Top 10 Images of 2017

Happy 2018!

It’s become a bit of a tradition: this time of year I like to review photographic highlights of my past year. So, please allow me to share 10 favourite images from the past 12 months! Enjoy! 

Note: All of these images are available at limited-edition fine-art prints! You’ll find some info here and please contact us if you’re interested. 

1. “Defeated”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

I was fortunate to join One Ocean Expeditions for 6 weeks in Antarctica in early 2017, and as you can imagine I took a LOT of photographs. This is definitely not among the flashy ones, and it’s not even one of the popular ones either. But I think part of growing as a photographer means having the confidence to put out there what got you going creatively, what pushed you, as opposed to sharing images you know will be an online hit.

This scene was special to me the second I set eyes on it. Our ship, the Vavilov, had reached its southernmost point and as sea ice stretched along the horizon we were forced to turn around. Before we did, the captain rested the ship against the edge of the ice for a few minutes. This lone penguin stood out among the ice-filled scene and the minimalism of the scene was too good to pass up. I ran over to my berth to retrieve the long lens and camera and proceeded to take over 200 shots of these two simple elements: the penguin and the ice edge. This was my favourite one of the lot. When I originally posted this someone commented that it looked like the penguin was falling off a black cliff. I’ve seen it now and I can’t unsee it! 🙂 It’s become one of those illusionary images!

→ Click here for more Antarctica work. 

2. “Eruption”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

No doubt the highlight of the nights this past year in Banff National Park was the big aurora display of May 27-28. It was the most spectacular dance we’d seen in many years in our area.

I started off the night shooting climbing under the aurora, and since the show went on all night, I had time to visit 4 or 5 locations throughout the night. I happened to be at Vermilion Lakes at the peak of the display. At around 2 AM the sky lit up just as it sometimes does at the much higher latitudes. Absolutely incredible.

Click here for a few more of my aurora favourites from the Canadian Rockies.

3. “Labrador Magic”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

How does one even begin to describe the Torngat Mountains of northern Labrador? Here’s a feeble attempt:

Antarctica-like isolation. A healthy population of majestic polar bears, who coexist with black bears. Turquoise glacial lakes. The most rugged mountains in eastern Canada outside of Baffin Island. Behemoth, arched icebergs freshly arrived from Greenland. Archaeological wonders and an incredibly rich history. Abandoned, eerie missions. Thriving marine life. Never-ending fjords and some of the highest sea cliffs in the world.

Not that we needed it to make the trip memorable, but we also watched the aurora dance above noctilucent clouds one night. Unforgettable. Super thankful to be able to go back to that area with several fellow photographers I now call friends as part of our OFFBEAT workshop.

Click here for more images from the Torngat Mountains National Park. 

4. “One vs Ten”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Alone with the Ten Peaks. Every year I make the trip to Moraine Lake after the road closes. I went in three times this past winter, and each time offered a quiet, meditative experience amongst one of the most recognizable skylines on Earth.

I wasn’t actually alone that night, as Mathieu Le Lay accompanied me to shoot for an upcoming film of his. It was a cold but gorgeous night at the lake, with the moon just about to rise and the clouds racing overhead. I went partway up the Rockpile for an elevated view in this self-portrait. Then I arrived back home in Banff 30 minutes before the little one woke up to take over from the sitters! 

5. “Namibian Curves”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

I made this image during a November trip to Namibia, and it ended up being one of the most popular prints of 2017. Here’s the story…

We were on our Chronicles of Namibia workshop, wrapping up a wonderful evening of shooting in the Sossusvlei area. On the drive back to camp, this most simple composition caught my eye. For about 10 seconds I wrestled with the idea of briefly stopping to photograph it but also knew our group really had to get back.

The opportunity being too good to pass up I announced: “Sorry guys, two minute stop. Just have to.” As I pulled over, I realized the last vehicle in our caravan, just behind us, was also stopping. No doubt someone in there had seen the same thing out of their window.

Indeed, Aaron Cherman (@abcherman) had. Both he and Jon Handforth Photography got different compositions of this stunning scene. We made it back through the gate with just a few minutes to spare but it was well worth it: probably my favourite image from my time in Namibia.

I’m so looking forward to heading back there next November. Our trip is selling out quickly – just a few spots left now. Check out the details here if interested:

6. “Crescent Climber”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Regardless of the whole photography aspect, one big story of 2017 (in North America anyways) was the total solar eclipse of August 21.

This shot was a real last-minute adventure. I love summer in the Canadian Rockies too much to go anywhere else at that time of year, so I never considered heading South to witness totality. However, the night prior to the event, it crossed my mind that even just the partial eclipse that we would see at out latitude could make for a rare photo opportunity.

I reached out to my friend Mike Stuart, a Canmore-based mountain guide who runs Canadian Alpine Guides, and asked if he’d be willing to be part of an eclipse shoot. He kindly agreed and I started looking at potential locations. At eclipse time, the Moon was quite high in the sky so I needed something steep to line things up properly. Ha Ling Peak in Canmore seemed ideal: near-vertical, with the perfect orientation, and easy access to both the base and the top.

The morning of, I used PhotoPills to get a good idea of where the moon and sun would show up, and was in constant contact with Mike on the radio as he wandered up to the ridge and rappelled down the north side. After a few hectic minutes of running around through the forest along the base of the mountains, and constantly repositioning Mike, we ended up with a few decent images. I liked the clean look of this one and Mike’s size relative to the Moon/Sun. I was concerned about the clouds but they really helped control the amount of light coming in, so ended up being a blessing.

7. “Greenlandic Dream”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

I’m addicted to Greenland. After three trips there, it has become my favourite place in the world (perhaps other than my home). The island just defies description. “Epic” seems weak.

The latest trip there was for the sole purpose of shooting for In the Starlight, which comes out in a few weeks. I shot this image on a very special night. Mother Nature aligned the most spectacular skies possible (a G4 geomagnetic storm, the most significant one this year) with the most jagged skyline possible. And we were ready for it, perched high across the Tasermiut fjord. I still have hundreds of photos from that September night I haven’t looked at!

8. “The Fables Faroes”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

The Faroe Islands are incredibly photogenic and quickly climbing on many people’s top destination lists. It’ll be interesting to see how the Faroese handle the rapid rise in visitation.

One of the key features of the Faroes is they boast the highest sea cliffs in the world. The one shown here is not even one of the big ones, but to me it conveys the feel of the place. I also chose this image because it’s a more original take on the place than some of the other photos I gathered. There are a few iconic, obvious compositions in the Faroe Islands (I’ll post some in the comments) but there is still much to do photographically.

Very much looking forward to heading back in 2019 for another OFFBEAT workshop!

9. “A Tribute to Human Invention”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Six people zoom through the sky at 27,000 kilometres per hour as another human (almost) effortlessly climbs his way out of a glacial moulin. And in 2018 we now have the camera technology to capture scenes like this. Makes my head spin!

Big thanks to Takeshi and Amy for venturing into the Athabasca Glacier Icefalls with me that night. And thanks to the International Space Station for its impeccable timing!

10. “Under the Surface”

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

I know, another ice shot. What can I say? Ice has been at the centre of my photo journey for a few years now. I never tire of exploring and photographing ice in all its forms. It is a subject that keeps surprising.

This was taken on the Greenlandic icecap with an AquaTech underwater housing while shooting for In the Starlight. Finally, we had found the types of features we had been looking for. Those supraglacial lakes looked perhaps even better under the surface than from above.