Sigurgeir Sigurjonsson – Earthward

Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson, born 1948 in Reykjavík, started to look at life through the lens of a camera around the age of fourteen. As a teenager in the Reykjavík of the Sixties some of his earliest pictures were of his favorite bands and singers on the burgeoning music scene (which in 2010 was portrayed in his book Poppkorn). During that time he discovered that investigating his country and its people as reflected in the art of photography was to become his future. After studying photography in Iceland in 1965-69, he went abroad for further study at the Christer Strömholm school of photography in Stockholm in 1970-71 and in San Diego, California in 1980-81.Since returning to Reykjavík, Sigurgeir has published numerous books of photos: Svip-myndir in 1982, Hestar (Horses) in 1985, and his first collection of landscape photography, Landscapes in 1992. These were followed by some of the most popular photo books about Iceland and the Icelanders ever published: Iceland the Warm Country of the North in 1994, Amazing Iceland in 1998, Lost in Iceland in 2002, Icelanders with Unnur Jökulsdóttir in 2004, Found in Iceland 2006, Made in Iceland 2007, The Little big book about Iceland 2009, Lost in Argentina with Sæmundur Norðfjörð 2010, Poppkorn 2010 with Einar Kárason, Volcano Iceland 2010 and Earthward 2011.

Earthward – Text by Guðmundur Andir Thorsson.

We glide above the land, higher than a bird, and see rivers and ice, shore, ocean, sand ,rock, moss, flocks of birds which become the land too…and these are real phenomena of nature, which were in time and space, there and here; but in Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson´s hands these natural phenomena also become beautiful shapes in a work of art, which gain meaning from each other, and possess their own beauty in themselves, and in the artistry of the one who communicates them to us.

In these pictures, in other words, there is a lot of art. And pherhaps they would even be inconceivable in painters had not already opened our eyes to a new view of nature – liberated us from seeing only a mountain where a mountain is, only rock in rock, only clouds in clouds.

These images are in a dialouge with the Icelandic landscape painting. And not only the old-style paintings, which specifically depicted the conventional, stereotypeical mountain to hang in the the living rooms on the gentry, but the powerful Icelandic landscape expressionism seen in the work of such 20th- century masters as Svavar Guðnason, Kristján Davíðsson and the rest who painted eddies in rivers, the tidelines, and slapped thick lave on their canvases, without people exactly seeing it, although they instantly saw it, of course in the mind´s eye.

Man does not have the imagaination to think of shapes that don´t exist in nature.

The elite local team – “Siggi”

Sigurdur Einarsson, driver

During the last three years, Sigurdur Einarsson, Siggi as everyone calls him, has been without exception the driver of our workshop vehicle.

We use excellent vehicles for all terrain travelling during our workshops from Gray Line in Iceland. Most commonly we us a truck originally build by the well know German company MAN. The MAN is a 4×4 truck with both front and rear axel air locks and a great transmission. If we need to go over rough terrain the tires can be deflate to make the truck softer and then air pumped into them again with a built in pump.  We usually have few seats removed and use only 18 seats for our workshop tours. Both to make plenty of space for gear at the back as well as we have specially made boxes for tripods and gear bags, plus provisions at the front. So it is very easy to grab the immediate gear during field stops on the way out of the truck.

But there is no vehicle better than its driver and then I like to introduce to you the one and only Siggi, our great driver who drives our workshops groups safely between places, up steep hills, around bends, down slopes, across rivers, across deserts and between narrow cliffs.

Siggi is an excellent driver, but that is only one of his qualities. He is not the least always ready to assist and his concern for the wellbeing and the safety of his passengers is one of a kind. I sometimes arrive late to a field locations, as I have been busy with some admin work. Then I can usually just ask Siggi where people are and he will point out to me where each person is located. Siggi is continuously looking after individual passengers well being.

Siggi is also our helping hand when we make sandwiches on location; grill lobster, lamb or something we have picked up fresh from farmers. Or when we for example slice smoked artic char and put on rye bread or prepare some nourishment for coffee break during location stops. Finally Siggi wants to keep his vehicle clean. When we come late to our hotel and leave early next morning, we do not easily realize that Siggi has washed the car and cleaned it indoors and spread garbage bags around for people to use.

Siggi has traveled all over Iceland. As a young boy he traveled around the country with his parents and later with his wife and their children. He has also climbed many of the highest mountains in Iceland. Finally to top everything, Siggi usually bicycles to work nearly all year around. That is what I call being a hero taking into account the often cold, wet and windy weather we have during the winter.

Siggi says that the best thing about his work as a driver is making good friends. And he has got many friends. I can count many within our FocusOnNature family who are good friends of Siggi and keep in touch with him after participating in a workshop with us.


The elite local team – “Gummi”

Guðmundur Ingolfsson, photographer is another elite link in the FocusOnNature local team.

Like Ragnar, Guðmundur or “Gummi” like we call him, travels with some of the workshop groups in the field, guiding the instructor, assisting him and the participants in any way he can. He is my local man in the workshop vehicle, like a steersman in the bridge with the instructor being the captain, while I might be taking care of things ahead or behind and ensuring everything flows as easy as possible. As I say, my place is in the engine room missing out of lot of the fun, but man has to do, what man has to do.

Gummi knows the land like the palm of his hand. As a boy he travelled first with his parents out in the country. When he got a bit older he worked during couple of summer holidays for the Maritime Institute in Iceland surveying harbors around Iceland. Since then he has spend many summers with his family or his better half, traveling around the country and photographed it at the same time. For years Gummi had a Iveco 4×4 truck made originally for the Italian army, painted in bright yellow-orange color which we used during the first FocusOnNature workshop. It then got the name “The Yellow hen”.

I have known Gummi for decades or since I entered the photographic field in Iceland in the 80’s after my studies. Gummi’s company “Imynd” (Imagine in Icelandic) was at that time the most reputable industrial and advertising studio in town and has always since been closely related to work for many government institutions and the art community in Iceland. If a serious photographic work needed to be done, it was taken to Gummi.

To day his studio is the only one I know that properly can support analog image processing but at the same time Gummi has taken the big leap into the digital age. I don’t think he was found of having to do that, but when he does something he goes the whole 10 miles. He is now using Phase One and Nikon D3x, Mac computers linked to a Drobo and an Eizo Color Edge monitor.

In the 80’s Gummi started documenting the center of Reykjavik, often going out very early on a Sunday morning when there where few cars down town and no people around. During his photographic education in Germany around 1968 he learned that this was a normal practice over there. And now Gummi is doing this again about 25 years later, taking most of the images from the same locations as he did before. From my point of view this is photojournalism par excellence.

Gummi has a penchant for good jokes and storytelling and anyone who has the pleasure to get to know him will be amazed at his encyclopedic mind. Whether it is in the filed of photography, history, literature, music or art, Gummi is extremely well informed. Not the least he has a great sense for timing for example when to keep quiet or to speak out or put on music with a Swedish jazz band. There is no one I trust better to look after my workshop participants and steer my workshop group safely through an exiting field travel in Iceland than Gummi.


The elite local team – “Raggi”

Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson, photographer is one of the elite links of the Focus on Nature in Iceland local team.

During workshops Ragnar travels with many of our workshop groups in the field, guiding the instructor and assisting them and the participants in any way he can. He is also the local man on the spot when I am taking care of things for the workshops to flow flawless.

Ragnar or “Raggi” as we call him, is an unpredictable person in a very positive way. He has great imagination and is quick thinker to respond to the weather and light regarding locations, which is a very important when trying to follow the exciting light during field work  Raggi has established a great friendship with both instructors and participants of FocusOnNature workshops which says it all.

Raggi has traveled not only over all of Iceland, but also widely over the northern hemisphere, including to the North pole, Northern Canada, Greenland, Siberia and of course across every glacier and most mountains in Iceland. “If it is cold or steaming hot, I am there” Ragnar says. He has also photographed every volcano eruption in Iceland for decades and published numerous books about geology events in Iceland in cooperation with Ari Trausti Gudmundsson, one of Iceland’s best known geophysicist.

Raggi has mastered a broad range of work, including studio advertising photography, illustrations of travel publications, annual reports and covering of official arrangements. He has covered many events arranged by the Export Council of Iceland, the Scientific Council of Iceland and the President of Iceland as well as numerous banks, corporations and institutions. He has provided illustrations for a number of books, calendars and magazines.

Gettyimages, Corbis and numerous other stock agencies around the globe, represent Ragnar´s works. He specializes in photographing nature and travel in the Arctic. Content varies from people, geological formations, volcanoes, geothermal activity, unusual landforms, waterfalls, glaciers, and wildlife. The Northern Lights, are among his favorite subjects as well as glaciers, super jeep tours, and traveling to the hardest place to reach in Iceland

Strobes? Yes. One of Ragnar’s signature styles is using strobe in remote locations, often powered from his ATV. He uses them to mix with available light to get the interesting light in the images he is looking for

Ragnar’s website

Playing with Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta

Today I decided to take a break and play.

Music during image processing: “Riding with the King”, an album with B.B. King & Eric Clapton.

I have spent since last December working on the upgrading of my website, both for my international workshops program and my local seminars, lectures and event program. I hope those who remember my old website notice the difference from my printed like one fixed template on the old web and the new multi-functional website. Anyway, it was time to get a bit careless and play during part of a day.

I have used Adobe Lightroom since the first version and included seminars on it in my program for the local market in Iceland for few years. So studying any new developments of the software is always high on my list. But during a part of a day one can just play a little.

Following is a straight Raw image shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and exposed to give me good information in the Raw file. I overexposed the frame as the subject was bright and flat. I could see on my camera histogram how far I could overexpose without losing any clippings of the highlights.

Sailing on a Zodiac and turning in all directions I wanted to be safe with my exposures, but still use the highlights part of the histogram as much as possible to gather maximum information in the Raw file. Afterwards I could possibly have overexposed 1/3 or 1/2 stop more, but the exposure is still good.

Before any processing

Iceberg original

Original unprocessed Raw file exported from Lightroom 4 Beta as Jpeg, sRGB and scaled down 

Histogram original iceberg

The histogram for the unprocessed file in Lightroom 4 Beta.


After processing

Iceberg LR4 processed

After procession in Lightroom 4 Beta, exported and rendered in Adobe Camera Raw 7, saved as Jpeg, sRGB and scaled down

Histogram processed iceberg

The histogram for the processed file in Lightroom 4 Beta

It will always be individual preferences and matter of taste what is good image processing, realistic one or something exaggerated like the image above. It is also the question of the final use.

I opted this time for the exaggerated version as outdoor in Iceland, things have been gray for weeks. Therefor I wanted some color and contrast in this image.  “Juice” the image up and see what information the original file did have for me to pul out and play with in Lightrom 4 Beta.

And under the influence of the blues from B.B. King & Eric Clapton in the speakers doing this in Adobe Lightroom 4 Beta was so easy, the feeling from their music going through my head to my fingertips with the Wacom pen, where most things I do on my computer happen.

What makes me so pleased is that I can now with Adobe Lightroom 4 process images with the quality the Raw image theory has been telling me up to now in numbers like bit depth and ProPhoto color-space.

I am looking forward to the final version of Adobe Lightroom 4 and the new Adobe Photoshop 6, which will be running the same ACR engine for image rendering of raw image files.

Adobe Lightroom 4 is expected to be released during the summer.

– Einar

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Software for Mac & Windows

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera (Body Only)

What do you do in Iceland when life is easy and daylight is short?

Don’t do nothing they say.

Well I can’t do nothing. Thats just impossible for me. I have to keep busy. Sometimes I think I am the busiest person in Iceland. That tells me life is as good as it gets.

In my field evolving around international or local photography workshops, seminars, lectures, consultation or just plain assignments in the digital imaging field, there is very little happening in December and January.

But then I get so busy, studying software, digital image techniques, image processing and of course on top of that making a NEW WEBSITE for FocusOnNature in Iceland. I will of course do it myself. What could be easier. WordPress looks great. Order books and start reading them and information on the web about it. MailChimp looks fantastic for posting. Study that.  So I basically jump flat bellied into the deep end of the pool. At the bottom of the deep end of the pool I realize this is not as easy as I thought. Oh no. I need help, NOW.

Okay. I make a list of 20 people or services that look like being able to help me from drowning in making a new website. I sleep on it. I study the 20 options. I get some feeling. I sleep more on it. I look at the options again. I have the same feeling. Out of the list of 20 web development services there is this ONE sticking out. XLD Studios – Erik Bernskiold. He just stands out from the 19 other choices I listed. This guy is getting to me. Something about his professional presence on the web.

Erik Bernskiold

My choice of service and contract with Erik Bernskiold – XLD Studios is once again a proof of being positive makes good things happen. I could not imagine how professional Erik worked and how great our co-operation could be making the new FocusOnNature in Iceland website. Erik, thanks for pulling me out of the pool. It was a great enjoyable swim.

Just think about it, when you see the web developing and you like what you see, you start thinking how will you maintain it. Should I know how to do this or that. Oh no. Next email form Erik includes videos how to teach you to do this and do that. Just short videos and you can watch them anytime to refresh on how to do this or do that before it gets through your thick skull.

Of course I pay Erik for his work. We made a contract and thats all fine. But I would not have dream about that I would be working on the professional level Erik does and how we got things done so brilliantly well from start to launching the website on new servers in the US, with all links to my previous website routed perfectly.

XLD Studio Logo

XLD Studios




This is Iceland today – Cool


At Thingvellir, where the first parleament in Iceland was founded 1000 A.C.

Today sunrise was 11:19AM in Reykhavik, Iceland and sunset will be 3:45PM, so the day is officially 4h 35m 25s, but we have hours of twilight.

In the Reykjavik area the sky is clear and the temperature is 27°F and nearly no wind. I am going out for a walk to refresh some of my gray cells with oxygen

We have had cold winds from the north blowing over the country in December, colder than for years and with more snow. At the same time we get bright days often in the south and basically from dawn to dusk we have twilight. The sun only gets highest within 4° above the horizon.

I traveled with privat client in December and took him where the light and nauture played love with us as photographers. It got pretty cold then or down to 0°F which was fine until we reached windy areas. Then it very cold and we shot mainly through the window of the Ford Ragner Heavy Duty vehicle I was driving, but that had all the heat and comfort we needed.

Have a brilliant day out there in the world.

I am.

– Einar