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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Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 494)

Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 494)

Today we conclude our four part series of travelogues to walk you through a total of 40 images from my 2015 Iceland Tour and Workshop with Tim Vollmer and our amazing group for this year.

We pick up the trail on September 29, as we headed over to Fjallsjökull. This is a glacier that you can get quite close to on a promontory on the other side of the lagoon. You may recall from a few weeks ago that I mentioned my decision to take my 100-400mm lens to Iceland instead of my 70-200mm lens. Although the 70-200mm lens is a great workhorse, I really enjoyed being able to zoom past 200mm, even for landscape work.

For this photo (below) I zoomed right in to 400mm to just capture the front edge of the glacier, and a slither of the water in the lagoon for context. Although the height of the pinnacles of ice are smaller, this really reminds me of Antarctica, which is amazing really when you consider how much cheaper it is to travel to Iceland.

Fjallsjökull Glacier

Fjallsjökull Glacier

My settings for this image were 1/80 of a second at f/11, ISO 400. As I mentioned last week, because we had a fair amount of wind, I was often choosing to increase my ISO to avoid low shutter speeds, so that I could reduce the risk of camera shake, even though I was using a good tripod. I didn’t do much to this image in post either. I just added +10 on the Clarity and Saturation sliders in Lightroom, to give the image a very slight boost.

The following day, September 30, we would drive all the way back to Reykjavik from Jökulsárlón, but I ensured that we had plenty of time to photograph two of my favourite waterfalls in Iceland, as we’ll see shortly. On the way though, we made another brief stop at Kálfafell, because there were some beautiful low clouds around the distinctive mountain, as we see in this photograph (below).

Kálfafell with Clouds

Kálfafell with Clouds

There was a good breeze on this day, so we didn’t have the mirror-like reflection that we saw in the image I shared in Part 3 of this series. Because of this, I decided to go a little wider, and include the near bank of the pond, and this of course enabled me to include more of the dramatic sky.

I was fairly undecided as to whether or not to go black and white with this image, but I finally decided on colour and brought out some of the detail and heavy sky with Color Efex Pro, because the original was a little bit flat. As we just jumped off the bus for a quick photo here, I was hand-holding for this shot, with a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second at f/14, ISO 200 and a focal length of 28mm.

After driving for a few more hours, we arrived at Skógafoss, which is the waterfall that probably played the largest part in me wanting to visit Iceland than any other location. Just looking at this photograph, it’s hard to believe that this is just  a few minutes from a car park, and we always have to wait for a break in the crowds of people that flock here each day to not be in the scene, but if you are patient, you can get photographs like this (below) without people in the foreground.

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

On an overcast day like it was when we visited, if you put an ND8 neutral density filter on your lens, you can generally get a shutter speed of around half to one second with an aperture of f/14 at ISO 100. I shot this at 0.6 of a second. You always want to try to shoot waterfalls when it’s overcast, as direct sunlight on a waterfall makes it very contrasty, and in my opinion most of the beauty is lost then.

I converted this to black and white in Silver Efex Pro, and made the rock and green moss either side of the falls very dark, giving this look that I love for most of my Iceland waterfall images. The white specs that you can see on the cliff face are seagulls, which hopefully gives you a little bit of scale too. The falls are actually 25 metres (82 feet) wide with a drop of 60 m (200 ft), so they are quite a site to stand in front of.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

The second waterfall that we’d photograph on this day is Seljalandsfoss, which is just a 10 minute drive from Skógafoss.

As we can see in this photograph (right) although the drop is the same at 60m, this is a more slender waterfall. I always think of Skógafoss as the sumo wrestler and Seljalandsfoss as the lady in a kimono, although that’s my Japanese influence sneaking in there of course.

One of the things that I love about this waterfall is that the wind easily catches the streams of water as they fall, so you get these beautiful curves in the water as it moves in the wind.

For this image, again shot with the ND8 attached to my lens, my shutter speed was 0.8 seconds at f/14, ISO 100.

Once again, I’ve made the sides of the falls very dark, although they are green in reality. I just much prefer this look, as it enables me to reduce the scene to almost black with the beautiful delicate streams of water and the cloud of mist that raises up from the pool at the bottom of the falls.

While we’re talking about this waterfall, I’d like to mention that two of my Iceland images from 2014, including one of these falls, are currently in a collection of prints available from a company called West Elm, who have tied up with Offset, the stock agency that I license my work through. You can see the collection and buy reasonably priced prints of any of the images at mbp.ac/westelm if you are interested.

Seljalandsfoss from behind

Seljalandsfoss from behind

Although photographically I prefer the front view, you can actually walk behind Seljalandsfoss for a view like the one we see in this photograph (right).

Again, I shot a number of images because of the way the water moves in the wind, and chose this one for the patterns that the water make as they hit the pool below the falls.

Also, if you look in the bottom left of this image, you’ll see a bridge over the stream leading from the falls. That’s where I stand for my main shot of these falls. It’s always fun though, because if anyone walks on the bridge during your exposure, it moves, ruining your shot, so you have to ensure that no one moves, and time your images when no tourists are about to walk on the bridge.

I also waited a while for most of the people walking up the bank in the bottom right of this shot to move out of the photo.

It’s important to note too that you are basically photographing in a shower at this point, with the spray coming off the falls falling right onto your camera and your lens.

With light spray or rain, I usually use my air blower to blow the droplets of water to the edge of my filter, but in this much spray, you have to wipe it. I also hold a cloth over the front of the lens as I wipe it, to stop more spray hitting it as I wipe, and I leave the cloth over the front of the lens until I am ready to actually make the exposure. In fact, I use a 2 second timer, and remove the cloth a split second before the time elapses, and this enables me to get shots without droplets on the filter, as those droplets will usually ruin your photo.

After spending an hour at Seljalandsfoss we continued our drive back to Reykjavik, for two more nights. On October 1, the last shooting day of the tour, we travelled north east of Reykjavik, to the small but very wide waterfall at Hraunfossar (below). This photo actually only shows a small percentage of the 900m wide series of falls as water flows from ledges of less porous rock in the lava field.

Hraunfossar (Falls)

Hraunfossar (Falls)

I’ve never liked my photos here when I go really wide, trying to include all of the falls, as the details are lost in a wide shot, so this photo (above) is about as wide as I personally like to go, at 50mm focal length. I used an ND8 here too for a 2.0 second exposure at f/11, ISO 100. It was raining at this point, so the sky was very dark giving me a good long exposure, even just with the ND8.

As you can see, this is one of the few places where there are enough small trees to actually enable the fall color to play a part in the image. This is one of the reasons that I time these tours for September, as well as the fact that most tourists have left by September as well. 🙂

I also used my 100-400mm lens at 100mm to zoom in and shoot more details, such as the angel that Tim Vollmer often points out to the group here (below). The shape of the water just to the left of centre looks a little bit like an angel with its head and wings spread.

Hraunfossar Angel

Hraunfossar Angel

I actually changed my ISO to 200 here, and to counter that, changed my shutter speed to 1 second, as that’s plenty to get the beautiful silky look in the water, and it also helped me to reduce the movement in the trees as they caught the wind, although I don’t dislike capturing that movement in my images either. I think it adds to the dynamism of the shot.

A few minutes walk upstream take you to Barnafoss, which we can see in this image (below). I shot longer focal lengths here too, like in previous years, but here I used the new Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens at 12mm to capture the entire flow of the water that can be seen from this spot, from when it enters view in the top right, down to where it flows out of view on the left.

Barnafoss in Fall Color

Barnafoss in Fall Color

Going wide here also enabled me to capture almost equal amounts of colour in all four corners of the image as well, which I quite like. This spot is quite popular with day trippers and school trips at this time of year too, because of the beautiful colour, so we had to be patient here too, waiting for the tourists that walk along the rocks in the top left to leave. I think I ended up cloning out one person for this particular image. This was also shot with a 1 second exposure at f/14, ISO 200.

We keep our eyes out for some nice Icelandic horses throughout the trip, and Tim generally know where there are some that are more friendly, or less shy, and we stopped to photograph some of these on our way back to Reykjavik after photographing the falls, as we can see here (below).

Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses

The difficulty with ad-hoc horse shoots in Iceland is that they usually come over very close to the wire fence around their enclosure, so you have to frame your shots in such a way as to not include the fence. That’s partly what I was doing here too, but this one grey horse that lifted its head up above the others for a moment caught my eye, so I couldn’t resist shooting this. I’m not sure exactly why, but I quite like this, despite it being a little bit busy, and I’ve cropped the nose off the brown horse to the right. Maybe it’s the waves formed by the various heads, with just the grey horse sticking his head up above the rest that appeals to me.

We’ll finish our 40 images that we’ve looked at over these four episodes with this last somewhat humorous shot of the horses, with the grey one sticking its tongue out at us. This was actually just part of a yawn, but there was a moment when the tongue was sticking out, which kind of makes me smile. 🙂

Icelandic Horse Sticking Tongue Out

Icelandic Horse Sticking Tongue Out

Under the heavily overcast sky, both of these images were shot at ISO 1600 to give me a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second with an aperture of f/8.  I wanted a fast shutter speed as the horses were moving and their hair blowing around too, but also so that I could safely zoom in to 400mm if I needed to, without worry about camera movement as I was hand-holding.

This became our last shoot of the tour, so as is customary, on the bus on the way back to Reykjavik we recorded a brief message from each of the members of the group, which I’ll play you now. John, who starts off totally cracked us up reading his message from his iPhone screen. Take a listen…

[Listen to the recording with the player at the top of this post to hear what everyone said.]

What a brilliant group we had again this year!

Greenland 2016

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

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

Greenland Tour & Workshop 2016

 


Show Notes

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

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

West Elm X Offset Print Collection: https://mbp.ac/westelm

Martin’s work on Offset: https://mbp.ac/offset

Martin’s Iceland Prints

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.

Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 446)

Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 446)

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

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

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

Gaudinian Icebergs

Gaudinian Icebergs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jewel on the Shore

Jewel on the Shore

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Fissure

Blue Fissure

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

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

Blue Ice

Blue Ice

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

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

Serrated Iceberg

Serrated Iceberg

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

Jökulsárlón Iceberg

Jökulsárlón Iceberg

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

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

Icelandic Sky

Icelandic Sky

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

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

Skógafoss (Falls)

Skógafoss (Falls)

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

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

Hraunfossar (Falls)

Hraunfossar (Falls)

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

Barnafoss

Barnafoss

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

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

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

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

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

Iceland 2015

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

Iceland Tour & Workshop 2015

 


Show Notes

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

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Iceland 2013 Tour Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 390)

Iceland 2013 Tour Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 390)

This week we conclude the four part series of travelogue episodes to cover my first tour in Iceland a month ago, from August 25 to September 5, 2013. Iceland definitely didn’t disappoint, with beautiful light and incredible scenery, and we had a great group to travel with as a bonus. It was a very special trip to kick off my Iceland tours with.

We pick up the trail on the final shooting day, September 4, 2013, as we drove pretty much the width of the island, stopping at some of the most iconic locations and waterfalls that Iceland has to offer. Earlier in the tour we’d driven through a lot of these locations, but didn’t have time to stop, as we were scheduled to arrive at our hotel quite late, even with just a few toilet stops, but the scenes we passed had haunted me and the group, so I was really looking forward to getting back and seeing if there were still shots.

The first image that I want to look at today is of the rocks needles called Reynisdrangar, jutting out of the sea near Vík í Mýrdal. Thanks to Bergþór Jónsson on Google Plus, I now know that Legend says the stacks originated when two trolls tried to drag a three-masted ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight came they were frozen into these needles of rock (below).

Reynisdrangar at Vík í Mýrdal

Reynisdrangar at Vík í Mýrdal

Again here, I used my ND8 and ND400 neutral density filters stacked together for a 30 second exposure at f/16, ISO 100. The needles were a way out, so I used my 70-200mm lens at 180mm. I composed the shot so that the beach was just running along the bottom of the frame, as that causes the white water from the waves to leave these interesting patterns. Further out, there was only a little bit of cloud movement, but the smoothness of the sea with texture from the waves is quite effective I think.

For the last shot, we stood on a large stone storm barrier shaped almost like a pier running out along the beach. When I turned to face the other way, there were a couple of surfers braving the Icelandic sea, and one of their surfboards still sitting on the beach, which I found quite ironic, so grabbed a couple of frames.

Surfboard

Surfboard

I didn’t do a long exposure for this shot (above), as the story was obviously going to be about surfing, so I wanted the waves to be rolling in to support the story. I took the neutral density filters off, and increased the ISO to 200 to give me a 1/250 of a second exposure at f/14. This shutter speed was enough to freeze the waves as they rolled up the beach, and I timed the shot so that there were not only some nice waves, but also the layers of dark wet sand and the white water from the previous waves still drawing out.

Another scene that had been haunting me since we drove past earlier in the tour, was the church on the hill with the beautiful green mountains behind them that we see here (below). The composition was difficult here, because there is a large area of just mud below the church and there are ugly factories and other buildings below that and to the left.

Vík í Mýrdal Church

Vík í Mýrdal Church

Once I had this framed how I wanted it though, we had to wait a while until the light caught the church just right, which didn’t take long, but then I also wanted just a splash of light on the mountains in back, which took a while longer to happen at the same time as the church being lit. We were already late for lunch, and had a lot of ground to cover this day, but I think this splash of sunlight was worth messing up the schedule a little.

A few minutes from this spot, we drove around the promontory to a car park from which we could walk to the basalt cave that we see in this next image (below). The needle that you see here is the left most needle in the shot we looked at earlier. I used my 16-35mm lens wide open at 16mm to get the entire mouth of the cave in the shot, and again used my two neutral density filters to get a 30 second exposure at f/16, ISO 100.

Hálsanefs Hellir

Hálsanefs Hellir

The light was catching the top of the cave just enough for me to be able to pull this detail out in Silver Efex Pro, and again the waves crashing on the beach have left their beautiful white satin texture. I would have loved to get all the rock needles in the shot, but I had to go this far back to get the full semi-circular cave mouth in, so that wasn’t to be.

After this, we drove quite a way to what was one of the locations I had most wanted to shoot since I saw my friend Graham Morgan’s shot of the beautiful waterfall Skógafoss. If you saw the main image that I used to market the 2013 Iceland tour, that was Graham’s photo, that he kindly let me use and I had not yet been myself. I’d wanted to visit Iceland for many years, but it was that photo that made me realize that I just had to make it happen.

As is often the case with preconceptions about a location, I imagined Skógafoss to be much more remote, but there were quite a few tourists that invariably walk into the scene as you are trying to capture it in just the right light, but they have as much right to be there as we did, so it’s just a case of being patient and we were rewarded with a few shots that I am very happy with.

Skógafoss (Falls)

Skógafoss (Falls)

Unfortunately, there was a drop of water that had trickled down between my protector filter and the ND8 filter that I’d screwed on and just sat in the middle of it, and sandwiched between the ND8 and my protector filter, so for a while I couldn’t figure out why there was a drop of water right in the middle of my shots. I lost a bunch of what would have been OK images before I unscrewed the filters to find the offending droplet. Luckily though the first frame that I made here was fine, and that is the image we see here (above).

I should also note that I only leave the protector filter on when I’m only using one Neutral Density filter. If I stack two NDs, I remove the protector filter because otherwise you start to see vignetting, which is a darkening of the corners, and on wide angle lenses this can be very severe, and should be avoided when possible. I only used the ND8 here, because I just wanted to make the waterfall smooth over a little, so I shot this at 0.4 seconds at f/16, ISO 100.

It had been chucking it down with rain in fine Icelandic style for the time were were at Skógafoss, but just as we were about to leave, the sun came out and lit up the falls, and caused the rainbow that we see in this next shot (below). I heard from our friend Morton Goldberg on Google Plus that he prefers this color version over the black and white, which is nice to know, as that makes me happy to have included this in my final selection, but personally I prefer the black and white.

Skógafoss (Falls) with Rainbow

Skógafoss (Falls) with Rainbow

I’ve included this today though not only because I know some people will prefer this, like Morton, but also to show how differently we can process what are essentially almost identical photographs. The black and white version doesn’t look at lot different to this, if you remove the rainbow, so I hope you can appreciate how much the black and white processing is effecting the final image here. Exposure wise, the sun had come out, so I changes the shutter speed to 0.3 seconds and reduced the ISO to 50, and the aperture was now at f/22.

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

Next up, we have another of my favorite shots from the trip, a side view of the Seljalandsfoss falls (left). I had more trouble with the rain while shooting this. Firstly, realize that I had walked up the track besides these falls and was basically standing in the spray from the falls.

I started out with my 16-35mm lens with the ND8 fitted, but could not for the life of me get a sharp shot, so I changed lenses to my 24-70mm for this. It turns out that the inside of my ND8 had misted up, so I could have gone back to my 16-35mm, but I was standing in a downpour from the falls, and decided to just go with the 24-70mm, to save changing lenses again.

The result is although perhaps a couple of millimeters more tightly cropped over what I would have done, but I still like it very much. Note too that I decided to still go with this image despite the large droplets of water on the filter. I have a few with droplets in various places, but for some reason I like the immersive feel to this shot, pun very much intended, as it really feels like I felt standing in the mist from the falls, getting soaking wet.

Again, this was a 0.3 second exposure at f/16, ISO 50. As with all the other black and white images, I converted this in Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro, to help me create this dramatic feel and really bring out the texture in the wonderful Icelandic skies.

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

This next shot (left) is the same falls, from a footbridge across the river that flows off front left of the falls. Because I was not pointing the camera up, including the bright sky for this image, I changed the exposure from 0.3 seconds to 0.6 seconds, and you can hopefully see how much smoother doubling the shutter speed makes the water of the falls.

I like the effect in this image, but this is something that I control closely for waterfall shots. As much as I like really long exposures, I don’t want this level of smoothness in all of my images.

This was actually our last photography stop of the tour, and so as I stood by the bus door, watching the group back on board, I found it quite ironic to see a lone bus trundling along the road in the distance, with the sun bursting through the heavy clouds above, and yet rain pouring out of the bottom of those very same clouds.

I composed this shot (below) with the road running along and very close to the bottom edge of the frame, so that I could include as much of the dramatic sky as possible. The scene was quite a way off, so to ensure that we could actually make out that there’s a bus at the bottom there, I zoomed in to 50mm, and this allowed me to also include a nice chunk of that awesome sky.

Of course, I also needed to freeze the motion of the bus for this shot, so I took the neutral density filter and increased the ISO to 100, and the shutter speed to 1/400 of a second at f/11. Luckily I had a few seconds to make these changes before the bus got into what I consider the optimal point in the frame, heading into the heavier part of the rain.

Last Bus

Last Bus

As we drove away from this last stop, I couldn’t resist reaching for my iPhone to record the customary round table interview with the participants, which I’d like to play you now.

2013 Iceland Tour Group Photo

2013 Iceland Tour Group Photo

So, that’s it. We’ve concluded our four part travelogue series from my first tour of Iceland. I’d like to thank any of the participants that listen to this. You were a great group, and a pleasure to travel with, and I hope enjoyed Iceland as much as I did. I’d also like once again to thanks Tim Vollmer, my partner and guide for this tour. You did an amazing job Tim, and I can’t wait to work with you again next year!

Join us in 2014!

And on that note, we are already taking bookings for the 2014 Iceland Tour which will be run from September 22 to October 3, 2014. These are great dates, as the days will be shorter, giving us better light in the morning and evenings, and it gives us a better chance of seeing and shooting the Aurora without eating into too much into our sleep time. It’ll be great to see you there, so take a look at the details of our 2014 Iceland Tour if you are interested.

Click here to view our Iceland Prints

 


Show Notes

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

Music by UniqueTracks

 


Audio

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

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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