East Greenland Part 3 – Breaching Whale Photos! (Podcast 541)

East Greenland Part 3 – Breaching Whale Photos! (Podcast 541)

Welcome to part three of a four part series to share my experiences and ten more images from my recent East Greenland photography adventure, including some breaching whale photos!

I’m now back in Tokyo having completed my Iceland Full Circle Tour with a great group, and I’ll be reporting on that and share some Iceland work with you in a couple of weeks. Today we’re going to continue this Greenland series, picking up the trail on the morning of August 29.

Shortly after leaving Tasiilaq, we encountered a number of humpback whales, and I shot this photo of the fluke as one of them dived (below). I always enjoy encounters with whales. It never ceases to amaze me how they let us get so close, like this.

Humpback Whale Fluking

Humpback Whale Fluking

I shot this at 234mm with my 100-400mm lens, and it’s uncropped so you can appreciate how close we get. If we were simply whale watching, we could actually get closer, and our speed boat drivers often tried to, but we need to keep a little more distance than they can get so that we get a nice background in the shot as well.

Tiilerilaaq

After this encounter, we continued on a long sail to a remote settlement known as Tiilerilaaq, as you can see in this photograph as we approached the town (below). It took us about 3 hours to get to Tiilerilaaq, including a few stops for the whales of course.

Tiilerilaaq - East Greenland

Tiilerilaaq – East Greenland

To get there we headed east out of Tasiilaq, then north-east up and traveled around one third of the way up the Ammassalik Fjord, then north-west along the Ikasagtivaq channel. At the end of the channel, we dog-leg left along a short channel to the settlement.

It was almost disappointing to see such modern boats moored here, but as you can imagine, these boats are very important to the Inuit people, so they tend push the boat out a bit when deciding on their rides (pardon the pun).

We climbed up onto the quay, and made lunch on a few palettes that were stacked there, then took a while to walk around the town. At about the farthest point we could walk, this house was surrounded by grass and the cotton grass, Eriophorum, which is found most commonly on Arctic tundra.

House in Tiilerilaaq

House in Tiilerilaaq

The foliage in Greenland seems to almost have a sense of urgency about it, trying to cram all that it needs to do into just the few short months of summer, before the harsh winter sets in again.

Sermilik Fjord

In the distance in this photograph, you can see the Sermilik Fjord which we’d sailed down earlier in the trip, and we continued to access through the tiny passage in the middle of this image shortly after I shot this. We of course took this opportunity to shoot more of the amazing icebergs, although we tended to be a little more particular now that we’d seen and photographed so many.

One thing that we like to do is to find icebergs with arches, such as the one in this image, and then try to find some supporting actors, like the berg that you can see in the distance through the arch, and the foreground berg, with much of its blue underwater portion visible (below).

Icebergs Near Takiseq

Icebergs Near Takiseq

This was near a tiny island called Takiseq, around a third of the distance that we’d travel down the Sermilik Fjord. Just along from here we also encountered the jagged iceberg that you can see in this next image (below).

Serrated Iceberg

Serrated Iceberg

We’d been shooting sunburst images with the sun just above the berg, but here I actually like the sky and the flare caused by the sun instead of the sunburst, and there is a bit of a sunburst in the reflection just left of center here, that I also find quite appealing.

Breaching Whales!

We continued to photograph the icebergs as we made our way down the fjord into open ocean, and started heading back towards Tasiilaq, when we had one of the most magical experiences of my life so far. We’d seen whales on this stretch of water a number of times so far, but at the end of this day, we saw them breaching in the distance, and tension on our boat instantly raised as we initially started to speed towards them, seeing two breach at the same time.

Then, our speed boat driver stopped, and let us know that the whales were coming towards us, and that we should just wait for them to swim past. Despite the whales being so far away when we first spotted them, in just a minute or so, they were close enough to the boat for me to capture this photograph (below) as one of them breached heading straight for us.

Breaching Humpback Whale - Front View

Breaching Humpback Whale – Front View

This is cropped slightly, and also rotated a little to straighten the horizon, but pretty much a full 50 megapixel photo, so I was incredibly happy to have captured this shot. We also have a cameo appearance from the seagull, kind of mirroring the flight of one of the largest mammals on the planet.

Just 38 second later, the whales were beside our boat, and I shot this image, of another humpback whale from this side this time (below). This is un-cropped, though rotated slightly to straighten the horizon, so the detail in this image is incredible.

Breaching Humpback Whale - Side View

Breaching Humpback Whale – Side View

I have some photos of the splash that follows these jumps, although as photos, they don’t mean much, because you can’t see the cause, but the splash that these huge animals make as they reenter the water was also an incredible sight to see. I have a few other shots of the breaching, but these two are my favorites, and I was absolutely over the moon to have not only witnessed this, but to have be able to capture a number of quality images as well.

The mental image of the two that breached together will haunt me for years to come, but I have no complaints with what I did capture. I recall spending hours in a Zodiac the Lemaire Channel in Antarctica in 2011, waiting and hoping to see, and maybe photograph, a whale breaching, then just as we had to leave to go back to the ship, our Zodiac driver told us that he’d just seen one breach behind us. This old ghost was exorcised by these new photographs. I guess now I just have to hope that one day I’ll capture a breaching pair to exorcise my new ghosts as well.

5Ds R Still Rocking It!

Before we move on, I’d also like to remind you of how happy I am with the performance of the Canon EOS 5Ds R cameras. Coupled with the 100-400mm Mark II lens in this case, the autofocus snapped straight on to these whales as they appeared from the water. If you keep in mind that we have no idea where they are going to pop-up as they breach like this, you can probably appreciate how difficult it could be to frame them quickly and achieve focus, but it was not a problem at all, for me at least.

So, when people try to pigeon hole the 5Ds as a landscape and still life camera, just point them to my Web site, and together we can hopefully continue to explode these myths, spread by people that are trying to find reasons not want this camera. If you don’t want or need the resolution, of course the new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is in many ways now a better camera, but I do wish people would just buy what they want and be happy with it, rather than putting down all other gear that they don’t want, in a strange war dance to protect their fragile egos.

Chartered Helicopter

The following day, we had a day off from the speed boats, and had a walk around Tasiilaq in the morning, then in the afternoon, another professional photographer that had been tagging along with us, and I, chartered a helicopter, on the understanding that we would be able to open the windows to shoot the landscape from the air.

I was initially going to only take one camera, with my 24-70mm lens on it, but before we left the hotel, I decide to also take my 100-400mm on a second 5Ds R, and I also slipped my 11-24mm lens into my vest pocket. We took off from the heliport in Tasiilaq and before we knew it, we’d flown over the mountains north-west of the town, and were flying over the Sermilak Fjord. This takes a couple of hours to get to buy boat, so it was surprising how quickly we got above this area.

This first aerial photograph that I want to share (below) is of an iceberg that we saw, with that amazing blue pool, almost looking like the eye of a fish, or a huge island, with a second island to the bottom right.

Iceberg with Blue Pool

Iceberg with Blue Pool

If you look carefully, you can just see the base of this iceberg receding into the water, but I have some other shots where the base is much brighter and more prominent, and I’ll share one of those with you in the concluding episode of this series next week.

Moments later, we were over the Hann Glacier, which we’d also sailed to earlier. We had moored on the little outcrop of land that you can see towards the bottom left corner of this image (below). The slot canyon style photo that I shared with you last week was from this location.

The Hann Glacier

The Hann Glacier

I had actually not liked any of the shots of the glacier itself from our previous visit, but seeing it from above like this gave a whole new look, and enabled me to put things into perfective, although I’ll share some shots next week of the main glacier that covers the huge expanse of the Greenland mainland.

We continued on and landed our helicopter across from the Heim Glacier, and had a quick walk down to the rocky shore, as you can see in this photograph (below). To the right of the Heim Glacier you can also see strands of the Kagtilersorpia Glacier.

The Heim and Kagtilerscorpia Glaciers

The Heim and Kagtilerscorpia Glaciers

I switched to my 11-24mm lens for this image, and shot this wide open at 11mm. This not only helps to show the expanse of the landscape, but gives the impression that all of the rocks on the beach are pointing inwards, and the same goes for the chunks of ice in the water, and the sky. They all seem to be pointing towards a central vanishing point, and I really like this look.

Shooting from a Helicopter

Before we wrap up, I just wanted to mention a tip for shooting from a helicopter, based on this experience. Just as I had been shooting at around a 1/500 of a second shutter speed to overcome the vibration and movement of our speed boat while on the water, in a helicopter there is much more vibration to overcome.

Because of this, I kept my shutter speed as high as possible for the aerial shots. I increased my ISO to 800, and shot between 1/1600 and 1/3200 of a second while in the air. The shots came out great, with no blurred images, despite hand-holding a 50 megapixel camera. I was very happy with the results, which was a relief, when you consider that this little excursion cost me about $900, but it was worth every penny.

We’ll continue to look at four more aerial photographs from this flight in the next episode, along with some Aurora shots among other things to wrap up this series. I hope you’ll tune in again next week.


Show Notes

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 493)

Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 493)

Welcome to part three of a four part series of travelogues to walk you through a total of 40 images from my 2015 Iceland Tour and Workshop with Tim Vollmer and a group amazing participants.

We pick up the trail after breakfast on September 27, as we made a stop in the town of Vik to photograph the church on the hill, that we see in this photograph (below). This is another photograph that is basically a retake of an earlier, similar image, now that I’m shooting with the ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R. The conditions weren’t quite as good, because there was a more dramatic sky and better light, so I think I still prefer my 2013 version, but here this is anyway.

Church at Vík í Mýrdal

Church at Vík í Mýrdal

I rescued this image to a degree with Color Efex Pro to bring out a little more of the colour, restoring it to what I recall from the day, but there was a bit of mist in the air, that in reality was reducing the clarity of the image a little, and slightly muting the colours.

I forgot to mention in last week’s episode, that most of my Landmannalaugar images have also got a little bit of Color Efex Pro applied, to bring out the colour and detail a little more. those images are much more how I recall the scene, although they perhaps look a little bit too punchy for some peoples’ liking.

After a little shopping therapy at the Icewear store in Vik, we drove for a few hours towards Jökulsárlón, but stopped on the way at this wonderful spot where the Kálfafell mountain is often reflected beautiful into a pond, as we see here (below).

Kálfafell Reflection

Kálfafell Reflection

There was no wind at this point in time, so we got some great shots with an almost perfect reflection. I shot this at f/11 with a 1/250 of a second shutter speed at ISO 400, at 24mm. I don’t recall right now if there was a reason I didn’t drop the ISO down a little and use a longer shutter speed, but I could have done without the wind.

Shortly after lunch, we arrived at Jökulsárlón, the glacial lagoon that we’d spend a lot of time at over the following three days. You could plan a shorter amount of time here if you were just looking for a “hey, I was here” type of photograph, but weather conditions can be a bit tricky, so we take the time necessary to give us a chance to produce something a little more beautiful. Even so, we had challenging conditions for most of our three days, but it didn’t stop us making some beautiful photos. Probably the calmest weather was on this first afternoon, as we can see in this photo (below).

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

As much as I like details, I have found myself using the incredible new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L lens quite a lot since buying it, and this was no exception. I shot this quite wide at 14mm, with a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second, at f/14, ISO 100. You do have to view it quite large to be able to appreciate the details, but we have the icebergs in the lagoon along the bottom, the glacier in the distance, and then that big Icelandic sky. I also like how the shape of the clouds from the centre to right side almost mirror the shape that the icebergs make below.

I also enjoy picking out details in the icebergs, and although I didn’t get that many of these photos this year, I kind of like this one, where I found a blue Jabawaki peering sneakily at me over the ice (below). I find it useful when looking for details to shoot to keep an eye out for things that we can identify as something else.

Jökulsárlón Icebergs - Jabawaki

Jökulsárlón Icebergs – Jabawaki

I shot this at f/14 for a 1/160 of a second at ISO 100, with my 100-400mm lens at 176mm. To enhance this a little, in Lightroom I decreased the Shadows and Blacks sliders to -36, which deepened the shadows increasing the contrast and drama. I also increased the Clarity to +60 and Vibrance to +15, and the Saturation slider to +30. This increases the blueness of the ice a little. The ice is already blue, but I sometimes like to give it a little bit of a boost like this, to bring the scene closer to how I recall it.

The following day, on September 28, the weather was forecast to go a little pear-shaped again, with rain and high winds. Another group at the same hotel decided to stay at the hotel, but I hate to do that when there is a chance that we can do something, so I took my group out, and we headed over to the next glacier along from the lagoon. As we crossed the bridge over the estuary from the lagoon though, the tide was going out, and some icebergs were trapped in the channel, with water gushing around their bases, so we stopped to shoot some images like this one (below).

Water and Ice

Water and Ice

This is a 1/4 of a second exposure at f/16, ISO 100, at 312mm with my 100-400mm lens. A quarter of a second is long enough to allow the water to blur, as we can see, so I was looking for details on the iceberg that would make a nice semi-abstract image with the flowing water. This deep blue glacial ice made the perfect subject, although it really is just a tip of the iceberg, as they say.

We went on to photograph the neighbouring glacier, and there are a couple of images from there in my final selection, but I won’t include them here, as I’ve prioritised other images to keep the numbers down to just forty for these four episodes.

The following morning, we did another dawn shoot, and there was still a full moon in the sky, the day after the super-moon, which we could not see by the way, as it was overcast. We were treated to some beautiful colour in the clouds though as the sun came up, so I went wide again to capture this image (below), mainly of the clouds, with the glacial lagoon below, and a somewhat tiny but almost full moon.

Moon and Clouds at Jökulsárlón

Moon and Clouds at Jökulsárlón

I love the detail in this cloud, and the way the morning clouds are enshrouding the glacier along the horizon, just below the moon. I’m not a fan of the choppy water in this photo, along the bottom, but it was very windy again, so there wasn’t much we could do about that.

When we were at this spot, one of the icebergs flipped, taking about 20 to 30 seconds, crunching and churning, and creating a bit of a wave that washed up the beach on which we were standing. It was an amazing sight, but the entire group, including me of course, just stood and watched it in awe. Of course, a photograph wouldn’t have done it justice without capturing the movement, but I do wish I’d thought to get my iPhone out to video it. That’s one unrecorded event that will haunt me for a while, but it is a very cool memory from the trip. I’ve seen icebergs flip in Antarctica as well, and this was equally as dramatic because of the close proximity of the surround bergs–all of them cracking and crunching together, it was quite amazing to see.

After the sun had come up, we walked across to the beach where there is usually a lot of ice from the lagoon washed up. The high tide along with very strong winds had actually dumped a ridiculously large amount of ice on the beach, making it quite difficult to single out isolated pieces, like the one we see in this next image (below).

Ice on Beach

Ice on Beach

You can see just how strong the wind was here, with the spray blowing off the crest of the wave shortly before it breaks on the beach. I was playing with long exposures as well, but with the amount of movement, you get a very different look to the usual smoothed over water, as we’ll see shortly. Here I think the shutter speed of 1/100 of a second that I chose freezes the wave enough to show the dynamic nature of the scene, which I tended to prefer for some of these photographs. I set the aperture to f/16, with an ISO of 100 at 70mm, the long end of my 24-70mm lens.

We returned to the beach later in the day, actually after the tide had gone out, leaving a lot of large pieces of ice on the beach and just off shore, as we can see here (below). These car-sized pieces of ice are technically known as growlers, because of the sound that they make as the rattle along the hull of ships at sea. You can also see here what I mean about long exposures with rough seas. This is a 5 second exposure, which leaves the rough sea looking like candy floss or cotton candy instead of the usual smooth water that you get.

Growlers in Sea

Growlers in Sea

I exposed quite a few frames at this location, because the force of the sea often moves the ice a little bit during the exposure, and although that can look quite effective, generally it just looks messy, so I wanted to give myself some frames where nothing moved other than the water. You might also notice that I composed this not only with the small chunk of ice on the beach and growlers to the left of the frame, but there is also a line of ice leading out into the sea to one last distant piece in the top right of the frame.

I was shooting this image (above) with my 24-70mm lens on a tripod, of course, but I had my 100-400mm on a second 5Ds R slung over my shoulder, which I was very happy to have as I looked up and saw this iceberg (below) looking almost like a Viking ship, and it was just storming out of the channel from the lagoon, with the tidal waters, almost as though it had an outboard motor on it.

Iceberg from Vatnajökull

Iceberg from Vatnajökull

I zoomed in to 400mm and shot this at f/11 with a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second at ISO 100. I love this shot for how it depicts the power and dynamism of the rough sea, and yet the blue of the iceberg and other splashes of blue make beautiful accents in the chaos.

Thirty minutes later, as I continued to shoot long exposures, I saw another largish iceberg come out of the channel, and once again swung my 100-400mm lens up from over my shoulder, to capture this image (below). Again, I like the dynamism and splashes of blue, as well as that bit of green from the backlit wave running across the centre of the frame.

Iceberg and Growlers from Vatnajökull

Iceberg and Growlers from Vatnajökull

You can also see the crazy amount of ice that was washed up on the beach in this shot. I’d honestly prefer less ice, but with nature you do what you can with what you have, and I think these images are nice bonus photographs under the circumstances. I shot this at f/11 with a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second at ISO 200, again at 400mm.

After this, we headed over to Fjallsjökull for one last glacier shot of this series, but we’ll wrap this up now for today, and take a look at that at the beginning of the fourth episode next week, before we go on to look at some waterfalls and Icelandic horse photos to conclude this travelogue series.

Greenland 2016

Before we finish, I also wanted to mention that in addition to my 2016 Iceland Full Circle Tour, I have teamed up with Tim Vollmer for a new tour in Greenland, that promises to be pretty amazing!

We’ll be visiting the eastern side of Greenland with fjords and beautiful scenery, glaciers and huge icebergs which we’ll explore from boats and helicopters, and we’ll be on land too, shooting both the incredible scenery and a number of cultural experiences as we photograph the local people making kayaks and performing an Inuit Drum Dance. For details and to book your place, visit mbp.ac/greenland2016.

Greenland Tour & Workshop 2016

 


Show Notes

Details of our Greenland 2016 Tour and Workshop: https://mbp.ac/greenland2016

Details of Iceland 2016 Full Circle Tour and Workshop: https://mbp.ac/iceland2016

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 446)

Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 446)

Today we complete our four part series of travelogue episodes covering my September Iceland Tour & Workshop with Tim Vollmer and our amazing group of photographers.

We pick up the trail on September 29, 2014, when we started our day in the Jökulsárlón lagoon. It rains a lot in Iceland, and the group was getting used to working in soggy conditions. But this day was set to bring us some high winds as well. So high that our driver would be prohibited from driving our bus from around lunch time, but we decided to go into the lagoon for a few hours in the morning.

Even in this first photo (below) you can see the texture in the water from the heavy rain, despite this being a 0.4 second exposure. I was attracted to this scene because of all the beautiful curves in the ice, almost like Guadinian architecture.

Gaudinian Icebergs

Gaudinian Icebergs

As we photographed this scene, there was a guy in a kayak that kept getting in the way. Doug Kaye, who you may know from the This Week in Photo and All About the Gear podcasts, was loving it being a street photographer. He was trying to include the kayaker in as many shots as possible, and I was getting frustrated because he kept paddling into my scene just as the ice moved into what I considered the optimal position.

It was at this point that the waterproofing on my rain proof pants finally gave in too. By the time we finished this couple of hours shoot, I was wet through to my underwear, so I wasn’t too disappointed when the wind started to pick up more, and we had to retreat to our hotel for the afternoon.

We actually spent a few hours going through images together in the hotel dining area, and then borrowed the hotel’s projector for a critique session. Everyone submitted three of their images from the tour so far, and the entire group spent a few minutes each commenting on them. I always love doing this when time allows, and the group always find it useful too, so nothing was wasted despite rain and high winds stopping play.

On the morning of September 30, we headed out for a fun All Terrain Vehicle ride to the face of a glacier. Scenery-wise it’s pretty, but this is more about letting rip on the four-wheeled ATVs, and just having a lot of fun. It rained the whole time of course, so instead of the sandwiches that we often take with us for lunch, we arranged to go back to the hotel for some hot soup and freshly baked bread, which made a welcome change.

Then in the afternoon, we went back down to the beach where there was usually ice, as we saw in last week’s episode. We had been surprised to see that there was no substantially sized ice there when we visited the lagoon the previous day, so everyone was happy to see a lots of beautiful ice on the beach as we approached in our bus on this afternoon.

A few of you that listen to the This Week in Photo podcast, which I guest on sometimes, emailed about a photo that I’d mentioned during a guest spot a couple of weeks ago. I’d said that this next photo was probably one of the best landscape photographs I’ve ever made, and although that feeling is starting to fade a little now, I’m still very excited about this photograph (below) which I’ve called “Jewel on the Shore”.

Jewel on the Shore

Jewel on the Shore

I had found a beautiful group of growlers, which you might remember from a previous episode are car sized icebergs that get their name from the sound that make as they roll along the hull of a ship. As you can see, there were various textures, and one was a beautiful translucent blue. I framed the scene, initially with my tripod at full height, and started making long exposure shots. The sea would come in and wash around my boots every so often, so I was initially trying to shoot this with all of the foreground flooded with water.

I looked at the images more closely on the back of my camera, and realised that the horizon of the sea over the top of the ice was distracting, so I lowered my tripod to about kneeling height, and as I started to make a few more frames, the clouds opened up a little, and the sun started to shine directly between the two large growlers on the right, illuminating the small piece of deep glacial ice in the middle of the group, and that started to reflect the light down onto the black stony beach like a prism. I couldn’t believe my luck!

I continued to make a few more 4 second exposures, but now I was hoping that the water didn’t flood the scene for the entire time, and this was the frame that I consider the best of the batch. The light is perfect, the colour in the ice is beautiful, and the dark sky over the left of the frame really all came together perfectly. I’m really proud of this shot, as you might have realised.

We spent a couple of hours on the beach, and I got a number of other shots that I’m happy with, and the group were all having an amazing time. Then, we continued the adventurous theme for the day, and went over to the lagoon for a Zodiac ride. Zodiacs are the large rubber boats that you might have scene used to ferry people to and from shore from large ships in Antarctica, and we spend a lot of time cruising around in them down there too.

On this afternoon, we loaned some even warmer overall style clothing from the Zodiac tour company, and split into two groups, one with me and one with Tim, to go out for around 90 minutes around the lagoon. Although you can see the face of the glacier in the distance, it’s not always obvious from the shore that we usually shoot from, but the lagoon is quite expansive, so there’s much more out there than initially meets the eye, like this first iceberg photograph (below).

Blue Fissure

Blue Fissure

During our 90 minutes, we were treated to varying skies, but as we approached this beautiful blue iceberg, the sky behind was so incredibly Icelandic. As we drew closer in our Zodiac we noticed this beautiful fissure in the Iceberg, with light shining through a very thin wall of ice on the far side. This particular berg will probably split apart within a few days of this, so I always consider us lucky when we get to see such beautiful natural features like this.

And if you thought the ice in the last photo was blue, take a look at this one (below)! I’ve taken some of these shots into Color Efex Pro, and although I’ve enhanced the detail, I haven’t added any colour at all to these photographs. This is very much the colour that we saw in the lagoon. It really is amazing.

Blue Ice

Blue Ice

One member of the group said that they’d saved the cost of a trip to Antarctica now having done this Zodiac tour, and although Antarctica really has to be experienced to full appreciate it, I totally agree that I also felt very much as though I was back down there a number of times.

As you can see here, the sky opened up a little too, and changed depending on the angle at which we shot, but the majority of the time the lagoon was in shade, meaning there was a lot of contrast between the ice and the sky in the background. This photo is processed only in Lightroom, not Color Efex Pro. I pumped the Clarity up to 100, and increased the Shadows slider to 48, and the Blacks slider to 25, to bring out more detail in the iceberg, and also bringing out a little more texture in the clouds.

Serrated Iceberg

Serrated Iceberg

Looking back the other way again for this next shot (below) you can see that I have that dramatic sky again, but this time, the light on the iceberg was a little brighter. Because the sky was so dark, the foreground water that I included here too was not really reflecting much, so is nice and dark as well, helping the iceberg to really stand out.

Jökulsárlón Iceberg

Jökulsárlón Iceberg

After an amazing Zodiac tour, we made our way back to the hotel for another wonderful dinner, and some great conversation. Although we’d hoped for some Aurora while at this location, it didn’t happen on this tour. We keep our eye on the forecast, and although there’d been a big solar storm giving great shows about a week before our tour started, we were out of luck this year.

The following morning, October 1, was our second to last day, and we had a big drive all the way back to Reykjavik, with a number of great stops planned along the way. One unplanned stop though, resulted in this photo of another wonderful Icelandic sky (below).

Icelandic Sky

Icelandic Sky

You wouldn’t really notice it looking at the original of this photo, but it was obvious as we drove along that there was something special going on up there, so I had our driver stop the bus for a few minutes while we all captured this. Processed in Silver Efex Pro, the detail in a sky like this really pops out. Someone mentioned that this almost looks like a view of a wave crashing on the surface of the water from underneath.

The highlight of this drive back to Reykjavik though, is a stop at the wonderful Skógafoss waterfall that we see here (below). Whenever we approach a location like this, we try to advance as a group, so as not to get in each others’ way, but of course we cannot stop other tourists simply walking into the scene. I actually got another shot where a couple hugged in front of the falls for a while, which was nice. The white spot in the top left of this scene though is a sheep.

Skógafoss (Falls)

Skógafoss (Falls)

Again, I processed this nice and dark, as I like to work my Iceland waterfall shots. I have a few with rainbows in too, and still couldn’t resist creating a moody black and white out of them. The sky was great on this day, nice and dark, but with the falls illuminated nicely, so the contrast is perfect too. Another great visit to these beautiful falls.

With Reykjavik as our base for the last day of shooting on October 2, we drove north, to the spectacular Hraunfossar falls (below). We added this last day for this year based on Tim’s recommendation, so I’d not visited them yet, but was really pleased that we did add this.

Hraunfossar (Falls)

Hraunfossar (Falls)

The falls are not high, but expansive. You could literally shoot for an entire day here, and not run out of angles and ways to pick out details. Here I was using my 24-70mm lens at 55mm, but other times I went really wide, and I also used my 70-200mm for a more intimate view a number of times too. As I mentioned before as well, I had not expected to see this fall colour in Iceland this year, but it was really nice to get this, adding some splashes of colour to some of our scenes.

Barnafoss

Barnafoss

A few minutes walk up from the Hraunfossar falls are the dramatic Barnafoss falls (below). As you can see, the water is gushing through the ravine with great energy. There’s even a point just above the centre of this photo where the water is forced through a hole in the rock, which seems to cause even more turbulence.

I chose a shutter speed of 0.4 seconds for this shot, to record a bit of movement in the water, but also so that I’d maintain some of the texture as well. I think this helps to accentuate the movement and force of the water pretty well.

I processed this in Color Efex Pro, to bring out the texture in both the rock and water, and I actually quite like the little splash of colour from the flowers on the rock in the right foreground there too.

We went back to Reykjavik for one last wonderful meal as a group that evening, and that concludes this travelogue series, but no MBP Tour is really finished, until we hear a comment from each of the participants. I recorded this on the bus as we headed back to Reykjavik.

[List to the Podcast to hear the participant comments.]

Iceland 2015

OK, so that’s it! Before we close, just a quick reminder that we are now taking bookings for the 2015 Iceland Tour & Workshop, so if you’re interested, do check that out at https://mbp.ac/iceland2015. It’s an amazing tour if you can make it, so I hope to see you there!

Iceland Tour & Workshop 2015

 


Show Notes

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

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 3 (Podcast 445)

Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 445)

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.

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

We pick up the trail on September 27, day 6 of the tour, as we drive out to the Seljalandsfoss (Falls) where we would change buses for one that could ford bigger rivers than our bus, and drive into the valley at Thorsmork (Þórsmörk).

Of course, we ensured that we had some time to shoot the falls before driving into Thorsmork, and here is a photo of the falls to kick off this episode.

As you can see from the perspective that this image was shot from, you can actually walk up and behind the falls. Once again though, this comes with its own challenges, as you are basically being rained on most of the time as you shoot.

As I mentioned last week, although I generally advise people to use a rocket blower to blow away light rain or spray from the front of the lens, when it gets this wet, you just have to keep wiping the front of the lens. Rather than turning the camera away from the spray here though, I got my composition set while getting spray on the lens, then wiped it, covered the front of the lens with a cloth, and then started my 2 second timer before removing the cloth a split second before the exposure was made.

Again, because the wind is constantly causing the streams of water to register differently in your image, and because the sky is constantly changing too, I like to make at least three or four frames to give me some choice in a situation like this. The exposure here was 0.4 seconds at f/18, a little smaller aperture than I like to go, but the sky was bright and I was using an ND8, three stop neutral density filter if I recall. Had I changed to my ND400, I would have needed to increase the ISO to get a good shutter speed, so I opted for the smaller aperture with the ND8.

As an aside, people often ask why I don’t use a Variable ND filter, and I actually have one, but I stopped using it pretty much as soon as I bought it, because with wide angle lenses like this, the just don’t work. As you dial them down trying to get any real darkness out of them, they create a nasty black cross over the entire image. Plus, it’s more difficult to calculate long exposures, because you can’t actually dial-in an exact number of stops, so you end up shooting more trial and error shots, and with long exposures that wastes too much time.

Anyway, we headed in to Thorsmork after this, and although the valley is absolutely stunning, I really didn’t get anything that I can share with you. The fall color was beautiful, but just didn’t really work for me.  It’s a beautiful drive though, and I really enjoyed the day, as we forded river after river.

Here’s one shot (below) as we stopped on our way back out of the valley, and this to me is just typical of the terrain that you see across most of Iceland. Moss covered mountains and valleys, with the black volcanic pebbles, and babbling brooks.

A Valley in Thorsmork (Þórsmörk)

A Valley in Thorsmork (Þórsmörk)

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

This was a 1.3 second exposure at f/14, to make the water nice and silky, and I took this into Color Efex Pro to bring out some of the texture and enhance the greens. I often use the Foliage filter in Color Efex to make the moss look as vibrant as it really is in Iceland. As good as our cameras are now, they still don’t quite capture those bright vibrant greens as well as they appear to us in the field.

Because we had to change buses at a certain time when leaving Seljalandsfoss (Falls) earlier in the day, I ensured that we had a little more time after leaving Thorsmork, to shoot them again.

Here’s a shot very similar to the one I made here last year, but I really like the way the wind is catching the water this year, making the streams of water bend a little as they fall, and again, I processed this very dark, really just leaving the water to take centre stage.

The white spots that you can see on the side of the cliff are actually birds, a type of gull I think. They’re just sitting up there, laughing at photographers and tourists standing around getting wet below.

Then having switch back to our regular bus, we had a bit of a drive over to the town of Vik, where you might remember I made a photo of a beautiful little white church up in the mountains behind the town last year. We all shot that again but the light didn’t quite catch it the same as last year, so that’s still my winning shot of the church.

We spent the night in a hotel overlooking the bay, and then the following morning went down to the beach to photograph the sea-stacks and the basalt cave, that you might remember from last year too.

Here’s a view (below) from the same location looking in the opposite direction down the beach. As you can see the waves were high, causing a lot of spray, almost like mist, which I really like. As Jay Maisel says, “Never trust air you can’t see”, although I think he used that phrase with a slightly different meaning. 🙂

Beach Near Vik

Beach Near Vik

The black beaches here in Iceland really appeal to me, and work very well with the white waves like this. This was a 1/40 of a second exposure, again f/14, so there’s just enough movement in the water to give it a bit of dynamism, but not enough for a long exposure silky feel to the water.

The view to my left as I stood at this spot though, was these monumental sea stacks. I recognised these instantly in one of the closing scenes from the new Noah movie with Russell Crowe, which I watched on the plane on the way over to Iceland. I won’t go into detail though, or I’ll spoil the movie, although I imagine most of you already know the story.

Vik Sea Stacks

Vik Sea Stacks

This was a 1/100 second exposure again at f/14, as there was a lot of spray on the waves, which I wanted to freeze just a little bit more. If you click on these images on the blog to view at their full size, for the web that is, you’ll see that the sky is just teaming with birds.

I actually did a few long exposures here, but they all looked like a child had scribbled all over them with a pencil, and that was of course the birds flying around the sky! I ended up not using the long exposure shots, but because of that, I was doubly pleased that I did some normal exposure shots too, or it would have been a waste of these beautiful waves.

Here’s a wider shot too (below) with the light catching the water left from the waves on the beach, and some beautiful rays radiating out of the low sun through the clouds. Again the sky is just full of birds, and this is another shot that I can’t wait to make some time to print. This will love incredible on Breathing Color’s Vibrance Metallic, I’m sure.

Basalt Cliffs and Sea Stacks

Basalt Cliffs and Sea Stacks

Scenes like this had me shooting like crazy for the entire time we were at this beach. I recommended that the group also go into the basalt cave that is actually on the left in this shot (above) but I didn’t go in there this year. I regretted that decision later of course as I saw some photos from the rest of the group. It’s always wonderful to see what everyone captures as we travel, and see the wide range of images, some that make it hard to believe we were in the same place at the same time, but this feeds our creativity, and one of the best things in my mind about joining tours like this.

After spending a number of hours on the beach, we had to leave for a longish drive over to Jökulsárlón, the lagoon with icebergs and ice on the beach, where we’d spend a full three days. Weather-wise, this day was probably the best we had. Not necessarily the best for photography, because I prefer my dramatic Icelandic skies, but as you can see in this next shot, we just had to stop the bus and all file out to make some images of these beautiful reflections (below).

Mirrored Monument

Mirrored Monument

I shot this at 19mm with my 16-35mm lens, trying to get as much reflection in as possible. It was actually really difficult to get a good reflection without getting your own shadow in the frame, because the sun was directly behind us. Some people lay down to avoid this, some people did fun self-portrait shadow style images. I used a remote release and knelt down so that my shadow was not in the shot, but this did leave my camera’s shadow in the frame, which I removed in Photoshop with content aware fill later.

When we arrived at Jökulsárlón in the afternoon, the sky was still clear which causes a lot of contrast, and is really not ideal, but staying with the reflection theme, here’s a shot of some of the icebergs in the lagoon (below). It’s always fun just spending time trying to isolate small parts of the scene that we find interested.

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Reflection

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Reflection

Over the three days that we visited this lagoon and the nearby beach with ice, amongst the group that vertical structure to the left of the frame became affectionately known at “The Cathedral”. It’s amazing how much these icebergs move around as well. After a zodiac ride in the lagoon on our last day here, The Cathedral was in a totally different location to this.

After a few hours photographing the icebergs, we went out on the beach just outside the lagoon, where ice washes up and gets left on the beach during high tides, making for wonderful photographic subjects. Here’s one example (below) of the sort of fun we have with these “growlers” on the beach. In technical terms, a growler is an piece of iceberg about as big as a car. They’re called growlers because they make a growling sound as they rumble and roll along the hull of a ship when you run into them.

Beached Growlers at Jökulsárlón

Beached Growlers at Jökulsárlón

Here you can see that I aligned the sun with the edge of the ice to form that starburst effect, just adding an additional element of interest to the shot. This is a long exposure at 15 seconds, so that the bit of water that is visible between the ice is smoothed over a little.

It was a wonderful afternoon, despite the weather :), and the group got some incredible photos of both the lagoon and the ice on the beach here. To close today, with our tenth shot for this episode, here’s a simple detail shot from this afternoon. One thing the bright sunlight is good for, is illuminating the ice to the point that you can actually see the light coming through it. Here I included a line of the black pebbles that the ice was sitting on, to give us an idea of the environment in a semi-abstract image.

Ice and Pebbles

Ice and Pebbles

OK, so we’ll wrap up there for today, and I’ll see you back in the lagoon at the start September 29, our second day there, when we return with the final episode in these travelogue series next week.

Iceland 2015

Reminder that we are now taking bookings for the 2015 Iceland Tour & Workshop, so if you’re interested, do check that out at https://mbp.ac/iceland2015. It’s an amazing tour if you can make it, so I hope to see you there!

Iceland Tour & Workshop 2015


Show Notes

Iceland Tour & Workshop 2015: 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).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


Antarctica and South Georgia 2012 (Video – Podcast 367)

Antarctica and South Georgia 2012 (Video – Podcast 367)

For this week’s Podcast episode, here’s a slideshow of images from three consecutive expeditions to Antarctica and South Georgia, in Nov-Dec 2012, while working with Aurora Expeditions. Grab a coffee, kick up your feet, and make sure you have audio turned up. Once you’ve watched this, I try to answer some of the questions you might have below.

Oh, and this is full 1080p HD video, so if you have enough bandwidth, hit the cog wheel and make sure you’re watching the highest quality, and go full screen. The usual Podcast feed will download an iPhone optimized version via iTunes if you are subscribed.

First off, before anyone asks, no, there was no ice in the sea on the way to South Georgia, this was my artistic license. The initial footage of us breaking through sea ice was shot in Antarctica a few weeks into the expeditions.

The big blue ship that appears at around six minutes is the Polar Pioneer, the ice strengthened Russian vessel that was home for the five weeks I spent on these expeditions. It wasn’t the first time I’d traveled in her, and it won’t be the last. She’s a beautiful ship, full of character and fond memories.

What was my role on board? I was running the Photography Option, with a group of 10 to 12 photographers on each voyage. We did lectures while on board, and travelled in the same Zodiac so that A) we could spend more time photographing than other Zodiacs, and I could work with the group to help them with their photography, and B) so we didn’t annoy the hell out of normal passengers, that don’t typically use such long lenses and spend so much time on their photographs.

Why did I make a point of calling out “The Albatross” at Cape Horn? Here’s what’s inscribed on a monument down there:

“I, the albatross that awaits for you at the end of the world… I, the forgotten soul of the sailors lost that crossed Cape Horn from all the seas of the world. But die they did not in the fierce waves, for today towards eternity in my wings they soar in the last crevice of the Antarctic winds” – Sara Vial

Why did I include the shot of the dead elephant seal? Well, that’s life! Or death… I deliberated on this one, and I apologize if it shocked you, but these things happen. The first time we visited Elephant Island as we left the Antarctic Peninsula on the way back to Ushuaia, there were many baby elephant seals, maybe four or five weeks old, stuck in holes were they’d dropped through the snow, and couldn’t get out. We made a decision to help them, and released about 10 to 15, which hopefully lived. When we went back a second time, there were circles of dead pups, that had obviously dropped through the ice again, but no-one was there to help them this time. It’s saddening, even heart-breaking to see, but it happens all the time, and I felt fortunate to have witnessed this harsh truth, so I left this shot in.

The two shots after the dead seal are boilers or storage for whale blubber, at Deception Island. Something that we should not be proud of, but again, these are a legacy that we cannot ignore. There are a few shots earlier than that of wrecked ships. These are also old whalers that were run aground when they were no longer needed. It was apparently less expensive to just leave them down there than sail them back to their base countries to be broken down.

How did I get the end roll video? I lay on the anchor box at the front of the Zodiac, as expedition leader Don McFadzien navigated deftly around the sea ice. The resulting footage was bumpy as hell, as we roll over chunks of ice, but I stabilized the footage in Adobe After Effects, and the result looked almost as though we were flying over the surface of the sea, rather than sailing, that’s all.

What software did I use to create the slideshow? I used Boinx Software’s Fotomagico 4.2.1 to create the bulk of the slideshow, but although it’s easy to set out the slides and manipulate the animation/zoom effects, I can’t recommend this software to anyone, at all. It crashed constantly on my MacBook Pro Retina, and if I hadn’t invested so much time to begin with, I’m sure it would have been quicker in the end to just do the whole thing in Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro. I created the end credit roll in Premiere Pro, because there’s no way to do that kind of scrolling credit easily in Fotomagico. Also, aligning audio in Fotomagico is like pulling teeth. Very tedious and painful. Unless you want just a very quick simple slideshow, look for other software. [UPDATE: Boinx Software just released a free app called SandboxCleaner that they say will prevent FotoMagico and other video and photo related software from crashing. I’ll use FotoMagico again soon and update you if it appears to work. Fingers crossed!]

Can I buy any of the images in the slideshow? Of course! For commercial use, go to www.offset.com and search for “artist: Martin Bailey”. For now, you’ll have to request an invitation, as the service is not fully public yet, but once you are in, you can buy and use these images commercially at a very reasonable price point. For prints, I’ve also just updated my Portfolios site, with 100 of these photos available for viewing at your own pace, and I’ve added these image for print sale here, under Antarctica. In the meantime, if there is an image that you would like a print of, but can’t find, just contact me with the time that the image appears in the video, and a brief description, and I’ll get back to you.

Am I doing any more Photography Expeditions to Antarctica? You bet, but nothing I can talk about right now. Subscribe to our Tour & Workshop Newsletter to receive information as it’s released. We will never spam you or share your information with third parties.