These are some of my personal favorite 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 2022 comes from my late September 2022 expedition to Scoresby Sund on the East coast of Greenland (Read the Trip Report). This photograph of a giant iceberg is one of my favorites from the expedition and works so well because of the fantastic cross pattern of ice in the foreground that leads into the iceberg. One of the real benefits of a late September expedition to this region is the chance of the first winter sea ice, which never fails to provide unique photographic opportunities.
The photograph of the month for November 2022 comes from one of my recent Greenland East Coast Scoresby Sund expeditions (Read the Trip Report) and is of a gigantic iceberg in soft fog at sunset. Photographed from zodiac, we were extremely fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to be able to take advantage of not only the beautiful iceberg but the soft fog that was being burned off by the setting sun. These kinds of situations are highly dynamic and change from moment to moment. In this instance, I had our zodiac driver position us off the prow of the iceberg to give us the most depth in the iceberg (looking down both flanks) and to help hide the sun behind the iceberg. This helps backlight the soft fog and gives the impression the iceberg is burning from within. It was shot with the Canon 14-35mm RF F4L IS zoom lens on the Canon EOS R3. Wide-angle zoom lenses are ideal for this type of photography that is highly dynamic.
The photograph of the month for October 2022 comes from my March expedition to Ellesmere Island in Winter (Read the Trip Report) and is of an Arctic Hare in -46º Celsius. Although working and photographing in this sort of extreme cold is never easy, the results can be extremely rewarding. This style of high-key white-on-white wildlife photography is the primary reason I feel so drawn to photographing wildlife in the Arctic. The opportunities for subtle, gentle tonalities in the wildlife, snow, and ice make for superb opportunities that are monochromatic in nature, but highly emotive. In this instance, the Arctic Hare was perfectly positioned, looking into the frame on soft white snow and a clean white background of soft clouds.
The photograph of the month for September 2022 comes from my recent June 2022 workshop in South Africa (Read the Trip Report) and is of three back-lit Impalas in rising fog at sunrise. Photographed from one of the private luxury hides at the game reserve, this photograph was simply a case of the right place, right time. It was pure serendipity that the Impala was positioned so perfectly in the frame with the sun burning off the morning fog. In many ways, this is probably my favorite photograph from this workshop as it is highly evocative of early mornings in Africa at this time of the year.
The photograph of the month for August 2022 comes from my recent workshop in Zululand South Africa (Read the Trip Report) and is of a large male Elephant taken from one of our many nighttime hide sessions. Shot with the Canon RF 14-35mm lens at 14mm at just 1/8th of a second (handheld); this is a photograph that likely would not have been possible before the advent of the Canon RF system. The combination of IBIS and lens Image Stabilisation meant it was possible to shoot at slow enough a shutter speed to blur the water dripping from the mouth of the Elephant. The scene was lit by two tungsten lights on either side of the watering hole. The elephant was so close to the hide that even at 14mm it was full frame on the EOS R3.
The photograph of the month for July 2022 comes from my recent workshop in Zululand in South Africa (Read the Trip Report). Photographed from the ‘lagoon-hide’, early in the morning when there was still a gentle fog rising and the light was soft and ethereal. This was a photograph I had envisioned when I first saw the potential perch for a bird. It was my hope that I could frame the bird looking into the frame. When the Pied-Kingfisher first landed, it was facing the wrong way (I still photographed it), but had to wait for the moment when the bird turned, looked into the frame, and provided the right gesture to complete the frame.
The photograph of the month for June 2022 comes from my recent Africa workshop (trip report coming next few days) and is of a Cape Buffalo at night. Photographed from one of the private overnight ground-level reflection hides on the game reserve around 1am in the morning. Although the scene is artificially lit by two floods, light levels are still extremely low and required a combination of high ISO (ISO 6400) and slow shutter speed (1/20th of a second – handheld). The reflection of the Cape Buffalo is obviously the star of the image, but what also appeals to me is the simplicity of the frame. This sort of clean background and reflection is only possible at night and is enabled solely by the cleverly designed hide.
The photograph of the month for May 2022 comes from my Winter expedition to photograph Arctic Fox in the Hornstrandir Nature reserve in the far north of Iceland (Read the Trip Report) earlier this year. We were fortunate that conditions this year were absolutely superb for photography with a heavy blanket of snow-draped across the landscape and heavy snowfall and blizzards on many days. These sort of conditions are my favorite to photograph in and are really conducive to powerful and evocative image making. With blowing snow and snow sticking to the fox this particular photograph captures the drama of the winter storm for me and tells the story of the harsh conditions these animals to endure during the long winter months.
The photograph of the month for April 2022 comes from my recent expedition to Ellesmere Island in Winter (trip report coming next few days – along with a wrap-up podcast) and is of a Rock Ptarmigan in full winter plumage. What makes this photograph so special for me isn’t just that it was -45º Degrees Celsius when I made the photograph and couldn’t feel my fingers as I lay in the snow and ice, but that there is such a wonderful delicacy to the small flowers that balance the image on the right-hand side of the frame. The combination of the bird’s gesture, delicate flora, and soft transition of light from top to bottom all work together in harmony.
It is often difficult to frame wildlife in the field using local flora, when the intent is to try and insinuate how docile or aggressive an animal is renowned for being. I rarely see this approach successfully pulled off in wildlife photography but when it succeeds it can produce truly stunning imagery. When framing this photograph, I made a very deliberate creative decision to place the Ptarmigan quite far to the left of the frame and let it walk into the image. This approach allowed me to choose my final composition (which included the flowers) and simply wait for the Ptarmigan to come into position. In the final image the Ptarmigan is not only balanced by the small flowers, but they impart a delicacy that works in harmony with the bird. Despite the fact that the Rock Ptarmigan is not a very impressive species in comparison to something as dramatic as a Polar Bear, this photograph remains one my personal favorites from the Ellesmere expedition.
The photograph of the month for March 2022 comes from my very recent expedition to the north of Iceland to photograph the Arctic Fox in winter (trip report coming very soon – tomorrow I hope!). We were extremely fortunate this year to not only have a fantastic covering of snow on the ground but also to have falling and blowing snow on almost every day of our expedition.
In this photograph, I wanted to use the wonderful shapes in the windswept foreground snow to help frame the fox in the context of its surroundings. It is, in my experience, a rare combination to find both wildlife and sculptured and textured snow. The added drama and impact of the blizzard caps off a wonderful moment with this blue morph Arctic fox.
The photograph of the month for February 2022 comes from my 2019 expedition to Iceland to photograph Arctic Fox in Winter. This rare moment of two blue-morph Arctic foxes interacting and playing/fighting in the snow was one of the many wonderful encounters we experienced during our stay in the Nature reserve. Arctic Foxes are common in this area as they are protected from hunting. Arctic Foxes are typically solitary animals; interactions are rare and usually only occur during the mating season. Even then, the coming together of two foxes is usually only a brief moment at best.
The photograph of the month for January 2022 comes from my last visit to Finland in the Autumn of 2021 (Read the Trip Report). Photographed from private hide during some of the first snows of the season, it consists of the entire wolf pack together. This is a photograph I have been attempting to get for some years now as it is quite uncommon for the pack to come together in the open like this. The addition of the fresh snow adds that magical quality that makes it a very special moment.