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!
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.
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.
With all the workshops and photo tour offerings out there today, people often ask me, “How do I choose the best one for my needs?” First of all, I think you need to begin by thinking about the location/destination. One of the most exotic places I have ever been is Iceland.
For years, I dreamed of going to this magical place and last year I finally had the opportunity while leading a workshop/photo tour with Focus On Nature director Einar Erlendsson. Of all the individuals and groups running photography programs in Iceland, none come close to the organization and experience that Einar and his team provide. Not only do they all have first hand knowledge of the country, as they are all natives, but as photographers they know and understand exactly what photographers are looking for in the way of locations and getting you there. Add to that, the fact that your fee is inclusive of everything and there are no bad surprises. Great accommodations, meals, all terrain vehicles for transportation, etc. all help make the experience first rate!
Secondly, you want to look at the instructor, his experience, knowledge as well as comments from past participants. I’ve been photographing professionally for forty years and teaching for over twenty years in locations around the world. I pride myself in connecting with the best programs out there and that is why I am working with Focus On Nature in Iceland.
Finally, consider the specific program. My class, “The Color of Iceland”, differs from the others that are offered in that we will be exploring the country from all points of view… the landscape, the architecture, the people, the culture, etc. with color as the common denominator. All of these elements are key in defining a country’s sense of place and my hope and desire is to not only help take you to your “next step” photographically but show you how to create a body of work that illustrates your vision of this awesome place called Iceland. To help accomplish this, we will have the added benefit of some classroom time for lectures, editing and critiquing before, during and after our travels giving you the advantage of constant feedback as we go.
So, if you’re trying to decide on a workshop/photo tour that offers you the total package, join me August 5-11 in Iceland for what promises to be one of the best photographic experiences available.
– Arthur Meyerson
For more information or to sign up to my workshop in Iceland, August 5-11, go to The Color of Iceland