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!
No, we are not crazy. We’re unique. That’s what many photographers are discovering now. With just one quick flight (4-5 hours from Europe or 5-7 hours from the US) you can arrive in Iceland, enjoy Reykjavik (one of Europe’s hippest cities), and experience amazing photographic adventures.
And this time Focus On Nature is going to raise the bar even higher – because we can.
We have the best team we can imagine to take our workshops to new heights. It’s our most experienced team ever. Masters of the medium Digital Photo Destination’s John Paul CaponigroandSeth Resnick, join forces with renowned arctic photographic specialist Ragnar Th Sigurdsson, whose experience photographing winter, glaciers, ice caves, auroras, and night skies is unparalleled.
Join us for this other-worldly photographic experience. Iceland is a natural wonderland. Dramatic coastlines, raging rivers, frozen waterfalls, glaciers, ice caves, icebergs, snowy deserts, geothermals – you’ll experience all this and more! As exciting as all of that is, what makes this workshop even more unique is the night sky. Right now, it’s the peak of a 12 year cycle of aurora activity. The skies have never been more dramatic – and it will be a over a decade before they’re like this again. What’s more, Iceland is located on the auroral oval, where global activity is highest. Plus, the latest advances in digital cameras offer game changing technology for night photography. Photographing the auroras in Iceland is on our bucket list. If it’s on yours, you’d be crazy not to join us!
Response has been so positive that we’ve added session II, March 6-12.
And we have only few spots left. One of them could be yours.
During the DPD’s Iceland winter workshops we do what we do best.
We follow the interesting light as much as possible.
Day or night, we go to the best locations in the best light; chasing dramatic light by day and clear skies at night best for capturing starry skies and auroras. Our “magical mystery bus” is mobile and our accommodations and schedule are flexible so we can adapt to the weather, heading south, east, north or west. We have a lifetime of local contacts (Remember, we are the locals!) that keep us informed of current conditions and allow us access to places only a few can go.
This is not just another photo tour; it’s a workshop! Our world-renowned leaders are at the top of their games. Lectures, demonstrations, exercises, and follow up review sessions deliver unmatched opportunities to improve your photographic skills. It’s non-stop learning, even when we travel, the group shares information and images. Come breathe photography for a week with us!
While we travel to wild remote places, all accommodations are in private rooms with bathroom and shower – and the food is great too.
Get a taste of what this experience will be like and start learning now with these great online resources.
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
illustrations of the vastness of Iceland using scale
Software pre-visualized images
and whatever presents itself during our wanderings!
Aside from the remarkable landscape of Iceland, we also have various very interesting and uniquely Icelandic structures that are really fun to photograph and to include in this incredible landscape.
The hillsides on the southeast coast are like something out of a fantasy movie, like Harry Potter. But, the size is only perceptible when this small shack is placed in the foreground.
One of the coolest new structures in Reykjavik is the Harpa Fine Art Center. Aside from the interesting small monoliths outside, we are allowed the shoot inside with tripods where the light play is fantastic!
When shooting this very cool small Icelandic church, the rain became a bit much to deal with. After returning to the vehicle, one of the windows was covered with heavy water drops. We all took turns shooting various versions of this image. Afterwards, the image was optimized using Nik Color Efex Pro 4, including the addition of the graduated blue filter.
Composition is always paramount in image creation. Many of the farms have their own sanctuaries. In this case, the opening was used to frame the structure, more dramatically pulling the viewer into the picture space.
I am a huge fan of long exposures, especially in bright conditions. The thermal power plant gave a perfect opportunity to use my 10 stop neutral density filter to achieve a 10 second exposure to create the surreal look of the steam against the blue sky.
The vastness of Iceland is perfect for illustrating a sense of scale and the small blue farm house was the perfect juxtaposition color-wise and scale-wise. I waited for the shadow, created by the setting sun, to get low enough to balance the composition.
Then, there’s always just driving around to see what presents itself. On a post workshop trip up the west coast, Sue and I came across a small fishing village. Upon driving down a ramp to get to the dock, we looked back and saw this unbelievable scene! We photographed this in subdued light as the sun rose, lighting the house and the rocky shoreline, leaving the background hill in the shade for the greatest visual interest.
This street scene in Reykjavik was of interest to me during both of our visits and I finally decided to create an HDR stitched pan to get the look I was after. Later, optimizing with Nik Software, Lucis Pro, and Flypaper textures to finish off the image.
As you can see, this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak!
During our August workshop, we will be on the look out for:
striking architecture in Rekyjavik
long exposure opportunities
illustrations of the vastness of Iceland using scale
Software pre-visualized images
and whatever presents itself during our wanderings!
We look forward to sharing our favorite photography location on earth during our August 19-25 workshop.
My photographic journey began in my early teens. My Mother recognized the creative side in me and she gave me my first SLR. It was such a surprise and such an enlightening experience. I rather enjoyed shooting nature scenes and I was always drawn to the local parks. I continued my journey during high school but set aside my desire till I moved to Colorado in 2000. Then with a renewed desire I jumped from film to digital with the purchase of a Nikon Coolpix. I shot my adventures around the state and my travels of the west.
After 10 years of shooting, I finally decided to see how far I could take my talents. I started to come to the conclusion that my images were not fully conveying the emotions that I felt during capture. They need something more, something to take them to the next level. I began by getting a DSLR and moving away from a JPEG shooter. I started to experiment with image processing in Lightroom and Photoshop and made gains but my images were still lacking that intense emotional feeling to them.
Then one evening during the winter of 2010 I stumbled across Einar Erlendsson and his “Focus On Nature” website, Photo Workshops in Iceland. I was just mesmerized by the images and the thought of a grand adventure in Iceland. I started to research the Instructors that were teaching that year. I was instantly drawn to John Paul Caponigro. Something about his style, his approach, his words and speech. I knew that I was meant to do this, so I took the leap and signed up. This was going to be my first International adventure, my first photo workshop – I was a total newbie and amateur. Einar and JP made it very easy to prepare for my trip and once in Iceland Einar made me feel like an old friend returning home from a long distant trip. I was fortunate enough to arrive in Iceland a few days early to take a Lightroom class from Julieanne Kost. She was very instrumental in forging a foundation for my Lightroom skills and igniting my creative vision. JP and Julieanne were running side by side workshops that year. We would leap frog each other’s groups during the day and spend our evenings and meals together. Einar’s staff photographers Ragnar Th Sigurdsson and Guðmundur Ingolfsson are two amazing people and photographers. Ragnar, well he is Ragnar – if he doesn’t bring out the inner child in you, nobody can.
I had no preconceived notion of what this was going to be like, but it was so much more than I could have imagined. JP was there to challenge my senses, my imagination, my creativity. This workshop was more than just the mechanics of photography. There were discussions about artists, philosophers, writers. There were discussions about nature and life’s journey. Einar and his wife Ásta were there to tempt our taste buds and to teach us the culture of Iceland. Ragnar was there to tell stories of adventures in the Arctic and to insure that we took time to have fun. Einar’s driver Sigurdur Einarsson, “Siggi” was there to take care of the transportation and portage of our luggage and camera gear. But he was also there to share stories of horseback riding in the Icelandic Highlands during the sheep roundup and to share menthol candies. The group was also something that I was not prepared for. This group dynamic lifted everyone’s skills and expectations. It was not really a competition to see whose image was the best, but something more nurturing and encouraging. Something personalized to each individuals needs and desires to do something really spectacular. I walked away from that trip with so much more than just images of Iceland.
My new journey really began after that trip. It stirred my deep rooted emotions to become the best that I can be, to put some significant effort into my art. If that adventure had not been the way it was, I don’t know if I would still be on this path. It really gave me a new pipe dream, something to chase after, something to aspire to.
The next spring I spent time with JP in Arches National Park at another workshop. I had been doing my homework since leaving Iceland. I sensed that something special was about to happen. I felt as if I was ready to take a dramatic step forward as I had been practicing and researching and just needed a challenge to pull it all together. John Paul threw down the challenged during that week and I embraced it with all my heart. I walked away at the end with something new, something different, something out of my comfort zone. JP taught me a very valuable lesson – don’t ask if you are allowed to do something, ask what happens when you do something. It completely changed the way that I look at nature scenes. He taught me that it was alright for me to go beyond the postcard shot, to truly capture the emotion of location, not just the documentation of the location. My art took a step forward that week.
That fall I returned to Iceland, how could I not. I had friends that I wanted to see and spend time with. Plus the scenery is just incredible, awe inspiring and so unique. Einar, Ragnar and his staff have this unmatched local knowledge that is so invaluable. They not only know where to go but also the best time of day to be there too. They take you to places that even most Icelander’s don’t even know about. This year I was more comfortable, more familiar with the routine and we were going to visit some of the same places. I was able to plan to get some of the shots that I had missed the first year. I was even more excited this year but at the same time more relaxed and pensive. I made a conscious effort to make sure to enjoy the experience, enjoy just being in the moment. I don’t think that my art took a leap forward this time around; I think that it was going through a refining phase. I was honing my vision and capturing more emotion in my images. I know that I was seeing in a different light than the first time. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time on several occasions during that trip. I also was fortunate enough to have sufficient skills and vision to capture what I was feeling at the time.
“Golden Light” is a culmination of my journey to date.