Iceland is a top destination for photographers and for good reason. The landscape palette in this small and welcoming country includes rugged coasts, beautiful waterfalls, intricate textures and patterns, majestic snowy peaks, volcanic highlands, surreal moss-covered lava fields that go on for miles and miles, the largest ice cap in Europe, and glacial lakes filled with sculptural icebergs that float to sea to then wash back up on a black sand beach. The golden light at the beginning and end of the day lasts for hours, ensuring plenty of time to enjoy the magic illumination at these times. And in certain seasons, including during my Autumn & Aurora Discoveries workshop this October, there is the possibility of experiencing and photographing the aurora borealis dancing in the night sky.
But since you’ve found your way to the Focus on Nature site, you probably have done your research and you already know why Iceland is such a great destination for photographers. So what distinguishes my Focus on Nature workshop from all the other photo tours in Iceland?
First and foremost are the people: Experienced locals, photographers themselves, who have been doing this for years. They take care of everything from picking you up at the airport to taking you back for your return flight. And in the time between arrival and departure, no detail is overlooked in the goal of making your time with them an incredible, fun, and memorable experience. I know this firsthand because I have traveled with them on a workshop trip so I could get a sense of what it was like. And the experience far exceeded my high expectations. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken!
Once we leave Reykjavik, we base ourselves at comfortable hotels in key locations that allow for daylong excursions to some of the most beautiful scenery the country has to offer. We travel in style, too. In the deluxe 4WD excursion van, every participant has two seats to themselves, 220v electrical power and a WI-FI connection. That extra seat you have is not just for spreading out and having a place for some of your gear; it also allows me the opportunity for casual one-on-one instruction as we travel to locations. This time is perfect for talking about photographic technique, composition, digital processing, and the many ways to enhance your creative seeing and image interpretation. Having that extra space in a deluxe vehicle is one of the little touches that elevate a Focus on Nature trip to a different level than most photo tours.
Another thing that’s different is the focus on creative growth. We do much more than just transport you to beautiful places to take photographs: the goal is also to create a supportive environment for learning and improving your craft so you can take your art to a new level. When we’re not out photographing, we take time to review the images that we’re making during the week and discuss how they are working or not working. We explore ways to make your images better, whether that’s through a different camera method, or processing techniques in Lightroom, Photoshop and other software. But the learning experience in this workshop doesn’t stop when you leave Iceland. After you’ve arrived back home and had a chance to settle in with some of your images, I provide every participant with a complimentary online session for further review of your photographs and ways you might choose to improve and enhance them with post processing technique.
Some of the times that I’ve felt the most alive and excited as a photographer are when I’ve traveled to a place I’ve always wanted to go to, for the sole purpose of seeing, exploring, and making images. By stepping outside your normal routine and traveling to those “bucket list” places so you can immerse yourself in your photography, your creative awareness is heightened and enhanced. You see things with a new eye because the primary purpose of the journey is to see. You’re energized by the experience and that energy and creative inspiration infuses your photography.
On my Autumn and Aurora Discoveries in Iceland workshop, all the ingredients are there for a fantastic and memorable trip: Enthusiastic photographers with excellent guides in a place with stunning landscapes, beautiful light and possibilities for creative image making everywhere we turn. I hope you’ll join us for this incredible experience!
Iceland is cool….really cool! In fact, Iceland is our absolute favorite photography venue, and we go to many very cool places! First off, the people are great: smart, instantly multi-lingual, gentle sense of humor, and really fun! In fact, one of our favorite Thai restaurants in right on Reykjavik’s rainbow row!
Upon leaving Reykjavik, the landscape gets more and more interesting: patterns, myriad waterfalls, other worldly feel, glacial lagoons, huge ice blocks sculpted by the ocean washed up on black sand beaches. Aside from the incredible color photography, there is ample room for B&W interpretations, which can actually capture more of the austere feel of this wonderfully photogenic Island.
We will be working out of several strategically placed hotels throughout the country making the most of the incredible photo ops that are readily available. Our vehicle will have on board wifi, and each person will have two seats for maximum comfort!
We just booked our flight and are very excited to work with Einar and the Focus on Nature team to get you to the best places in the best conditions to capture the unimaginable Icelandic landscape. Of course, there will be help in the field available and a critique session or two!
– Tony Sweet
One can see clearly that Tony Sweet is a musician and even further I can see his background in music is jazz. That’s why Tony is so open minded to take many of his images and give them their own jazz solo look. That’s why I love working with Tony and running his workshops in Iceland with FocusOnNature. With Tony Sweet we don’t just get outside the box, we throw it away when we can. Now we are adding Ragnar Th Sigurdsson at www.arctic-images.com and we have an explosive creative team; an imaging jazz band.
Well, the secret is out. The cat’s outta the bag. The parking meter is free. Dadburnit, people have found Iceland. And, forced sharing reminds me of kindergarden. But, rest assured there’s plenty to go around for the creative spirit.
This rings true especially for photographers and artists. Those savvy shooters living in latitudes inches above the boreal forest, have long known about Iceland’s secrets. It is a wondrous destination. A land alive in both past and present. It’s raw features can be challenging even to the most experienced photographer. Yet make no mistake, when Iceland’s light awakens it takes your breath away.
The attraction to Iceland is obvious. Its open landscape sprinkled with colorful mosses, immature mountain peaks, dramatic glaciers and iceberg filled lagoons, provide and exhausting array of visual choices. And, every photographer sees something a little different. It might all day to go ten kilometers when the light is cooking. When you lose track of time, and lunch, you are having a good day in the field!
Iceland is a gem for every kind of photographer. Editorial photographers like to tell stories with their images. Finding the indelible moment in one frame is lustful, but uncommon. Editorial shooters see the world by piecing visual ideas together. They connect the dots by working from the fringes to the center. More often than not, they see a world that includes people in their landscapes. Documenting how humans interact with the land tends to speak with more volume than a beautiful landscape standing alone. Their approach to coverage is not random. They dissect a theme, filling it with imagery that supports the concept. This usually constitutes perspectives from far away, more intimate and filled with details. Images you can touch.
Those photographers seeking a spiritual relationship with the land and their lenses will never be disappointed in Iceland. Even under the most raw presentations, Iceland speaks. I have always referred to Iceland as LITTLE BIG LAND. By this, I mean that every 50 kilometers or so, the land changes dramatically. One hour you are engaged in a tiny blueberry patch losing yourself in the sweetest blueberries on the globe, and you round the corner to witness a volcanic field with moss so brilliant you think it will glow in the dark. And, often in a scale that rivals the Grand Canyon in the United States. It boggles the mind to realize this tiny island in the North Atlantic is so diverse in its landscape and coastal plains. Iceland reminds me a lot of the Galapagos Islands in that respect. Constantly different every step you take. The visual stimulus at times overwhelming, but rewarding. There are times in Iceland, when you release the shutter, you know you have created something meaningful.
Iceland is a place to throw yourself into the wind. Allowing yourself to connect with the landscape, people, and the natural weather conditions will fill your visual coiffeurs for years to come. People often ask me about Iceland. “What’s the best thing about Iceland, they ask?”
“Going back, I tell them.”
My place in the photographic world has always been a hybrid of fine art and editorial. While I make my living as an editorial photographer, I’ve learned to slow down and listen the messages ( a great Minor White quote) when time allows…… like on a workshop. I’ve never shy’d away from experimenting, as I adore all things photographic. I shoot by instinct and worry about stuff later. One of the best things about doing workshops with Focus On Nature is that is how this tour is designed. Einar and Ragnar are ahead of us in a support vehicle. They communicate with me about what places we want to get to, scout it in advance to be sure our all terrain bus will get us there. We look at light, weather and determine where to be when its best to be there. We don’t spend time sitting in Cafe’s or waiting in line to get lunch. They bring it to us so our time in the field is maximized. We’ll get twenty percent more shooting time with FON than anyone else. Its about exploring. Generating visual discoveries that release your interpretations as well as holding field discussions that just might open the doors to new ones.
Come to Iceland with us. Find your visual voice. Einar, Ragnar and myself are there to push and engage you in a very special environment. Your connection to Iceland will be unlike anything you have experienced before. You all know that old saying, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Well, with your camera, your time, and your intuitions, you will bring home a piece of Iceland.
Few spots available. Read more and continue to sign up if you want to join Layne with FocusOnNature in Iceland when the light is beautiful, 28. August – 6. September, 2014
That’s a rewarding compliment for a shooter. It makes the photographer feel like they’ve tapped into something special, unique, and personal. It’s why we do what we do. Half the fun of being a photographer is getting out and exploring. Putting ourselves in a position to capture a moment that is definitively ours. The second half is being successful at communicating our vision inside a single frame. Lets face it, content is everything? It requires timing, good exposure, and more often than not, luck. But, I’ve always defined luck using that old photojournalism slogan, “F/8 And Be There!”` Ya can’t win if you don’t enter, right? You have to be out there making photographs, searching for subject matter, refining your craft to get great photographs. A musician doesn’t get better without practicing. And, neither can a photographer.
The great photographer Henri Cartier Bresson once said, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” It takes time to polish your vision. There are many layers to understanding the depths of photographic communication. Following your own instincts is the most important step. When subject matter calls out to you, that’s a message. Listen to it. This is the first step in defining your own style. It came from you, not someone else. Set aside what you’ve seen done before on similar subject matter. Ask yourself, “what is it that drew me in?” Was it the color, texture, or composition? Were there visual relationships between the clouds and waves? Was a monochromatic scene interrupted with subtle colors in the moss in the foreground? Whatever it was, find that answer.
Once you understand what it was that called out to you, the next step is capturing it. Sounds easy, right? This is where photography is challenging and requires work. How one records that message is the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. The right ingredients of lens, aperture, perspective and exposure all combine to fine-tune your vision. Exploring your subject thoroughly often reveals little secrets that further stimulate your imagination. You get to know your subject intimately. Sometimes giving your subject a 360º walk around provokes you to seeing it in a new way. Maybe from behind is the best side? By the time your done following your instincts, examining your subject, you know it so well that chances are pretty good you’ll walk away with the essence of that moment. If nothing else, you leave with enough material that in your edit, one image will speaks louder than the others. Suddenly, your style is developing.
Giving yourself options during an edit forces you to become a better photographer. Too many photographers just show everything. They are afraid to make choices. And consequently, they bore their audiences with repetition. When you ween through images, asking yourself why one frame is better than the other, even though they are similar, you learn more about your own images. There is a reason one frame is stronger than the other. Image by image, you eliminate the weakest in the herd. By the time you make a final select, you have the strongest image……….and you know why!
You are a better photographer for plowing through that process.
Other considerationsfor fine tuning personal vision include preference for color or black & white. My roots are in black & white. The intense tonal relationships that beckon my camera based on tonal values alone still reach me. At times, I only see in B/W. It’s a different way of seeing, more organic perhaps. I say that because my past (film days) dealt with light sensitive silver halide crystals that become excited when exposed to light and came alive when processed in chemicals. Digital is different, but nonetheless part of seeing in B/W for many photographers is a way of seeing, period. For them, its reality. Color can at times infect content with color alone. A case where color dominates the photograph first, overriding content. However, isn’t that just the flip side to allowing B/W tonal values define the image? There is no right answer to this. Its a personal choice based on the individual situation. Choosing the right medium to allow your voice to be heard is just good decision making. It’s a question of personal style fine-tuning your vision.
In the case of the “Blue Door” at Skogar Folk Museum, I watched everyone walk passed the door. The blue had me so excited. It was like glacial blue. Perfect for Iceland, right? I had to wait for everyone to leave the room so I could huddle into a corner and aim my wide angle at the door. The hues of blue in the corners confirmed my stop. The image had balance and color that electrified my vision of this simple yet complicated scene.
We spotted the well-known black & white church in Budir along the western fjords and knew immediately this scene demanded representation in B/W. The clouds, the stone wall and grasses simply blended in tonal magic. There was never any question of using this in color. Use of a wide angle lens added drama to the scene. But, I was careful not to go too wide. I didn’t want to lose the connection with the white crosses to the right in the cemetery.
On a blustery day along the south coast, the light was fading fast. I spotted a glistening chunk of ice in the waves and wanted to try to create something out of it. Its was a tough photographic challenge. The sea, if captured with a fast shutter speed, made for a confusing image. There was no separation between the ice and the waves. It all blended together and looked awful. The only answer was a long exposure to smooth out the sea water as waves poured around the ice. I was lucky that the ice block was heavy enough that it didn’t move during the long exposure. If the ice lost its sharpness, I had no photograph. Initially, I had seen this image as a B/W photograph. Then, the guy next to me on the beach was shining a green laser on the ice. The light was so bright and colorful, it completely changed my perspective on the drab scene. I asked for a quick blast of light on my ice chunk and magic just appeared.
Along the coast I spotted a cliff with marvelous columnar geology, relatively common in Iceland. It was another overcast, dreary day and perfect for this type of photograph. Using a telephoto lens, I framed the subject and using a long exposure, waited for the wave action to provide me with a highlight in a fairly grey scene. I choose B/W over color for two reasons; One, the rocks were a lovely tone a gray, and secondly, the lower portion of the rocks had a green algae growth to competed with the geology. By choosing not to go with color, you don’t see this distraction and the power of the volcanic action moves forward.
JOIN Layne Kennedy with FocusOnNature in 2014 for a fascinating ICELAND photographic journey:
Experience the midnight sun, waterfalls and dramatic landscape. Sailing in midnight sunlight, birds, animals and the interesting locals.
We will travel on western part of Iceland for a week with the one aim to have fun and take great images. We will photograph horses running in the surf and horsemen riding their horses on sandy beaches and in the sea. We will look for birds in their nest or feeding the young ones. We will visit cliffs full of bird’s nest. We will sail in the midnight sun and in the twilights for hours around it. We will be awake or sleep as our spirit feels. We will scout for whales and hunt for exciting light.
On our bucket list during this week is to photograph horses, sheep, birds, the young ones, Snaefellsnes glacier and waterfalls, seals, farmers, rural farms and villages, the locals and local scenarios. All in one work-win-fun package.
Come and join my exploring and photographing behind the scene in Iceland.
Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson
Ragnar has a long experience as a photographer and if anything his passion for photography is increasing. He also loves to share and assist with technical or creative issues. Ragnar has worked for all the major companies in Iceland and his images have been displayed on some of the world most famous magazines. Ragnar’s main clients to day are Arctic-images.com, FocusOnNature.is, Gettyimages.com and Crobis.com.
Rangar has published 29 books and several new ones are on the way. Books Ragnar is now working on are about low light photographing the night sky and the auroras, a book about water and glaciers related to the year of the glaciers by Unesco, a book about the Icelandic horse and some more.
All the logistics is handled by the elite program organizer FocusOnNature, who takes care of you all the time, from beginning to then end. FocusOnNature ensure you only need to focus on photograph and have fun. During the photo excursion with Ragnar we do what we always have wanted to do, drive less and photograph more. So we are limiting us to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, digging into that area, do things with the assistance of the locals Ragnar knows so well and making the most of your time with us.
We don’t publish and itinerary, but I know Rangar has a main frame in his mind. Ragnar is a natural hunter for exciting moments, continuously reviewing the conditions and situations, with the pure focus on making great images and he loves to have fun and good laughs. And he knows all the locals to make things possible that normally would not be possible.
All accommodation are single except otherwise wished for. All food and provisions, except alcoholic beverage are included.
You won’t be lost in the crowd in this Dan Burkholder workshop presented for a small, select few. With personalized attention at every turn, you’ll learn how Dan’s informative, humorous and generous style can make your week of photography like no other.
Dan Burkholder brings iPhone Artistry to Iceland with an emphasis on creativity, composition and keeping it light, Gone are the sore shoulders and bulky camera bags. With your iPhone and a handful of accessories, you’ll spend your time and energy exploring the magnificent photo opportunities unique to Iceland. Everything from volcanic vistas to ice-filled lagoons will grace your iPhone’s LCD during this week of photography, fun, learning and memory making.
Between shooting adventures and iPhone-specific processing sessions, we’ll eat, drink and love the photographic experience in its purest form. And with an intimate class size that’s limited to five, you’ll get lots of individual help with your iPhone captures, your iPhone image editing, and developing a workflow that makes sense for the way you travel, the way you see, and the way you love your finished images to look.
This is your chance to explore and make artistic images with the guy who literally wrote the book, iPhone Artistry. Why be a Sherpa for your gear when you can carry both camera and digital lab in your pocket. Join us for photography like it was always meant to be! Better move fast to get one of the five spots!
I would like to invite you to join me on a photographic excursion to the Westfjords in Iceland.
The Westfjords differ greatly from most of the rest of Iceland. 2011 it was nominated on the “Top 10 list of regions in the world to visit by the “Lonely Planet Guide”.
The Westfjords stand out from the ring road in Iceland. It is therefore further remote than other parts of Iceland. Its landscape is very different with deep fjords, steep mountains, and many beautiful waterfalls, rural farms and small towns.
I will lead you to interesting locations, but as a local I will also hunt with you for the interesting light. We have an itinerary, but we try to keep flexible taking weather into account and work some days long hours and others shorter to adjust to the forcers of nature we cannot control.
We will discuss on the road both geological and historic events related to the area so we can both visually and in our thoughts try to immerge with the places and nature we travel through.
This is an all-inclusive program. We meet you at the airport and look after your well being during the whole excursion time. There are 8 nights and seven days included in the program, so you can arrive a day early to the capital Reykjavik to adjust to time zone differences.
All accommodation is in single occupancy and most of the time with private bathroom. We include all food and seek your assistance to select provisions you like as possible. Only alcoholic beverages are what participants have to pay for themselves during our tour.
We will not be a large group. With good cooperation we can join our forcers to observe the right time and light for shorter stops on the way while we still work by our main itinerary. As mentioned before we try to make that as flexible as possible to maximize the use of our time.
Although this is not a workshop with lectures, instructions or critique sessions, I am always there for individual assistance and to share my photography knowledge. I am leading this excursion for you to make the most of your time and will only be photographing a little if and when I have time. So you don’t need to be an expert to join us.
For photographers, I think that it’s vital to cultivate the habit of looking and seeing and finding images wherever you are, even if you don’t have a camera with you. And while finding images in the familiar places close to home is always important, there’s nothing quite like going on a journey that is devoted solely to your photography for super-charging your creativity and taking your image making to a whole new level.
It’s a commitment to your art and craft, to something you really love. It’s an investment in yourself, and in the possibilities that art and creativity bring into your life. Most photographers love nothing more than going out to make images. It’s one of the things in life that makes them feel the most alive and connected to the world around them. And traveling somewhere just to focus (pun intended!) on your photography can be a transformational experience…. part road trip, part vision quest, part adventure.
That’s what my “Creative Discoveries in Iceland” workshop is all about: traveling to an island of stunningly beautiful, majestic landscapes and amazing light, and going on a creative adventure. Learning to see images in new ways, improving your camera work and digital processing technique, becoming a better photographer. It’ll be an incredible week of wonderful sights, memorable experiences, good company, and excellent image-making opportunities. Take a look at the video below to get a small sense of what the trip will be like.
Discover the wonders of Iceland through the creative lens of photography with fine art photographer, author and digital imaging expert Seán Duggan. On this inspiring trip you’ll explore the varied and spectacular landscapes of Iceland, learning to improve not only your camera technique, but also your photographic vision, and understanding of how to get the most from your images in the digital darkroom.
There aren’t many things that are more fun than making fine art photographs with our iPhones. It’s easier than ever to adjust the color, contrast, saturation, sharpness and even the composition of our images. But we can only go so far making global adjustments. By global I’m referring to applying these editing changes to the entire image. Though we certainly start our image workflow with these overall adjustments, we soon run into a roadblock. The real “iPhone Artistry” comes into play as we work with selected parts of the image. These selections let us do things like darken skies, increase the saturation of grass, and even blur the background in a portrait shot.
In this following video I show you how to make selections using one of my favorite apps. PhotoWizard (for both iPhone and iPad) excels at this type of selected adjustment. Watch and learn! Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg (a good metaphor considering the upcoming Iceland Workshop in August). We’ll be delving deeply into shooting and editing techniques this summer. Hope to see you there!
The Art of iPhone Photography in Iceland, August 1-7, 2013
About Dan’s workshop in Iceland where persons interested in combining iPhoneogrpahy with outer worldly experience of the Icelandic landscape and culture which is pure candy to the guests eyes.
This is a high class all inclusive workshop with Dan and the best locals. A golden blend of learning, field work, discussions, critique and fun.
The goal is that you work, win, and have terrific fun as you create images that make you proud. You’ll leave this workshop with lots of new techniques and insights for ALL your photography!
I had the pleasure of traveling with Sean in Iceland last summer; enjoy his great company, personality and humor. Not to mention both his artistic vision and technical knowledge in image capture, processing and creating composites.
Here is one image that Sean made in Iceland that is a great example of his pre-visualization for the end results. The microscope was a tiny instrument he placed among the rocks on this black sand beach, echoing the shapes of the rocky sea stacks in the distance. This is not a composite, but is a single exposure, made with a wooden pinhole camera and black & white film, and is part of his series “Artifacts of an Uncertain Origin”.
To work with Sean on location and then later see the results is a great experience. Sean has been teaching photography and digital imaging for over 15 years and he loves to share and help other photographers take their image making to new levels and realize their creative visions. That’s what makes him such a great instructor. Nothing fancy, just straight to the core practical instruction and a passion for sharing.
The new 2nd edition of the book “Photoshop Masking & Compositing”, by Sean, Katrin Eismann and James Porto has now replaced any other books I have as my number one bible when it comes to learning and mastering Photoshop. It stands apart from so many similar books, in that it is very friendly reading for tackling both the conceptual and the technical approach to masking and compositing with Photoshop.
Sean shares excellent videos online to help people learn some of the essential principles of Lightroom or Photoshop and you can get a good sense of his teaching style and pleasure in sharing his knowledge by viewing these. Before you sign up for Sean’s workshop adventure with us in the raw nature of Iceland, take a look at his latest Lightroom Viewfinder video here:
For information about Sean Duggan’s Iceland photography workshop June 29 – July 6, 2013, you can read all about it under