Author Archives: richdysonphoto
The early history of Iceland is documented in the various Saga stories that tell the tales of the early settlers to this wonderful country in the North Atlantic nestled between the two continents of Europe and America. It would seem that each of my trips to Iceland turns into its own saga of adventures that make the trips memorable for many, many reasons. My last visit to the island in December resulted in a first night spent sleeping in a car due to the high winds and drifting snow and I was sure that nothing so drastic could happen visiting in March, the week before the onset of Spring. Reading the in-flight magazine on the journey out, Iceland is the second windiest country in the world behind the Falkland Islands and only an hour or so later we were treated to evidence that this is the case as the aircraft was diverted from Keflavik Airport near Reykjavik to Egilstaddir on the far East of the country where we sat on the tarmac for three hours waiting for the hurricane force winds and snow to dissipate. Eventually we were given the all-clear to fly back to Keflavik where the conditions had marginally improved, albeit we had to fly through those same hurricane winds that were now sweeping towards us in the east - it's fair to say that the journey was a little bumpy, to the extent that the stewardess spent 30 seconds or so flung across the lap of a passenger and holding on desperately to prevent falling further. Our landing was treated with some relief, although it was a momentary respite as we were told that the winds were too strong to open the doors of the aircraft and so had a further three hours to wait before we could eventually disembark - as a result the two hour journey to Borgarnes where we were scheduled to stay just wasn't possible but fortunately, the booking agency we used were able to find alternative accommodation closer to Reykjavik where we could finally rest. On the first full day the conditions had improved and our journey to Borgarnes was much more comfortable and allowed our first day shooting on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The south of the peninsula is home to one of only four black churches in Iceland at the small hamlet of Búðir. We were treated to small pockets of blue skies that allowed this beautiful church to stand out from the snow covered landscape and was our first treat of this amazing trip. Our last stop of the day was in Iceland's capital city, Reykjavik where we had an explore around the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. Outside the cathedral is a statue to Leif Erikson who is now recognised as being the first westerner to set foot on the shores of America. The heavy clouds give a nice moody back-drop to his strident pose and is a perfect end to a wondrous trip. During this trip I was accompanied by a friend who is also a very talented photographer. You can follow her work through her Facebook page. Throughout the trip I was shooting using my Canon 5D MkIII camera and most of the day time shots were also using my Lee Filters which I can't recommend enough for helping to expose correctly in the really difficult conditions we faced. I will be launching the October tour later this week through this page, however, if you would like to get an early-bird notification drop me a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading "Iceland Tour" and I will send you an e-mail 12 hours before the tour is released to the general public. It will be a fantastic experience!Day two of this trip, which is my final 'recce' before launching my own Iceland Photography Tour which will take place this October, took us onto the north of the peninsula to the fishing port of Grundarfjörður which is close to the beautiful mountain of Kirkjufell. This has become a mecca for photographers as a series of waterfalls produce a leading line to the majestic mountain, however as Iceland is experiencing the worst winter in over 30 years the waterfalls were frozen and only a dribble of flowing water was visible however it provides a quite different view to the 'usual' shots that are seen from this position - little did we know that there would be an even more unusual view later in the trip. We were due to stay another night on the peninsula, however, the weather reports were coming in that another storm was about to hit from the West and so we took the decision to leave early and head down to the South coast and the town of Vik. On the way to our destination we pass several of the well known waterfalls such as Seljalandafloss and Skagafoss. The conditions were far from perfect but the white snow and dark skies make a very interesting monochrome conversion without the need for any software. The storm did indeed hit quite heavily overnight and we woke up to much brighter and calmer conditions which allowed us to venture onto the cliffs that overlook the Black Beach. Whilst it was calmer, in perspective the winds were still around 25mph and the resultant swell on the ocean was leading to huge waves crashing onto the shore that had made the unhindered journey from the warm seas of the Caribbean and gathered pace to batter the Icelandic coast. I was able to get enough shelter behind a small hill and perch precariously on the edge of a cliff to shoot some longer exposure images across the bay toward the sea stacks on the opposite side. One of the hidden gems of this area is a DC3 plane that crashed onto the basalt sands in 1973, the crew survived the crash but the plane was left to rot on the beach rather than being recovered. There are some strict rules about off-road driving in Iceland, although this 6 mile stretch from the main road to the wreck seems to be overlooked and the foolhardy and adventurous attempt the trip to see this eerie sight - it's really difficult to find in the light of day, could you imagine trying to find it at night...! We went to bed with the crash of thunder and flash of lightning accompanied by a text message to advise that the aurora was likely to be quite good early in the morning and the forecasters promising a clearing in the clouds at 3am. Alarm clocks were set and sure enough the storm had ended and there was a large gap in the clouds overhead with the familiar movement of misty aurora! The aurora hunt was on and a location was needed that would be a great foreground for this beautiful display - why not try and drive six miles off the road to go back to the DC3 - in the dark?? We had great fun painting the plane with light both inside and out to produce this mystical image. The next day we headed to our most Easterly (planned) destination at The Glacier Lagoon. By now the cold temperatures we had arrived to had become a distant memory and a new danger was on us, flooding caused by the snow melt coming off the mountains. At the beach opposite the Glacier Lagoon the blocks of ice had been falling so profusely off the glacier that the beach was full of growlers and smaller chunks of glacial ice making it really difficult to isolate individual ice-bergs and made even harder by a still quite strong ocean swell that resulted in wet feet getting this image. The following day we started our journey back towards Reykjavik where our trip would end the next day but on the way we had a few locations planned to capture, however, I always like to keep an eye out as we drive for something a little different and a tiny glimpse over a few hills captured my interest, so we turned around and headed along a small and bumpy track to come across another glacial lagoon but not the famous one a few miles away. What a find it was as the icebergs were still well formed, the blue glacier behind them was majestic and the shore had tons of foreground interest. This is definitely going to be on the agenda for the tour so we can avoid the crowds at the famous lagoon and capture something a little different than most of photography tours. Also on the journey back westwards we wanted to stop again at Vik as there is a really pretty church that sits just above the town and is dwarfed by mountains behind it. Our timing was perfect as the sun illuminated the white walls of the church which made it ping out against the mountains behind. This really is my favourite church in Iceland. So, our trip had come to an end and after a pleasant last meal in Reykjavik we headed to bed ready for the flight home the next day. The flight wasn't until mid-afternoon so we spent a few hours in The Blue Lagoon, relaxing in the hot waters and enjoying the mud masks. However, in the back of our minds was the prediction of clear skies and an aurora prediction of an amazing display. A conversation with a pleasant American chap in the lagoon led us to the inevitable conclusion - when we are already in the best location in the world for aurora why would we leave it just as the conditions were going to be amazing - flights were changed, car hire extended and hotels booked and we headed northwards again to Snæfellsnes. Leaving our hotel just before dusk, our first stop was the Kirkjufell mountain. What a difference a week makes as most of the snow had now disappeared and the waterfalls were flowing giving us some great foreground interest. As dusk fell the aurora was already visible to the naked eye and it was even possible to capture it using an iPhone camera. Normally, the best place to shoot the Northern Lights is by pointing the camera to the north which is the perfect position to include the magnificent mountain, however, the electrical impulses were so strong there were displays of green, purple, red and blue flashing all over the sky. With such an amazing display, the crowds were flocking to this famous spot so I took the decision to move on and try some different locations. I had spotted a small abandoned boat house on the journey to the peninsula in the first week and I thought it would make a great foil for the aurora above. The lights didn't fail us and with a little torch illumination on the wood it created a beautiful image of a slightly different location. By 5AM we were starting to flag and to some extent so were the Northern Lights that had given us an 8 hour display. However, ou accommodation looked toward Kirkjufell and there was still some indication from the various apps that there would be yet more auroral activity above. The water in front of the mountain was devoid of photographers so were given free range to find a good view point. The lights were again favourable to us and gave us one final display before the first light of dawn started to creep over the eastern horizon - what a night! Unsurprisingly, the next day was a little subdued after such a long and exciting night but we still managed to get out and explore a little more of the peninsula. The weather predictions were once again spot on but unfortunately this meant that cloud was covering the sky and snow starting to fall again. However, a bit of off-roading again paid dividends as this little beach was discovered after a bit of a clamber over some slippy rocks. Given better conditions that we will hopefully get in October, this will be a cracking sunset location. A little further along the track lies the Saxholbjarg Lighthouse which stands on top of some huge cliffs that are home to gannets and if you are brave enough to look below also has a small arch that the ocean was swirling around below. And so, once again, this was our last day in Iceland. The flight was a little later so we had a leisurely trip down to Reykjavik but on the way had a couple of stops for some locations that we hadn't quite had time for in the preceding eight days. The first was in the fishing port of Akranes which has two lighthouses, again this will be a lovely location to play with in different conditions but it's nice to give you a flavour of the kind of thing that we will be getting to do on the October trip.
Fine Art America in a number of formats. You can also find more details of Martin Bailey Workshops including bookings for the 2016 Winter Wonderland Tours by clicking on the link. Thanks, Martin, for some great opportunities and for some really great discussions about photography.
Whenever I speak to photographers new to using filters when they attend my landscape courses, one of the issues they always talk about is having the time and patience to swap and change the filters to get the right effect that they would ideally like. This is particularly difficult to do when you are in places where there isn’t much room to put your bag on the floor or when you are in water and it’s just impossible to bend down and pick up a different piece of glass. The people at Lee Filters have listened to their customers and a few months ago produced a relatively cheap piece of kit that gets around this issue. Until you have used the Lee Field Pouch you’ll just think that it’s another gimmicky item that relieves photographers of cash to remain in your home while you are out shooting. However, I have been using this for a couple of months now and I find it as invaluable as any of my lenses when I am out shooting landscapes. The concept is fairly simple; a fairly slim bag that can hold up to 10 150mm x 100mm filters but the simplicity belies its practicality. The Field Pouch comes with three different ways of holding the pouch whilst you are shooting; over the shoulder; on a belt; or my preference, strapped to your tripod. What makes it great though, is that whilst the side zips are fastened the filters are held nice and tightly and are almost impossible to slip out accidentally yet can easily slide out when held firmly with you fingers. This was ideal when I was shooting in 50mph plus winds in Iceland a few weeks ago. Undo the zips though and you have really easy access, especially if you are storing 100mm x 100mm ND filters or the Big or Small stoppers. The other advantage of having it strapped to your tripod is that it allows you to put straps underneath it to stop them flapping around is a nice little platform to rest a shutter release on for long exposures. Once you have a had a few hours of shooting seascapes with your camera-bag strapped onto your back but having the flexibility of switching filters you’ll be a convert to this clever little device. Suddenly you aren’t stuck with the filters that were on the camera when you started shooting, prior to this it would mean walking away to somewhere more protected to switch, now you simply switch filters around with no risk of damage to your expensive filters. The Field Pouch retails for £38 from your usual Lee stockists and comes in either Black or Sand so is ideal for the photographer with a bit of Christmas money hanging around to be spent on something you aren’t going to waste money on.
For a landscape photographer, Iceland is one of the places that is a must-go location. The country is like a living book of how the world was created and shaped with active volcanoes and glaciers cutting out the landscape. I am in the process of planning a photography workshop over to this fabulous country and I have just returned from an eventful trip which just happened to coincide with the strongest storm of the year, however, despite conditions which included wind speeds in excess of 100mph, driving snow and road closures, it was still possible to get some great images. We arrived into Keflavik Airport on Monday evening and planned to head to Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsness peninsula which should be around 3 hours drive. This was the first night of the storm though and we didn’t actually make it to the little village and had to spend the night in the car as we eventually became stuck in snow drifts, fortunately we had all our clothes with us and had a full tank of fuel so we managed to stay warm into the morning when things had calmed down. We took the decision to drive back toward Borgarnes and on the way stop off to take some photos of interesting locations. Throughout Iceland you will see farms often with old machinery in the fields, which can make for good foreground interest. This plough was in front of one of the vast plains with just a hint of sun over the mountains as the previous nights storm was dissipating. We drove on to Borgarnes and on the outskirts of the city we found this pretty little church. It plays a large part in the Egill Saga as it was the birthplace of Egill. It is an unusual church in that it points North to South instead of the usual East-West which would make it great for Northern Lights photos if we were lucky to have clear skies. That evening we had dinner and noticed the skies were starting to clear over Borgarnes and so walked along to waterfront just as we were treated with a stunning display of the Aurora Borealis. I positioned myself so the display looked as if it was appearing from the monument on the top of the hill which celebrates the point where Egills nursemaid jumped into the seas to escape Egills father, Skallagrímur Kveldúlfsson, who was angry at her for stopping him killing his son! Interesting stories these Icelandic Saga’s. The following morning we were faced with road closures so had to spend a few hours in Borgarnes waiting for the winds to die down enough that it would be safe to drive (apparently 70mph winds aren’t that bad). We headed to a local park area that had some lovely trees that were standing out against the snow and took this fun little image by moving the camera whilst the shutter was open. I quite like the painterly feel it has and it would make a lovely abstract print. Eventually the roads were opened and we were able to get as far as Reykjavik where we headed up to the imposing Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral which is lit up nicely at night and the icy walkway seemed to keep people from walking in front of me whilst taking this shot. The next morning we finally got back onto the planned agenda with a trip out to Geysir. The conditions made photographing the Strokkur geyser quite difficult with the eruption of water, which happens every five minutes, so almost impossible to capture against the grey skies. As were driving away from the geyser field the sun started to come from behind the clouds just as we spotted this small herd of Icelandic Ponies who were more than happy to pose for us. I was given a tip by local that if you have a plastic bag in your pocket the rustling sound makes the pony think you will be offering it a sugar cube and so they turn their head to you – one of the least expensive photography accessories you will need for a trip. The next stop was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, a famous landmark as it is possible to walk behind the waterfall, or at least it is in the summer months, however, with freezing pathways they were closed off. I always try to look for something different in a location from the usual shots that other photographers take and I was rewarded with a short walk down the river to capture the sun setting in the distance and large cracks in the ice that had frozen over the river. The following morning we were heading to the Vatnajökull National Park area. The trip from our lodgings was about 3 hours, much of the journey, across huge lava fields looking like the surface of the moon. Halfway across one of them we found a parking place and managed to capture one of the most spectacular sunrises I have seen. As we entered the National Park we headed toward one of the several glacial tongues and what would be my favourite location of the trip. The Svinafell Glacier is a short drive off the main road and has a small lagoon that the glacier drops icebergs into as it retreats back away from the sea. There is a fairly gentle walk around the lagoon where you can get very close to the icebergs and have the huge mountains in the background. It would have been very easy to spend the rest of the day here but we had another location to get to and so drove on. The final location of the day was the famous Glacier Lagoon at Jökulsarlon. The vastness of the lagoon can make it quite difficult to find the right way to photograph it so I tried to hunt out one or two icebergs that were isolated from the rest like this one which was nicely placed in the pool of glacial water which was being lit up by the golden light that is pretty much continuous in the daylight hours when the skies aren’t covered in cloud. As the daylight was ending we headed across the road to the beach where the fresh glacial waters meet the Atlantic Ocean that roars onto the black sands and pushes escaping icebergs back onto the beach. Unfortunately for us the tide was coming in rather than the better scenario of a retreating – this meant having to brave the water coming in and hoping that it wasn’t so big as to come over the top of our insulated boots. The gift shop at the lagoon did a roaring trade in selling fresh socks to those of us got caught by the waves but it was certainly worth it for shots like this final one of the trip. The plan for our final day was ruined by another snowstorm that hit the South of the island. We were going to capture the large sea stacks at Vik but this will need to be on my next trip which I am planning for March next year. If you are interested in finding out more about the workshop I will be running in October 2015 please drop me a mail to email@example.com and I will add you to the mailing list when it is launched next year.
Anyone who has attended one of my Edinburgh Photography Workshop Seascape or Highland sessions will tell you that I am a massive advocate of the Lee filter system and I think when I started to use it that my photography significantly improved. However, the one filter I used that wasn't Lee was the circular polariser. I was discouraged from using the 'old' Lee polariser by many other photographers who said the quality wasn't as good as the Heliopan 105mm Slim Circular Polariser SH-PMC filter and so that was the one that found its way into my bag and I was pretty happy with it except for one problem - at the wide end of the 17-40mm L lens that I have on my Canon 5D MkIII there would always be quite a significant amount of vignette visible and so it meant either cropping the image after or pulling back to about 18 or 19mm and losing some of the edge of the scene that I really wanted to capture. Lee have responded to both the quality issue and the vignetting issue with the launch of the new Lee Landscape Polariser which promises to remove vignette on 16 and 17mm lenses and also add a warming tone to increase the impact of the greens, browns and golds in landscapes. Being a bit of geek the first time I used the Landscape Polariser I had to put them up against each other to see the difference between the two. All the images you can see below were shot on the same camera using the same focal lengths and with a Outdoors White Balance applied in camera, they were then imported into Lightroom using the standard import and have not had any other changes applied before being exported as standard JPEG's so any differences are caused by the polarisers and not any other influence. First up, I wanted to test the vignette issue, as that was the one that was causing me the most pain. These two images were taken at 17mm at f/11 with 0.8sec exposure and you can clearly see the first image taken with the Heliopan has a very strong vignette caused by addition of the polariser to the Lee system. The second image , taken with the Lee Landscape Polariser doesn't suffer this issue at all with no signs of vignette even at the widest end of the lens on a full frame camera. I am impressed that I now have an extra couple of millimetres available to use the polariser with but you can also see in this image that greens and browns are slightly more vibrant. It is normal for polarisers to take around two stops of light, however, the Lee version seems to be about 1/3rd of a stop less than this so you do get a brighter and 'poppier' image as a result. Secondly, I wanted to see how much of a difference the warming effect had on the image so I removed the vignette issue by now shooting at the long end of the lens (40mm) and I also introduced a 2 stop soft graduated filter to add a bit of detail into the sky so a little more like I would use the system in the field. This time the top image is using the Lee Polariser and you can see that compared to the next image which is using the Heliopan the overall image is brighter and the greens and yellows are much more vibrant. You are probably now thinking the same as me, that the difference has been caused by the extra 1/3rd of a stop that is passing through the filter with the Lee Landscape filter, so I then took a further image using the Heliopan with the extra stop added in through opening the aperture up to f/11 and whilst we have a much more comparative image there is still a marked difference in the vibrancy of the Lee Landscape Polariser compared to the Heliopan equivalent. For me, the Lee Landscape Polariser has clearly performed better than the Heliopan version and it will now be changing places in my camera bag and I can now truly call myself a full advocate of Lee Filters with my entire system now using the same brand. I was also trying out the new Field Pouch which I am sure I'll cover in another blog posting once I have had a chance to use it a little more in the field but it is a really convenient way of carrying my standard pack of Lee filters and having them to hand.
As well as being a professional photographer, I also provide photography tuition through my sister company, Edinburgh Photography Workshop. I love seeing the huge improvement in people who attend my sessions as they get to grips with moving away from the auto-settings and Switching to Manual. Here's an image from today's workshop taken by Jacqui Swann and shows just how a short understanding of manual settings and a few composition techniques can deliver really great images. Even better Jacqui walked away from the workshop with the understanding to do this without me being by her side.
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh are hosting an outdoor lighting experience in association with Scottish light artist Malcolm Innes and his colleague Euan Winton. The artists’ vision means that night-time visitors will be able to make their way through a one kilometre route full of light and shadow and experience the Botanics in an entirely new manner, with interactive stations and a few unexpected surprises along the way. You can book tickets to the event on the RBGE Website and the event runs from 30th October to 23rd November. Photographers are welcome to the event but none of the pictures can be used for commercial use. I am really looking forward to seeing the different interpretations from all the visiting snappers, I think it's amazing how people can go to the same scene and get a totally different perspective. Keep your eyes on this page as I am going to launch something early next year that will give all us photo people a regular chance to share our perspectives and also learn from each other at the same time - it's going to be really exciting! If you are going to see Night in the Garden then you may want to click away from the slideshow so it doesn't spoil the event.
Morning everyone, I had an early start today to do more of my seascapes of the real bits of Edinburgh that I think are rather beautiful. The bits of Edinburgh that aren't the usual touristy shots but hidden away areas that need their bit of the limelight too. This little spot is close to Marine Drive on Cramond Beach and gives a great view of the changing colours of the sky at sunrise. It was made even better when I turned around to see Cramond Island being lit up by the first rays of the sun! I love to share my locations with people and the next Seascapes workshop is just two weeks away on 26 October and starts at 5:30am with a pick-up in Edinburgh before heading along both banks of the Forth for a full day of shooting finishing around 6:00pm. For more details and to book a place go to http://bit.ly/epwlandscape