29 August 2013

Wildlife Photographer Of The Year 2013

We are very proud to announce that Marsel's image 'Resurrection' was successful in the Creative Vision category of the 2013 Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Awards! It was shot in Deadvlei, Namibia, and here's how it all got started:

One of the many aspects of my preparations for my photography, is to find out what images of my subject are already out there. This usually gives me a good idea of ​​what is possible, what to expect, and what has already been shot by other photographers - so I don't run the risk that I photograph the exact same thing, in the exact same way. Especially this last point is essential for me from an artistic perspective - there is no creativity in copying the photos of others. And also from a commercial point of view it is important to create original work - not a single publisher is interested in more of the same.

On my first visit to Namibia many years ago, it was not very difficult to create original images. Most people had never heard of Namibia, let alone that they had seen any pictures of it. The photographs that I shot of the surreal landscapes were mostly viewed with disbelief. "That must have been Photoshopped" was a frequently heard comment. Most of the pictures that I showed were original, because the subject was, at that time, original.

Immediately after my first visit I decided to start with night photography in Namibia because at that time no one else did it, and because the dry desert air and the lack of light pollution are perfect for it. Those pictures became very popular, and night photography has since been an integral part of our annual Namibia Untamed workshop - Milky Way shots, static stars and star trails. The result was of course that more and more photographers visited Namibia, more night photographs of Namibia were shot, and after a few years the novelty wore off. It was time for something new.

I had seen pictures of Deadvlei in fog, and I came up with the idea to try to combine fog and night photography in one shot. Easier said than done, because fog only appears four or five times a year in this desert area.

My idea was as follows: fog looks at its best when shot against the light, for example around sunrise. A fog picture that I shot in Madagascar, and that was published in National Geographic, was based on that very principle. But when it's dark there is no backlight, so I had to create the light itself. Using a very powerful flashlight I wanted to light one of the trees in Deadvlei from behind so that the branches would create shadow beams in the diffused light. I selected the perfect tree, the one with the most dense and upward pointing branches, and chose the best the composition for the shot. On every Namibia workshop I brought my big flashlight and kept a close eye on the weather forecast, waiting for that one chance. But whenever I was there, the fog was not. Until that one magic day in June last year.

The weather forecasts indicated that there was a chance of fog, so we decided to visit Deadvlei earlier than usual. In total darkness Daniella and I walked across the dunes towards Deadvlei, and when we got to the top of the last dune, I saw that this was the moment I had been waiting for for years. We quickly ran to The Chosen One and I set up my tripod as fast as I could - there was no way of knowing how long the fog was going to stay and I didn't want to miss this opportunity.

It was still dark, so focusing and framing was difficult. Daniella hid behind the main tree and set the flashlight to the highest output so that I could get my focus and composition. I then took a test shot to make sure everything was sharp and that the composition worked.

For the final image I had very little time - shooting too early would mean the trees in the background would not be visible, and waiting too long would mean it would be too bright to see the effect of the flashlight. I therefore decided to start shooting continuously as soon as I could see the trees in the background, and I constantly asked Daniella to try different output levels on the flashlight based on the results I saw on the camera.

It was a very special moment to see the end result on my LCD screen - the picture that had only existed in my head for so long, had finally turned into reality.

Nikon D4, AF-S 24-70mm/2.8, 15 sec @ f8, ISO 400, Surefire UB3T Invictus flashlight

If you would like to join us on our next Namibia Untamed workshop and learn more about night photography and composition, please check out our website for more information.

Hope to see you there!

24 July 2013

Glacier Lights

The sun has a heartbeat - every eleven years or so it beats. This is known as the solar cycle and is measured by the number of sunspots visible on the sun. The more sunspots, the more solar flare energy is being released into space, which means more aurora activity. Luckily, this solar cycle is predictable.

After a couple of years of deep solar minimum, sunspot activity started to increase again around 2010, and "Solar Max" was predicted for 2013-2014.

Spring is aurora season. For reasons not fully understood by scientists, the weeks around the vernal equinox are prone to Northern Lights, which is why we run our Iceland tours in March.

The aurora predictions for this particular night were not that good - level 3. That's usually not enough to make everyone run outside, but we knew that on a clear night and with a bit of patience, you can get good results. Last year we already scouted many places for possible aurora shoots, so when we decided to give it a try with our group, we knew exactly where to go. We had selected a spot on top of a small hill to get a view of a massive glacier and mountains on all sides.

Already when we were hiking up in the dark, we could see the aurora appearing ahead of us. We all set up our gear and had two full hours of good activity.

If you would like to join us on next year's Iceland tour and learn more about landscape photography and composition, please check out the photo tours page on our website or download the brochure (PDF).

23 July 2013

Cover Shot

Photography Masterclass Magazine is a magazine designed exclusively for the iPad Newsstand, and their latest issue features my popular giraffe image on the cover, as well as two other images in the Capture Wildlife Masterclass.

The giraffe image was shot on our Wildlife Boot Camp in Spain. This year's workshop is fully booked, but there are still openings for 2014.

22 July 2013

Camp Antarctica

Here's the latest blog post that I wrote for National Geographic:

Antarctica is without doubt one of the wildest places on earth. It is seriously remote, it is not easy (or cheap) to get there, there is no infrastructure, and the climate is as extreme as it can get. When I traveled there for the first time a few years ago, I was not only impressed by the overwhelming beauty of this vast continent, but I was also constantly aware of how special it was to be there. Every time I got off my zodiac and set foot on the mainland of Antarctica, I felt like an explorer who entered another world.

One of the most intense ways to experience nature is to spend the night outdoors. On my many travels I have camped in the most remote places - high in the Himalayas in India, deep in the desert in Libya, and among brown bears in Alaska, but none of those camps were so far from civilization as this camp in Antarctica. Four small tents on a sea of ​​snow and ice, an incredible experience.

For the photo I wanted to illuminate the tents from the inside, so I had to wait until after sunset to be able to show the effect. I brought a small flashlight with a very wide beam that I wanted to use for the lighting, but I had only one, not four. The only solution was to shoot and blend four different exposures for the final photograph - one for each tent.

I started with the tent in the foreground. One of the campers was so kind to sit inside the tent and use the flashlight according to my directions. This first exposure was the most important one, because I would not only use it for the tent, but also for the overall scene and the ambient light. I waited until the light had a cold, blue tone because it would fit nicely with the snowy landscape, and it would create a nice contrast with the warm glow of the tents. After taking the first picture, I photographed the other three tents with the same settings. Meanwhile, it was getting darker, but the exposure of the tents was constant, so no problems there. I later blended the four exposures in Photoshop to get this final result. A lovely memento of a unique experience.

Nikon D3x, AF-S 14-24/2.8, 15 sec. @ f/16, ISO 50, tripod, flashlight

14 June 2013

Last Minute Offer Zambia 2013

Due to a cancellation we now have 2 openings on the Beyond The Great Rivers tour to Zambia.

Book now and get a 500 Euro last minute discount!

More information on this amazing safari here.

Daniella (left) and the lodge manager trying not to wet themselves.

Published in National Geographic Traveler

The latest issue of National Geographic Traveler features one of my less known images: a romantic dinner set up at a safari lodge in Namibia. :-)

Taking shots like this is not much different from any other type of image. It's all about composition, framing, point of view, light and perspective. Just as with my landscape photography, there is some planning involved to make sure that everything is ready when the light is perfect. However, in landscape photography the elements are simply where they are and you just have to deal with that. With lodge photography most of the time you can move stuff around if that works better for the shot, which makes it a lot easier. So you'd think. But even though you're more flexible, you suddenly have to deal with something else: your imagination is the only limiting factor. You can choose from an endless list of possibilities, and you have to decide where to put what. In landscape photography all you have to do is walk around to find the best position and angle, and then wait for the light. 

View from our bedroom in Namibia

When Daniella and I made our book on African safari lodges, Wild Romance, we shot a lot of these images. We took a lot of time to look for locations in and around the lodge and made a list of all the shots we wanted to take, as well as a shooting schedule for the lodge so they could help us set up. But deciding where to put a table or some chairs is not the only thing you have to decide, there's also something called set dressing that most landscape photographers are not familiar with. How do you want the table to look? Should there be a table cloth on it or not? What color? How many glasses? What kind? Thinking about this sort of decisions was not completely foreign to me, as I was used to this when I was still working in advertising as an art director. What kind of clothing should the model wear, what kind of table are we going to put product X on, what color should we paint that living room wall, is the kid wearing braces or not, why don't we use a red cat instead of a black one, etc. In this case we decided to keep it simple and only add some accessories that we found elsewhere in the lodge as decoration.

To get some light on the table from the camera angle, I decided to put the table against the wall of our room, right in front of the window. Turning the lights on in the room gave enough light on the front of the table. Just outside of the frame near the lower left and right corner we put some lanterns to add some light there. The other lanterns Daniella distributed along the side of the pool in such a way that they didn't touch each other nor any elements on the table. Little after sunset the sky had the right brightness and color, and that's when I took this shot.

It was great fun doing shoots like this. Not only did we enjoy planning and setting it all up, I think it's also good for your creativity to step out of your comfort zone every now and then, to try something you've never done before. It forces you switch off your artistic autopilot and to think about creative decisions you never had to think about before.

12 June 2013

Publication In Practical Photography Magazine

The latest issue of UK's top selling photo magazine Practical Photography now features my popular giraffe image Looking Up in their Gallery section.

Looking Up - a giraffe image done differently

The caption says: "This image was shot on a Boot Camp in Spain where I teach photographers about capturing wildlife and the art of composition. There are a large number of animals in this park and often we can get very close to them. This giraffe came over and towered over us, and I couldn’t resist taking the shot. I took it looking straight up at the animal and the overcast clouds behind created an interesting contrast between the patterns. The light was even, though I adjusted both the sky and giraffe differently and merged them at the end."

If you would like to learn how to take shots like this and to become a better wildlife photographer, why not join our intensive and highly instructional Wildlife Boot Camp in Spain? Check out the Photo Tours page on our website for more information. There are only 3 spaces left though, so don't wait too long!

Review: LegCoat, LegWrap, Memory Wallet & Battery Pouch

One of the first photo accessories I ever bought, was a set of LegCoat covers for my Gitzo tripod. Each cover consists of two parts - a soft closed cell foam padding that wraps around each leg and sticks to the leg with the help of a strip of double-sided adhesive tape. The second part is a piece of stretchy neoprene that wraps around the padding and it closes with a strip of velcro. It's easy to put it on and it will last a really long time. Most people think that the main reason for using these covers is to protect the tripod. While it does indeed do a very good job at that (I always travel with a semi hard duffel bag that I check in at the airport, and my tripod is the only photo gear that goes inside that bag), it wasn't why I bought them in the first place.

LegCoat covers on a Gitzo tripod

When shooting in the field with my 200-400 or my 600 on a tripod, I often like to carry the whole setup over my shoulder - the camera with the lens attached is on the tripod and the tripod legs are resting on my shoulder. You can read a lot of horror stories on the internet about this being dangerous because your camera and lens may fall off, but if you use a good ballhead and a good tripod and you're not slamming it against a tree or a rock, it's actually very low risk. However, I quickly realized that it's not very comfortable to walk around with the weight of a pro sized DSLR and a 600mm on your shoulder, primarily because the tripod legs are relatively thin and quite hard. The LegCoat covers increase the surface area greatly, so the weight is distributed more evenly and the soft padding makes it feel so much better on your shoulders. 

Another advantage of the LegCoat covers you will appreciate when you're shooting in cold weather. Your tripod, just like most of the rest of your camera gear, will get very cold very quickly. When carrying your tripod in the cold, your fingers (without a doubt the most vulnerable body part of any photographer shooting in cold conditions) will be freezing in no time. The neoprene covers don't get that cold and your fingers will love you for it.

I've been an enthusiastic user of the LegCoat covers for many years, but I do also have a few minor issues with them. The padding is quite thick, which is what makes it so nice when carrying over your shoulder. But it also makes the tripod a fair bit bulkier in your check in bag. A pro sized carbon fiber Gitzo is not exactly small, so it eats away a lot of valuable space. Another issue is that when I'm shooting with my tripod in the lowest position - all three legs spread out - part of the tripod is basically resting on the thick padding, which means that there is always a little bit of potential movement. And my last critique is that the velcro part of the LegCoat does tend to creep up or down over time, depending on how you hold the legs when you're carrying your tripod.

The new LegWrap covers, neoprene and velcro

The LegCoat covers are made by LensCoat, and they recently introduced an alternative tripod leg cover, the LegWrap. The LegWrap is a one piece solution. The inside of each wrap is made of some non slip material that keeps the cover in place without the need for adhesive tape - nice, and even easier and faster to put on as the LegCoat covers. The other advantage is that they are less bulky, while still offering good protection and comfort for over the shoulder carrying. I got mine a few weeks ago and I'm very pleased with them. My tripod now takes up less space in my bag, the wraps don't seem to slide at all, and my setup is more stable in the lowest position. And when I'm photographing while standing in the water, I can simply take them off to prevent them from getting soaking wet. Highly recommended.

Putting the LegWrap covers on your tripod takes just a few seconds

LensCoat also recently introduced the Memory Wallet to help you protect and organize your memory cards. My Nikon D4, D3s and D800 use three different cards: CF cards, SD cards and XQD cards. The Memory Wallets come in various sizes for all types of cards, and I got myself the CF10 which holds up to 10 Compact Flash / XQD cards, and 10 SD cards. They're made of the same lightweight waterproof material as their famous RainCoat camera covers, and it uses a super quiet elastic enclosure - no velcro or zippers. You basically roll the entire wallet open or close, and the cards are all in clear pockets for easy identification. Nice features are the business card slot on the outside (in case you lose the whole thing) and the lanyard with clip to attach the wallet to your bag (to prevent you from losing it).

The perfect way to organize, carry and protect your memory cards

Another nice accessory is the LensCoat BatteryPouch. It's a really simple little pouch to store your camera batteries or 4 AA batteries. Each set has two compact pouches that snap together to hold up to 8 AA batteries for easy storage and retrieval in your camera bag. The hook and loop closure keeps the batteries secure. I do a lot of night photography and always need plenty of batteries for my headlight, flashlights and timer, and these pouches are really useful. The pouches are made of the same lightweight waterproof material as the Memory Wallet and RainCoat. I currently use two sets - one for AA and AAA batteries, and one for two camera batteries. Full batteries I store with their heads up, the empty ones go upside down.

LensCoat currently has a special Father's Day Offer: free shipping (worldwide) on orders $99 or more. A good deal if you ask me.

The BatteryPouch fits AA and AAA batteries

29 May 2013

Outdoor Photographer Blog

Outdoor Photographer now features a blog post that I wrote on night photography in Arches National Park, Utah, USA.

Of all the National Parks that I have ever visited in the US, Arches National Park is without a doubt the most iconic. Many millions of photographs have been shot here, and to come up with something different is not easy. That does not mean one shouldn’t try though, and I personally greatly enjoy the creative process of coming up with new possibilities to photograph iconic subjects.

Double Arch is one of them. One of the reasons it has been photographed so much is probably because it’s so close to the car park, but also because it’s a stunning piece of architecture by mother nature. When you’re standing below this imposing marvel of nature, it’s hard to not be impressed by the size and the beauty of this amazing structure. From my research for my visit to Arches, I learned that 99.9% of all the images of this arch are more or less taken from the same viewpoint. I’m sure one of the reasons for this is that you need some distance to get the whole thing to fit inside your frame – standing inside the arch is not going to work. However, if you don’t try to fit the whole scene into the frame, new possibilities arise.

Portal To The Stars - Double Arch, Arches National Park, USA

I decided to move into the scene and resist the temptation of showing everything. Instead of moving as far back as possible to see the entire structure, I tried to find an interesting foreground and move in with my 14-24mm wide angle lens. The opening inside the smallest arch was my main point of interest, so I opted for a vertical composition with some room at the bottom for the rocks in the foreground and quite a bit of space at the top to show the height of this place. Another good reason to go for a vertical was that the vast majority of images taken of this arch are all horizontals.

My second decision was to photograph the arch at night and to bring out the details and colors by using a flashlight. The light painting would give me a lot of creative control over the look and feel of the image, so that was an important part of the shot. I wanted to include part of the Milky Way, which meant that I had only a very short window of time to take the shot – the position of the Milky Way in the night sky changes constantly and I wanted it to be in a diagonal direction.

I knew that this was going to be an exposure blend; one for the sky and one for the rocks. In order to get a many stars as possible, you need at least an ISO of 1600, but more often around 3200 or even 6400. Your shutter speed can not be longer than approximately 30 seconds, otherwise the stars will start to streak. For the rocks exposure I could shoot at a fairly low ISO to prevent noise, with a considerably longer shutter speed. And I needed some extra time to light paint such an enormous subject.

For the light painting I used my trusty assistant, my wife Daniella. She was positioned outside of the frame to the left, armed with a Surefire Invictus flashlight and colored gels. I first decided on the color temperature of the light, and then we started experimenting with the light painting. Light painting is all about seeing the unseen, so you have to previsualize everything. After a few test shots, I decided to focus most of the light on the foreground and the main arch so that those areas will grab your attention first. However, the inside of the main arch didn’t catch enough light at the angle that I preferred for the whole scene, so I decided to shoot a second exposure just for the main arch with the light positioned directly below it. I would then later merge these two exposures.

Meanwhile I constantly checked the night sky for the position of the Milky Way, and when it looked good, I shot my third exposure for just the sky, without any light painting. The three exposures were later merged in Photoshop. – Marsel van Oosten
Equipment and settings: Nikon D3, AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G lens – Rock exposure: 1 minute @ f/5.6 and ISO 800; Sky exposure: 25 seconds @ f/5.6 and ISO 3200

17 May 2013

National Geographic Blogger

National Geographic (Dutch edition) has asked me to write blogs on photography and my travels for their website. The first one was posted today.


An important quality of a wildlife photographer is the ability to predict animal behavior. That means that you should not only look at your subject, but that you have to observe and analyze. If you don't do that, then every time you will be surprised by the actions of the animal and you will be too late to make a good photograph.

Young Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata), also known as snow monkeys, cling the first four weeks after birth onto the belly of their mother, and after that period they crawl on her back to move over larger distances. This period lasts about a year. In order to capture this behavior you must primarily watch the mother, especially her interaction with other macaques in the troop. Macaques have a complex social structure and hierarchy, and virtually all movements of an individual macaque are the direct result of those of more senior or dominant counterparts. This hierarchy is often maintained by force, which is why mothers with children like to keep a little aloof from the rest of the gang. If there is a disturbance elsewhere or a more senior macaque is approaching, it is often a reason for the mother to go somewhere else with her child on her back.

This photo I made at the end of a long shoot on our White & Wild Japan tour. It was cold and I was ready to call it a day. And so were the macaques, because they slowly began retreating to the mountains. This mother with child decided to walk down again when a little higher up on the mountainside a few macaques started fighting. Looking at the tracks in the snow, I could predict where they would probably go and I was able to get into a good position. I used a flash for some extra light.

Nikon D4, AF-S 70-200/2.8 VR II, 1/320 @ f / 8, ISO 800, SB-910 flash

If you're interested in joining us on this trip to photograph snow monkeys, Japanese cranes, Steller's sea eagles and whooper swans, please check out our website for more information.

Our 2014 tour filled up really fast, so we set up a second one.

Hope to see you there!


29 April 2013

Last Minute Offer Tigers & Leopards 2013

Three of the four Tigers & Leopards tours are fully booked, but we still have two spaces on the trip from 27 July to 6 August.

We want to fill those last two seats, so we offer a last minute discount of 500 EURO if you make your reservation now!

If you're interested, and of course you are, then please check out the Tigers & Leopards tour page on our website, watch the tour impression video clip, or download the PDF.

This is a unique trip that will get you the best opportunities to photograph tigers and leopards in the world.

Hope to see you there!

26 April 2013

Ice Capades in Synology Ad

My popular image Ice Capades, shot on our Winter Wilderness tour in Iceland, is now used by Synology in an ad to promote their NAS servers. I'm a big fan of my Synology DiskStation DS1812+, so I can honestly say that I'm behind this ad 100%.

If you're looking for a fast, reliable backup system, look no further.

23 April 2013

A Hippo In The Museum

Nature's Best has announced the names of the photographers who will be displayed in the upcoming awards exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

My winning hippo shot from Zambia is one of only 40 images that will be on display.

The Awards exhibition will open to the public on June 7, 2013, and run through the beginning of 2014.

22 April 2013

Invasion Of The Dunes, the painted version

A few months ago Spanish painter Juan Manel Vargas Vega asked my permission to paint my famous picture Invasion Of The Dunes. Ever since it was published in National Geographic it has become one of my most published, most sold, and most copied image. This is the final result. I'm sure it took Juan a lot more time to make this version than I needed for mine. Great job!

12 April 2013

Miss Zambia

I've been on safaris in all African safari countries, and Zambia is easily one of my favorites. It's not as crowded as the Masai Mara, the Serengeti or Kruger, not as expensive as the Okavango, you can drive off road, you're not limited to opening or closing times of the parks, you can get out of your vehicle, and there's lots of water. During the hot dry season that's where all the animals will be so and that's where most of the activity will be.

Zambia is not your typical safari destination. It is not as open as the Masai Mara or the Serengeti for instance, where you can spot the animals from miles away - you have to work harder for your shots. To me, that's what makes it so much more fun and rewarding. Especially because the scenery in Zambia is so spectacular with giant winterthorn trees dwarfing even the elephants, and the famous Zambezi river with highest hippo density in the world. The Zambezi is an animal magnet in the dry season, and where all the animals go, that's where the predators are as well.

Leopards are my favorite big cats - they're just stunning. When we're in our bush camp in Zambia, I always plan a few leopard drives, where we specifically search for leopards. So far we have always been successful, just like last year. We left our camp very early in the morning to drive to this specific area where we had seen a leopard earlier in the hope to spot her again in good photography conditions. Well, we couldn't have been more lucky.

Miss Zambia, seducing us with her fiery eyes

There she was, Miss Zambia, the prettiest leopard in the country, walking along the tree line. She was very relaxed with our presence, walked towards a termite mount, climbed up and lay herself down in the most elegant of poses. I asked our guide to reposition our vehicle to get the beautiful side lighting, and after that it was just a matter of clicking away. Bad photographs were simply impossible. We train our leopards well! ;-)

When the sun got higher and the light harsher, she got up and walked away. Our cue to slowly drive back to camp and have breakfast.

If you would like to join us on this spectacular trip and learn more about photography and composition, please check out our website for more information, dates and prices. There is currently a discount of 500 euro per person on the last two seats of the Zambia tour in September.

Interviewed by the Namibian Tourism Board

The Namibian Tourism Board has asked me to give their readers a personal account of what it is like there, and share some tips on photography in Namibia. You can read it here.

28 March 2013

Back From Iceland

We're back from Iceland - it was awesome. We ran two tours in this amazing country, and they couldn't have been more different.

On the first tour we got everything from Iceland's famous weather menu: cloudy skies, rain, wind, lots of wind, ice, snow, wind chill factors of minus comfortable, blizzards and white-outs. And when I say blizzards and white-outs, I'm not exaggerating - we actually got stuck for two days at Jökulsárlón, the famous black beach with the stranded chunks of ice. Not a bad place at all to spend some extra time, but it really messed up our plans and as a result we didn't make it to the North. But at least we were lucky to still be able to drive to the beach for photography - the roads around Reykjavik for instance were all impassable.

Check out this short video of me walking on the beach of Jökulsárlón - this is not how you usually see it in the pictures:


I don't usually walk this slow, but I tried to prevent my face from getting peeled off

The brutal conditions here were not all bad though. Sure, it was not as comfortable as we would have liked, but the scenery was stunning and completely different than usual. As a result, the images that we were able to shoot there were also quite different. Regarding photography I often say: bad weather is good weather, and that certainly was the case here.

On the second tour the weather was completely different - more sun, more snow and ice, more clear skies and much colder temperatures. The obvious benefit of clear skies is that you can actually see the aurora when it's happening. I had already seen many northern lights images shot in Iceland, and I noticed that the vast majority of them were taken at the same spots. So when the aurora predictions were good, I decided to take our group to a special location that would give us truly original northern lights images.

We left late in the evening in our super jeep to visit a remote crash site with an old plane. We brought some extra lights to light the plane from both the inside and the outside, and then we just waited for the magic to happen. And when it did, it was this perfect curved line that followed the contours of the plane. I love it when a plan comes together! :-)

The cold wind that night was brutal, but with a sight like this in front of you, you really don't mind. After a couple of hours we all returned to our guest house with a big smile on our face and with some of the most original aurora shots ever taken in Iceland.

Unusual conditions, unusual lighting and an unusual location make for unusual pictures

Clear nights means it gets colder, which means you can search for ice caves. When temperatures are above freezing, exploring an ice cave is not a good idea - unless you're into cryonics. We found several nice caves and to walk and crawl inside them is a truly magical experience. Glaciers are always moving, so it's important to be well prepared. We used an experienced local guide, helmets and ropes to guarantee our safety. And that was necessary, because in one of the caves we wanted to descend to a lower level that was only accessible with the use of ropes.

Daniella is standing somewhere halfway inside the cave
 I climbed down to get to the far end and take this shot.

After our glacier and ice cave adventure, we spent a few days among the ice chunks at Jökulsárlón and then got on our chartered plane to fly us north. As usual, there was a lot more snow there than in the south. So much actually, that the road to Dettifoss, one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland, was impassable. But we don't let nature tell us what to do, so meet the Squiver Monsterrari:

The Squiver Hummer-crusher. Be afraid, be very afraid.

With two of these mammoth-sized vehicles we drove all the way to Dettifoss, at times completely ignoring the road because it wasn't visible anyway. I still haven't processed any of the pictures we shot there, but believe me when I say it was spectacular. More later!

If you would like to join us on our next Squiver photo tour in March 2014, please check out the tour PDF and price on our website.

27 March 2013

Interview In Photography Masterclass Magazine

Photography Masterclass Magazine is a magazine designed exclusively for the iPad Newsstand, and I am the Featured Photographer in their current issue.

We are happy to offer you a free 3 month subscription to this high quality magazine through this special Squiver link.

14 March 2013

21 Landscapes That Will Blow Your Mind

Well, that's the title that The Weather Channel came up with for showcasing Marsel's work :-) There's also a short interview there: 21 Landscapes That Will Blow Your Mind

27 February 2013

Back from Japan

We're back from Japan. Well, actually we're already in Iceland now, but we're no longer in Japan.

It was a great trip, thanks to a fantastic group. Thank you guys for all the laughs, it was great fun!

There was plenty of snow at all locations, which was the most important thing. Weather was good most of the time with little or no wind, and pretty moderate below freezing temperatures. We got one morning of falling snow at the cranes, which was spectacular. As always, we visited the cranes' roosting spot three very early mornings in a row, and we got rewarded with near perfect conditions on our last visit - no wind, a good sunrise, hoarfrost and lots of steam rising from the river. A little bit too much steam perhaps, as it took some time before we could see the cranes, but when we did, it was magical.

This year there was also a lot of pack ice in the North East, so much actually that our boat wasn't able to go very far. Not much of a problem, because there were loads of white tailed and Steller's sea eagles around and beautiful snow covered float ice for them to land on. Lots of eagle action on both mornings and few people shot less than a thousand images on a single morning.

The swan lake looked particularly stunning this year. It had been freezing hard for a couple of weeks, and the snow covered ice sheet was pristine. We also got some hoar frost on our second morning, which is always a very welcome bonus. As always, we started the trip at the snow monkeys - surely one of the most photogenic animals I have ever photographed. Like at all the other locations, the wildlife here is totally relaxed with human presence, so there was plenty of opportunity to photograph the macaques bathing, fighting, grooming each other, mating, playing, running and jumping across the stream. It's really hard to take a bad shot here!

We were one of the first companies to offer a specialized wildlife photography tour to Japan many years ago, but the last few years many companies have started to do the same thing - often down to an exact copy of our itinerary. However, these companies don't have the experience that we do, and they certainly don't visit some of Marsel's favorite secret spots. If you want to get the best shots on the best spots and stay at the best accommodation on each location, then you don't need to look any further. If you're interested in this wildlife trip of a lifetime, check out the White & Wild Japan page on our website for more information, tour impression video clips and the booking form. Hope to see you there in 2014!

13 January 2013

Timelapse Video Now Online

Namibian Nights, our timelapse video that won First Prize in the Travel Photographer Of The Year Awards, is now online!

11 January 2013

The Nikon Emergency Room Again

I've never had any serious problems with my Nikon gear, but after the expensive repair on my 24-70, I had some other issues.

First, the sun shade of the 24-70. When I put the lens in my camera bag, no matter whether it's on the body or not, I put the sun shade on the lens in reverse. Which is actually the position that most people have their sun shade in when they're shooting, but that's a whole different matter. The thing is that in the reverse position it didn't lock any more. I'd still hear the click when I put it on, but it didn't actually lock and as a result it fell off constantly when I took it out of the bag or whenever I walked around with it with the sun shade in the reverse position. Nikon Service Center said they couldn't fix it. It was normal wear of the sun shade. I ended up buying a new one that locks a lot better, but still not as good as my other lenses.

The non-stick sun shade

Then the D800. Great camera, love it. Super sharp, giant files, awesome quality. If it works. A couple of times the D800 just froze. The green light on the back of the camera would go on and not go off anymore. Whenever that happened, none of the controls worked. At first I thought I just needed to wait for the gigantic files to be written to the card, but that wasn't it. For a while I thought it was the cold, but then again it wasn't really that cold - the coldest it got was maybe -10C. They don't know what it is, and they are keeping the camera to run some tests.

The little joystick that broke off

One of the first things I bought for the D800 is the MB-D12 battery grip. I don't like the small size of the D800 and I prefer all my bodies to feel more or less the same. And I like to use the vertical release button and the extra battery is nice as well. But pretty soon on our Antarctica trip I lost the little joystick on the MB-D12. Don't know what happened - whether it just fell off or got stuck behind a piece of my clothing or broke off in my camera bag. I never found the little joystick again. Problem was that there was now an opening in the grip that showed electronics. When you're on a trip that includes plenty of sea spray and snow, that's not what you want. I ended up using some Duct tape to close the opening. The missing part has been ordered.

The zoom lens that didn't want to zoom

And then there's the 70-200. Remember the zoom ring that got stuck on my 24-70? Same thing happened with my 70-200. Well, not exactly the same because it didn't get stuck at 50mm, that would be really strange, but it just got harder and harder to twist it. In cold weather it was the worst, and I even messed up the rubber ring that goes around it trying to zoom in or out. Needless to say that's another item I left at the emergency room.

That's it? No, if only. I had three bodies that I used extensively for over a month, and I wanted the sensors to be cleaned. I'm an NPS member, so they do it for free, and Dutch people like free things. They told me I could wait for the sensor cleaning so that I could take at least some gear back home. After about 15 minutes one of the surgeons came out to tell me that something had happened. Something bad. When cleaning the sensor of the D3s, they scratched the sensor. They had to order a new sensor...

Let's hope I've had my share of gear problems by now and that 2013 will be smooth and without repairs.

06 January 2013

Ice Capades is Photo of the Month

Marsel's Iceland picture 'Ice Capades' is Image of the Month on Naturescapes.

Here's the background info that accompanies the shot:

'Early this year I was travelling in Iceland, scouting for locations for a new tour. I was prepared to see a lot of spectacular landscapes, people had even warned me that I would get hooked, but it still greatly exceeded my expectations. As a result I didn't cover a lot of distance each day - too much to see and photograph! And as a result of that, I stayed much longer than anticipated - which was not too bad by the way.

This was taken at sunrise. I had set my alarm clock very early to check out the weather, and it didn't look very promising - completely overcast. The weather in Iceland changes quickly though, so I decided to give it a try anyway. When I arrived at the beach the clouds already started to move away and the sky opened up a little. Enough for some light and color to come through. Moments like this can disappear quickly, so I had to move fast. I shot three exposures to capture all the brightness levels and later merged them in PS.'

From our new Iceland Winter Wilderness Tour

If you would like to join us on this year's Iceland Winter Wilderness tour, please check out our website for more information, images, a tour impression video clip and a detailed PDF. One of the tours is already sold out, but we have a few openings for the other one. If you're interested - don't wait too long!

05 January 2013

First Prize in NPN Awards

Just when we thought that 2012 has been such a successful year in terms of awards and recognition, the new year already starts with yet another award. :-) Marsel's photograph At The Gates has won First Prize in the Nature Photographers Network Awards. NPN is the internet's top-ranked nature photography site where nature photographers from around the world share their images. It's a real honour to have been chosen as a category winner amidst so many excellent photographers.

Double Arch, double exposure. Daniella did the posing and the light painting.

Here's the story that accompanied the shot when I first put it online:

'Of all the National Parks that I have ever visited in the US, Arches NP is without a doubt the most iconic one. Millions of photographs have been shot here, and to come up with something different is not easy. That does not mean one shouldn't try though, and I personally greatly enjoy thinking of new possibilities to photograph iconic subjects.

Double Arch is one of them. When you're standing below this imposing marvel of nature, it's hard to not be impressed by the size and the beauty of this amazing structure. From my research for my visit to Arches, I learned that 99.9% of all the images of this arch are more or less taken from the same viewpoint. I'm sure one of the reasons for this is that you need some distance to get the whole thing to fit inside your frame - standing inside the arch is not going to work. Unless of course you have a 14mm on a full frame camera. But even then it was tough to find a position where I could get all the openings and the lines at the right places - it only worked with a vertical composition. I was fine with that, because the vast majority of images taken of this arch are all horizontals.

I also decided to photograph the arch at night and to bring out the details and colors by using a flashlight. The advantage of doing this also meant that there would be stars, and stars are nice. I wanted to include part of the Milky Way, which meant that I had only a very short window of time to take the shot. These decisions were all very important in order to create something original, but the most important one for me was to include a human figure. It brings the shot to life and it acts as a vital scale element. The fact that most landscape photographers don't like humans in their pictures is always a nice bonus when you're trying to create something original.

This was shot three years ago as a double exposure - one for the sky with my lovely assistant, one for the light painting. We tried to shoot it again with our group on this year's Arches Under The Stars workshop, but the weather gods did not want to cooperate. They gave use snow the next day though, so that made up for that.'