Visiting Iceland...need advice

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by UltimaMC, Apr 23, 2013.

  1. UltimaMC macrumors member

    Sep 7, 2011
    Hi all!

    I was hoping some of you great photographers would be able to offer some advice for a trip to Iceland my girlfriend and I have planned. We'll be there from June 8th - 17th and spending our time along the southern coast. The plan is to start in Reykjavik and make our way toward Hofn. I plan on taking tons of landscapes and, hopefully, wildlife shots.

    My photography equipment consists of Nikon D3100 DSLR (crop frame sensor), 18-55mm lens (kit lens), 35mm f1.8 prime lens, Nikon SB-700 flash, a tripod, and remote shutter release. I understand I'll need to rent some equipment for the trip such as a wider lens and perhaps a telephoto for the wildlife. Do you folks have any suggestions for me? Is there anything else I should consider, like lens filters of something else?

    Keep up the great work everyone!
  2. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
  3. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
  4. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Don't plan on sleeping. Check the sunrise/sunset times.

    I don't know that there is much wildlife in Iceland, so if you wanted to save the weight of the tele ....

    Instead of trying to bring equipment to cover all situations, consider concentrating on just one or two kinds of shooting. For instance, if you have no experience with wildlife photos, is this the best time to be learning?

    Have a great time...
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Yu have enough equipment. You don't need anything wider then an 18mm and if you want a panorama you can make one from multiple shots and the tripod. It helps to have a bubble level on the tripod. The 35mm f/1.8 is a good lens for people shots. if you can get yourself to walk up close.

    The #1 advice I can get is two things and both are far more importent then equipment

    1) Do NOT try and learn photography while on vacation. Shoot about 100 frames a week of the SAME KINDS OF SUBJECTS you intend to shoot on vacation. People your meet, architecture, landscapes. Then come home and edit those down to your best 10 shots and do all you post possessing. Figure out what you like and don't like then shot another 100. Do this tices a week if you have time. You nee to go through MANY cycles of shoot, edit, evaluate before you know what to shoot and how.

    2) Get big format picture books from store or library and look at the photos and find ones you like. Try to emulate these in your work above. his is how artists have learned for centuries, looking at the work of masters. Eventually you develop your own style but at first look at the photos you like and try to work in that style.

    I would NOT trying to shoot wild life with a huge tele lens. It is very time consuming while you wait in a blind for hours and hours. It's just lie hunting with a rifle. You don't stop the car on the road shoot and hop back in the car.
    Also unless you do this kind of photography near your home you will NOT be very good it it. You can't learn in one day. See #1. OK if you have animals near where you live, perhaps birds, rent a lens and do a few 100 frame exercises and see what happens after 5 or 10 cycles

    Again, #1 rules is: Do NOT try and learn photography while on vacation. Develop your skills at home
  6. fireman32 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 30, 2010
    Raleigh, NC
  7. Cheese&Apple macrumors 68000


    Jun 5, 2012
    I would pick-up the longest heaviest prime lens you can find then pay someone (like me for example) to schlep it around Iceland for you. Unlike fireman32, I'm willing to work for my keep. :)

    Seriously, it sounds like you have everything you need so my advice is to ENJOY and bring back some great shots to post in the POTD thread.

  8. nburwell macrumors 68040


    May 6, 2008
    Being that you mentioned you want to take a lot of landscape images, I would probably leave the flash at home. Especially if you're doing hiking/walking for long periods of time, you don't want to take gear with you that is going to just sit in the bag.

    Like others before me mentioned, you don't want to learn photography while you're on vacation, so read and get out and shoot as much as you can.

    It's always good to have a compact telephoto lens in your bag, especially since you're only covered up to 55mm. The Nikon 55-200mm is compact zoom which is ideal if you want to do single out something in the landscape. It goes for $180 on B&H, but I'm sure you could find it cheaper used (or rent it).

    Most of all, have fun!
  9. Melizard macrumors 6502


    Jun 4, 2011
    You will absolutely love Iceland! You have a great opportunity to also learn about the unique geology of the area (I research metal-depositing geothermal systems in the southern tip of Iceland where the mid-Atlantic ridge comes onshore). It's pretty neat to see the forces of nature that are ripping apart the tectonic plates, and Iceland has almost every type of volcanic activity. If you can get to a good fissure at night you can take some good slow-shutter lava shots, so a tripod is absolutely necessary. If you explore a lava tube, make sure you have a fast wide-angle lens (and a guide, because it can be extremely dangerous). Iceland is all about landscapes (huge lava fields, waterfalls, glaciers, geysers), so a wide-angle would be useful. As mentioned, there's not much wildlife and you can usually get close enough to the interesting features that a telephoto might not be as important to bring.

    The roads are brutal and remote, so plan for an emergency break-down.

    And most of all - have fun! If you want more info on the geology I am always happy to help.
  10. designs216 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    That depends how you define "wildlife"...

  11. Ish macrumors 68020


    Nov 30, 2004
    I lived in Iceland for just over a year (long time ago now) and think you've got some good advice in the above posts. All I had at the time was a 50mm lens for my SLR but something a bit wider would be nice. Are you planning on taking photos indoors? If not, you might not need the flash as it won't get dark at that time of year. That far south in Iceland the sun will just dip below the horizon for a while and come up a little further along the horizon, but it won't get dark. You'll probably get some fantastic sunsets, weather permitting.

    Agree completely with the suggestion of a levelling bubble in the tripod. Much of the countryside is moss-covered lava—not many level surfaces to put a tripod!

    If you get the opportunity, walk up the rift valley at Thingvellir to the place where the chieftains used to meet. The rift valley is actually part of the mid-atlantic oceanic ridge and it's quite an experience to walk along it.

    You used to be able to take day trips by coach from Rejkjavík which might be worth thinking about. Enjoy your trip!
  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Flashes are very useful outdoor in bright sunlight. They work well for fill-in flash to lower the lighting contrast ratio. One can use the built-in flash for this but as the camera to subject distance goes up you need a lot of power
  13. joepunk macrumors 68030


    Aug 5, 2004
    a profane existence
    Cool map. Thanks for the info

    That's my kind of wildlife. Nice shot of Bjork too.

    I've been thinking about going to Iceland ever since Icelandair flights started taking off from Seattle. Actually, last year my parents and I had a few hours layover at Keflavík on our way to England and back.
  14. nburwell macrumors 68040


    May 6, 2008
    I can see using a flash for outdoor portraits where there are harsh shadows, but for landscapes, one can simply blend a variety of images together in post processing (considering the OP has PP software). Then again, I only shoot at sunrise and at and after sunset, so I usually put the camera away during harsh lighting conditions.
  15. Scallywag macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2007
    Not much more to add, other to bring some binoculars to better enjoy the scenery when not taking photos. I spent two weeks there in 2011 driving the entire ring road with my lady and it was an incredible experience. The Southern Coast is beautiful.

    In addition to what's already been mentioned, visit Skaftafell National Park to see some killer waterfalls.

    The black beaches at Vik are also a must see... keep an eye out for the troll ship;)

    I enjoyed the Blue Lagoon as well, certainly worth visiting. If you do go there, however, plan to arrive right when it opens to avoid crowds from tour buses. It quickly becomes packed with pasty tourists.

    Also, seeing the massive glacier (near Hof) spill over the landscape from a distance will yield some great photos.

    Consider visiting the Skogar Museum. It's along the southern coast and, if you're into such things, it's worth a stop.

    Don't miss Jökulsárlón which is a lake filled with massive chucks of glacial ice. We took a boat tour which I'd recommend. It's bizarre.

    There is basically no wildlife other than sea birds. No trees, either.

    The best thing about iceland, for me, was the freedom to go way off the beaten path. You can go just about anywhere. I few times I found myself way up on some high rocks looking at spectacular 180 deg views, with not a single person anywhere to be found, feeling as though I was the first ever to be up there. Not true, of course, but the adventurous vibe is addicting. The landscape is really unique, almost alien.

    Word to the wise, check out the video link below that offers some tips on driving in Iceland. I saw a number of cars that had gone right off the road and became stuck. Many of the roads are gravel and require keen attention...otherwise you may come upon a sharp turn and be unable to keep the car on the road. No joke!!

    Hope that helps... have a great time!! I can't wait to go back!

    P.S. Out of respect to the locals, make sure you learn a few word in Icelandic. "Hello" "goodbye" and especially "thank you." Everybody there speaks english but nonetheless it's important to put in some says a lot about a person and where they're from.
  16. ijohn.8.80 macrumors 65816


    Jul 7, 2012
    Adelaide, Oztwaylya.
    Having never lived in a cold environment, do you need to take extra precautions taking your camera back inside after having been out in a cold moist environment? :confused:
  17. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Depends on how cold. If it is well below freezing... then yes. Easiest way is to wrap it in a big towel or bathrobe or even a coat before bringing it inside... then let it warm up slowly before unwrapping.

    Being cold itself is not damaging to a camera (up to the an fairly extreme limit) though it can severely weaken a battery. What hurts the camera is when you bring it inside the moisture in warm air will condense on the cold parts - which is also not too bad. Except... if the cold parts are so cold that the condensation then freezes.... because water expands when it freezes, and if the condensation is in a gap or crack will force that gap or crack wider... which may break something.

    I took a film camera up to the Whitehorse, Yukon one December when it was -36º C. Camera worked fine... though when I needed to change the film I wrapped the camera up and brought it inside... by the time it had warmed up it was already dark. Oh well.

    Iceland is much warmer than Whitehorse... in June it won't be warm, but I doubt it will be cold enough to worry about the camera gear.
  18. ijohn.8.80 macrumors 65816


    Jul 7, 2012
    Adelaide, Oztwaylya.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I went off investigating on photog. forums and some folks have dehumidifiers they stick their camera in after coming in from the snow! I thought I was OCD! :eek:

    You'd want to make sure you got your memory card out first.
  19. UltimaMC thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 7, 2011
    I can't thank you enough.

    Oh my god...I didn’t expect to log in today and be greeted with so much feedback. Thank you everyone so much for sharing with me! After reading all of the feedback I decided to not concern myself with wildlife shots and instead will focus purely on landscapes and waterfalls. On a side note I want to thank the folks who cautioned us about the driving conditions. We’re aware some of the roads can be difficult to drive but now I feel like we can be prepared if we encounter unexpected terrain.

    Doylem: After sitting through a freezing cold and rainy Boston Red Sox baseball game last night, trust me, long underwear is the first thing on my list to bring.

    Phrasikleia: I can’t thank you enough because this map will be invaluable on the trip. I had no idea anything like this even existed!

    Snberk103: See my top comment. You, and other posters to this thread, have convinced me that this is not the best time to learn about wildlife photography. Also, it’s going to be interesting dealing with the sunrise and sunset since the sun will never actually set. We’ll only be exposed to daylight and dawn/dusk.

    ChrisA: Your number one piece of advice is amazing. I’ve not entirely a beginner however it’s been a while since I’ve been able to dedicate some quality time to my photography. I can assure you that I will be practicing before the trip.

    Fireman32: That’s what my girlfriend’s mom asked…

    Nburell: Thanks for the lens recommendation, I’ll be sure to investigate and see if it makes sense to bring on the trip…or even just to add to my collection.

    Melizard: I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your time in Iceland, being able to study the geology there must’ve been a real thrill!! Everything I’ve seen in books or online paints a picture like Iceland is a completely different planet. Thanks for letting me know about the fissures and lava shots! My girlfriend and I are thinking of exploring a lava-tube and you’re emphasizing what we’ve been hearing…make sure you have a guide! If I come up with any questions about geology it’s nice to know I have someone to turn to.

    Designs216: Whoa!!

    Ish: Thanks for telling me about the valley at Thingvellir, we try to make a stop there.

    Nburwell: My post processing software is Aperture 3. Unfortunately, I don’t have too much experience blending different images together. It’s something I’ll have to practice before the trip.

    Scally Wag: I’m thrilled to hear you and your lady had an amazing experience in 2011, we were originally considering driving the ring road but later decided to focus our time in the southern coast. As for everything else you contributed all I can say is, “Thank you!!” We plan on visiting most of the places you mentioned, even the Blue Lagoon (basically we’re “checking the box”) but what we’re most looking forward to is exactly what you liked most…going off the beaten path and having a total sense of freedom and feeling like we’re the only two people left in the world. Hearing all of this feedback from everyone is getting me so excited!

    John.8.80: The weather is should be mild, 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius); I hope this won’t affect the camera too much.

    Again, thank you all so much for your input, you’ve done way more than I would’ve expected. I do have one last question, is there a filter any of you can recommend to cut down on the glare form glaciers or waterfalls?
  20. tgara, Apr 24, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013

    tgara macrumors 6502a


    Jul 17, 2012
    Connecticut, USA
    Don't forget the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights.

    Some friends of ours stayed at this hotel in Iceland.

    The concierge would call you when the lights put on a show, no matter the hour!

    I expect photographing this is much like shooting fireworks (e.g., bulb mode on a tripod with a cable release). Anyway, it's worth the practice if you are going.


    Circular polarizer. Perfect for cutting glare.

    Keep in mind, when shooting a glacier or large swaths of snow (e.g., lots of white in the scene), you'll want to raise your exposure compensation up by at least one stop so that your images do not come out gray.
  21. steve09090, Apr 24, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2013

    steve09090 macrumors member

    Aug 12, 2008
    These are the things I see as important.
    • You won't need thermals in June (went there in 2010 in June and New Years this year). It will be around 10-18°C most days in Summer. Jeans and Jacket at most in summer. 3 jackets in winter :) I over packed first time.
    • Temperature is moderate so your camera will be fine. Just a spare battery and memory cards is all you need.
    • Bring bathers (for Blue Lagoon) or for Snorkelling in Glacial lakes at Þingvellir. (There is a day trip to do Þingvellir, snorkelling and Lava Tubes available).
    • Tripod for Gulfoss or various other waterfalls (it's the only time you 'may' want it), but if you are on a tour, you won't have that much time to find a great location and set up. It can also get windy, so if you have a tripod, it will need to be a good one. My Carbon Fibre travel tripod was next to useless. So if you go to Hallgrímskirkja (Big church in Reykjavik) can you look for my tripod plate please? It's there somewhere. :eek:
    • Your 18mm will be wide enough but a wide angle lens (e.g. 10-22mm) can be useful if you have experience with it.
    • A zoom is great because you can 'compress' the mountains in the background. Great for Þingvellir (which is a must must see). So consider getting a zoom (55-200 or something similar).
    • Hiking Boots if you do hiking.
    • I wouldn't bother with Flash especially because most of the photo's will be landscapes or cityscapes. Everything is well lit being daylight 24/7.
    • As Ish elluded to. You'll have the Golden Hour for up to 8 hours during the day. There are very many day trips available all year round. Golden Circle Tour is the most common, but worthwhile (easiest way to tick the box on these 3). About 10-12 hours and you go to Þingvellir, Gulfoss and Strokkur/Geyser.
    • Wildlife is effectively non existent (except the whale watching tours)
    • A Circular Polarising Filter can be handy if you are heading down to the lakes (Jökulsárlón) to stop the reflections, but I would spend the money on a zoom lens instead (o just get both). Zoom - 1st, CPF - 2nd.
    • No Aurora Borealis in Summer I'm afraid.
    • Organise your day trips when you are over there. Cheaper and many available. Going in Super jeeps is way better than bus trips.

    Can you tell how super excited I am for you? I'm still buzzing from January and since the missus says she wants to go back in 2015 I am even more excited!

    Finally, it doesn't matter what you shoot with. Make sure you bring a Point & Shoot (Camera Phone or whatever) for those times where you don't want to bring your DSLR. You and your Girlfriend will LOVE Iceland. I will be returning in 2015 for a full 2 weeks to do the ring road (all the way from Australia) for my 3rd trip. That's how good it is.
  22. UltimaMC thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 7, 2011
    Thanks Steve! The way you describe your experience makes me want to be there right now! I'll be sure to report back with both pictures and stories!
  23. steve09090 macrumors member

    Aug 12, 2008
  24. sim667 macrumors 65816

    Dec 7, 2010
    I went to Iceland 2 years ago and absolutely adored that country. We drove along from Reykjavik to Hofn all along the south coast. Gulfoss is a hell of a sight, but the waterfall that sticks in my mind is skogarfoss.

    Iceland in HDR by simbojono, on Flickr

    I'd just learnt HDR so was practising a lot with that, I am more keen on landscapes though. A lot of the country is quite bleak, I know for sure there are whale watching trips, trips to see puffin colonies and seals too if I remember rightly. As far as land animals go, you'll see a lot of farmed horses and sheep, but wildlife wise more likely to be hares and animals that can live on little vegetation, nearly no meat and more robust animals that can cope with the huge climate changes. Wild animals on land aren't something I remember seeing particularly. I think they tend to stick to the more eastern side round the other end of the glacier where there's lots of fjords.

    Horses during a blizzard by simbojono, on Flickr
    There is a bird sanctuary as you get over toward Hofn, but I cant remember the name of it, we had to off road a bit to get there (well off road, but on a track), there were lots and lots of birds there, but I mainly remember taking photos of the most stunning coastline I'd ever seen

    Iceland in HDR by simbojono, on Flickr

    All of my shots were on my D200 with the lens in my signature, and a hasselblad Xpan II film camera I borrowed. Weather wise I dont think you'll have to worry too much, I went in April, and it was still only 0-5 C, very changeable weather, sun to snow to thunderstorms in the blink of an eyelid.

    You can see all my images on flickr:

    Standard digital images

  25. righteye macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2011
    If you like that sort of thing try and take a Lee Filters Big stopper (10 stop ND filter) for blurring clouds and giving loverly soft ocean and waterfall shots.
    I went there 2008 and its the most amazing place i have been to yet and yearn to make a return visit. we went early may and there was a late snow fall which gave us some stunning snow on black volcanic rock images.

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