Iceland Full Circle Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue 1 (Podcast 543)

Iceland Full Circle Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue 1 (Podcast 543)

Today we start a series of travelogue style episodes to walk you through my recent Iceland Full Circle Photography Tour and Workshop.

Before we start, I want to just mention that I will interrupt this series, probably next week, to bring you a video showing how I’m processing my images now in Capture One Pro. I was hoping to do that this week, but have been too busy, so we’ll start this series, but jump in with the video then continue the series after that.

Now in it’s fourth year, this year’s Iceland tour was another wonderful, memorable experience, with a great group of participants. We changed the itinerary for this year, to take the group full circle, enabling us to pull in some of the beautiful waterfalls in the North, and we’ll look at some photos of these falls in a later episode.

Very Productive Trip

I shot a total of 1991 images during the 11 days of shooting in Iceland. During the few hours of downtime that we had here and there, I was able to go through and do a quick edit and initial selection of my images for all but the last day, which I completed after I returned to Japan. After my initial selection process I had some 538 photos that I wanted to look at again. That’s more than one in four images, and a higher ratio than I’m used to selecting. It’s not that the images were necessarily better than usual. It was just a very productive trip.

Also, many of the images were variations of ice on the beach with crashing waves or iceberg photos from a zodiac, which generally require a large number of frames to find something that works well. Still, I had to invest the time to go through and whittle my selection down to as few images as possible, and it was relatively time consuming this time, especially when we consider that this was a landscape trip.

Even though it’s been two weeks since I got home, and going through removing a few more images each day, I still have 146 images in my current selection, and I can’t see myself removing many more at this point. It’s a nice problem to have of course, but now I have the job of going through and promoting the better of the set to identify the images that I want to proactively share with people, and also find the portfolio class images.

Bonus Day in Reykjavik

As usual, we did a bonus photo walk on the first day, for people that were already in town, and visited the large church in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja. Unfortunately the outside view was a bit of a mess due to some construction work that they were having done, so I won’t share any images. We continued on along the main road in Reykjavik, and down to the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center on the water front.

I really enjoy shooting in the Harpa, with all of its colored windows and intertwined floors, but I rarely like my photos from the inside of the building enough to share them. Here is one of the outside of the Harpa building, from the other side of the small harbor out back (below).

Harpa Building and Harbor

Harpa Building and Harbor

As you can see, we had a great sky, although I have brought that out some in Capture One. The original image was a little bit flatter than this, although there are only a few slider tweaks between this and the original. The Harpa is an amazing building though. I really enjoy my yearly visit.

Öxarárfoss Waterfall

To make time to go up north, we dropped the days that we used to spend around Reykjavik, and the Reykjanes Peninsula, and headed out of Reyjkjavik the morning after this bonus day, once all of the group was in town. Our first stop was Thingvillir, and the Öxarárfoss waterfall.

Öxarárfoss

Öxarárfoss

Apparently it’s been a relatively dry summer in Iceland, so the water level wasn’t very high, and the rocks were mostly quite dry, which I don’t really like. This location is much better when the rock is all deep black and shiny, but we have to work with what we’re presented.

I also much prefer to photograph waterfalls when it’s overcast, as they are too contrasty in direct sunlight, but again, we do what we can. The result is an OK photo, but nothing to write home about. Although I would have done this black and white conversion in Silver Efex Pro in the past, this one is straight out of Capture One Pro.

Geysir

After Öxarárfoss we headed on to Geysir, the geyser from which the west got our name for these natural phenomenon. I decided to first go for a shot of the water bulging, as the eruption starts, and although I had to crop it down considerably on the top to remove the people in the background, I’m pretty happy with the results (below).

Geysir Bulging

Geysir Bulging

With the bright sun directly behind the water, I was able to get a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second at f/10, ISO 100, so this pretty much froze the movement of the water as the bulge started to develop. I really like how you can see into the water to see the right ridge of the hole from which the water erupts, and see all of the bubbles under the surface.

Geysir Erupting

Geysir Erupting

A few minutes after this, I photographed the eruption itself, as we can see in this image (right).

From the same location as the previous image, the sun was right behind the water for this shot, so all of the water is beautifully backlit, showing all of the texture and various layers of the water.

Still at a 1/1000 of a second shutter speed at f/10, ISO 100, the droplets of water are all perfectly frozen in time.

The fast shutter speed also meant that the blue in the sky went really deep. I’m not a fan of blue skies, but here, I think it makes a nice contrast.

I haven’t bothered to clone out the few people in the image. I might do that later before I submit this to OFFSET for my stock photography collection, but for now, this is just a documentary shot to show you where we were and what we were photographing.

After Geysir, we continued on our somewhat touristy Golden Circle tour, and made our way to Gullfoss. When we first arrived, the falls were still in full sun, but luckily we had a great sky roll in just as we started to get into position to shoot the falls.

Gullfoss

I know this is kind of repetitive, but I couldn’t resist making my favorite photograph from this spot, looking down the gorge, as we can see in this image (below/right).

Gullfoss Falls and Gorge

Gullfoss Falls and Gorge

I’m happy to have been able to make this new version of this photograph, because of that great sky. It’s probably the best bit of sky I’ve had for this photograph, so a nice addition to my image library.

Again, this is a Capture One Pro black and white conversion. I’ll try to remember to show you what I did to this image in the upcoming processing video, but I’ll quickly summarize here.

I turned on the Enable Black and White checkbox in the Black and White tool panel, obviously, and reduced the yellow slider to -80. This deepens the greens, as I wanted the foreground grass to be really dark.

Then in the High Dynamic Range tool panel, I increased the Highlight slider to 45, and the Shadow slider to 20. Under Levels, I moved my mid-point to -0.10 and my white point to 250.

In the Luma Curve I also deepened the shadows a little and brightened the mid-tones, which is the water. I know I increased the Shadow slider in the High Dynamic Range tool as well, which may seem counterintuitive, but I like the finished look, so I’m not worrying about that too much.

Then I added 35 Clarity, set to Punch mode, and 23 Structure. These are all generic changes, that modify the look of the entire image. I went on to add an Adjustment layer to darken down the two triangular shaped sides of the foreground, and also cloned out some bits of grass and rocks in the foreground that stood out a little bit too much.

Time-wise, these modifications took perhaps a couple of minutes, which is about the same amount of time that I would have spent on this image in Silver Efex and Lightroom in the past. I haven’t been quite as heavy handed with the darkness of these dark areas as before. I am using the Exposure Warnings in Capture One to show me when I’m going to full black, and pulling that back again, to maintain a little bit of detail as I plug up that foreground, and this is working well for me.

The Highlands

That took us to the end of the shooting for day one, and we then drove to our next hotel in the highlands, for a nice early start the following day heading into one of my favorite locations on the planet, Landmannalaugar.

On the way, we stopped at the Blahylur crater lake, of which I got some nice shots, but wanted to share a view from that location in a different direction, as I’d photographed these beautiful ringed hills in the distance. I’ve photographed these each year so far, but never really liked the results, because the light wasn’t quite right. Today, it was working, so I’m happy with this photo (below).

Ringed Mountains

Ringed Mountains

I love how the layers of strata are visible in these hills, as they look almost like a topographical map of themselves. The moss and lose volcanic gravel add to the effect, and the colorful mountains in the distance doing a great job as supporting actors. To isolate this scene, I used my 100-400mm lens at 255mm, with a 1/30 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100.

Landmannalaugar

A little further along the road, we reached our destination, the carpark at Landmannalaugar, and walked up onto the lava shelf, and across to the valley that you can see in this photo (below). I tell myself each year, that this place is just a little bit closer to heaven than most parts of the planet, speaking metaphorically of course.

Landmannalaugar Winding River

Landmannalaugar Winding River

I did my usual valley shots, and my self-portrait with me looking out across the valley, but I thought I’d share this shot, as it’s a little bit different from my previous work. I used my 11-24mm lens at 21 mm, pointing down into the valley, to show the river winding through it. At 21 mm the rhyolite mountains are still large enough to add impact to the shot, as well as allowing us to see the valley basin with the various shades of grass and cotton grass, as well as a few strategically placed sheep.

After spending quite a while photographing the valley, we walked around the edge of the lava shelf, then back up over it, before heading into the mountains, where I shot this next image (below). I love this view too, with the lava shelf in the middle ground, way in the distance you can see the valley where we had parked our bus, and then this foreground with the moss and steam, almost makes it look like the mountain is alive and breathing. I guess in some ways, because of the geothermal activity, the mountain is alive.

Breathing Mountains

Breathing Mountains

We had a great sky on this day too. The light was similar to that which we’d had on my first visit to this place, four years ago. It was simply magical. I used to run my photos from this location through Color Efex Pro to bring the greens and other colors back to how I remembered and felt the location, but here too, I’m now just tweaking these images in Capture One Pro. I love being able to keep my images in their original raw format and get exactly the look I want.

Rhyolite Mountains

Rhyolite Mountains

After climbing a little further, we got to a point where you can see this incredible view, looking through the rhyolite mountains (right).

This spot is difficult to shoot and really do justice, because you can’t quite get a good angle without getting the base of the mountain that you are standing on in the bottom of the frame, but it works well enough.

Again, the colors are enhanced slightly in Capture One, but only by tweaking the Saturation and Clarity, and moving the white point a little bit in the Levels.

I had exposed for the clouds in this shot, at the top of the frame, so the foreground was relatively dark. To bring the detail out, I pumped up both the Highlight and Shadows sliders in the Hight Dynamic Range tool. This works really well, so I was able to continue to avoid doing any HDR images throughout this trip.

I also wanted to note that I can’t look at this image without seeing a koala bear’s face in that snow at the top of the frame. Can you see what I mean? There’s his left eye and nose, and the right eye is covered by that peak.

After this, we walked back across part of the lava shelf, then down beside the river, back to our bus, to drive to our hotel for the night.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

The following day, we made tracks along the southern coast of Iceland, until we got to one of my favorite waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss, that we can see in this photograph (right).

There was a good breeze, so the tendrils of water are blowing around, seemingly quite frail, as they make their way to the basin at the base of the falls.

Again a Capture One black and white conversion here, I have continued with my tendency to make the rocks of the cliff walls really dark, accentuating just the form of the falling water.

I also stayed in Capture One to clone out the hordes of people behind the falls. And I cloned out the little island of grass that was in ton our he water, taking up most of the left side of the basin of the falls here.

It sometimes requires a little more work to do this in Capture One, but I learned of a shortcut from Phase One’s David Grover recently, that really speeds up the process, so I’ll share that in my upcoming processing video as well.

After this we drove 15 minutes around the corner to Skogafoss, absolutely my favorite waterfall in Iceland, but we’ll take a look at a shot from there at the start of part two of this series, as this takes to us our tenth image for today.

Iceland & Greenland 2017

With that, I’d usually just point you to my 2017 tour page if you might be thinking of joining us, but I’m actually considering totally changing next year’s tour. Last week I floated the possibility of doing another Greenland tour in 2017 and/or 2018, and I had a pretty good response, but not many people want to travel this far for just one week in Greenland, so I’m considering coupling it with a second week in Iceland.

Adding a week in Iceland will obviously add quite a lot of money, especially as the prices in Iceland are going through the roof right now, but I do think it will be an incredibly productive two weeks, so what I’m going to suggest right now, is if you think you might be interested, just drop me a line to let me know, and I’ll keep you in the loop.

 


Show Notes

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 492)

Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 492)

Hot off the heals of my Iceland 2015 Tour, we continue today with part two of a four part series of travelogues to walk you through a total of 40 images selected from my 70 final images from the tour.

We pick up the trail on September 25, as we headed into the Highlands, and on to Landmannalaugar. Let’s start with this image with me included (below), which I shot mainly to send to my friends at Gura Gear to show their Bataflae 18L camera backpack in this beautiful location. But, as I’ve mentioned in the past, sometimes I think adding a human figure can increase the impact of a landscape photograph like this, because it gives us a way to imagine ourselves on that rock looking out across the land.

Martin in Landmannalaugar

Martin in Landmannalaugar

This location is on the west side of a lava shelf that we walked across to get to this point, and would go on to circumnavigate, as we’ll see in the next few images as well. I think there are some places on earth that are closer to heaven than others, and Landmannalaugar is definitely one of them. We had great weather, with sun breaking through occasionally, illuminating the valley, but also giving us a great sky for many of the images.

I shot this photo (above) at f/14 for a 1/60 of a second at ISO 100, with a focal length of 35mm. For the next photo though (below), I switched to my 11-24mm lens and shot it at 12mm to accentuate the sky. I’m including this image to make a point which I’ve talked about many times before, as I think this is a good example.

Landmannalaugar Wide

Landmannalaugar Wide

When we approach a scene, we start to scan the environment and see many things that we find beautiful, but if we reach for a wide angle lens and try to include them all, each individual component of the seen becomes quite small in the frame. Although it was still relatively wide at 35mm, note how the previous photo really shows us the mountains on the other side of the valley, and yet in this much wider image, those mountains are just a tiny, almost insignificant part of the distant scene, in the bottom centre of the image.

I like this shot for what it is. It was more about the sky and the mountains play only a supporting role, but this does show how small the elements that excite us can become if you reach for a wide angle lens instead of zooming in a little to capture the details that are what we are really excited about. Taken further, I often recommend that people also take out a much longer lens, like a 70-200mm and really zoom in on the details. Although the sweeping vista is a lovely photo, you only need to include as much as necessary to show the impact of the location. If you go too wide and try to include everything that has caught your eye, each one of those elements can fade into insignificance.

In this next image (below), I photographed the cotton grass reflected in a tiny pool at the edge of the valley just below the lava shelf. You might have noticed the stream that runs through the valley in the earlier photos, and I wanted to point out that this is not that. Running water in a stream doesn’t really work for this kind of image, because the texture in the surface gets in the way. It has to be still water, and on a relatively windless day for this to work. You can see some distortion in the reflected mountain, which comes from ripples in the water caused by the breeze that we had. If there was no breeze, this would have been a mirror-like reflection, but I still quite like this.

Landmannalaugar with Cotton Grass Reflection

Landmannalaugar with Cotton Grass Reflection

I shot this at 55mm with my 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, but I experimented a fair amount with focal lengths here, trying to get enough depth of field to get both the foreground cotton grass and the distant mountains sharp. Because the depth of field in our photos gets shallower as we zoom in, I found that here 55mm was the limit of how close I could go and still get the mountains sharp enough to be able to use the photo.

Afterwards, I switched to my 100-400mm lens to get in closer, because I wanted to stitch multiple images together to get this wide panoramic view, but the depth of field was too shallow, so I didn’t select any of those images. This is a crop from a single frame from my Canon EOS 5Ds R.

I also shot a few pairs of images, where I focussed on the cotton grass first, then focussed on the distant mountains for a second frame, and I might focus stack them later, but I also like the framing of this image too, so this became my pick.

After spending a fair amount of time at the west side of the lava shelf, we walked south, to the fumaroles spewing steam and gas from what’s left of the volcano, and then continued south to a point that I’d not visited before. Most of the group seemed to have enough energy left, so my partner for this trip Tim Vollmer showed us another location that we’d not visited on previous trips.

We walked up a into the beautiful coloured mountains, similar to those that we saw on the other side of the valley in the first few images. In this first image from this point (below), I was looking back towards where some of the group still were. If you click on the image and view it at full (web) size, you can probably make out a few people on the ridge on the right side of the image.

Lake near Landmannalaugar

Lake near Landmannalaugar

From where I was standing for this image, I turned around and in the other direction could see the following scene (below). I have to tell you, this photo really doesn’t do the location justice, but you can probably make out all of the beautiful colours in the mountains. I was amazed to see blue in there too. One of our participants this year was a geologist, and he explained that these various colours are caused by traces of iron, that create different colours based on how long it takes that layer of the earth to cool during it’s formation, or something like that.

Colored Mountains Near Landmannalaugar

Colored Mountains Near Landmannalaugar

I shot this at f/14, for 1/40 of a second at ISO 400. As I mentioned last week, although I was using a tripod, I decided to increase the ISO instead of going for a longer shutter speed, because there was a fair breeze coming up the side of the mountain, and it could have caused camera shake as the gusts caught the camera.

I proceeded to walk along a second ridge, almost at right angles to the last camera position, to get a view straight down the valley with these beautiful coloured mountains, as we can see in this next photograph (below). Again, I’m not entirely happy with this, because I didn’t capture the full beauty of this place. It was absolutely breath taking to stand in this environment, but being there, we were too close to it to really show the entire scene with any success.

Colored Mountains Near Landmannalaugar

Colored Mountains Near Landmannalaugar

I also switched to my 11-24mm at this spot, and went even wider, but the mountains just continue to get smaller, and it’s all lost, so those images didn’t make my final selection. I think this is a case of needing to distance myself emotionally from the shoot, and hopefully a few months from now I’ll be able to come back to these images with fresh eyes and find a few gems that I can appreciate without the emotional connection that I still have just a few weeks after our visit.

As we started back across the lava shelf, I looked back to the area that we’d walked through, with the fumaroles spewing out steam, and grabbed this last image from this area that I’ll share today, in which we see the mountain showing all of its bands of colour. It’s my third visit to this place, and I’ve never been able to see the colours as well as this, so I couldn’t resist grabbing this shot (below).

Rainbow Colored Mountain Near Landmannalaugar

Rainbow Colored Mountain Near Landmannalaugar

I was using my 100-400mm lens, and shot this at f/16 for 1/30 of a second at ISO 400, with a focal length of 100mm. As I say, it was a bit of a grab shot as we walked, so I used the settings that I had, but I should have decreased the aperture to around f/11 and increased my shutter speed to at least 1/100 of a second and changed my ISO to 640. I’ve found that although I can hand hold the ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R, it is better not to rely on Image Stabilisation for sharp images at slow shutter speeds.

It’s better to stick with the rule of thumb to use the focal length as the minimum shutter speed, so at 100mm, I needed a shutter speed of 1/100 or faster. The result is that at 1/30 of a second, this image is just a tiny bit soft due to camera movement, but at this resolution it’s still a viable image, or it wouldn’t make my final selection.

The following morning, as we drove out of the highlands to continue on our journey, I couldn’t resist stopping the bus for the group to jump and out grab this photo of an amazing Icelandic Sky (below). The wind was pushing out strange shapes and swirls in the clouds, and although not much to look at in colour, in black and white, you can really bring out the detail, as we see here.

Icelandic Sky

Icelandic Sky

I shot this with my 11-24mm lens wide open at 11mm, with an aperture of f/5.6 and a 1/50 of a second shutter speed. Because depth of field is much deeper with wide angle lenses, it was fine to open up my aperture to f/5.6 rather than taking my ISO down past where it was at 500. In fact I could have gone wider and still been OK, because at 11mm with an aperture of f/5.6, if I focussed at just 75cm, everything from 38cm to infinity is going to be sharp anyway. 🙂

Heavy rain and high wind put a bit of a mockers on the rest of the day on September 26, but on September 27 we left the hotel before the sun came up, and headed down to the black beach to photograph Reynisdrangar, the basalt sea stacks near the town of Vik. As we can see in this image (below), there is also a cave on the beach, so I used my 11-24mm lens again at 11mm to photograph the sea stacks with the entire mouth of the cave included in the shot.

Reynisdrangar - Basalt Sea Stacks

Reynisdrangar – Basalt Sea Stacks

In the original photo, you’d think there is no detail being captured inside the cave, but you can easily bring out some of the texture in the rocks with the shadows and blacks sliders in Lightroom, or in this case, with Silver Efex Pro as I converted this to black and white. Again though, the wider you go, the more insignificant the import elements of the scene get, and the sea stacks are also distorted by the wide angle, so this is more a photo of the mouth of the cave with the scene than it is of the scene itself.

By the time we left the beach to go back to the hotel for breakfast, the sun was getting quite high in the sky, causing beautiful rays to shine down through the cloud, so I shot this last image (below) before heading back to the bus. This was shot at f/14 for a 1/400 of a second at ISO 100, at 61mm. I have continued to be torn between this and the black and white version, because it’s kind of hard for me to throw out the warm colour of the sunlight in this image. I’m keeping both in my final selection for now. 🙂

Reynisdrangar from Cave

Reynisdrangar from Cave

OK, so that’s our 10 photos for today. We’ll pick up the trail next week after breakfast on September 27, as we make a stop in the town of Vik before heading on to Jökulsárlón, the glacial lagoon that we’ll look at for the rest of part three of this photo-travelogue.

Greenland 2016

We now have just one place left open on our 2016 Iceland Full Circle Tour, so if you are interested, please visit the tour page at mbp.ac/iceland2016. Before we finish though, I also wanted to mention that I have teamed up with Tim Vollmer for another tour in 2016 to Greenland, that promises to be pretty amazing!

We’ll be visiting the eastern side of Greenland with fjords and beautiful scenery, with glaciers and huge icebergs which we’ll explore from boats and helicopters, and we’ll be on land, 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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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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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

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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