Iceland Full Circle Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 545)

Iceland Full Circle Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 545)

This week we continue our series of travelogue style episodes to walk you through my Sept 2016 Iceland Full Circle Photography Tour and Workshop.

At the end of part one, we looked at a photograph of the beautiful Seljalandsfoss, one of my favorite falls in Iceland, which is just around the corner fro Skógafoss, probably still my favorite waterfall. There are a lot of tourists at these falls now, with Iceland welcoming more than seven times their entire population in tourists each year now, and these falls are within driving distance of Reykjavik.

Skógafoss

Still though, there is no denying the raw yet simple beauty of a 25 meter wide wall of water dropping 60 meters into its basin, then flowing off in a surprisingly immediately calm river. Although we generally get a few moments to shoot the falls when there are no tourists in the frame, and I have a few shots I like without people this year too, I decided to share this fun shot with a guy in front of the falls with an umbrella (below).

Umbrella Man at Skógafoss

Umbrella Man at Skógafoss

As I mentioned in part one, I love to process my Iceland waterfall shots very dark and moody like this. I toyed with brightening up the water around the umbrella man a little, to make him stand out more, but it really doesn’t suite the mood for me. Plus, although the web version is quite dark around his lower body, the full sized version has good separation, so I’m leaving this as it is.

Dealing with Spray

One of the things that the members of my group always has fun with, is keeping the spray off the front element of the lens while shooting a waterfall like this, that generates a lot of spray. Some people inevitably get frustrated, but with a bit of patience, it’s totally doable.

For light rain or spray, with just a few droplets, I generally just use a rocket blower to blow the beads of water of the filter. That doesn’t work with this much spray though. You have to wipe the lens or filter clean with a lens cloth. The problem is, the spray gets on the front of the lens again while you are wiping, so it seems like an endless battle.

To overcome this, I always carry a large cloth with me. A small towel will work just the same. And I hold that in front of the lens as I wipe, and then drape it over the lens to keep it clean until I’m ready to release the shutter. Of course, I’ve got the camera on a tripod, and I’ve already got my composition and exposure set. I do that while getting the front of the lens wet, then dry it ready to make the photo.

With my camera set to a 2 second timer, so that I can get my hand away from the camera to avoid vibration from my hands, I wait until no one is in the frame, or in this case, until the umbrella man turned up to do his thing. Then I press the shutter button, all the time holding the cloth over the front of the lens to keep the spray away.

I wait until the 2 second timer is almost finished, then whip the cloth away from the front of the lens to get my shot. In the split second that the front of the lens is open to the elements, I usually don’t get any spray on it, so I get my shot.

Note too that although I generally like to use a 0.8 or one second shutter speed for waterfalls, the water will start to look silky from around 1/5 of a second, although I like to still use about half a second, as I did for this shot.  At f/13 I increased my ISO to 160 for this photo, using a 3 stop neutral density filter, for that 0.5 second exposure. Any longer than 0.5 seconds here just increases the risk of water getting on the front of the lens.

I should also mention that this method works best with screw in ND filters and the lens hood on. It’s much more difficult to keep those big square filters dry, which is one reason why I don’t use them.

Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks

After our time at Skógafoss, we continued our drive to Vik, and headed down to the black beach to photograph the  Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks, as you can see in this photograph (below). This is another of my favorite spots on the southern coast of Iceland, so we stay in a nearby hotel, and revisit these sea stacks the following morning too.

Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks

Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks

We had a more dramatic sky the following morning, but this is one of my favorite images, because of the contrast between the white water and the black beach. This is a 1/30 of a second shutter speed at ISO 160 again, and the aperture set to f/14. At 65mm that’s just about enough to still get good depth of field, so everything is in sharp focus.

The 1/30 of a second shutter speed isn’t quite enough to freeze the movement of the water, but that is my intension. When you zoom in and look at the detail, there is a little bit of movement visible in the crashing waves and the front edge of the foamy waves on the beach, and this adds just the amount of movement that I wanted. I also do long exposures at this spot, and although they’re nice, there are a lot of sea birds, so the images always look like a kid scribbled over the sky with a pencil.

The following morning, we visited the beach again, and here is a shot from the cave, which is just out of the frame to the left of the previous image. As you can see, with my 11-24mm lens, it’s possible to get the entire mouth of the cave in the shot from within the cave (below).

Cave at Reynisfjara

Cave at Reynisfjara

I showed how I processed this image in Capture One Pro in the video that I released last week. As I mentioned, it’s possible to shoot something like this, with the inside of the cave almost totally black on the back of the camera, and still be able to bring out a lot of detail. I just expose for the highlights in the clouds, ensuring that they are close to the right side of the histogram, and this gives me enough detail inside the cave to bring most of it back in post.

I much prefer this method to doing HDR, as I feel this looks more natural, and it’s less work. I’ve nothing against HDR if they feed the photographer’s creativity, but I don’t like to see obvious HDR images. If you can’t tell that they are HDR then the photographer has done a good job in my opinion.

As we left Vik to continue on our journey, I saw a great sky, and stopped the bus for a few minutes, which resulted in this photograph (below). Roads are great subjects—very symbolic—so I always like to include them in my shot when the rest of the scene will support it, as I feel it does here, with this great sky and the cloudburst to the right.

The Road

The Road

Again, I’ve gone for a dark and moody look, which I feel really suites Iceland images, but this doesn’t feel sinister to me. I’ve struggled to find a good title for this shot, so at the moment I’ve settled on The Road, which leaves it open to interpretation, but I’m hoping people feel positive thoughts when they view this. It’s processed dark, but not a dark mood image, in my opinion.

Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon

After a good drive, we arrived at the Fjallsárlón glacial lagoon, which we photographed from the shore for a while, but then had an hour on Zodiac boats, sailing around the lagoon, getting photographs like this one (below).

Fjallsárlón Icebergs and Glacier

Fjallsárlón Icebergs and Glacier

It’s always fun shooting from a Zodiac, although they are always rocking around, so keeping the horizon straight is a bit of a challenge, and because you are moving, it’s always best to keep the shutter speed quite high. I used 1/500 of a second for this shot, at f/10, and that required an ISO of 500.

ISO—Main Exposure Adjustment Parameter

I generally use my ISO as my main exposure adjustment parameter. I work in Manual exposure mode almost all the time, and my thought process is generally to first set my shutter speed based on what I need to do with the scene. I might want a slow shutter speed, and even use neutral density filters to reduce the amount of light coming into the camera, or as in this case, I might need a faster shutter speed to freeze the subject or avoid camera shake caused by shooting from a moving platform.

I then select my aperture, based on how much depth of field I need. I like to use f/14 for landscapes, when I’m using a tripod, but when hand-holding, I sometimes have to go a little wider, and for a scene like this, f/10 will give me enough depth of field.

Finally, I adjust my exposure with my ISO, to the point where the information is just about touching the right side of the histogram on the camera’s LCD. This is a technique known as Exposing to the Right or ETTR, and gives you the best quality images, and enables us to open up the shadow areas better, as I mentioned earlier.

Even with today’s cameras, people are often still afraid to increase the ISO for fear of introducing grain, but if you are taking control of the exposure and using ETTR techniques, it really isn’t a problem, especially on full frame sensor cameras. Even the high resolution 5Ds R has great ISO performance, despite what the pigeonholers would have you believe. When necessary I will push my images to ISO 3200 and even 6400 and have no issues with grain.

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

After our Zodiac ride, we drove a little further along the coast, to the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, where we spent the rest of the afternoon. One of the things I love to do here, is to photograph the ice that gets stuck in the channel as the tide goes out forcing the water to run out of the lagoon and into the sea, as we see in this photograph (below).

Through the Ice Hole

Through the Ice Hole

Here I was obviously attracted by the hole in the ice, and I used a 1/15 of a second exposure to capture some movement in the water, but leaving some texture too. A longer shutter speed for this shot would smooth over the texture of the water through the hole a little too much.

The following morning, we came back to Jökulsárlón and spent a number of hours photographing the ice on the beach, as you can see in this photograph (below). This was on the right side of the channel, as you look out to sea. There was not so much ice on this side, so I spent a couple of hours here before lunch, just singling out beautiful pieces like this.

Gems on the Shore

Gems on the Shore

I love the quality of light in this image. I shot this with my 100-400mm lens, and an ND1000 10 stop neutral density filter to give me a 10 second exposure at ISO 125, and an aperture of f/14. It can be tricky doing long exposures of ice on the shoreline, because the waves that wash around the base of the ice can cause it to move during the exposure.

Especially for this image, I was timing my shots so that the water was washing right around the ice and over the stones in the foreground, so some of them didn’t work, because the ice did move.  For this one through, the ice stayed still, and I got my shot.

Here’s another image from the same place, which I’d like to share with you because I love the color in the ice (below). People often ask if the ice really is this blue, but apart from a little increase in the saturation and clarity, I haven’t done anything to enhance the color. Sure, it looks bluer than the original raw file, but only to the level that I recall seeing in the field.

Ice Sail

Ice Sail

This was shot with the same settings as the previous image. In addition to the form of the ice jutting out of the water, I really like the line of rough water near the horizon caused by the water rushing out of the channel with the tide. This was also of course a lucky shot, because in some of my frames the ice did move as it was completely surrounded by sea water. Luckily though, it was grounded well enough to stay still for this 10 second exposure.

Next, I turned my camera the other way, and walked down the beach for a while, to make this photograph (below). Here I was attracted by the way the foreground chunks of ice sort of lead out to the ice in the sea, almost forming a procession of ice. I also thought the sky was beautiful in this direction.

Ice Procession

Ice Procession

There are some large chunks of ice that moved during the exposure, but I feel there are enough stationary pieces to anchor the image well enough to work. This was a 5 second exposure at f/14, ISO 100, so there is a little bit more texture in the sea than the previous shots. I like the effect, but if I’m totally honest, the reason I reduced the shutter speed for this one, is because the ice wouldn’t stay still long enough for a 10 second exposure.

This final image for today shows the people on the other side of the channel, having fun in the ice, and escaping the waves that sometimes crashed in a little bit further than they expected (below). Although I often photograph the surrounding scene at the locations we visit, I rarely share the images. I like this one though, as it holds up as a photograph, as well as a document of the situation.

Fun on the Beach

Fun on the Beach

I of course removed the neutral density filter for this shot, and increased my ISO to 400, for a 1/160 of a second exposure at f/14. Although it was a documentary shot, I was still conscious of where I placed that foreground ice, and I waited for the right moment to release the shutter with those crashing waves nice and high.

Next week, we’ll continue with the shooting from this day, as I photographed on the side of the channel that you see in this photograph after lunch. I have three more images to show you from this location, before we move on to areas of Iceland that I had shot for the first time on this Full Circle tour.

Iceland 2017 + Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure!

If you would like to join us on the 2017 Iceland Full Circle Tour, please check out details at https://mbp.ac/iceland. I’d also like to mention that we do still have some places left open on my upcoming January Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure. This is an amazing minimalist winter landscape tour, in an area of Japan that still seas very few tourists, and the resulting photographs are absolutely beautiful. Please check this out at https://mbp.ac/hlpa if you might be interested.

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2017

Click for Details


Show Notes

Details of the 2017 Iceland Full Circle Tour & Workshop: https://mbp.ac/iceland

The Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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


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

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

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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