Today I share with you the third in our four part series of travelogue style episodes to walk you through ten more images from my recent Iceland Full Circle Tour and Workshop.
We pick up the trail after lunch on September 10, 2016. In the morning, I’d been photographing on the west side of the channel, through which water from the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon flows, but this first photo (below) from the afternoon session was from the east side, or the left, as you look out from the lagoon.
I love the color in the ice that washes up on this beach from the glacier. We literally can spend an entire afternoon just photographing a relatively short stretch of beach, and continue to find compositions that work. Here I was waiting for the waves to crash bigger than average, and I was also conscious of the waves rolling in as well, trying to get a good combination of both. The sky was great on this afternoon too.
I set up my camera on a tripod, as I often do, and carefully positioned the left edge of the frame just to the left of the end of the ice. When composing shots like this, I’m also very conscious of where the chunks of ice fall in the frame. I’ll move around and find an angle and focal length that enables me to compose the shot without a chunk of ice being cut off by the edge of the frame.
When there is this much ice strewn around, there will often be a few small chunks that are cut off, but I’m fine with cloning those out. I just don’t want to be messing with large chunks. I generally allow myself to clone things out that I was aware of in the field. If I get home and find something annoying sticking in the edge of the frame that I didn’t even see, I abandon the shot. Over-kill, you may think, but this is how I’ve trained myself to be very careful with how I compose my photographs.
I shot this image with my 24-70mm lens at 24mm, with a shutter speed of a 1/50 of a second at f/14, ISO 100. I also used my cable release, without a timer, so that I could release the shutter at the optimal moment as the waves crashed.
For this next shot, it’s obviously not possible to avoid cutting off the large chunks of ice, as I was square on, and there were no gaps, so in these circumstances I start to look for the best place to cut off the ice, and that results in this composition for this scene (below).
Again I was using my cable release to release the shutter at the best moment for the waves. I actually speeded up my shutter speed a little to 1/200 of a second for this, and increased my ISO to 400 as well, to counter that change. Basically I increased the shutter speed by two stop, going from 1/50 to 1/200 and that means two stops less light would get into the camera, so increasing the sensitivity of the sensor by two stops gives me exactly the same exposure as the previous image with a faster shutter speed.
The reason I speed up the shutter speed was because I was now closer to the waves, and wanted to freeze the movement just a little bit more than a 1/50 of a second would. Note too that I also considered lowering my tripod a little, so that the waves reached further up into the sky, making them look bigger, but that also reduced the amount of sea and distant waves in the shot, and I didn’t want that, so I stuck with my tripod height.
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
After spending most of the afternoon on the beach, I walked back up into the glacial lagoon, and did a few more shots, like this one (below). This was a 20 second exposure using my new 10 stop 4X neutral density filter from Breakthrough Photography.
Looking Forward to the 24-105mm Mark II Lens!
I bought this particular filter a number of months before the trip, and was so happy with the images from this filter, when I got home, I bought five more filters from Breakthrough Photography. My 24-70mm lens has an 82mm filter thread, but I’m currently eagerly awaiting my new Canon 24-105mm f/4 Mark II lens, that is expected to go on sale this week (Nov, 2016).
I have bought a UV protector filter for it, as well as the Breakthrough Photography Circular Polarizer, and their 3 stop, 6 stop and 10 stop neutral density filters. This means that I’m now fully kitted out for the new 24-105 lens, and I can use these filters on my 100-400mm lens too, which is means I actually don’t need to carry my 82mm filters around with me any more.
I’m not going to sell the 24-70mm just yet, as this is a beautiful lens and I may still need the f/2.8 aperture, which is the main reason I sold my old Mark I 24-105mm lens years back. The reason I’ve been waiting for this Mark II version of the 24-105mm is because I am now shooting with my 100-400mm lens rather than my old 70-200mm, because of the extra reach and great sharpness.
I’ve never been happier with my kit, traveling most of the time now with my 11-24mm, the 24-70mm and the 100-400mm lenses. But of course, that leaves me with a 30mm gap between 70 and 100mm, and that’s where the 24-105mm lens comes in. I have made it work with that gap, but there has been times, lots of times, when somewhere between the two lenses would have been better.
Zooming With Your Feet Can Get You Killed!
If you are listening right now thinking that popular mantra “zoom with your feet” then just stop. There are plenty of places where that just isn’t possible without falling off a cliff or otherwise maiming yourself, and when possible, I don’t want to crop down a wider shot either, so the 24-105mm lens is going to be a great new additional to my kit.
I actually have a rule that I try to stick to with my gear, that is, if I don’t use it for more than a year, I consider selling it. I’ve actually just sold my Canon EOS 7D Mark II camera, because I haven’t used it since the 5Ds R came out, and I sold that 70-200mm lens too, because I haven’t used that since the 100-400mm came out. Half of the money from these sales will pay for the new 24-105mm and I have the rest saved in my Map Camera point card for the next purchase, whenever that will be.
Double Rainbow Reflection
The following day, we moved on to new territory for me. I’ve perhaps been as far as this photo actually, but from this point on, we were heading north, and were going to go around the northernmost areas of Iceland that I had not taken the group to in the past. As we headed into the unknown, we couldn’t resist stopping for this rainbow (below).
It’s at times like this that I’m happy for my GoreTex lined Scarpa hiking boots, as I can just walk out into water like this to get a water filled foreground to reflect the bottom arch of this double rainbow, without getting water filled boots. I used a polarizer filter to intensify the color here. This was a fun stop, with everyone running around like crazy trying to find a good bit of water for a reflection or including the road that you can see to the left of the frame.
We spent the day driving and stopping for shots along the coast, and our last shot from this day that I wanted to share with you is this one, from a small promontory of land from which we had this view of the Teigarhorn mountain and an abandoned boat in the foreground (below).
I also did some long exposures here, but the sky didn’t look great, as the cloud cover was a little bit sporadic. I prefer heavier skies for long exposures. I like this though, with the browning autumn grass and that characteristic boat in the foreground. It’s a bit postcardy, but that’s OK sometimes.
The next day, we continued up into northern Iceland, and had some lovely shoots at a number of waterfalls. The first of which is Litlandesfoss, that you can see in this photograph (below). This is a good little hike up the hill from the road, but it was a pleasure to be shooting in an area a good distance from Reykjavik, far from the madding crowds.
As I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, I’m now processing all of my images in Phase One’s Capture One Pro, and just wanted to quickly mention that I haven’t really done a lot to these images, but am really happy with the results, after tweaking the Highlight and Shadow sliders, as well as the Levels a little, and the Luma Curve, and a little bit of Clarity and Structure to finish.
Tim Vollmer, my partner for this tour had shown me a photo from the top of the waterfall, where there is another basin in the basalt rock, but when we walked up there, it turns that that you have to be a mountain goat and totally fearless, like Tim, to get to a point where you can actually make that photograph. No one in the group, including me, was brave, or maybe stupid enough, to climb down onto the wet rocks, to get that photograph, so I’m pleased that I’m happy enough with this photo.
What!? No Name?
A little later in the day, we stopped at another similar waterfall, which as far as I can see from the map, has no name. It’s amazing to me that Iceland has so many beautiful waterfalls like this one (right) that they don’t even bother to name them all.
We spend plenty of time at these spots, so we’d photographed these falls and the river from higher up initially, and then walked down to the river, to get shots like this, with the water swirling around in the foreground.
I used my 11-24mm lens for this, at 14mm, so that I could point the lens down to get the river in like this, while still including the falls in the distance, showing us where the water had come from.
I used a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds for this shot, at f/16, ISO 100. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I had an strip of ND1.2 film in the gelatin filter holder on the back of the lens, giving me four stops of neutral density to get this exposure.
I could perhaps have gone a little bit longer, but I was also trying to maintain some of the texture in the water here, so this is my result.
This next shot is of a pretty surreal landscape as we made our way to our next location. We were told that NASA did some testing of the moon buggy out here, although I don’t know if that’s true or not. Regardless, I love this almost otherworldly landscape, made even more eery by the low cloud (below).
I cut this down to a 16:9 aspect ratio, because there was a bit too much sky, but I quite like this letterbox look for some photos, and of course it’s a great ratio for showing images on a wide screen display or TV. One change to note for this photo is that there were lots of patches of bright orange foliage in this scene, especially to the left, but rather than cloning them out, I used the Advanced Color Editor in Capture One and selected the color, then reduced it’s Lightness and Saturation, to make the orange less prominent.
We continue with the otherworldly theme, with this somewhat apocalyptic scene at Namaskarth (below) the following morning. This reminded me a lot of Sulphur Mountain, that we visit on my Japan Winter Wildlife tours, but this place covers a much wider area.
I generally wait for people to leave the scene in landscape shots before releasing the shutter, but this is one of those times when I think the people add interest. I waited for the person on the far right to walk in front of that billowing fumarole, but I also had a second figure walking through the steam near the middle of the frame, and I quite like both. It almost feels like they’ve just had a sinister meeting, maybe a small package was exchanged, before going their own ways.
Later in the day, we visited Dettifoss (below) accredited as being the most powerful waterfall in Europe. There is a waterfall in Norway with more water flowing, but it only falls about half the distance. Of course, you can’t tell how far the water is falling from this shot, and we were not able to get to the other side of the falls, so we’ll have to save that for a future trip.
The wind direction made the spray from the falls very difficult to work in, but I was able to get a number of shots, using my trick of keeping a cloth in front of the lens while I wipe it dry, then taking it away a split second before I release the shutter. Despite that, I was working with a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds, to enhance the silky feel of the water for this shot.
A short walk from Dettifoss, is Selfoss, a beautiful series of waterfalls, that we’ll take a look at to kick off the concluding part of this series next week.
Join us in 2017!
If you think you might like to join us for the 2017 Iceland Full Circle Tour & Workshop, from September 4 to the 15th, please do check out the details at mbp.ac/iceland. As you see, we visit some amazing locations, and have a great time.
Check out details of the 2017 Iceland Full Circle Tour Here: https://mbp.ac/iceland
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