Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 444)

Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 444)

This week we continue our travelogue of my recent Iceland Tour & Workshop with Tim Vollmer, and 14 amazing photographer participants as we traveled around this incredible country.

Geysir

Geysir

We pick up the trail today on September 25, as we headed over to Geysir (right), to photograph the geyser there, and as I mentioned at the end of the part 1 in this series, this is actually where we got the English word geyser from.

The water erupts from this geyser every 5 to 8 minutes, and when it erupts, the water can reach up to 70 meters, although the height varies each time.

I read on Wikipedia that in 1845 it was reaching its highest eruption height at 175 meters, which must have been incredible to see. Indeed, even now, this is quite a site, and I enjoy our now yearly visits to this location.

To freeze the movement of the water, I used a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second, and here, was aligned in such a way that it would enable me to capture a little bit of reflection and shadow of the geyser in the reddish foreground.

Note too that I cropped the image down to a vertical 16:9 ratio. This is mainly because there are people to either side, and the crop enabled me to remove them, but also, I think this accentuates the vertical movement of the geyser and its shadow.

After Geyser, we moved on to Gullfoss, one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland. One of the reasons I planned this tour a month later than the 2013 tour was because I anticipated less tourists, and that worked in general, but there were still good crowds here. Not as many as last year mind, so whereas last year in this shot (below) I had a crowd of people on that rock outcrop on the left, this year there were just a few.

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss are difficult falls to photograph in their entirety, without getting a nasty patch of land encroaching into the image in the bottom left corner. For this shot, I think I actually used content aware fill in Photoshop to remove a small triangle from the bottom left.

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

One of my favorite shots from last year’s trip though, was a shot from the end of the gorge into which all this water is dropping. If you look at where all the water is pluming up on the far left, that’s where I stood to make this next photograph (right). And as you might expect, standing directly in that spray from the falls brings it’s own challenges.

Most of the time, when the protector filter that I have on the front of my lens gets wet, I use a very strong rocket blower (Bergeon No. 5733) to blow the water droplets to the edges of the filter, and essentially out of the frame.

When you are literally standing in a shower though, this doesn’t work. I have to resort to using a lens cloth, turning the camera away from the spray, wiping it, then turning it back towards the scene, and grabbing a frame before it gets wet again. There’s so much water actually, that I always carry more than one lens cloth in Iceland, in case the first gets wet through.

I converted this image to black and white in Silver Efex Pro, and darkened down the foreground rocks, for this look that I enjoy, especially for my Iceland waterfalls. I love how we can see the spray just rising up into the sky here. There is so much power in these falls.

This by the way was a 1/5 of a second exposure. That’s about as fast as I really like to go with waterfalls, and there isn’t much of an option for going longer here. The water droplets attack the front of the lens way too quickly for any longer exposure.

Another benefit of going to Iceland a month later, and I can honestly say that I had not expected this when I arranged the tour, was that we had splashes of fall color in a number of locations, such as at Hjálparfoss (below), which is another waterfall that we visited on September 25, before heading to our hotel here in the highlands.

Hjálparfoss (Falls)

Hjálparfoss (Falls)

I actually didn’t share any of my photos of these falls from last year’s tour, because I wasn’t overly happy with them, but the splash of color in this year’s shots took them just that little bit further, so I’m keeping this in my selection. I do like the incredible texture in the rock formations either side of these falls, and I actually have a stitched panorama that really accentuates this too, which I’ll probably share or make available for prints later.

Although we had a smattering of snow while were were at Landmannalaugar last year, this year, we were presented with some beautiful snow scenes as this one (below) during our entire drive into the area on September 26. We stopped at a number of places as we drove along the bumpy trail towards the lava field, but we couldn’t resist jumping off the bus a few times to make some photos like this.

In the Highlands of Iceland

In the Highlands of Iceland

Again, of course this is a Silver Efex Pro black and white conversion. I had a number of frames to choose from, but I really liked this one because of the balance of the foreground, with the black rocks interspersed amongst the snow, the beautiful mountains, and that lovely dramatic sky. The clouds were moving incredibly fast, and the light changing literally by the second, so it was quite challenging to get something that I really liked, but I think I did that here.

To give you an idea of the lay of the land at Landmannalaugar, here’s a screenshot from the Lightroom Map module (below). We’ll look at four photos from this location, and they are all marked on this map with the little yellow and orange balloons. I circled the area where we parked our bus having just forded a couple of rivers to get into the valley, and then we walk about 1.5 to 2 km across the lava field to the other side. I love how you can see how the lava literally flowed out and filled the valley in this areal view map.

Landmannalaugar Map Screenshot

Landmannalaugar Map Screenshot

The first yellow balloon on the map represents this photo. I shot this partly to send to my friends at Gura Gear as I’m one of the Gura Gear Pros, but also, because I ended up really liking the one I did from this location last year, as although I could do with a better model, including a person in the photo like this can help us to imagine ourselves in the scene, looking out across this beautiful valley.

Martin in Landmannalaugar

Martin in Landmannalaugar

Another reason that I included this shot, was because the light was changing so incredibly fast, it’s one of the best lit shots that I got of this scene too. In this next image (below) you can see that the light is slightly less favorable, despite me having the group wait for about 10 minutes as the sun tried to peep through the clouds just enough for an OK shot. This is the orange balloon on the map, just below the yellow one.

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar

We hiked along the edge of the lava shelf, where I drew the red line, up towards the top of the lava flow, close to where it came out of the volcano, and as you can see in this shot (below) there is still some activity, with steam coming out of a number of fumaroles. We’d actually walked up through that mist, and back onto the lava shelf, before I turned around to make this photograph.

Landmannalaugar Fumarole Steam

Landmannalaugar Fumarole Steam

The fourth ballon on the map, in the bottom center of our loop, is for this next photograph (below), after we’d climbed back down from the lava shelf, and were now walking by a beautiful river winding its way down the valley, almost leading us back to our bus.

Landmannalaugar Winding River

Landmannalaugar Winding River

I shot this with my 16-35mm lens wide open at 16mm, pointing down at the river. I’ve been very tempted to do a black and white of this one too, and maybe still will, but for now, I do enjoy the splashes of green moss that for me are so characteristic of this beautiful country.

As you might have noticed, by the time we’d gotten across the lava shelf, most of the snow had melted away, and by the time we were back on the bus, and heading home, it had almost gone from all of the peaks as well. We stopped at a wonderful caldera lake just a few miles outside of Landmannalaugar, and I made a few panoramas with my new iPhone 6 Plus, but then as I turned to take a look around, I saw the scene in this photograph (below).

Mountains from Bláhylur

Mountains from Bláhylur

If ever I see clouds like this just radiating out of a location, I always hope that that location is a beautiful one, and here, that happened. The mountains at the bottom of the frame here make for a beautiful anchor for a vertical landscape photograph that I kind of fell instantly in love with, right there through the viewfinder. As I processed it to black and white in Silver Efex Pro, I realized that this is one that I just have to print once the dust settles when I get home.

So that completes day 5 of the tour. We’ll pick up the trail again next week, as we change buses for a day, and ford river after river to get in to the beautiful valley at Thorsmork (Þórsmörk) on September 27.

Iceland 2015

Before we finish, just a quick reminder that we have now set the dates for the 2015 Iceland Tour & Workshop. If you might be interested in joining us, do check that out at https://mbp.ac/iceland2015. It’s an amazing tour, and if you don’t believe me, here’s a testimonial that I just received from Richard Strange, one of this year’s happy customers.

The MBP Iceland 2014 Tour and Workshop was the third MBP tour I have undertaken, and they just keep getting better.  This tour was unforgettable for many reasons.  Martin’s attention to detail and organisation of itinerary, accommodation, meals and transport have always been exemplary in my view.  You do not need to even think about these aspects, leaving only the photography and interaction with other participants to focus on.

The photography in Iceland is unique – the best locations with plenty of time to ponder set-up or to seek technical advice from Martin, or his accompanying expert photographer/local knowledge aficionado (Tim Volmer on this tour), or just to marvel at the sight.  Waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, lava fields (and geysers and moss) icebergs, seascapes, all pristine, and ready for shooting in variable but beautiful lighting conditions.  Travelling between these spectacular locations in a large coach made for a very comfortable existence indeed.

The food and accommodation on this tour was first class.

I believe this tour is perfect for a range of photographers, from keen enthusiasts to the professional, and for those who enjoy the camaraderie of travelling with like interest people, from different nations, in a friendly but enthusiastic environment.  I have already, and I will be in the future, recommending the MBP Iceland Tour and Workshop to friends and acquaintances.

– Richard Strange
Lake Macquarie, Australia

Iceland Tour & Workshop 2015

The Complete Photography Bundle – THANK YOU!

OK, so last but not least, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of you that picked up your copy of The Complete Photography Bundle II from the 5DayDeal team. The word is that with still another 8 hours to go on the last day, collectively, we’ve helped to raise a staggering $160,000 for the four worthy charities that are also benefiting from the proceeds.

If you are listening to this literally, within 8 hours of release, you can still get your bundle at https://mbp.ac/5dd. It’s more than $2,000 worth of photography education and tools from 22 of the worlds leading pros, for just $89, and that’s a 95% discount. It’s just too good to miss, but if you did in some way manage to miss this, please sign up for my newsletters, and I’ll make sure you hear about the next one, whenever that will be. Of course, the contents will be different next time. When this one ends in eight hours, the offer is gone forever.


Show Notes

Details of the 2015 Iceland Tour & Workshop: https://mbp.ac/iceland2015

The Complete Photography Bundle II: https://mbp.ac/5dd

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 1 (Podcast 442)

Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 1 (Podcast 442)

This week, we start to retrace my steps from this year’s Iceland Tour & Workshop, as I travelled that beautiful country for 12 days with an amazing group of photographers, and my partner for this tour, Tim Vollmer.

This year’s tour ran from Sept 22 to Oct 3, with the first and last days being all about getting people into and out of Reykjavik, so it’s 10 full photography days. Actually, for those that are already in town early enough on the 22nd, we head into town for some shooting anyway, as kind of a bonus day. The main attractions for me are the beautiful Hallgrímskirkja Church and the Harpa center, although just walking through the town is really nice too.

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Hallgrímskirkja Church

The population of the entire country is only 323,000 according to Wikipedia, and 118,000 of them live in Reykjavik. It’s probably the smallest capital city I’ve visited though, which is part of its charm. It doesn’t feel much different to the Argentinian city of Ushuaia, where many expeditions to Antarctica kick off from. Iceland is actually attributed as the northern-most capital city in the world, and Ushuaia the southern-most city, which I thought was a fun fact.

Anyway, as I try to trim down the number of photos that I show, we won’t look at any from the Harpa center, although it is a beautiful place, but let’s start with a few from the Hallgrímskirkja Church, which is a Lutheran (Church of Iceland) church, and at 73 meters the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest structure, after a bunch of radio towers.

As we approached the church from the back, just a 10 minute walk from our hotel, we started to explore some various angles. It was great seeing the group starting to get into their photography after their trips over to Iceland. There was plenty of excitement, and a bit of fumbling with newly packed camera bags etc.

I really liked my long exposure from directly in front of the church at the start of last year’s trip, but I wanted something from a different angle, so I shot it from the side as we see here as a few of us rounded the side of the church. As it’s a beautiful yet grey building, and there was lots of beautiful texture in that wonderful Icelandic sky, I couldn’t resist taking this on into Silver Efex Pro for a black and white.

And talking about Icelandic skies, although I did some long exposures again, I really couldn’t resist leaving this normal exposure in too, as the sun poked around from the edge of the church, causing a lovely starburst, and this wonderfully dramatic sky (below).

Hallgrímskirkja Church with Starburst

Hallgrímskirkja Church with Starburst

One thing I’ve noticed when people talk about sunbursts or starburst shots, is that everyone seems to think that you need a very small aperture to make this happen, but this really isn’t the case. This was shot at f/11, but I’ve had starbursts at f/8 and I think even f/5.6 if I recall. It’s really just about putting the sun in just the right place to cut it off a little, causing the light to spread into a dark area like this. The number of spikes is affected by the number of leaves that make up the aperture ring I believe.

On the morning of September 23, we headed out of Reykjavik, towards the Reykjanes Peninsula. On the way, as we did last year, we stopped at a location where they dry fish, as we can see in this shot (below). I didn’t share any shots from this location last year, but I figured I’d show you this today.

Drying Fish

Drying Fish

As you might imagine, with frame after frame of these fish just hanging there, and the floor covered in bits that have dropped off, it’s not the most aromatically pleasing location we visit, but it’s a lot of fun, and can be a source of some pretty neat photos that help to tell the story of Iceland.

For this shot, I’ve bumped up the Clarity in Lightroom quite a way, for a slightly rugged, gritty look, and I desaturated the blues, because although there was a tiny bit of color in the sky, I wanted to remove attention from the blue strings which are used to hang the fish. This is the main thing that put me off my photos from last year. It just doesn’t look great in my opinion, so I got rid of that color this time around.

As we get over to the south-western tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula, we visit a couple of places that I was looking forward to getting back to. Actually, that’s a kind of redundant statement, as I was looking forward to visiting all the locations again with this year’s group. The first we’ll look at from this area is this shot of the geothermal power plant, with the abandoned vent steaming away in the foreground (below).

The Power of the Land

The Power of the Land

Here I enjoyed the play of the lighter foreground steam, and the steam from the power plant, contrasted with the darker clouds in the heavy sky. I really do love these Icelandic skies, and although it rains a lot, it’s almost worth it for these skies. I also included a large patch of the rugged foreground to the right in this shot too, to give us a sense of the location.

Just a little further along, there is an area full of boiling mud pools, and a geyser, that was shooting up water every five minutes or so. Tim was adamant that this is a hot spring, not a geyser, and I can’t say I am armed with enough information to argue with him, but if we waited, we were treated with this shoot of black muddy water spraying up into the air, and in this shot, with the somewhat rare feature of some blue sky (below) behind it. I’m really not a fan of blue sky, but I like the color contrast that it lends to this image.

Hot Spring Geyser Thingy

Hot Spring Geyser Thingy

Also, just across from this very geothermal area, are the sea stacks that I also shared with you last year, shot in almost exactly the same way. I seem to have been at a slightly different angle, but my tastes almost forced me to frame this in much the same way as last year, although I feel it’s just a tad better composed, and I like the movement of the water I captured here.

Rocks at Reykjanes Peninsula

Rocks at Reykjanes Peninsula

I find that the best shutter speed to capture a breaking wave like this is 0.8 seconds. Really long exposures look great too, but to capture a little movement in the sea, and the dynamic force of the waves in the same frame, 0.8 or 1 second seam to work very well for me.

Unfortunately when we got over to the other tip of the peninsula where we’d photographed the old boat at the back of a farmers field, although the boat was still there, the farmer has now fenced off the field, and is not letting photographers in any more. One member of the group got a great shot with a long lens, but we couldn’t get in for similar shots to last year, which was a shame.

Just across from that location though, is a lovely old church, which I shot here through the gates to the church from the adjacent cemetery. I opened the gates so that they would not obscure the church and did a 60 second exposure here, so that the clouds would move across the sky for this slightly surreal look.

Church Gate

Church Gate

And that brought us to the end of our first day in the field. The following day, September 24, we headed out to the beautiful Öxarárfoss waterfall. Although I also shot the falls from a few more, different vantage points this year, I think this classic composition is still one of my favorites (below).

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

There’s just something pleasing to me how the water falls down along the left third, sweeps over to the right of the frame, and then runs along the bottom of the frame to the left corner. I also really like processing these Icelandic falls very darkly like this. The dark rock makes a wonderful contrast for the white water, especially with a long exposure.

This was 1.3 seconds, which is long enough to make the water go really silky. You only need a 1/25 of a second or so to capture the movement, but I like it to be really smooth, and sometimes go even longer, as I did with this next shot at 3.2 seconds (below).

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

Waterfalls are always best shot when it’s cloudy. In full sun they are very contrasty and rarely pleasing to look at. We had a quick burst of brighter light for this shot, causing a bit of a rainbow above the falls as well, which I included, but I’m finding that I’m really not a rainbow person. They are great to look at, but I rarely like my photos with them in.

I ran this photo through Color Efex Pro to bring out a bit more detail, and show those greens how they really are. With all the rain, the greens are always so spectacular in Iceland, so I like to give them a little bit of help to really relay that to the viewers of my images.

These falls are at a place called Thingvellir (Þingvellir), which falls on the rift between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates. The top of the falls is essentially the North American plate and the bottom of the falls is the Eurasian plate. In this next photo, from just down the road, we again see the rift with beautiful clear water running through it (below).

The Rift

The Rift

This is another long exposure, at 30 seconds, to totally smooth over the water, and this also gives us nice shadows from the rocks in the water. It was raining when I shot this, so the long exposure also allows the raindrops to smooth over, which another reason I chose to go long for this one.

And that takes us to the end of the first three days for this travelogue series. We headed back to Reykjavik for another incredible meal in one of Rekjavik’s top restaurants, before moving on to the highlands. I like to keep these podcasts to a maximum of 10 images, so we’ll finish there for this week, and pick up the trail on September 25, when we headed into the Highlands and started day four with a visit to Geysir, where, you’ve guessed it, there’s a beautiful geyser, that is actually where the English word geyser came from.

Something Big is Coming!

Before we finish today, I wanted to let you know that something big is coming on October 15! I can’t share any details yet as it’s a day early at the time of release of this episode, but by the time many of you listen to this, it will be happening! Unfortunately, this is very time critical, and may be over by the time many of you listen to this, but if you are an early bird, visit https://mbp.ac/5dd and see what this is all about. If you love photography, you will love what you find.

Something Big is Coming!

Iceland 2015

Also note before we finish, we have now set the dates for the 2015 Iceland Tour & Workshop, so do check that out too if you are interested in joining us, at https://mbp.ac/iceland2015. It really is an amazing tour, so I hope to see you there.

Iceland Tour & Workshop 2015


Show Notes

Details of the 2015 Iceland Tour and Workshop: https://mbp.ac/iceland2015

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Iceland 2013 Tour Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 388)

Iceland 2013 Tour Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 388)

Back in Iceland this week, with the second part of a travelogue series to cover my first tour there a few weeks ago, from August 25 to September 5, 2013. We had an amazing time, with beautiful light and beautiful scenery, and a great group to travel with. It turned out to be a very special two weeks.

Geysir

Geysir

We pick up the trail at the start of August 29 with a brief visit to Geysir, to photograph the geyser from which the English language took its name. Every 5 to 8 minutes it spouts water up to 70m high, and is really quite impressive. It was a grey day when we were there, but with a little bit of processing, the images are still quite impressive, especially in black and white, as we see here (right).

I shot this at ISO 1600 to get a shutter speed of 1/800 sec at f/5.6. I tried longer exposures here too, but they lacked the impact of the fast exposure with the water frozen in the air. I used a focal length of 26mm for this shot, which I thought would be enough to get the entire burst in, but as you can see, this particularly high eruption went out of the frame at the top. That doesn’t bother me too much, though I would have preferred it to not have. The crop does show the power and height of the water though.

You can also see here that there is a second smaller spurt starting as well. This and a couple of surrounding frames are the only ones on which I saw this. I used the Canon EOS 1D X body for this shoot, as it was raining heavily, and I didn’t know if we’d end up getting splashed with the water from the geyser too. I also though wanted the faster frame rate, so that I could get more frames of the burst, to select the best one from the series.

Note too that when you’re just standing waiting for the water to spout, there are people standing on the other side of the geyser, but once it erupts, the water hides them all, so it’s not a big deal. The black and white conversion here with Silver Efex Pro 2, also enabled me to create more separation between the water of the geyser and the grey sky behind.

After Geysir, we drove over to Gullfoss, the largest waterfall that we’d photograph on the tour. We started off shooting from the angle that you can see here (below). From this point, you can’t really see the gorge that runs between the rocks to the right of this frame, so it almost looks like the water is just disappearing into a giant whole in the ground.

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t research the locations that I’m going to visit for the first time, unless it’s a scouting trip. For the Iceland Tours, I’ve teamed up with photographer Tim Vollmer, who would guide us to each location, so I could turn up with zero preconceptions as to what I wanted to shoot. This can be a good and a bad thing. I can of course miss the best spots to shoot if I’m not attentive enough, but I risk that when possible so that I can start with a clean canvas as it were. At Gullfoss, I was totally in awe of the size and power of these falls, as I had no idea what we were going to see on this day.

This was a 1.3 second exposure at f/16, ISO 100. The slightly long exposure causes the water to blur nicely, giving the water that beautiful dreamy, silky effect that I like. To bring out the texture in the rocks and sky, as with most of the color shots we’ll look at, I used Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro. Generally I apply a small amount of the Detail Extractor and Tonal Contrast filters, stacked together. Because the greens don’t usually come out as vibrant as they were in real life, I was also applying the Foliage filter, between 5 and 30 on the slider, depending on how much green I needed to pull out.

This next frame I converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro, as I cropped much closer, meaning there was no lush green grass to lament the loss of. For this shot, I increased the ISO to 200, still at f/16, for a 0.8 sec exposure. I wanted a slightly faster exposure here so that the people that were moving around didn’t blur too much. I like a bit of movement, or a lot, depending on the image, but here, I only wanted about this much. I wanted the people in the frame for scale.

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

And this next shot (below) was from the back of that small plateau that the people were standing on in the last shot. At this point, I left the shutter speed at 0.8 sec at f/14, ISO 200, because there was a fair amount of wind, and the slightly shorter exposure gave me a better chance of getting my shots between the gusts of wind that can make the shot soft. I was using my Series 2 Really Right Stuff tripod with the BH-40 ball-head, which is the little brother of the BH-55. The BH-40 is still exceptionally sturdy, but just slightly more susceptible to a gust of wind in long exposures. It’s still better than any other ball head I’ve used from other manufacturers mind.

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

On the way along the track between the plateau and the first vantage point I shot from, there is an area, probably 30m or so, where the water from the falls was blowing relentlessly across the track. It’s the point where you just want to hunker down and walk through the cold spray, but it’s also the point where I shot this image (right).

This is probably one of my favorite shots from the trip. Of course, the trick with a shot like this, is keeping the water off the filter. I was using a three stop ND8 neutral density filter for the slow shutter speed.

A tip for keeping the filter dry, is to use your air blower, and not a lens cloth. A lens cloth just smears the water, and gets wet itself quite quickly. A blower will just blow the beads of water to the edges of the filter, where they won’t be in the shot, and doesn’t leave any smearing.

Even so, in the split second after blowing the water off the front of the lens and then during the 0.8 seconds of the exposure, a spray can still start to build up on the filter again, and a few drops made their way into this exposure, but I was able to remove them in Photoshop with Content Aware Fill.

Note too here that this is one of the few angles where you can actually see that gorge where the water from the falls is running off. I think this is probably one of the best views of the falls, despite the fact that the majority of the cascades are not even included.

The following day, on August 30, after a good drive and fording a couple of rivers in our bus, we arrived at the awe inspiring Landmannalaugar. This is a beautiful area in the highlands, with a lava field and a view of some of the most magnificent and colorful mountains I’ve ever seen. We did about a 5km hike up into and around the lava field, and on the way, I shot this first image, which shows the lava field covered in the thick luxurious moss that gives much of this landscape its lush green color.

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar

I shot this particular frame because my eyes were drawn by the jagged line of lava that outlined the slightly lower level of moss, which leads our eyes into the scene, towards the steam from the volcanic vents and mountain in the distance.

Shortly after the last photograph, we came to the edge of the lava field, and looked out across the valley to the colorful mountains that we see in the distance in this photo (below). The light was ever changing on this day. We had bursts of sunlight, cloudy, rain, and even snow by this point. The winds kept the clouds moving quickly, so sometimes the valley would be in cloud, and if you wait a while, it would be flooded with sunlight again, like this.

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar

You can see how I aligned the dip in the lava foreground with the river running through the valley. There’s a sheep visible just to the right of center. The mountains are punctuated with patches of moss and a waterfall. I filled almost half of the frame with foreground, so that we can see we’re in a lava field, and let the top half of the image speak for itself.

Kind of following on from the advice I gave last week about using LiveView to check your focus throughout the frame rather than using a calculated hyperfocal distance, note that this is the sort of location where I instinctively just focus about a third of the way into the frame, and stop down the aperture a little, and all is good. Here I recall focusing manually on the moss covered mound in the left of the frame, and knew that because there wasn’t anything really close to the camera, that everything in the frame would be tack sharp, and it is. And that was at 50mm at f/16.

In this next image (below) I included the bright, almost white, featureless sky in a full half of the frame. I used this composition to show that I was looking back towards the sun, and we get extra visual clues from the rim-light outlining the moss on the lava in the foreground. Exposing to the right as usual, this also enabled me to capture the shadow side of the lava brightly enough to be able to still see the detail. This is one of those times when leaving the exposure up to the camera would have made the foreground almost a silhouette. I also shot this because there is that trail leading us towards the steam from the volcanic vents, and into the light.

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar

5D Mark III “Improved” Weatherproofing

Allow me a little side-track here, as I want to talk a little about the weatherproofing on the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. I generally use my 1 series Canon bodies when working in weather like this, as they are totally weatherproof. You can’t dunk them in water, but otherwise, they will handle a full day outside in torrential rain, without batting an eyelid.

When Canon released the 5D Mark III, they explained that it had “improved” weatherproofing over the 5D Mark II, and at the launch event that I attended in Tokyo explained how the enclosure for the main dial behind the shutter button for example, would now prevent water from entering the camera as the dial is turned. But still, the only actually weatherproof Canon camera bodies, are the 1 series bodies, and I decided to put the 5D Mark III to the test.

I’ll give it its due, it held up pretty well in worse weather than I expected, but shortly after the last shot, it died. I switched to the 1D X for the last few frames that we’ll look at today, and the 5D Mark III didn’t come back to life the following day, which I had hoped it would. I wrapped it in some dry clothes and put it in my suitcase as we moved to the next location the following day, and I’d started to resign myself to shooting the rest of the trip with the 1D X, but two days after it died, I took the 5D Mark III out of the case and turned it on again, and it had come back to life!

It got wet again, and was OK, so I think I pushed it too far out on the lava fields, but one take away for you here is if you are going to Iceland, with only one camera, if it isn’t fully weatherproof, make sure you keep a cover on the camera. I personally hate using covers, which is one of the reasons I also buy 1 series bodies. When I go to Antarctica, where the cameras get wet a lot, I have been taking my 1Ds and 1D X, but I sold the 1Ds recently to put the money towards another purchase. I’d have taken the 5D anyway, as I love that camera, but without a backup option, I’d perhaps have been a bit kinder to it.

Having shifted to the 1D X, I started down the track that would lead us to the edge of the lava field, and long the valley back to our bus. This was still about the furthest point from the bus, so there were around 2km to go, but as I started to walk I turned to see the volcanic vents and steam from the moss as the sun hit it, giving me this dramatic view (below).

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar

Despite the lush green moss, this just works better in black and white, with a contrasty sky. Some people don’t like to see skies this dark, but I personally love this look, and because it’s my art, I can do what I want with it. This feels much more like the almost apocalyptic scene that I feasted my eyes upon.

In this last shot for today, we see the sprinkling of snow that had just fallen on the mountain, and the mist coming out of the valley between me and the mountain. A friend on Google Plus had asked why I didn’t go wider on this shot, but I really think people go wide on landscapes too often. When I look at a scene, the first thing I ask myself is what is it about the scene that has caught my attention? Here it was the snow on the mountain and the mist. I shot it at 45mm, but had I gone wider, all we’d gain is more foreground and rocks, but the mountain and mist would be much, smaller in the frame, and the impact would be lost. It’s your call of course, but don’t just automatically go wide for landscapes. What I call “intimate landscapes” are often much more compelling.

Landmannalaugar After the Snow

Landmannalaugar After the Snow

So, that’s it for this episode. If you’d like a sneak preview of the entire Iceland Portfolio it’s viewable under the Portfolios menu on my site (above).

 


Show Notes

Iceland Portfolio: https://martinbaileyphotography.com/portfolio/iceland/

Music by UniqueTracks


Audio

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