends Vincent Munier, Daniel Bergmann and Chris Wahl we stood out on the rear deck waiting for the moon to rise above the mountains for a couple of hours. I recall the temperature around -20ºC and near perfect clear skies. I thought we had calculated the time and position the moon would rise perfectly, but as it turned out we had forgotten to take into account the mountains and so with our patience almost at an end and no moon in sight we had just about given up and gone inside for a warm drink. Thanks to Chris for staying outside for a cigarette and coming to get us quickly when he saw the moon starting make an appearance behind the mountains. Who says nothing good comes from smoking!
The photograph of the month for February 2019 is from my 2018 private snow mobile expedition to photograph Polar Bears on the frozen sea ice in Svalbard. Some of you may recall from my trip report, I travelled around 3000km on snow mobile over a period of three-weeks last year in search of Polar Bears on the sea ice. During that time I was able to find just one Polar Bar – this one. Fortunately for me he was nestled nicely in amongst some pressure ridge ice.
The first photograph of the month of January for 2019 comes from my November expedition last year to photograph the Emperor Penguins on the sea ice at Gould Bay in Antarctica. Taken on our last evening, sometime around midnight under the midnight sun. We were fortunate that we had some beautiful soft atmospherics and clouds that worked wonderfully with the golden light backlight. I really wish I could share the print, as the print really makes the photograph come alive a wonderful etherealness that the jpeg just cant match.