It was rainy in Iceland this past week with no snow on the ground, however my travel companions and I made the most of it and have had a good time. The highlight was strapping on the crampons and crawling into an ice cave for some luminous shots through the glacier.
My northern European winter sojourn continues in a couple of days as we exit the Land of Ice and Fire, and begin our journey to Norway’s Lofoten Archipelago. Stay tuned to the blog and my instagram account (@artwolfe) as always for new photos!
Also a reminder about upcoming events I’m looking forward to when I return to the states:
On March 3rd I’ll be presenting Earth Is My Witness at the NANPA Summit in Jacksonville, Florida. The Summit happens March 2nd through March 4th. This is going to be an informative event featuring talks from many of the world’s foremost nature photographers at a time when an appreciation for our natural resources and respect for our earthly places could not be more significant.
On March 5th, I’ll be delivering my Photography As Art seminar in Atlanta, GA. Sign up now to ensure your spot! Photographers of all skill levels will learn to shoot captivating images regardless of their ability to travel the world or simply their own back yard.
Hope to see you there, and I also hope to see you back perusing the blog in the days to come for more photos from my trip to norther Europe!
This past weekend was a full one in Texas. On Friday and Saturday I went out photographing with NANPA president Sean Fitzgerald. We found a small flock of the extremely endangered whooping cranes along the Aransas Bay, where they spend their winter. NANPA – the North American Nature Photography Association – will be holding it’s 2017 Nature Photography Summit in Jacksonville, Florida on March 2nd through the 4th.
Earlier this month I was in Myanmar for ten days, leading a photo journey with Gavriel Jecan. It was a pleasure revisiting the gritty markets of Yangon, the temples of Bagan, and the still waters of Inle Lake, perfect for photographing the now-famous fishermen.
Board the expedition ship Sea Endurance with myself and Kevin Raber of Luminous Landscape and three other professional instructors for an unforgettable 11 day photo tour up the eastern coast of Greenland.
We had an amazing expedition to South Georgia Island and were very fortunate with the amount of landings we were able to pull off in spite of the weather. We explored the northern end of South Georgia around Bird Island as winds and sea swell began to highlight the remote and wild nature of South Georgia. Isolated icebergs carried north from the Weddell Sea provided dramatic backdrops to the soaring Wandering & Light Mantled Sooty Albatross.
In Drygalski Fjord the winds were so fierce that any attempt to leave the ship was decided against, but we were able to land at Gold Harbour where I’d camped many years before. The familiar landscape and abundant elephant seals and king penguins brought back many memories. One of the more dramatic scenes involved skuas gathering around the birthing of an elephant seal, soon after devouring the placenta and tormenting the mother. Later that afternoon katabatic winds kicked up. We were summoned back to the boat and boarded the zodiacs for one of the diciest rides I’d ever done from the island.
3am wake up calls were well worth it. Salisbury Plain at first light is a sight to behold, with tens of thousands of king penguins entering the surf to feed. It is still early in the year & they have not started to lay and incubate eggs yet. The scene was as dramatic a display of wildlife witnessed anywhere on earth.
After stops at abandoned whaling stations, whiskey toasts at Shackleton’s grave site, we headed into the weather for the Falkland Islands.
In spite of the lack of snow, this was such a terrific trip to the land of polar bears, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. I first traveled there in the early 1980s and I haven’t been there since 1999 when I was photographing for my book The Living Wild. The lack of snow presented a unique opportunity to capture the bears in contrast to their surroundings.
Of course, the bears are terrific, but we were able to photograph some other wildlife as well, including a predatory little ermine in his best winter coat, a hunkered down Arctic hare, and flocks of willow ptarmigan. It was a pleasantly surprising array of wildlife, and overall a well worth while trip North!
This past Friday I headed for Custer State Park in South Dakota. I had heard about their annual buffalo (yes, we all know they are bison but it’s not called a “bison head nickel”) round-up. They have about 1200 head of wild buffalo in the park, and once a year they will round-up the herd to check their health and cull as needed depending on the state of the grasslands.
I was met by photographer, Ron Fry, a long time park volunteer and all around nice guy who gave me a tour of both viewing locations and some tips for where I might be able to get the shot I was looking for – namely a pattern of buffalo, thick with animals where one back and shoulder overlaps the next. Throw in some dust kicking up in the air and I’d be especially happy.
I was anticipating the shot – but not the sound and spectacle of the round-up itself. Some 40 men and women on horseback pushed the buffalo into a meadow before driving them to the first of two fenced areas. Out of the stampede, individuals would try and cut away – only to see a horse and rider take off at a dead run chasing them down and turning them back to the group. Constant “Whoops!”, “Yips!”, and “Yaws!” could be heard all-around the valley.
And then the whip! The crack was like a gunshot – never touching the animals, to be sure, but from behind pushing them forward into a run down the hill and into the fenced-in valley below where I was waiting along with some 10,000 others to watch the charge.
Bulls can weigh 2000 pounds, stand 6 feet tall and run up to 35 miles per hour! They are very dangerous animals and in the past have even taken down a horse and rider during this annual round up (the rider was fine though the horse did not survive). This is not a domestic cattle round up by any stretch.
Once in the larger fenced off area they were then herded to the gates of the smaller corrals where a treat of fresh hay, water and a rest lured them in. It was at that bottleneck of the second gate where I got the shot I wanted – a dense crush of buffalo where you can hardly see the ground as one back and head overlapped the next.
From South Dakota, it was then off to Colorado to present Photography As Art to an amazing and gracious crowd in Denver, but first I set my sights on Aspen for what else – Aspen trees of course! The fall colors were in full effect, and the whites, greys, yellows, and greens painted the breathtaking Colorado landscape. It was an excellent and peaceful way to end a busy weekend, and I’m especially grateful to the new friends I made on yet another adventure!
After witnessing the amazing percolating crater of Nyirangongo Volcano and Virunga’s mountain gorillas, we flew to one of Tanzania’s most remote and rarely visited parks, Katavi National Park. Here in the dry season the Katuma River slows to a trickle and becomes the only source of drinking water for miles around. Wildlife in unbelievable densities is forced to converge on the riverine pools. Already the most dangerous animals in East Africa, hippos erupt in territorial disputes and crocodiles lurk nearby in an uneasy truce. This is one of the few places I have been where so many huge, dangerous animals have been so concentrated. In the midst of it all, an annular eclipse occurred, which seemed a sideline to this gritty wildlife spectacle. To answer your question: the crocodile did manage to wriggle away to safety.
This past week I made my way to Africa and my first stop was Mount Nyirangongo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The flight up the side of the volcano was hair-raising, with high winds jostling our rise to the mountain top as well as clouds that significantly hampered visibility. Our pilot had never made this trip before. Thankfully, he was an obvious professional, as we made it safely through the precarious trip.
The top of the mountain was chillier than anticipated at an elevation of 11,380 feet regardless of the roiling lava-filled caldera below us. I got the shots I wanted, with fortuitous timing as a vent began spewing lava just before dark and ran its course about the time we settled in to sleep.
I now head back to Tanzania for the second time in recent months, this time to visit Katavi National Park. Stay tuned for more photos from the next leg of my trip! I love the adventure of these exotic locales, but I’m also looking forward to being state-side and seeing those of you who’ve signed up for my Photography As Art seminars in L.A., Denver, New York, and Indianapolis in the coming month or so! Each trip I take brings a new wrinkle of discussions to add to my presentations, and there is still time to sign up for the remaining 2016 dates.
There are also still spots available in my Mystical Myanmar workshop in December for those of you anxious to avoid yet another cold winter in the states. Trade in some of those dark wintry days for the exotic allure and warm weather of eastern Asia!
Our helicopter pilot perches precariously on the edge of Nyirangongo crater, balancing the craft with the skids only half on solid ground.
The Summer Olympics open this evening in Rio, and as a world traveler fortunate enough to have been to so many incredible places all over the globe, it’s always incredible to see nations set aside differences and come together to compete.
As the week comes to a close and the Games begin, I’m grateful to bring you some wonderful images captured on our recent workshop in Katmai National Park, Alaska. 2016 has been an incredible year for shooting, with locations I’ve visited in the past providing me with unprecedented opportunities to capture them. The denizens Katmai must have felt the competitive vibe in the air, as the wildlife in the area was at it’s best.
The bears in the park were active, expressive, and down-right ready for the spotlight as our group captured them going about their business – their every day tasks mundane to them, but a spectacle to us. Enjoy the photos as we celebrate the opening of the Olympic Games and 100 years of the National Parks Service!