Iceland Winter Workshop – Are You Crazy?

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 Caponigro and Seth 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.

Check out our workshop details HERE now.

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.

Essential Tips For Low Light & Night Photography by John Paul Caponigro

How Auroras Work. By John Paul Caponigro

Seth’s highlights from Iceland 2012.

John Paul Caponigro’s last Iceland portfolio.

Iceland 2012 participant’s images.

Michael Quinn’s experience in Iceland with Focus On Nature

We hope you’ll join us for this once in a lifetime adventure!

Register now!

Heck out the details HERE and click the green registration banners for more information.


Creative Discoveries with Sean Duggan.

Sean Duggan will run an international workshop with us in Iceland June 29 – July 6, 2013.

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”.

Sean Duggan Artifacts series


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

Creative Discoveries in Iceland, June 29 – July 6, 2013

There are a few spots available.

Einar Erlendsson

founder of FocusOnNature – International Photography Programs in Iceland

Ben Willmore Photo Workshops in Iceland 2013


Ben Willmore is again running workshop with FocusOnNature – International Photography Workshops in Iceland.

 And 2013 Ben is not only running one, but two workshops in Iceland.

The first one will be an amazing winter workshop, with Aurora photography, moonlight on snowy grounds, ice caves and amazing twilight photography that lasts for hours from dawn to dusk.

If you want to combine exciting photography under above conditions and ALSO learn from an expert how to set you camera for different conditions, Ben is amazing instructor. 

With Ben will be our one and only Ragnar Th Sigurdsson, photographer, assisting us to lead the group to amazing locations and following the exciting light.

I can guaranty that participants will not only bring back great keepers, but also learned some trick of the trades that will stay with them in their future photography work.

– Einar Erlendsson


Iceland country ride in the autumn

On route to Iceland’s main prison, where I supervice a project where by selected prisoners scan in old film archives for institutions. This is a little project I love to nurture and provide my experties free of charge.

Grabbed the 5D Mark III with me in case some light cought my eye on the way.


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,

Choosing The Right Workshop – by Arthur Meyerson

Arthur Meyerson

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


Expanding your vision – Allen Birnbach

Allen Birnbach

You’ve probably noticed that when you travel you’re more likely to come away with strong images.  Sometimes with images that break out of what you have been doing and set a new creative direction.  Why is that?

Humans are wired in a way so that when we move out of routine, our brain chemistry changes.  Maybe it has to do with the protective “fight or flight” response of our early ancestors. But in any case, this change in blood chemistry results in heightened awareness that alters how we respond to a new environment.

As photographers, this is huge gift.  Put in a new situation, we are more aware of composition, color, line, texture and pattern; the key elements every artist explores in their work.  Moreover, taken out of our routine world with more time to think about the world in front of our lens, we are more open to the “what if” in a situation.  We are more willing to try a different composition, play with a new concept, collaborate in a new way with a model.

Of all the places on the planet, Iceland is in my opinion the best place to capitalize on the heightened awareness that comes from travel.  With every ecosystem on the planet but one, there are incredible geological formations around every turn.  From steaming mudpots, to thundering waterfalls, spongy moss-covered lava, calving glaciers and crystal blue fjords, Iceland has spectacular landscapes begging to be photographed.  And with just a little over 300,000 inhabitants it’s easy to experience the raw, unspoiled environment just a short distance from civilization.

With all that is available for dramatic backgrounds, it’s really important to have great talent when shooting fine art nudes.  Models who in energy and spirit can match the magnificence of the environment in which they are placed.  Fortunately, we are working with models who are Scandinavian and European.  In my experience, these models are different from models in the United States.  They may share the same professionalism with talent in the U.S., but their attitude toward nudity is different.  They are comfortable with their bodies, and as a result not shy in front of the camera.  They are terrifically talented and great collaborators in the creative process.  With these great models, the opportunity to place them in remarkable environment and your heightened creativity, great things are bound to happen.

On our first day together, we’ll gather to get acquainted, talk about the legacy of images in fine art nude photography and look at the work of all the participants.  It’s an opportunity for a supportive critique of your work, and the chance to familiarize yourself with the people you will be working alongside of during the week.

Then it’s off to shoot on location.  Each day, we’ll seek out environments that will inspire you to explore the human form in all its power and beauty.  Watching the weather, we’ll choose where to go to optimize you image-making opportunities.  The rides to and from the location are full of conversation, music and laughs and camaraderie builds each day through  the week.

Once we are at a location, I’ll do a short demonstration that is tailored to your growth.  It may have to do with composition, the technical aspects of creating a great digital file or negative in challenging lighting, or how to work with talent in a collaborative way.  The shoot will not be about me, but about you and your development.

After the demonstration, you’ll take turns shooting with a model on a one-on-one basis, rotating with two other photographers in your group.  If you are not shooting, you’ll continue to learn by assisting the participant that is behind the camera, observing how another photographer thinks and works.  I’ve had many comments from past participants of how valuable this is for their own growth.

At the end of the day, it’s off to dinner, and editing work for a critique the following morning.  After the review and answering any questions on aesthetics or technical matters relating to shooting or post processing, we jump back into the SUV’s for another round of shooting.

On Saturday, after five days of location photography. you’ll spend time editing images and working in Lightroom and Photoshop to create final files for reproduction.  I’ll be there for a critique and to answer any questions about software and post processing techniques to maximize the impact of your favorite images.  We end the workshop with a fun filled dinner that  night to celebrate your new-found expanded vision.

I firmly believe that combining the human figure with the dramatic landscapes of Iceland can open up new worlds for you as a photographer.  I encourage you to join me in this wonderful exploration that is sure to create lifetime memories.

– Allen Birnbach

Fine Art Nude Photo Workshop in Iceland, July 1-7, 2012

A photographic journey through Iceland

Ben Willmore Iceland workshop June 24-30, 2012

Ben Willmore

I’ve been to Iceland several times and the reason I keep returning is that it truly is one of the most magical places I’ve ever seen. I’m sure you can tell by the photos that this year’s trip is going to be a visually-rich journey. What the photos might not explain, however, is how our Iceland trips are also a journey into your own creativity and photographic education.

When I was asked by Focus on Nature to write a blog post about my upcoming June 2012 trip, I decided that, instead of telling you how beautiful it’s going to be (you can see that for yourself), I would actually share some of the things you might learn in my workshop. We don’t have the space to cover everything I might teach, so I thought I’d just pick one topic and give you an example of the type of things you might learn.

In Iceland, there’s one thing you simply can’t avoid seeing a lot of: waterfalls. There are so many that, when you start your trip, you’ll be excited about every one you encounter, but then over time you’ll start to take them for granted and only seek out the ones that offer something overly unique to capture. Here are a dozen tips that I use when shooting waterfalls. I hope you can come to Iceland to learn some of these techniques in the field with me.

1.) Fast Shutter Speeds

Your choice of shutter speed will have most dramatic effect on how your waterfall images will look. Shooting with a fast shutter speed will freeze every drop of water and produce a lot more fine detail than using a long exposure. There’s a trick I often use when shooting this way that will cause a waterfall to look as if it has a lot more whitewater. I shoot multiple exposures using a fast shutter speed and then composite them in Photoshop. I might take 10-12 images and then select the resulting images in Bridge, choose Tools>Photoshop>Load Files into Photoshop Layers to stack the images in a single file, then click on each layer and change the Blending Mode pop-up menu (found at the top of the Layers panel in Photoshop) to Lighten mode. Setting all the layers to lighten mode has the effect of filing in most of the gaps in the waterfall, which makes it look like there’s more water going down it.

2.) Slow Shutter Speeds

For the traditional silky look in a waterfall, I’ll set my F-stop to f22 and my ISO setting to the lowest setting it goes to. If that doesn’t produce a long enough exposure, then I’ll add a two-stop neutral density filter to the lens to further slow my exposure.

3.) Multiple Shutter Speeds

The problem with shooting a waterfall using a long exposure is that any foliage that surrounds the waterfall can end up being blurry if it’s windy. When that’s the case, I end up shooting a few long exposures to get the silky look with the waterfall and then I’ll increase my ISO setting to ISO 200 and change my Aperture setting to F8 to end up with a much faster shutter speed to freeze any motion in the greenery that surrounds the waterfall. Once I’m in Photoshop, I’ll stack one of the fast shutter speed shots on top of a slow shutter speed image and then add a layer mask to the top layer and paint with black over the waterfall so that the slow shutter speed shot is used in that area while the fast shutter speed is used on the surrounding image.

4.) Wide Angle to Expand Space

If I can get close to the stone wall that is behind a waterfall, then I’ll end up shooting with a very wide angle lens. That will have the effect of visually exaggerating the space between near and far objects in a scene and can make the waterfall feel like it is farther away from the wall.

5.) Telephoto to Pull Things Together

If I have objects that are far away from the waterfall that I’d like to incorporate into a shot, then I’ll consider using a telephoto lens. Longer lenses visually compress the space between near and far objects in a photograph. That way, I can make it look as if a church is much closer to a waterfall compared to shooting the same scene using a normal or wide angle lens. I’ll simply back away from the church as far as is practical considering the landscape and my view of the waterfall, then I’ll find the longest lens that will allow me to include both the church and waterfall in the shot without cropping out anything essential. By doing so, I’ll make the church feel much closer to the waterfall compared to how it would look if it was shot from up close.

6.) Removing Mist

If there is a breeze at the location of a waterfall, then the area to the right or left of the waterfall can become obscured by the mist that’s coming off the waterfall. To reduce or eliminate that mist, I’ll take multiple exposures using the same exposure settings. I’ll end up with 10-12 images that look very similar, but the position of the mist will vary slightly. I’ll then stack the resulting images and then blend them using Darken mode in Photoshop, which will help to break through the mist by allowing the gaps in the mist to add up from each shot. The technique is very similar to what I mentioned in #1 above.

7.) Shooting for Large Format Output

If I know that I’ll want to make a huge print of a waterfall, then I’ll shoot it as a multi-shot panorama and stitch the resulting images. That way, I’ll end up with a much higher resolution image than what I could get from a single shot. To get a really clear and sharp image, I’ll manually focus using the LiveView feature of my camera at 10X magnification. I’ll also use a cable release to insure that I don’t bump the camera when pressing the shutter and use the mirror lockup feature to further reduce camera movement. I’ll also use an aperture setting of f8 or f11 because that’s the range where your lens is the sharpest. All those things put together will allow me to produce a huge image that is extremely sharp.

8.) Show off Scale

A waterfall all by itself is OK, but getting a human element in the scene gives the viewer a much better sense of scale. In that kind of setup, I’ll try to make sure I don’t shoot from a position too close to the human subject. If I stand close to them, then they will appear huge in the frame which can cause the waterfall to feel smaller. Shooting them from further away can help to make the waterfall feel larger since the person will not look as large in comparison.

9.) Bracket for a Blue Sky

I often need to vary my exposures in order to retain detail in the sky. Let’s say I run across a waterfall that is in the shade and surrounded by a dark cliff. Once I get the exposure so that the waterfall is rendered satisfactorily, there is a good chance that the sky will end up blown out as a solid white mass. After capturing a good looking exposure of the waterfall, I’ll take my next shot about two stops darker in order to capture detail in the sky. I can then stack the two images as separate layers in Photoshop and then mask the darker image so that it only shows up where the sky should be. That way, I get detail in both the waterfall and the sky.

10.) Sunspots

If I ever include the sun in a shot of a waterfall, I’ll take multiple shots and vary the aperture setting to change the way the sun is rendered. When shooting “wide open” at f2.8, the sun will look like it does to my eye in the field. Stopping down the lens to f22 will cause the same sun to become a starburst. Shooting both versions will give me two options. I can either call attention to the sun (by using the starburst version) or simply make it look normal. When including the sun in a shot, I always take a look at the front element of my camera lens. If the sunlight is falling on the front glass of my lens, then I’m going to end up with a lens flare in the image and lower contrast in the scene overall. To prevent the flare and increase contrast, I’ll position my hand so that it casts a shadow on the front of the camera lens while it’s just outside of the camera’s view.

11.) Near and Far, Both Sharp

I often try to get my camera extremely close to the pool of water that is found at the bottom of a waterfall. By doing so, the viewer will often feel more connected to the experience. That often involves putting my tripod in the water and getting the camera lens within an inch of the water’s surface. When something is that close to the lens, it can be difficult to maintain sharp focus across the entire distance between the pool water (that’s close) and the waterfall (that’s far). That’s when I might choose to take multiple exposures with different focus points and use an aperture setting that limits the depth of field and therefore renders areas that are far away from the focus point as soft. In one I’ll focus on the water near the camera, in another, I’ll focus 1/4 of the way between the near and far areas, in a third, I’ll focus a bit closer to the waterfall and in another I’ll be focused right on the waterfall. I can then stack the resulting images in Photoshop, select the resulting layers and then use the Edit>Auto-Blend Layers command to have it combine the sharp areas from each shot into a single image.

12.) Water on the Lens

I always keep a towel nearby when shooting waterfalls. Any mist coming off the waterfall can easily collect on the front element of the lens and cause blurry blobs to appear on the resulting captures. I drape the towel over the camera when I’m moving around the scene and getting set up. I also use it along with a lens cloth to clean off any water droplets that accumulate on the lens. If I simply can’t avoid getting a few drops on the lens, then I’ll shoot “wide open” at f2.8 and make sure that I’m focused on an area far away. That will reduce the impact of any droplets on the lens and produce a cleaner looking image compared to shooting at a higher f-stop setting.

Hanging out with me in the field is the only time when you’ll get first-hand experience on how all these ideas can be executed. We only have so much space here on the blog and it’s much easier to understand when you’re actually using these techniques in an environment where you can ask questions and I can review your results. That’s why you should join me in Iceland this year! Our trip will be June 24-30, 2012 with Focus on Nature.

If those are the ideas I might share when shooting waterfall, then imagine how much more you could learn when we explore other subject matter in Iceland. We’ll talk about getting the most compelling compositions, using the most ideal camera settings and the post processing techniques that are essential to producing dramatic images.

The June 24-30 trip will be my sixth visit to Iceland. I know what to expect and have a lot of experience shooting this unique landscape. There is no doubt you’ll leave Iceland a much better photographer than you are right now. You can sign up for this workshop here on the Focus on Nature site.

Discover Iceland: A Photographer’s Paradise