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

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.


Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 493)

Iceland Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 493)

Welcome to part three of a 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 a group amazing participants.

We pick up the trail after breakfast on September 27, as we made a stop in the town of Vik to photograph the church on the hill, that we see in this photograph (below). This is another photograph that is basically a retake of an earlier, similar image, now that I’m shooting with the ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R. The conditions weren’t quite as good, because there was a more dramatic sky and better light, so I think I still prefer my 2013 version, but here this is anyway.

Church at Vík í Mýrdal

Church at Vík í Mýrdal

I rescued this image to a degree with Color Efex Pro to bring out a little more of the colour, restoring it to what I recall from the day, but there was a bit of mist in the air, that in reality was reducing the clarity of the image a little, and slightly muting the colours.

I forgot to mention in last week’s episode, that most of my Landmannalaugar images have also got a little bit of Color Efex Pro applied, to bring out the colour and detail a little more. those images are much more how I recall the scene, although they perhaps look a little bit too punchy for some peoples’ liking.

After a little shopping therapy at the Icewear store in Vik, we drove for a few hours towards Jökulsárlón, but stopped on the way at this wonderful spot where the Kálfafell mountain is often reflected beautiful into a pond, as we see here (below).

Kálfafell Reflection

Kálfafell Reflection

There was no wind at this point in time, so we got some great shots with an almost perfect reflection. I shot this at f/11 with a 1/250 of a second shutter speed at ISO 400, at 24mm. I don’t recall right now if there was a reason I didn’t drop the ISO down a little and use a longer shutter speed, but I could have done without the wind.

Shortly after lunch, we arrived at Jökulsárlón, the glacial lagoon that we’d spend a lot of time at over the following three days. You could plan a shorter amount of time here if you were just looking for a “hey, I was here” type of photograph, but weather conditions can be a bit tricky, so we take the time necessary to give us a chance to produce something a little more beautiful. Even so, we had challenging conditions for most of our three days, but it didn’t stop us making some beautiful photos. Probably the calmest weather was on this first afternoon, as we can see in this photo (below).

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

As much as I like details, I have found myself using the incredible new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L lens quite a lot since buying it, and this was no exception. I shot this quite wide at 14mm, with a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second, at f/14, ISO 100. You do have to view it quite large to be able to appreciate the details, but we have the icebergs in the lagoon along the bottom, the glacier in the distance, and then that big Icelandic sky. I also like how the shape of the clouds from the centre to right side almost mirror the shape that the icebergs make below.

I also enjoy picking out details in the icebergs, and although I didn’t get that many of these photos this year, I kind of like this one, where I found a blue Jabawaki peering sneakily at me over the ice (below). I find it useful when looking for details to shoot to keep an eye out for things that we can identify as something else.

Jökulsárlón Icebergs - Jabawaki

Jökulsárlón Icebergs – Jabawaki

I shot this at f/14 for a 1/160 of a second at ISO 100, with my 100-400mm lens at 176mm. To enhance this a little, in Lightroom I decreased the Shadows and Blacks sliders to -36, which deepened the shadows increasing the contrast and drama. I also increased the Clarity to +60 and Vibrance to +15, and the Saturation slider to +30. This increases the blueness of the ice a little. The ice is already blue, but I sometimes like to give it a little bit of a boost like this, to bring the scene closer to how I recall it.

The following day, on September 28, the weather was forecast to go a little pear-shaped again, with rain and high winds. Another group at the same hotel decided to stay at the hotel, but I hate to do that when there is a chance that we can do something, so I took my group out, and we headed over to the next glacier along from the lagoon. As we crossed the bridge over the estuary from the lagoon though, the tide was going out, and some icebergs were trapped in the channel, with water gushing around their bases, so we stopped to shoot some images like this one (below).

Water and Ice

Water and Ice

This is a 1/4 of a second exposure at f/16, ISO 100, at 312mm with my 100-400mm lens. A quarter of a second is long enough to allow the water to blur, as we can see, so I was looking for details on the iceberg that would make a nice semi-abstract image with the flowing water. This deep blue glacial ice made the perfect subject, although it really is just a tip of the iceberg, as they say.

We went on to photograph the neighbouring glacier, and there are a couple of images from there in my final selection, but I won’t include them here, as I’ve prioritised other images to keep the numbers down to just forty for these four episodes.

The following morning, we did another dawn shoot, and there was still a full moon in the sky, the day after the super-moon, which we could not see by the way, as it was overcast. We were treated to some beautiful colour in the clouds though as the sun came up, so I went wide again to capture this image (below), mainly of the clouds, with the glacial lagoon below, and a somewhat tiny but almost full moon.

Moon and Clouds at Jökulsárlón

Moon and Clouds at Jökulsárlón

I love the detail in this cloud, and the way the morning clouds are enshrouding the glacier along the horizon, just below the moon. I’m not a fan of the choppy water in this photo, along the bottom, but it was very windy again, so there wasn’t much we could do about that.

When we were at this spot, one of the icebergs flipped, taking about 20 to 30 seconds, crunching and churning, and creating a bit of a wave that washed up the beach on which we were standing. It was an amazing sight, but the entire group, including me of course, just stood and watched it in awe. Of course, a photograph wouldn’t have done it justice without capturing the movement, but I do wish I’d thought to get my iPhone out to video it. That’s one unrecorded event that will haunt me for a while, but it is a very cool memory from the trip. I’ve seen icebergs flip in Antarctica as well, and this was equally as dramatic because of the close proximity of the surround bergs–all of them cracking and crunching together, it was quite amazing to see.

After the sun had come up, we walked across to the beach where there is usually a lot of ice from the lagoon washed up. The high tide along with very strong winds had actually dumped a ridiculously large amount of ice on the beach, making it quite difficult to single out isolated pieces, like the one we see in this next image (below).

Ice on Beach

Ice on Beach

You can see just how strong the wind was here, with the spray blowing off the crest of the wave shortly before it breaks on the beach. I was playing with long exposures as well, but with the amount of movement, you get a very different look to the usual smoothed over water, as we’ll see shortly. Here I think the shutter speed of 1/100 of a second that I chose freezes the wave enough to show the dynamic nature of the scene, which I tended to prefer for some of these photographs. I set the aperture to f/16, with an ISO of 100 at 70mm, the long end of my 24-70mm lens.

We returned to the beach later in the day, actually after the tide had gone out, leaving a lot of large pieces of ice on the beach and just off shore, as we can see here (below). These car-sized pieces of ice are technically known as growlers, because of the sound that they make as the rattle along the hull of ships at sea. You can also see here what I mean about long exposures with rough seas. This is a 5 second exposure, which leaves the rough sea looking like candy floss or cotton candy instead of the usual smooth water that you get.

Growlers in Sea

Growlers in Sea

I exposed quite a few frames at this location, because the force of the sea often moves the ice a little bit during the exposure, and although that can look quite effective, generally it just looks messy, so I wanted to give myself some frames where nothing moved other than the water. You might also notice that I composed this not only with the small chunk of ice on the beach and growlers to the left of the frame, but there is also a line of ice leading out into the sea to one last distant piece in the top right of the frame.

I was shooting this image (above) with my 24-70mm lens on a tripod, of course, but I had my 100-400mm on a second 5Ds R slung over my shoulder, which I was very happy to have as I looked up and saw this iceberg (below) looking almost like a Viking ship, and it was just storming out of the channel from the lagoon, with the tidal waters, almost as though it had an outboard motor on it.

Iceberg from Vatnajökull

Iceberg from Vatnajökull

I zoomed in to 400mm and shot this at f/11 with a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second at ISO 100. I love this shot for how it depicts the power and dynamism of the rough sea, and yet the blue of the iceberg and other splashes of blue make beautiful accents in the chaos.

Thirty minutes later, as I continued to shoot long exposures, I saw another largish iceberg come out of the channel, and once again swung my 100-400mm lens up from over my shoulder, to capture this image (below). Again, I like the dynamism and splashes of blue, as well as that bit of green from the backlit wave running across the centre of the frame.

Iceberg and Growlers from Vatnajökull

Iceberg and Growlers from Vatnajökull

You can also see the crazy amount of ice that was washed up on the beach in this shot. I’d honestly prefer less ice, but with nature you do what you can with what you have, and I think these images are nice bonus photographs under the circumstances. I shot this at f/11 with a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second at ISO 200, again at 400mm.

After this, we headed over to Fjallsjökull for one last glacier shot of this series, but we’ll wrap this up now for today, and take a look at that at the beginning of the fourth episode next week, before we go on to look at some waterfalls and Icelandic horse photos to conclude this travelogue series.

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

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 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.


Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 445)

Iceland Tour 2014 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 445)

This week we continue our travelogue of my recent Iceland Tour & Workshop with Tim Vollmer, and 14 amazing photographer participants as we traveled around this incredible country.

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

We pick up the trail on September 27, day 6 of the tour, as we drive out to the Seljalandsfoss (Falls) where we would change buses for one that could ford bigger rivers than our bus, and drive into the valley at Thorsmork (Þórsmörk).

Of course, we ensured that we had some time to shoot the falls before driving into Thorsmork, and here is a photo of the falls to kick off this episode.

As you can see from the perspective that this image was shot from, you can actually walk up and behind the falls. Once again though, this comes with its own challenges, as you are basically being rained on most of the time as you shoot.

As I mentioned last week, although I generally advise people to use a rocket blower to blow away light rain or spray from the front of the lens, when it gets this wet, you just have to keep wiping the front of the lens. Rather than turning the camera away from the spray here though, I got my composition set while getting spray on the lens, then wiped it, covered the front of the lens with a cloth, and then started my 2 second timer before removing the cloth a split second before the exposure was made.

Again, because the wind is constantly causing the streams of water to register differently in your image, and because the sky is constantly changing too, I like to make at least three or four frames to give me some choice in a situation like this. The exposure here was 0.4 seconds at f/18, a little smaller aperture than I like to go, but the sky was bright and I was using an ND8, three stop neutral density filter if I recall. Had I changed to my ND400, I would have needed to increase the ISO to get a good shutter speed, so I opted for the smaller aperture with the ND8.

As an aside, people often ask why I don’t use a Variable ND filter, and I actually have one, but I stopped using it pretty much as soon as I bought it, because with wide angle lenses like this, the just don’t work. As you dial them down trying to get any real darkness out of them, they create a nasty black cross over the entire image. Plus, it’s more difficult to calculate long exposures, because you can’t actually dial-in an exact number of stops, so you end up shooting more trial and error shots, and with long exposures that wastes too much time.

Anyway, we headed in to Thorsmork after this, and although the valley is absolutely stunning, I really didn’t get anything that I can share with you. The fall color was beautiful, but just didn’t really work for me.  It’s a beautiful drive though, and I really enjoyed the day, as we forded river after river.

Here’s one shot (below) as we stopped on our way back out of the valley, and this to me is just typical of the terrain that you see across most of Iceland. Moss covered mountains and valleys, with the black volcanic pebbles, and babbling brooks.

A Valley in Thorsmork (Þórsmörk)

A Valley in Thorsmork (Þórsmörk)

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

Seljalandsfoss (Falls)

This was a 1.3 second exposure at f/14, to make the water nice and silky, and I took this into Color Efex Pro to bring out some of the texture and enhance the greens. I often use the Foliage filter in Color Efex to make the moss look as vibrant as it really is in Iceland. As good as our cameras are now, they still don’t quite capture those bright vibrant greens as well as they appear to us in the field.

Because we had to change buses at a certain time when leaving Seljalandsfoss (Falls) earlier in the day, I ensured that we had a little more time after leaving Thorsmork, to shoot them again.

Here’s a shot very similar to the one I made here last year, but I really like the way the wind is catching the water this year, making the streams of water bend a little as they fall, and again, I processed this very dark, really just leaving the water to take centre stage.

The white spots that you can see on the side of the cliff are actually birds, a type of gull I think. They’re just sitting up there, laughing at photographers and tourists standing around getting wet below.

Then having switch back to our regular bus, we had a bit of a drive over to the town of Vik, where you might remember I made a photo of a beautiful little white church up in the mountains behind the town last year. We all shot that again but the light didn’t quite catch it the same as last year, so that’s still my winning shot of the church.

We spent the night in a hotel overlooking the bay, and then the following morning went down to the beach to photograph the sea-stacks and the basalt cave, that you might remember from last year too.

Here’s a view (below) from the same location looking in the opposite direction down the beach. As you can see the waves were high, causing a lot of spray, almost like mist, which I really like. As Jay Maisel says, “Never trust air you can’t see”, although I think he used that phrase with a slightly different meaning. 🙂

Beach Near Vik

Beach Near Vik

The black beaches here in Iceland really appeal to me, and work very well with the white waves like this. This was a 1/40 of a second exposure, again f/14, so there’s just enough movement in the water to give it a bit of dynamism, but not enough for a long exposure silky feel to the water.

The view to my left as I stood at this spot though, was these monumental sea stacks. I recognised these instantly in one of the closing scenes from the new Noah movie with Russell Crowe, which I watched on the plane on the way over to Iceland. I won’t go into detail though, or I’ll spoil the movie, although I imagine most of you already know the story.

Vik Sea Stacks

Vik Sea Stacks

This was a 1/100 second exposure again at f/14, as there was a lot of spray on the waves, which I wanted to freeze just a little bit more. If you click on these images on the blog to view at their full size, for the web that is, you’ll see that the sky is just teaming with birds.

I actually did a few long exposures here, but they all looked like a child had scribbled all over them with a pencil, and that was of course the birds flying around the sky! I ended up not using the long exposure shots, but because of that, I was doubly pleased that I did some normal exposure shots too, or it would have been a waste of these beautiful waves.

Here’s a wider shot too (below) with the light catching the water left from the waves on the beach, and some beautiful rays radiating out of the low sun through the clouds. Again the sky is just full of birds, and this is another shot that I can’t wait to make some time to print. This will love incredible on Breathing Color’s Vibrance Metallic, I’m sure.

Basalt Cliffs and Sea Stacks

Basalt Cliffs and Sea Stacks

Scenes like this had me shooting like crazy for the entire time we were at this beach. I recommended that the group also go into the basalt cave that is actually on the left in this shot (above) but I didn’t go in there this year. I regretted that decision later of course as I saw some photos from the rest of the group. It’s always wonderful to see what everyone captures as we travel, and see the wide range of images, some that make it hard to believe we were in the same place at the same time, but this feeds our creativity, and one of the best things in my mind about joining tours like this.

After spending a number of hours on the beach, we had to leave for a longish drive over to Jökulsárlón, the lagoon with icebergs and ice on the beach, where we’d spend a full three days. Weather-wise, this day was probably the best we had. Not necessarily the best for photography, because I prefer my dramatic Icelandic skies, but as you can see in this next shot, we just had to stop the bus and all file out to make some images of these beautiful reflections (below).

Mirrored Monument

Mirrored Monument

I shot this at 19mm with my 16-35mm lens, trying to get as much reflection in as possible. It was actually really difficult to get a good reflection without getting your own shadow in the frame, because the sun was directly behind us. Some people lay down to avoid this, some people did fun self-portrait shadow style images. I used a remote release and knelt down so that my shadow was not in the shot, but this did leave my camera’s shadow in the frame, which I removed in Photoshop with content aware fill later.

When we arrived at Jökulsárlón in the afternoon, the sky was still clear which causes a lot of contrast, and is really not ideal, but staying with the reflection theme, here’s a shot of some of the icebergs in the lagoon (below). It’s always fun just spending time trying to isolate small parts of the scene that we find interested.

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Reflection

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Reflection

Over the three days that we visited this lagoon and the nearby beach with ice, amongst the group that vertical structure to the left of the frame became affectionately known at “The Cathedral”. It’s amazing how much these icebergs move around as well. After a zodiac ride in the lagoon on our last day here, The Cathedral was in a totally different location to this.

After a few hours photographing the icebergs, we went out on the beach just outside the lagoon, where ice washes up and gets left on the beach during high tides, making for wonderful photographic subjects. Here’s one example (below) of the sort of fun we have with these “growlers” on the beach. In technical terms, a growler is an piece of iceberg about as big as a car. They’re called growlers because they make a growling sound as they rumble and roll along the hull of a ship when you run into them.

Beached Growlers at Jökulsárlón

Beached Growlers at Jökulsárlón

Here you can see that I aligned the sun with the edge of the ice to form that starburst effect, just adding an additional element of interest to the shot. This is a long exposure at 15 seconds, so that the bit of water that is visible between the ice is smoothed over a little.

It was a wonderful afternoon, despite the weather :), and the group got some incredible photos of both the lagoon and the ice on the beach here. To close today, with our tenth shot for this episode, here’s a simple detail shot from this afternoon. One thing the bright sunlight is good for, is illuminating the ice to the point that you can actually see the light coming through it. Here I included a line of the black pebbles that the ice was sitting on, to give us an idea of the environment in a semi-abstract image.

Ice and Pebbles

Ice and Pebbles

OK, so we’ll wrap up there for today, and I’ll see you back in the lagoon at the start September 29, our second day there, when we return with the final episode in these travelogue series next week.

Iceland 2015

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

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.