Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Start of an Adventure

As I’m just under a month away from, what I hope, will become a ‘trip to remember’, over a week in Iceland with a group of photographers, I thought it was timely to start posting.

From my perspective this is an exciting event in my life, and, at the same time, a little bit daunting; as there is so much to think about.

So, in the spirit of ‘learning from others’, I’ve decided to try and write regular posts about my preparation for the trip, as well as about the trip itself. Hopefully others will pick up on my ‘mistakes and experiences’.

The trip, which is in February, will obviously be challenging simply from a personal ‘survival’ perspective, ie it will likely be cold and windy beyond the normal UK weather. Another difference, which brings many positives, is the latitudinal difference between the South of England and Iceland.

In this post, I’ll be restricting myself to saying a few words about clothing, location and weather. In a subsequent posts I’ll talk about some of the photography equipment I will take with me and, just an importantly, not take with me!

In addition to topping up my wardrobe, ie more layers, hand warmers, waterproof over trousers etc etc, I was alerted to the need to prepare for walking on ice: where standard boot soles will not suffice.

There seems to be two basic styles, one with spikes and one with helical wire. As I don’t intend to go mountain climbing I have taken a gamble on the Yaktrax Pro helical wire technology, hoping they won’t ‘clog up’:

As a photographer, the weather means drama in the clouds, which impacts the quality of light; or, because it is Iceland, the quality of the darkness, eg for photographing the Aurora…I hope!

So I reached for a book I have had for a while and will be (re)educating myself on clouds! The book is called The Cloudspotter's Guide  and is written by GavinPretor-Pinney of the Cloud Appreciation Society:

As for location, I have various (iPad/IPhone) Apps that, in the past have helped me prepare for photography trips, some I have mentioned in previous posts, for example: PlanIt! for Photographers and TPE.

The one I will talk about in this post is PhotoPills:

PhotoPils is one of those Apps that, at first sight, can look overwhelming. However, it is an App I can recommend to all photographers. Like other Apps, it allows you to plan/envision your trip from the comfort of your armchair.: as well as do many other things As an example, take sunrise in the South of England; when I am in Iceland.

As photographers know, as the sun sets and rises, the quality of light changes. Not only because of your location, but also because of the local weather, which will affect the passage of light through the atmosphere.

As photographers we know why the sky is blue, eg Rayleigh scattering, and know that the quality of light cannot be predicted with absolute certainty. Thus the weather is usually something you have to assess closer to your shooting date: so I’ll say no more about Icelandic weather for now.

The one thing you can guarantee will not change, and you can look ahead years in advance and be sure things won’t change, is the timing of the local sunset and sunrise. For convenience, the sun’s elevation/declination is talked about in zones, eg Civil Twilight, Nautical Twilight and Astronautically Twilight.

All these zones, including Golden (0 to +6 degrees) and Blue ‘Hour’ (-4 to -6 degrees), that attract photographers, are, of course, part of the sunset (or sunrise) continuum, ie the above ‘zones’ merge into each other and don’t have ‘hard’ interfaces.

So what would these ‘photographic magical times’ look like if I stayed at home, rather than travelled to Iceland. Well PhotoPills allows me to see this in a very graphical way eg let’s take sunset in the UK on the 10th February 2017:

So how will this change when I’m in Iceland?

Well dramatically I would say, as can be seen from this PhotoPills map of Iceland’s sunset on the 10th February 2017:

At home I would usually be limited in my Golden Hour or Blue Hour shooting time. When I’m in Iceland, at first sight, it looks like a relative photography paradise, ie ‘lots’ of time to capture images.

But, as usual, I’m sure I will run out of time. It also looks like I should move up to Greenland for a full day's Golden Hour photography :-)

As this is the first post I intend to publish on my ‘Icelandic Adventure’, I will draw a line under this one at this point; reflecting that, even before a photographic trip, you have the opportunity to prepare and envision things, especially if you are going to a location you have never been to before.

One final thought: if anyone reading this has any insight/advice for shooting in Iceland, I would welcome you sharing in a comment below ;-)


  1. I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time Garry. We spent a week there a few years ago and loved it. The landscapes, culture and people are awesome. I look forward to reading all about it and reliving one of our most memorable holidays. Good luck. Dave Hawkins.

  2. P.S. You might want to take a quick look at this link for a few ideas of possible locations: