Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 1 (Podcast 491)

Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 1 (Podcast 491)

Having just got back from my 2015 Iceland Tour, today we’re going to kick off a four part series of travelogues to walk you through a total of 40 images selected from my 70 final images from the tour.

The tour starts on Sept 21, which officially is a transfer day, just to get people into Reykjavik, but for those that are arrive early enough, we go into town for a bonus day. We start at the iconic Hallgrímskirkja Church, which can be seen at the top of the hill from many of the side streets from the Reykjavik high street. The city of Reykjavik seems to radiate out from this church (below).

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Canon EF11-24mm f/4 Lens Gelatin Filter Holder

Canon EF11-24mm f/4 Lens Gelatin Filter Holder

There were some great clouds on this day, with breaks where the sun shone through, so I used an 80 second shutter speed to enable the clouds to move a lot during the exposure. Because the new 11-24mm lens from Canon doesn’t accept the usual circular neutral density filters, I’m using Triacetyl Cellulose film cut into small squares that fit into the filter holder on the back of the lens.

For this photo I think I used the ND film with an optical density of 4.0, and that is the same as an ND 10,000X, which gives me 13.3 stops of darkness, so a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second becomes 80 seconds.

I converted this photo to black and white in Silver Efex Pro 2, as I generally do. Note that I actually darkened the front of the church a little to enhance the somewhat sinister feel that I get from this photograph. I also cloned out a large circular mirror that someone seems to have thought would be a good idea to place in front of the church this year.

After visiting the church, we walked through the town over to the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, which is a spectacular building down on the waterfront. Here we see a view from inside the building (below) with the stairs that run up one of the walls of glass. None of the walls in the Harpa are actually perfectly straight, and all of the angles seem to run off in a kind of beautiful architectural mayhem.

Inside the Harpa

Inside the Harpa

I shot this at f/11 for 1/125 of a second, at ISO 100 with a focal length of 24mm. I really like how the shadows of the window frames leave their patterns in various places around the inside of the room, and the addition of a few people at the top of the stairs helps to give us some scale and adds a little story to the photo.

From the outside it’s easier to see that some of the windows are coloured glass, seemingly positioned randomly across the building, as we see in this photo (below). At this point the heavy Icelandic sky was reflecting in the glass, adding some nice texture, and I positioned myself so that we got a clearer hint of that in the light blue window in the bottom right quadrant.

Harpa Windows

Harpa Windows

I shot this at 30mm with a shutter speed of 1/160 of a second at f/13, ISO 100 again.

Hanging Fish

Hanging Fish

As has become customary on the tour, we started the first official tour day by swinging by the fish drying frames on the way to the Reykjanes Peninsula (right).

This location obviously stinks to high heaven, but it’s fun to just walk around and pick out photos from the thousands of fish that are simply hanging their trying to dry, which must be a thankless task as it rains so much here.

As with this photo, I tend to look for eyes that haven’t yet totally glazed over, as I feel we have more of a connection with images that include eyes that we can recognise.

I shot this at f/5 with a shutter speed of 1/160 of a second at ISO 2000, because I was hand-holding my camera with a 170mm focal length.

Having shot with the Canon EOS 5Ds R for a few months now, I’m still finding that it’s absolutely not a problem to shoot hand-held, though I do try to stick to the rule of thumb of using your focal length as your minimum shutter speed, hence 1/160 of a second at 170mm.

After the fish, we headed further into the countryside, and having stopped at a few landscape locations, we arrived at the geothermal power plant that you can see in this next photo (below).

As it was on the cool side and raining, there was a lot of steam drifting across the scene between me and the power plant that we see here. I simply waited for one of the clear moments to make this photograph. It had been raining on and off all morning, and the wind was getting up as well, but I’m happy with how this photo turned out.

Geothermal Power Plant

Geothermal Power Plant

Again, I converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro to bring out the detail in the cloudy sky and separate it from the steam coming out of the plant. I shot this at f/14 with a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second at ISO 800, 120mm. I increased the ISO to 800 to get a higher shutter speed although I was using a tripod for this, because the wind was really gusting, and this could have caused camera shake without a reasonably fast shutter speed.

The following day, on September 23, we drove out, stopping at another geothermal power plant and then on to Öxarárfoss, a beautiful waterfall that we can see in this next photo (below). Here we’d climbed up on the cliff looking down on the falls, and I used my 11-24mm lens again at 17mm to accentuate the expanse of water flowing from the falls, almost letting the falls themselves step back a little into the side lines.

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

There was actually only a very slight cloud cover at this time, which isn’t great for photographing waterfalls. You really need it to be overcast for waterfalls, as this reduces the contrast in the water, making for an overall better photo. Waterfalls in full sun look terrible, but there was just about enough cloud to make this image possible. I think I was using ND film with an optical density of either 1.5 or 2.0 for this shot, for a 0.6 second exposure at f/14, ISO 100.

Close to the falls, there is a place called Silfra, which is the fissure between the North American and Eurasian continents. The plates are actually drifting apart there at a rate of 2cm per year. This photo was shot a little bit further down from the bridge where we have shot this fissure in previous years, so a slightly different view to what you might have seen from me in the past (below).

Silfra - The Fissure Between North American and Eurasian Plates

Silfra – The Fissure Between North American and Eurasian Plates

I haven’t done a lot to this image, just increased the Clarity and Vibrance a little in Lightroom. It was a 3 second exposure at f/14, ISO 100 and a focal length of 21mm. I went for a 3 second exposure here, to smooth over the surface of the water, which was rippling a little in the breeze, and I thought it would look better totally smooth like this.

Geysir

Geysir

On September 24, the following day, we first visited Geysir, and the large geyser that gave us the English word for these amazing natural phenomenon, which we can see in this photo (right).

As it was a somewhat rare blue sky, I decided to use the sunlight to effect, by standing at a place that would put the eruption of water directly between me and the sun.

Eruptions can apparently be as high as 70 meters, although often a bit smaller. This eruption actually continued a little higher, but it ran out of the frame at 24mm.

I changed to my 11-24mm lens for some wider shots, but this one ended up being my favourite from the day, as it shows the power of the water, and I quite like the cloud patterns behind the water.

After this, we moved on to Gullfoss, an amazing waterfall, which some sources claim to be the largest falls in Europe. Unfortunately, the clear weather that we saw in the Geysir photo continued, and we had very harsh shadows across the middle of the falls in a photo of the entire scene.

In this photo (below) I did what I could under the circumstances and zoomed in on just a small part of the falls with a focal length of 114mm with my 100-400mm lens. Because it was so bright, a three stop ND8 circular ND filter wouldn’t give me a long enough shutter speed, so I used my ND400x filter and increased my ISO to 250, giving me a shutter speed of 1 second at f/14.

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

You can still see that there is some strong, harsh light hitting the falls, but this was one of the few angles and compositions that I could find to still make a half decent photo of the falls in this light.

Gullfoss Falls with Gorge

Gullfoss Falls with Gorge

Another angle which I always shoot, and did on this day too, is this one from the end of the gorge which carries away the 140 cubic meters of water that flow from Gullfoss each second (right).

You can see from this photo, the sun was reflecting strongly on the top of the falls to the left, but the mist that rises from the water helped to filter out the light enough to still rescue the scene in the most part photographically. I actually don’t mind the silky look of that water to the left as much as I thought I would.

Again, this is a Silver Efex Pro conversion, and I’ve darkened the foreground down some more to keep our focus on the “V” of the gorge and water, leading the eye into the scene and hopefully down the gorge through the mist.

Under the same lighting, this was shot with exactly the same settings as the last image, 1 second exposure at f/14, ISO 250, but with a focal length of 35mm now, using my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

OK, so that’s our ten images for this week. We’ll pick up the trail in Part 2 on September 25, when we’ll visit the amazing Landmannalaugar, and go on to the Reynisdrangar sea-stacks at Vik.

Iceland 2016

For our Iceland 2016 tour and workshop, we are changing the tour slightly, and taking the group Full Circle, so that we can pull in some more beautiful locations like the eastern fjords, and the amazing waterfalls, Dettifoss and Godafoss. Visit the tour page at mbp.ac/iceland2016 for details and book your place, but hurry, there are only three spaces left at the time of recording this episode.

Iceland Full Circle 2016

 


Show Notes

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 1 (Podcast 442)

Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 1 (Podcast 442)

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

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

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Hallgrímskirkja Church

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

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

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

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

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

Hallgrímskirkja Church with Starburst

Hallgrímskirkja Church with Starburst

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

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

Drying Fish

Drying Fish

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

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

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

The Power of the Land

The Power of the Land

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

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

Hot Spring Geyser Thingy

Hot Spring Geyser Thingy

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

Rocks at Reykjanes Peninsula

Rocks at Reykjanes Peninsula

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

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

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

Church Gate

Church Gate

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

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

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

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

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

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

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

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

The Rift

The Rift

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

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

Something Big is Coming!

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

Something Big is Coming!

Iceland 2015

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

Iceland Tour & Workshop 2015


Show Notes

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

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Iceland 2013 Tour Travelogue Part 1 (Podcast 387)

Iceland 2013 Tour Travelogue Part 1 (Podcast 387)

From August 25 to September 5, 2013, I ran my first Iceland Photography Tour with Tim Vollmer. From today for a few weeks, I’m going to walk you through the tour with the aid of photographs selected from my final edit, which is 50 images. It was a tight edit as usual, so I may well only be able to remove a further 10 or so, so we’re probably looking at this becoming a four part series.

This episode is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio.  For a free trial and 20% off, go to squarespace.com and use offer code MBP9.

We’ll hear more about our sponsors Squarespace later, but I want to start our main topic today by telling you that Iceland was a bucket-list country for me. When I found out that I had that brain tumor just over two years ago now, I had just come back from Antarctica, one of my bucket list countries. Africa was another, and I was able to visit in May this year, and Iceland was the third. I’m starting to add other countries now, but both Iceland and Africa, in addition to Antarctica lived up to and surpassed my expectations.

Photography is all about light of course, and Iceland has simply amazing light pretty much all day. In August, the days are still quite long, with sunrise at 6:15 and sunset at 8:40, but civil twilight starts at 5:20am and ends at 9:30pm. When you are watching for Aurora Borealis, it’s also important to note nautical twilight, which ends at 10:45pm at the end of August, start of September. Of course, this is because we are so far north with Reykjavik at 64.8°, so the sun never really rises that far in the sky. Because of this, we’re never far from Golden Hour, so the light is beautiful the entire time.

We started with a day of people arriving, but as many of the group were already in town, we went out for a walk into Reykjavik, which is a beautiful town. One of the most striking features is the amazing stone church Hallgrímskirkja. Now, before we move on, I need to tell you that I found pronouncing Icelandic words very difficult, as you can probably tell.

The dilemma here is that although I’ve tried to learn how to pronounce the various Icelandic characters, they don’t sound much like you would think they do if you read them as a western alphabet, so if I try too hard here, you probably won’t recognize the names either. Anyway, I’ll try to be somewhat authentic in my pronunciation, without going too far, and hope that works for you. I’ll also link the words that are available to a recorded pronunciation guide, so if you want to hear the proper Icelandic pronunciation, click on the links on the blog.

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Anyway, this church was a magnificent structure, sitting proudly on the hill in Reykjavik, visible from most parts of the city. Inside it feels almost like you are looking up at an alien spaceship, or maybe an upturned viking ship. There’s a beautiful pipe organ too, and one of the most amazing things that we found here, and pretty much everywhere else, is that the Icelandic people are not very big on regulations. We used tripods inside the church, and no one stopped us, and there were a number of places where most other countries would have had security guards frogmarching you out of the building, but in Iceland, there was nothing like that. We found it to be a very photographer friendly country.

In this photo, I had obviously done a long exposure to capture the cloud movement. I used an ND8 for three stops and an ND400 for nine stops, giving me a total of 12 stops of darkness, for an exposure of 75 seconds at f/16. Although I got a number of exposures with no people in them, in the end, I went for this shot with the ghostly looking figures of moving people barely recorded in the frame. I feel it adds a nice extra element to the shot, and I really liked the sky in this one too. Apart from a Silver Efex Pro black and white conversion, I didn’t do anything to this in post, except for a little dust removal of course. Long exposures at small apertures and black and white conversion usually make every bit of dust show up in the final image.

We worked out of Reykjavik for the first four days, and on the second day found ourselves out on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Although there are beautiful moss beds and lagoons out there, I found myself most excited by the dramatic view of the geothermal power plant that we see here (below). The trick behind this shot of course, was waiting for the sun to catch the steam from the foreground towers while leaving the background in shade, which allowed me to process this into a very dramatic, industrial looking shot. It also feels like a nasty shot of the industrial revolution, but understand that all that is being spewed out into the atmosphere here is steam, not polluting smoke.

Geothermal Power Plant

Geothermal Power Plant

Just across from the power station, were some beautiful rocks in the ocean, as we can see in this next photograph (below). Although I did some much longer exposures here too, as I found doing some of my seascapes in Okinawa last year, when there is dynamism like the breaking waves that we see here, I found that between 0.6 and 1 second exposure works better. I started out at this location telling the group 1 second, but we found that slightly short 0.8 seconds worked better here, as in this shot. The longer exposures were nice, but I preferred this approach, so that we can see the full motion of the waves.

Rocks at Reykjanes Peninsula

Rocks at Reykjanes Peninsula

There are two photos from this scene in my final selection. The first being slightly wider, with a couple of people on top of a rock outcrop to the left, but I feel this is a tighter composition. A reminder that we don’t need to include everything in our images. It’s often as much if not more about what we leave out, than what we include.

After leaving the Reykjanes Peninsula, we drove to a nearby church, but as we arrived, most of the group were more attracted to an old abandoned boat across the way, so we took a walk over there. Again, I posted two shots of the boat, this time the first was in color, with the boat almost sailing on its sea of green grass, but I probably prefer this one, a black and white version with the sky seeming to radiate from the boat, almost like the scenes we sometimes see in Japanese Manga comic books.

Abandoned Boat

Abandoned Boat

This is one of the two locations where I shot a few bracketed shots towards the end for an HDR, but I didn’t process them. I just don’t find that I need HDR with the dynamic range that our cameras have now, and the software, such as Lightroom, Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro, bring out so much in the image, that there seems no point. Of course, if you like the HDR effect, then I’m not saying you shouldn’t do HDR, but I personally continue to use single frames for pretty much all of my work. This was a 60 second exposure at f/14 by the way.

The following day, we got into the green mountains a little more, and this photo is from our second stop of the day. I’ll share a technique with you here, that I was asked about and discussed when shooting this image. The question was, do I use a Depth-of-Field calculator to find the hyperfocal distance when I want to achieve pan-focus, where everything in the scene is totally sharp.

Although I do sometimes use a calculator, more often than not, if I’m using a wide lens, say 24mm or wider, I simply focus on something in the foreground, and stop down to around f/11 to f/16, and I know that everything will be in focus unless I am shooting at a very low angle with stuff closer than a few feet that also need to sharp.

As in this shot though, which I shot at 50mm, I use Live View to check the extent of my focus. To do this, frame the scene and get your composition set up for your final image, and then while in Live View, move the square over the foreground that you want in focus, here it’s the edge of the rocks at the bottom of the frame, and then hit the zoom button to zoom in to 5X magnification. Then, hold down the Depth-of-Field Preview button, which is usually found on the camera body near the lens-mount, and manually push your focus out until you can see the foreground just start to go out of focus, and then bring it back into focus. This ensures that your foreground focus is on the edge of the depth-of-field. If you have your shutter button set to the default, it will autofocus again when you press the shutter to take the shot, so you might need to switch your lens into Manual focus for this.

Then, shift the magnified area up so that you can see the mountains in the distance, and hit the Depth-of-Field Preview button again. If the distant objects are also in focus, you are fine to go ahead and make your exposure. If you want to double check, you can again, while holding down the Depth-of-Field Preview button pull the focus back, until the distant objects start to go out of focus, and move them back into focus. If you can pull back very far and things are still in focus, you could consider using a wider aperture, especially if you are down past f/16, which is where diffraction starts to kick in, making everything softer, because the light is being pushed through too small a whole.

Icelandic Landscape

Icelandic Landscape

Another thing to note here is that in some scenes, if you get everything in sharp focus, you can end up not really being able to tell where the foreground ends, and where the distant scene starts. This photograph was very much like that, so I opened it in Photoshop, duplicated the image, and made one image just a little bit blurred, then I masked in a very thin line of blur between the foreground and the distant scene, to give us just a little bit more separation. You can probably see this if you view the image large, but hopefully you won’t have noticed this until I told you about it. It should have just been obvious where the foreground and background were separated, if I’ve done this properly of course.

Next, here’s another Geothermal Power Plant that we visited. The weather is so changeable in Iceland, it seems that you only have to wait a few minutes for the gap in the clouds to brighten up just the right part of the scene for this kind of dramatic effect. Of course, I’m bringing much of this out in Silver Efex Pro, but without a difference in the brightness of the steam, you can’t just create these layers or dark and light from nothing.

Geothermal Power Plant

Geothermal Power Plant

This power station was once again a tribute to the lack of regulations in Iceland. There was a barrier across the entrance, but we just walked right into the facility grounds and shot away for a while. Of course, with a lack of regulations to protect you, you have to exercise a little common sense yourself, so you probably don’t want to be wandering over and hugging the pipes full of steam, but as they are very well insulated, you could probably do that too. I’m just trying to make a point though. I’m sure if you go too far with this, you could get into trouble.

By this time, it was August 28, and after the power plant, we headed over to a small woods where Tim had told us there was a possibility of seeing some Amanita Mushrooms. He’d told us they were the little red mushroom with white spots that you see in fairy tails, but this didn’t really prepare the group for what we found. When we arrived the forest floor had scores of these cute little fungal friends, and they were all around 6 to 8 inches tall, and looked perfectly capable of supporting a small gnome as he rested on his way through the forest.

Amanita Mushrooms

Amanita Mushrooms

I shot a whole bunch of images here, as many of the group did, but my favorite turned out to be this shot (above) where the mushrooms are shown more in their environment, with the light at the edge of the woods behind them. You can also see here that the white spots are actually like this white thorns on top of the red mushroom head, as opposed to just spots of white which I’d kind of expected.

A short walk from the woods with the mushrooms, was Öxarárfoss, a beautiful waterfall, that is actually water flowing from the American tectonic plate to the Eurasian plate. This is part of the actual rift between the two continents, with America being slightly higher than Eurasia.

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

This is an 8 second exposure, using the ND400, for 9 stops of darkness, and again, a Silver Efex Pro black and white conversion. I’ve darkened the rocks considerably here, preferring this dramatic look, and I dropped a few controls points over the sky as well, to bring out some of the texture in the clouds. Sometimes when you do this, you get a bit of a white line between the black of the rocks here, and the grey of the sky, but this is easily removed in Photoshop. I’ve already done that on some images, but others, like this one, will need to wait until I print them. I never print anything with a white line like that, as it becomes very obvious in print.

A little back from where I shot the last image, there is an outcrop on which you can stand and get a shot like this (below) of the falls, and the river that hangs a sharp right, and runs along the rift between the continents for a while. Tim showed his impressive knowledge of the locations he was guiding us to by telling us that you can include both the falls and the river with a 24mm focal length from this spot, and that is exactly what I shot this with.

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

Öxarárfoss (Falls)

In fact, I should probably mention that a few months ago I traded in my version 1 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens for the new Mark II version. I was never really displeased with the old version, but it was a bit of a brick, and could be a little soft around the edges sometimes. This little baby though, is sharp as tacks into the corners, and smaller and lighter than the original lens. I’m really enjoying shooting with the new version.

Þingvellir Church

Þingvellir Church

About a kilometer from the falls, is the Þhingvellir Church that we see here (right). I had my eye on this sky as we approached the church, and was happy to find an angle where it looked like the sky is radiating out of the church steeple.

Some people like to use Tilt/Shift lenses to correct warped perspective like this, but generally I reach for my rectilinear 14mm lens and enhance it even further. I love this look, and I knew that the sky would pop beautifully in black and white.

It wasn’t an obvious sky unless you think in black and white. Sometimes I decide to convert into black and white because the color isn’t adding anything, or even getting in the way, but sometimes, as in this case, I just know from the start that the image is going to be converted.

Note too that unless I’ve got a pretty good reason to go askew, I usually use the digital level in my camera to ensure that my horizon is straight. In this case, that meant that the lines in the center of the frame, leading up to and including the steeple, are all perfectly straight, and everything else is leaning in a little bit, or a lot maybe. Without the level, it’s difficult to get this kind of shot looking as natural as it can for such an intentionally warped perspective.

OK, so that’s our ten shots for today. We’ll pick up the trail on August 29 for a brief visit to Geysir, where we shot the impressive geyser, sometimes known as The Great Geysir, that spouts water 70m high every 5 to 8 minutes. It was a nasty grey day when we were there, but with a little bit of processing, the images are still quite impressive, as we’ll see next week, and after all, those nasty grey skies are what I was after most of the time anyway, so no complaints.

If you’d like a sneak preview of the entire Iceland Portfolio though, it’s now under the Portfolios menu, as part of the work I’m doing to bring everything under one roof, I’ve now started putting my portfolios here too.


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Show Notes

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

Music by UniqueTracks


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