Sean Duggan – Much More Than a Photo Tour

Seán Duggan

Seán Duggan

Iceland is a top destination for photographers and for good reason. The landscape palette in this small and welcoming country includes rugged coasts, beautiful waterfalls, intricate textures and patterns, majestic snowy peaks, volcanic highlands, surreal moss-covered lava fields that go on for miles and miles, the largest ice cap in Europe, and glacial lakes filled with sculptural icebergs that float to sea to then wash back up on a black sand beach. The golden light at the beginning and end of the day lasts for hours, ensuring plenty of time to enjoy the magic illumination at these times. And in certain seasons, including during my Autumn & Aurora Discoveries workshop this October, there is the possibility of experiencing and photographing the aurora borealis dancing in the night sky.

But since you’ve found your way to the Focus on Nature site, you probably have done your research and you already know why Iceland is such a great destination for photographers. So what distinguishes my Focus on Nature workshop from all the other photo tours in Iceland?

First and foremost are the people: Experienced locals, photographers themselves, who have been doing this for years. They take care of everything from picking you up at the airport to taking you back for your return flight. And in the time between arrival and departure, no detail is overlooked in the goal of making your time with them an incredible, fun, and memorable experience. I know this firsthand because I have traveled with them on a workshop trip so I could get a sense of what it was like. And the experience far exceeded my high expectations. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken!

Once we leave Reykjavik, we base ourselves at comfortable hotels in key locations that allow for daylong excursions to some of the most beautiful scenery the country has to offer. We travel in style, too. In the deluxe 4WD excursion van, every participant has two seats to themselves, 220v electrical power and a WI-FI connection. That extra seat you have is not just for spreading out and having a place for some of your gear; it also allows me the opportunity for casual one-on-one instruction as we travel to locations. This time is perfect for talking about photographic technique, composition, digital processing, and the many ways to enhance your creative seeing and image interpretation. Having that extra space in a deluxe vehicle is one of the little touches that elevate a Focus on Nature trip to a different level than most photo tours.

Another thing that’s different is the focus on creative growth. We do much more than just transport you to beautiful places to take photographs: the goal is also to create a supportive environment for learning and improving your craft so you can take your art to a new level.  When we’re not out photographing, we take time to review the images that we’re making during the week and discuss how they are working or not working. We explore ways to make your images better, whether that’s through a different camera method, or processing techniques in Lightroom, Photoshop and other software. But the learning experience in this workshop doesn’t stop when you leave Iceland. After you’ve arrived back home and had a chance to settle in with some of your images, I provide every participant with a complimentary online session for further review of your photographs and ways you might choose to improve and enhance them with post processing technique.

Some of the times that I’ve felt the most alive and excited as a photographer are when I’ve traveled to a place I’ve always wanted to go to, for the sole purpose of seeing, exploring, and making images. By stepping outside your normal routine and traveling to those “bucket list” places so you can immerse yourself in your photography, your creative awareness is heightened and enhanced. You see things with a new eye because the primary purpose of the journey is to see. You’re energized by the experience and that energy and creative inspiration infuses your photography.

On my Autumn and Aurora Discoveries in Iceland workshop, all the ingredients are there for a fantastic and memorable trip: Enthusiastic photographers with excellent guides in a place with stunning landscapes, beautiful light and possibilities for creative image making everywhere we turn. I hope you’ll join us for this incredible experience!

Details and registrations for Sean’s Iceland Autumn & Aurora Discoveries 

Sponsored by:

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Iceland is Cool!

Tony Sweet

Tony Sweet

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.

– Einar Erlendsson

Tony’s Iceland workshop,  An Icelandic Odyssey,  June 26. to July 5.  Two seats available

The secret is out. By Layne Kennedy.

Photographer-Layne Kennedy copy-2Well, 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

Light over Iceland at 66º North with Layne Kennedy

 

Your Vision. Your Experience. Your Images. 

Every one of your images tells a story. FocusOnNature is dedicated to helping you capture your stories of Iceland.

 

FINE TUNING YOUR VISION

How many times have you heard,

“Geez, you’ve got a good eye?”

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 considerations for 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.

ICELAND PHOTOGRAPHS

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.

Layne Kennedy-Blue Door_LCK6559 copy

 

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.

Old Wooden church, Budir, in western region of Iceland

 

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.

Ice at Jokulsarlon, Iceland

 

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.

 

Layne Kennedy-Iceland_LCK4445 copy

 

JOIN Layne Kennedy with FocusOnNature in 2014 for a fascinating ICELAND photographic journey:

 

Light over Iceland at 66º North workshop with Layne Kennedy