CSLIFE // 5 Camera Tips for Iceland

Everyone’s asked, so here’s our TOP 5 camera tips for traveling to Iceland!

I’m really pumped to share some of our Iceland photos with you, along with some really easy tips we learned along the way. Come back to the blog in the next few days for more tips on traveling, making friends, planning your days, and more!

Iceland is a photographer’s playground. You can take a photo by accident there and chances are you’ve captured something amazing. I heard it somewhere that a successful Iceland trip requires about 30% planning and 70% adventure, and I completely agree. Having some goals, some pointers, and a few key location names saved in your phone are phenomenal – but getting lost, asking for help, taking a chance on gas station hot dogs – are all so very vital to the Iceland Experience!

A lot of people have asked for some camera tips when traveling, so here are my TOP 5!

1) Bring an extra body!

Iceland is a rough place. It’s gorgeous, breathtaking, friendly – but rough. You will see Ice (the place is aptly named) and you will see rain. The black sand is volcanic, and can be extremely fine. You’re going to want to have a back up camera on you, and you may even want that back up to be a trusty film camera. I personally carried with me two Canon 6 D’s, a Canon 650 (35mm), and a Mamiya RZ67. When I was hiking I usually just brought a single Canon 6D with a 16-35L attached (I’ll get to lenses soon!) and kept the 650 in my pack. I enjoy shooting film so occasionally I brought out the Mamiya, but that was for another project I’ll explain too!

Iceland is hardcore

2) Don’t go crazy with glass.

Look – I’m a gear head. I want to bring everything I own to every photo shoot. I have bought and sold more cameras and lenses than most, and I’m a little bit of a hoarder. But hiking is strenuous. And in Iceland, so many things can be amazing, and so many things can go wrong. Being several kilometers into a hike and caught in the middle of a rainstorm – at midnight (land of the midnight sun, right!?) – can be stressful. It gets even more stressful if you left your snacks and extra gloves in the van because you just HAD to bring that 45mm Tilt Shift. I carried at most three lenses with me, and if I was pretty close to the van, only one.

If I knew we were hiking for a pretty significant distance, I put at 16-35L on the Canon 6D and kept that on there. Chances are I was going to shoot landscapes, so I wanted wide. I brought with me a tiny Timbuk2 Bag that also just barely fit at 70-200L and some snacks. I love compression and I figured there would be times I really wanted to bring that horizon a little closer. Usually that was it. Just those two lenses. If I knew we were staying close to the van and only carried a single lens, I would use my Sigma 35ART, as it is hands down my favorite lens and plenty wide to get epic landscapes. The f1.4 is great for portraits and gives that creamy Icelandic background behind your subjects.

Don’t be afraid of a longer lens – I’m so happy I brought the 70-200L with me on our hikes as well.

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3) Pack a light tripod!

When I say light, I don’t mean ‘wal-mart-light.’ If you’re buying your tripod at wal-mart or target, save your $25, send me $5, and save up for a real travel tripod. They’re not super cheap, so do your research, but I personally fell in love with the Sirui T-1205X. I had a manfroto head lying around from a project a few years ago, so I have a reliable and EXTREMELY light set up. The Sirui is carbon fiber, so I even used it as a walking stick for a few clicks, since it won’t rust.

Maybe you can skip this one. I’ve gone a long time without a tripod and have been just fine. But I shoot with Canon 6D’s, and with the built in wi-fi feature, I can put the camera on a tripod, control the camera from my iPhone, and get a photo like the one below. It’s really good for self-portraits – but REALLY shines when the light is low or you want that shutter speed to slow down. Iceland is full of waterfalls – make them look dreamy and silky with a high-quality tripod.

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4) Shoot some film.

Okay, not everyone agrees with this one. Especially in a day and age where everyone REALLY wants to post their travels on facebook or instagram as fast as possible. But seriously. Shoot some film. I remember when I was a kid and I would go traveling. I was usually armed with two or three kodak disposable cameras, and I couldn’t wait until the one-hour develop lab was done at wal-mart. (yes, I both slammed and praised wal-mart in one blog post) I LOVED breaking open that envelope and reliving my trip through real 4×6 prints and a few sleeves of muddy brown negatives. It’s not just the patience or the nostalgia. You’re so much more likely to print your film photos, and no one will deny how special it feels to hold an authentic print from Iceland in their hands.

I could go on and on about the benefits and the excitement of shooting film, but I’ll save that for another day. In Iceland I carried with me my Mamiya RZ67. I shoot instant film with a polaroid back on this particular body. I lugged this puppy all over Iceland and got some pretty awesome photos if I do say so myself. Of course the whole trip was personal, but the photos I took with my Mamiya are just another level of personal. In fact, you won’t see 99% of them here or on facebook – you’re just going to have to come to my house, and request to see my Instant Film Print Satchel I handmade specifically for this project. It doesn’t get more authentic or interesting than that. And that level of detail and care just adds a whole extra level of awe and nostalgia to the trip.

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5) Get photos of people.

Iceland is amazing, trust me. But you know what’s more amazing? Sharing these memories with people. Be sure to get photos of yourself, of the people you’re adventuring with, even the other tourist beside you! Don’t be stingy!

Everyone in Iceland is nice. Like, super nice. Be that nice guy, too. Everyone is so caught up in the absolute beauty of the surroundings – offer to take a portrait or two. I made some amazing friends from all over the world by doing just that. (In fact, check out this amazing video by Ramsvision – https://vimeo.com/140246203 – An extremely talented cinematographer we met on the cliffs of Dyrhólaey) Most everyone can speak english and I promise, you’ll get some of the most interesting stories from people just by the simple offer of taking a quick picture! We met some amazing folks and wrote a quick blog post about it here!

Seriously – you brought that camera and are in one of the most gorgeous locations in the world. Of course everyone wants to see the waterfalls, but people also want to see you enjoying the waterfalls. I mentioned getting those prints back from the old film days. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve lost or thrown away of EPIC sunsets … that all look the same … But throw a smiling face in that photo and you get to see the magnitude of the scene, and the wonderful memory you shared with your friend.

Get lots of photos of people in Iceland.

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6) Don’t neglect your iPhone.

Okay – I only promised five, but here’s a sixth. Don’t neglect your iPhone. It’s fast, it’s great quality, and some of the best photos and videos of our whole trip are taken on my iPhone – and I can’t wait to share that video with you!

 

Did I forget anything? Have you been to Iceland? Have a tip that you want to share with others? Comment below and I’ll be sure to add your tips to the list!

 

Come back in a few days for more tips on Iceland! Where to stay, how to get from point A to point B, and MORE!

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