Chasing a sunset in Iceland can be a hit or miss. Mostly a miss actually.
Even though Iceland is known for it’s epic golden light that lasts for hours on end and helps us photographers create the images we all love there’s one huge factor people seem to forget when they go to Iceland.
Well.. it sort of slipped my mind: You’re just a few meters south of the arctic circle. Of course the weather sucks up here! Golden light is a rare thing – even in summer!
So when you plan your adventure in Iceland keep that in mind. It will – and I’m putting my money on this – rain. a lot.
But this one evening, after ‘a few’ miss attempts during my first 7 days in Iceland my hopes were up. The skies had almost cleared leaving a ton of individual clouds on all levels of the sky hanging around waiting to catch the different tones of post-sunset-glow.
After arriving at our base for the night, I jumped straight back into the Defender and equipped with my Jase Boards Longboard & an Oru Kayak I was determined to get a sunset shot. I was after a skate shot really since the winds had been blowing all day and my hopes for a perfectly reflecting lake and kayak were rather low.
You know… a nice composition of a long straight road, trees (since there were some around for once), mountains and all nicely lit up by the golden sun. I had done my research, I knew the road I wanted to be on. The sunset was exactly in axis with it. Maybe something with the 300mm to make the sun huge..Silhouette style… well that was the idea.
But watch for yourself.
I ditched the skating shoot quite soon. For that I was going to need a sun in the sky to light up the scene. So the next option was to get the Oru kayak out. BTW. these are really cool foldable kayaks. They weigh around 12Kg and, when folded up, fit onto your back or into any car really. It’s like Origami for adventurists.
I’ll take a moment to thank Chris from chris-kayaks.de for trusting me and letting me take his Oru Kayak to Iceland with me. If you’re in Europe you should contact him if you want one! He’s a great guy and the official importer for Germany and has good connections to the guys in the US too.
Now, back to the adventure!
Since we were close to this huge lake the kayak was an obvious alternative to the skateboard and by the time I had decided to ditch the skating shot the winds hat dropped a little too.
We put the Oru Kayak together in under 10 min and before I knew it the sky was starting to turn orange.
When shooting a kayak I try to fill the frame with what’s of interest.
By picking a wide lens I was able to make the dark, distant objects (like the silhouette of the mountains and trees) look smaller and focus more on the closer objects like the lake, kayaker and (not so close, but bigger) sky.
Had I picked a longer lens there would have been a lot more black and a lot less colour in the shot.
So the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO was definitely the best lens for this occasion. Super wide yet no distortion.
Only moments after I shot the first few frames I noticed the tips of the mountains in my back catch the very last light of the setting sun. Luckily we had picked a small bay and I could position myself on the other end to shoot in the opposite direction. Unfortunately I was too slow and the light faded within 5 minutes of shooting. I got a shot or 2, but none of them captured that vibrant orange glow of the mountains that had brought me here in the first place… you win some you lose some.
Luckily the sunset was nowhere near done with us for that evening.
As I turned around to face into the direction of the setting sun the clouds were glowing orange and the lake almost calm enough to reflect the perfection going on above our heads.
There wasn’t much left to do here. months of preparation, organising a Kayak, 7 days of driving and waiting for sunsets to happen, finding the right spot… it all came together and couldn’t have mattered less in this perfect moment.
After I got what I wanted I even had the time to sit down, relax and enjoy the light show nature was putting on for us. Magic!
I switched things up for this episode and shot all the photos with the Olympus E-M5 Mark II.
As for the lenses, I shot most of the images with the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO and a few with the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO as well as the 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO for the shots towards the glowing mountains.
I film at 25fps and 1080p and continuous Auto-Focus (C-AF) and facial recognition turned on to track my face as I talk to the camera.
The E-M5 Mark II is definitely the pick for filming myself as I can flip the screen and see what the camera is filming. This isn’t possible with the E-M1. So from now on I’ll always film the talking to the camera shots with the E-M5 Mark II.
I love my MountainSmith Lumbar Pack. There is nothing worse than having to put down your camera bag every. single. time. you need the smallest something.
And I have direct access to everything as the bag just sits on my waist. I leave it open most of the time when actually shooting and have never seen anything drop out of it – so really a great bag converted to a camera bag.
All the remaining gear luckily doesn’t weigh that much (I’d say about 8Kg) and I’ll load that into my f-Stop Gear AJNA bag into a medium shallow ICU and if I really need to switch up the gear I’m using it’s right there and easily accessible through the zipper on the back.
I’ll be showing the exact setup in an upcoming episode – so stay tuned for that.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 – http://bit.ly/2kwIkf7
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II – http://geni.us/OMDEM5MKII
M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO – http://bit.ly/2kgKjWo
M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO – http://bit.ly/2jSoIA9
M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO – http://bit.ly/2ldfShL
Peak Design camera straps – http://amzn.to/2Bm5b40
Sirui Tripod – http://amzn.to/2F5wIsM
Lee 100mm Square Filter Holder – http://amzn.to/2F5Jrvo
Lee 105mm Filter Holder – http://amzn.to/2G74TS9
Lee Circular Polariser 105mm (slim) – http://amzn.to/2F4Ucy8
ShapeWays Lee Filter Adapter Holder for 7-14mm f/2.8: http://bit.ly/7to14mmFilterAdapter
MountainSmith Lumbar Pack – http://amzn.to/2DswFXC
Lumbar Pack Camera Insert – http://amzn.to/2BmInRA
ORU Kayak – Bay Kayak – http://amzn.to/2G5qKJP
Zeiss lens cleaning kit – http://amzn.to/2rvqj89
I worked off one of my Adobe Lightroom presets to achieve my colour palette and general style and then tweaked mostly the tonal curve and of course the warmer colours (Magenta, Red, Orange and Yellow) in the HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminescence) settings until I got what I wanted.
By lifting up the black end of the tonal curve to ‘flatten’ the blacks a little I could reduce the overall ‘heaviness’ of the shot and make the shadows less prominent and more pleasing to look at.
I think a lot of people tend to overkill vibrant sunset photos. They don’t look real anymore. I purposely dulled the vibrance down a little as the sunset was too colourful for my style. I actually do this a lot when there’s a lot of one colour. It stylises the images but doesn’t make it look unrealistic.
Of course style is a matter of taste and this is just the way I like to edit my images. There’s no real right or wrong really.
In the next episode I’ll be packing my camera into an underwater housing and enter 3ºC cold water wearing a drysuit as I discover the some of the clearest water on the planet while snorkelling in between the European and American tectonic plates. Stay tuned it’s going to get cold!!
If you enjoyed the video or have any suggestions for future videos please leave a comment below and I’ll try and improve / add the ideas into future episodes.
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If you haven’t yet seen the first 2 episodes. I recommend watching (and reading about them) in the links below.
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