Tony Sweet – My Iceland Workshop 2012

Tony Sweet

We will cover:

    1. fantasy locations
    2. striking architecture in Rekyjavik
    3. long exposure opportunities
    4. creative compositions
    5. illustrations of the vastness of Iceland using scale
    6. Software pre-visualized images
    7. 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:

  1. fantasy locations
  2. striking architecture in Rekyjavik
  3. long exposure opportunities
  4. creative compositions
  5. illustrations of the vastness of Iceland using scale
  6. Software pre-visualized images
  7. and whatever presents itself during our wanderings!

We look forward to sharing our favorite photography location on earth during our August 19-25 workshop.

– Tony Sweet –

More information and booking here.

Only couple of places left.

Michael Quinn – FocusOnNature Alumni

Mike Quinn

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.

– Michael Quinn 2012 –

Haraldur Stefansson, photographer

Haraldur Stefansson

Halli’s passion for photography started back in 1980 at the age of fourteen when he worked during the summer as a delivery boy at the newspaper Morgunbladid in Iceland. At the newspaper he got the opportunity to see photojournalism at its best and learned from many of Iceland’s leading photographers. In the beginning his style was mainly lifestyle photography shot on black and white film. Then after a few years his fascination of nature and landscape changed his emphasis in photography. He started focusing on capturing all the different forms and shapes in Iceland’s fascinating landscape using color film.

Today, Halli has truly found his calling in landscape photography. Living in Iceland gives endless opportunities in capturing something new and fascinating in breathtaking Iceland. Halli has built up an extensive stock of landscape photographs which are sold through and .

After shooting landscape in color for about 25 years he decided to change his approach and for the last two years he’s again shooting in black and white.

Are you shooting film or digital?

When the film started to decline as the standard medium of photography and digital took over I was at first skeptical, because for me image quality is the most important thing.  I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the superb image quality I had enjoyed using Hasselblad, Leica and Linhof in the past for something that I was not familiar with, however I felt it was important to evolve along with new technologies in photography. This meant I shot both film and digital for many years, using my trusted film cameras along with digital bodies.  Today I shoot mostly digital; thanks to great improvements in cameras and software I am confident that my equipment gives me the quality I’m looking for.

Currently I am using Canon cameras, 1Ds MIII and 5D M III bodies and lenses ranging from 24/2.8 -300/2.8.  I exclusively shoot in RAW and start my workflow with importing the files into Lightroom 4.  After choosing the images I like, I process them in Silver Efex Pro2, then using Lightroom to further enhancement and the final touches made in Photoshop CS5.

Clarity and crispness signify my photos, I want the viewer to feel the cold of the glaciers just by looking at the photograph. In my mind the essence of photography is bringing things to life and allowing people to experience exotic places with the same emotion as if they were standing there in person.  With using these techniques, I’m able to show my work exactly as I experienced the frame when it was shot.

Halli’s work has been published in magazines, books, advertisements and other media around the world. Last month he had a private exhibition of black and white landscape photographs at the Art museum, Gerdarsafn in Kopavogur. Halli chose to name his excibition “Precious Iceland” in honor of the beautiful country he calls home.

You can find Halli’s black and white photographs at his website,