On my second last day in Iceland I had the opportunity to join a snorkel trip with dive.is to the famous Silfra gap.
What’s the big deal about this place? Well, I’m glad you asked!
Silfra is the only place on the planet where you can literally swim/dive between continents / continental plates: The American and the Eurasian tectonic plates.
The water here comes fresh from the glaciers and has been filtered through mountains and rock for the past 80 years before it reaches this spot. That makes it not only 2-3ºC cold but also crystal clear, drinkable arctic water. In fact, the water here is some of the clearest you can find on the planet!
So yes, I was excited to be taking my camera for a swim here!
The guys from dive.is were kind enough to pick me up from my hostel in Reykjavik and take me along with them to the location at Silfra.
This is where the long (first time) procedure of getting into a drysuit began. A pyjama like underlayer would keep me warm and by the time I was sealed up and ready to go I had tape around my wrists to keep the water from coming in, was wearing oven mitt neoprene gloves and a hood and could barely move my head or speak. So perfect for taking photos in the gap between continents (not!)
I felt confident that I would stay dry and warm – since I was promised that only my head and hands would get wet / cool.
By the time I had put my goggles underwater for the first 2 seconds I got it. I got why this place was so special, why everyone visiting Iceland should do this. The clarity was unbelievable! It felt like I had just entered a different world. I had basically just gone through a portal and could now fly and silently observe the empty space between continents. For a moment I forgot why I was here. Ah yes! Take photos and film the episode!
The snorkel only lasted for about 30-40min as the slow flowing current carried me down the narrow channel that was the gap between the slowly separating continents. My air filled drysuit keeping me floating effortlessly on the surface. Unbelievable: I was in nomansland, looking at a different world so clear I thought I could breathe the air out of the water.
By the time I had let some air out of my drysuit to be able to dive down a little the water temperature had caught up with me. 2ºC is the coldest I’ve ever been in. Instant brain freeze if you try to fully submerge your head! So I was pretty much limited to my top-down perspective and focussed on what was below and directly in front of me. Textures, reflections, clarity, people and this amazing vertical drop/gap.
It’s not that easy to ‘work’ when you’re in such an extreme environment. My brain turned to slow-motion and my creativity was crippled down by the cold. But I tried my best and in the end I’m quite happy with what I captured.
Respect to the people who take creative images in these conditions! It’s not easy!
Warmed up by a hot chocolate and some biscuits my fingers slowly returned to normal and I was able to open the housing and find that my camera had done a great job at staying dry and capturing the experience. Yes!!
For any photo nerd I reckon this is the interesting part. How did I shoot it? What gear did I use? How did I prepare my gear? Let me tell you!
I own the Olympus PT-EP11 underwater housing. Which means I’m limited to using the E-M1 when I go underwater.
Most of the important preparation points I tried to pack into the video. (sorry if that part turned out a little longer)
This time I had the opportunity to use the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO since Olympus has given me the dome port + extender + adapter that allow me to fit this awesome combo into the housing. THANKS!
The wide angle lens was incredibly helpful for this shoot. It really allowed me to shoot the whole picture.
The lens really helped with the composition of most of the shots because I had the 2 sides of the gap left and right in the shot making for a nice symmetrical look or/and a foreground. The wide angle perspective of the 7-14mm made the gap look small in the distance emphasising depth and clarity of the location and because it is so wide I was able to capture so much of my environment.
So this was the obvious lens choice for me.
My biggest concern was the battery life. In such a cold environment the battery can drain like crazy! And I was right. 20min into the snorkel (I was pretty much shooting and filming constantly) the battery started flashing red at me.
But I’ve seen this in the past. In the colder water the battery will last so much longer than it thinks it will. I think the cold fools the camera into thinking that the battery level is lower than it is. Anyway, the easily battery lasted all the dive and even a whole series of shots more after I got out of the water.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 – http://bit.ly/2kwIkf7
M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO – http://bit.ly/2kgKjWo
Peak Design camera straps – http://amzn.to/2Bm5b40
Zeiss lens cleaning kit – http://amzn.to/2rvqj89
Silica Gels – http://amzn.to/2n4xbE2
O-Ring Grease – http://geni.us/ORingGrease
Olympus PT-EP11 Underwater Housing – http://geni.us/OlympusPTEP11housing
Olympus PER-E01 Lens Port Extension –
Olympus PAD-EP08 Lens Port Adapter – http://geni.us/PADEP08PortExtention
Olympus PTLH-E01 Dome Port –
I edited all the images with Adobe Lightroom and had to create a totally new preset since the white balance and the way colours are rendered are very different below the surface. Almost 90% of the image was Yellow-Aqua-Blue – not a great range of colours to work with. So it was incredibly important to get the intensity and saturation of these right. I wanted it to look natural but still add my style into these images.
But how do you make an image interesting if you have only 3 very similar colours to work with? Composition and contrast! In order to show how deep and clear the water is I needed to add ‘layers’ to my image: a foreground, subject and background.
Additionally depth can be shown by contrast: light and dark. So a great deal of the editing time was spent fine tuning the amount of black and whites in the images as well as adjusting the tonal curve.
Quite a long process to be honest.
In the next episode I will be failing. Follow along and learn about what it takes to NOT shoot a photo and why I love shooting skateboarding shots. And I will show what I think makes the difference between a good and great outdoor adventure skating shot. So stay tuned!
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.
Faroe Islands Photography Journal (APOL EP37-38-39)
In April 2018 I had the opportunity to travel back to my favourite place on earth. A wild, little group of 18 islands in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Tucked away half way between Scotland and Iceland, not even a dot on the world map. The Faroe Islands. I spent a week-long exploring the…Details
Scotland Photography Packlist + Photos (APOL EP32-33-34)
I had initially planned to head off to Austria for a week. But soon found myself looking further. I wanted snow, drama, colour, contrast and a wild landscape. And Austria just didn’t feel right for that. So Scotland it was!Details
EP31 – Improve Your Photography Composition Techniques
In EP31 of Adventure Photography on Location I’m exploring famous Lake Bled in Slovenia and I share some of my favourite composition rules & tools with you and how I use them to improve my photography composition techniques.Details
EP30 – Huskies and Minimalism in Lapland
In EP30 of Adventure Photography on Location I”m still in Lapland. We head off on a husky tour (coolest thing ever btw!) and then I try myself at arctic minimalism photography…Details
EP29 – Photography in -24ºC in Lapland
In EP29 of Adventure Photography on Location, I’m in Lapland – Finland. I managed to sneak away from the family for a day or 2 and spend my Christmas in -24ºC getting some shots of the frozen landscapes.Details
EP28 – Chasing Winter
In EP28 of Adventure Photography On Location I’m off chasing winter and go to test out the long exposure capabilities of the Olympus E-M1 Mark II + 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO with a 4 second handheld shot!Details
EP27 – Little Switzerland in Luxembourg
In EP27 of Adventure Photography on Location I’m exploring the beautiful nature and rock formations in a place called Little Switzerland in Luxembourg aka Müllertal.Details
The Pamir Highway – A Visual Journey
A collection of images, videos and thought about the most epic road trip I ever had the pleasure of going on: The Pamir Highway.Details
EP20 + EP21 – The Lenin Peak Expedition (7,134m // 23,400ft)
In EP20 & 21 of APOL I go on my biggest adventure yet as I spend 3 weeks in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan to attempt the famous Lenin Peak. The so called easiest 7000m mountain on the planet.Details
EP19 – The Grand Canyon Of Central Asia
In EP19 of Adventure Photography On Location I’m at the so called Grand Canyon of Central Asia: the Charyn Canyon.Details
EP18 – Altitude Sickness in Kazakhstan
In EP18 of Adventure Photography On Location I’m travelling to and photographing Kazakhstan and suffer some pretty bad altitude sickness…Details
EP17 – Photographing Spitzkoppe – Namibia
In EP17 I’m about to photograph some of my favourite Namibia moments, in the middle of nowhere at a place called Spitzkoppe. Come join me!Details
EP16 – Deadvlei
In EP16 of Adventure Photography On Location I’m at the oldest desert on the planet: the Namib Desert of Namibia. Join to on an adventure to Deadvlei.Details
EP15 – The Panorama Route
In EP15 of Adventure Photography On Location I continue my journey north through South Africa and follow the famous Panorama Route. On today’s menu: Epic views and raging waterfalls. Join me as I put the weather sealing of my camera to the extreme test.Details
EP14 – South Africa – The Gorge
In EP14 of Adventure Photography On Location I get my feet wet as I follow a river upstream and explore my way down into the cracks and canyons of the Drakensberg into a place called ‘The Gorge’.Details
EP13 – South Africa – The Berg
In EP13 of Adventure Photography On Location I’m climbing to the top of the worlds tallest cascading water in the Drakensberg – aka The Berg.Details
EP12 – FAIL
EP12 of Adventure Photography On Location is a total fail… it’s not always perfect and what would an adventure be without occasionally failing, right?Details
EP11 – South Africa – Cape Town
In EP11 of Adventure Photography On Location I climb the famous Lion’s Head mountain in Cape Town to capture the golden flares and sunrise light.Details
EP10 – Kayaking A Drowned Forest
In EP10 of Adventure Photography On Location I’m taking you along on an overnight kayaking trip to Kangaroo Valley where we camp near a drowned forest.Details
EP09 – Belmore Falls
In EP09 of Adventure Photography On Location I’m heading off-the-grid for a few days on a quest to capture the iconic Belmore Falls in the upper Kangaroo Valley in NSW Australia.Details
EP08 – Blue Mountains: From Peak to Canyon
In Episode 08 of Adventure Photography On Location I’m exploring the the Blue Mountains of Australia. Capturing vast landscape images of the Hanging Rock as well as tropical canyons deep down in the valleys of the Mountains.Details
EP07 – Kayaking The Glacier Lagoon
In EP07 I’m taking you behind the scenes of one of my favourite adventure photos of Iceland. The kayaking shot in the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland.Details
EP06 – Chasing Autumn
In EP06 I’m chasing autumn as I take you along on a four day trip to the Eifel in Germany as we explore landscapes, castles and capture atmospheric autumn photos.Details
EP05 – Aerial Photography Over Iceland
In Episode 05: I test my Aerial Photography skills as I fly over Iceland including a landing on top of a glacier and one next to steaming thermal springs. Including 10 aerial photography tips + a brand new Lightroom Preset Pack for download!Details
EP04 – Between Continents
Follow along as I take you underwater between continents and snorkelling between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates in Silfra – Iceland.Details
EP03 – Kayaking Into Sunset
In Episode 03 of Adventure Photography On Location I’m taking you along to the best sunset we’ve had so far in Iceland, as we go kayaking into sunset.Details
EP02 – Chasing Waterfalls
Follow along as I explore 3 very different waterfalls and make the most of the rainy conditions we’ve been having in Iceland. I’ll be showing you how I use ultra wide angle lenses all the way to a 600mm lens to achieve my shots.Details
EP01 – Hidden Canyon
So after many weeks and countless hours of preparation and thanks to the help of Olympus AU I’ve finally made it to Iceland. And in the very first episode of the new video series: Adventure Photography On Location I’m taking you along from Budapest to Iceland all the way into a canyon on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the far west of Iceland.Details
This setup clearly isn’t cheap, but boy are these pictures! I added you on youtube right away and I am scrolling through your blog 😀
Thanks for the kind comment Felix 😉
yes it’s not a cheap setup, but that’s the price you pay to take your expensive camera gear into a ‘new world’ / underwater. Totally worth it though.