I have taken photo trips in Europe and the Mediterranean, but the biggest step yet has been my recent trip to Iceland. That had been a “dream” destination for a long time.
The dream came true in June 2012. My goal for this trip was to explore the south coast, a part of the highlands and, if possible, the west peninsula.
I had ten days there and the program was dependent on the weather. It turned out we were lucky and didn’t have to endure much bad weather.
This trip also was an opportunity to make an extensive test of my quite new 5D Mark III using my wide-angle lenses for landscapes and my 300mm for birds. Of course, I didn’t forget my kit of Singh-Ray filters — including eight ND and Reverse Grads, the LB Neutral and Warming Polarizers and a Gold-N-Blue Polarizer.
On this first image, I made a somewhat classical use of my filters. I had just arrived in the Landmannalaugar, a visually stunning place in the Highlands. The sky was cloudy and snow was predicted for the next day. The colours were present but a little dull and the dynamic range was too great with these clouds in the sky. What I had to do was use the LB Warming Polarizer to let the colours shine and make the contrast sharper and the 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to help balance between the sky and the foreground of the image. I put my camera on my sturdy tripod (wind was blowing) and turned the adjustment ring to fine tune the degree of polarization. Then, in manual mode, I adjusted the exposure so that the foreground would be well exposed and handheld my ND Grad in front of the lens. Then I made the shot.
This second image is very different and called for another technical approach. It was in the middle of the night, and the sun had just dropped below the mountains there in Jokulsarlon. This place is magic with all these icebergs floating slowly by. It was very late but far from deep dark — perfect conditions for a long time exposure. I decided to use my Gold-N-Blue Polarizer to enhance this very special mood and slow the exposure time. Another side effect is to boost the contrast and make the glaciers more visible without having to work hours on post processing. I also had to use a 2-stop soft-step ND Grad to minimize the little difference of luminosity between the foreground and the upper part of the picture. The idea here was to have an exposure long enough to have this nice effect with the water but no blur on the iceberg (except for the little ones on the left). This kind of image needs a little post processing mainly because I left my camera in auto white balance setting and it is fooled by this filter. So at home my job was to remember the feeling of the day I shot this and set Lightroom’s white balance, contrast and saturation.
The third picture has been taken in another beautiful place near Vik on an incredible black sand beach. This was another time when the sky was full of clouds and quite dark. There was a special light that could make a nice shot.
The rocks here have been photographed thousands of times and I just didn’t want to make a usual picture. I wanted to make a long exposure to soften the waves sliding on the beach. Problem was that I didn’t have a neutral density filter. I took my ND grads and stacked my 3 and 2 f-stop together with the 2 f-stop upside down. That was sufficient to achieve an exposure time of 2 seconds which expressed the cold and windy mood.
To finish this little trip, I propose to you that another use of the Singh-Ray filter is to produce black and white images. This image was taken in the west peninsula. I was just driving along on my way back home and thinking of all the beauty that I had seen — and then I saw these ruins and that cloudy sky behind.
I jumped from the car, took my camera, put the 70-200 on it with the LB Neutral Polarizer. I then mounted it on the tripod and handheld a 3-stop soft-step ND Grad in front of the lens (always on M mode to fully control the exposure for the ground). As a result of using the polarized filter and the ND Grad, I had the advantage of having a raw file which was well balanced and had good contrast. The black and white conversion was an easy step, working only on contrast and a few other little adjustments.
It was not so easy to make a selection of images from this trip. I think these images are representative of the use I have made of the filters during the trip and how much they helped me take good pictures. I hope now to go back to Iceland soon. Perhaps it will be this fall to shoot totally different landscapes covered with snow, very short days and perhaps the aurora borealis.
Thierry is eager to share his pictures with more of the world. By visiting his new website at Thierry-Images.ch you will be able to find other views of his trip to Iceland, and follow his future success and renewed love for photography.