Analog Photography – Back to the basics

I will be honest with you, I am practising photography, as a hobby, not for a long period of time. I picked up an old Canon EOS 20D with 18-55mm from a colleague just about 4 years ago. That’s where it all started, the first encounter of photography and me. My first lens that I bought was the 50mm F/1.8 and since then I was hooked up.

I started to suck in all the information available on the internet about shutter speed, ISO, aperture, focal length, long exposure and bokeh. After hours of researching and writing it all down, I grabbed the camera and went out to convert the written into an actual photograph.

Later that year I picked up the Canon 70D that allowed me to take better quality pictures and the camera was capable of recording video. Main reason for the upgrade, compared to the old 20D, was the less noisy pictures of the Northern Lights and it is kinda an all round camera.

My 35mm SLR collection so far: Konica Autoreflex T3, Canon AE-1 and Canon AE-1 Program

My 35mm SLR collection so far: Konica Autoreflex T3, Canon AE-1 and Canon AE-1 Program

For some reason, I always wanted to try photography. I remember looking at the photographers or the owners of DSLRs at various locations and dreaming about owning myself of one of those cameras. But being an IT student and spending the money on PC components and other various small electronics, I never had a budget do purchase a DSLR or look deeper in this whole subject.

Well that has changed now, owning decent gear that does not limit me to a specific genre but is capable of delivering high performance in different kind of photography, from Landscape, sports, long exposure to astrophrography (Northern Lights).

Skógafoss - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

Skógafoss - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

My heart discovered something new, which is actually not new at all, it’s been there for the last 50-60 years. Its new for me.

My grand grandfather (father of my grandmother) was a painter and a photographer back in the day. My mother and grandmother have told me, that I have my grand grandfathers “eye” of seeing things. Another member of my family, my uncle, was actually doing professional analog photography. He was shooting weddings on 35mm film and was processing it in his own darkroom in his apartment.

I remember that room. My parents dropped me off with my grand grandmother, so she could look after me, while my mother was going to fencing competitions around in Europe. I was very young at that age and I remember how my grand grandmother told me, never to go into that darkroom as I could ruin the photographs. At that point I did not know what or how a photograph was made.

Reynisfjara black beach - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

Reynisfjara black beach - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

Now, nearly 25 years later, I have some understanding of analog photography and a huge desire to do it and to learn to process the film on my own in a dark room.

I have already started to make the first steps in that direction and it’s like Christmas for me.

Shooting 35mm film is just exciting for me. Picking up one of the old cameras that I have, loading the film into them and going out, taking some time to frame the shot, adjusting the exposure settings (aperture and shutter speed), taking the photograph and writing down the information of location, the settings so I can connect later the photograph to the settings it was taken with (analog book).

And so far, I am having a blast. I am really enjoying shooting film and so far, I am not wasting a lot of shots. I am still learning how the film behaves in different light conditions and how far I can push it, in total just finding the limitations on different type of film.

Edinburgh - Waverley Station - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

Edinburgh - Waverley Station - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

I believe, I am doing it wrong. Most older photographers were shooting film and do know how to develop it on their own and have switched to digital just because its faster and more convenient for them to shoot digital.

I am doing it the other way around. Started shooting digital and now discovering the whole topic of analog photography. Main task for this winter, is to start to learn how to process the film on my own the darkroom.

For me, shooting film just feels great. Every time I give a roll of film to the processing, I am like a small child before Christmas, can’t wait to see the results.

Does that mean, that when I will master shooting film and processing it on my own, that I will toss my DSLR to the side and not pick it up again? No, of course not. For me shooting film is like, driving an old-timer on a sunny day for somebody else. Or enjoying whiskey and a cigar with a good book near a fireplace. It’s just something that feels great, it’s something that gives you this specific feeling that you just can’t put in words. You need to try it on your own, or you maybe already have something that gives you this kind of feeling. We do crazy stuff to get our senses stimulated.

Edinburgh Cockburn Street - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

Edinburgh Cockburn Street - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

I just can’t wait to get out of Reykjavik, load up some Fujifilm Velvia 50 or 100 into the camera and try shooting that kind of film.

Is film photography dead? Don't ask me, I am just getting started!

Netherurd - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

Netherurd - 35mm Canon AE-1 - Kodak Ektar 100

Westfjords - Puffins

I had a few items on my list that I wanted, no matter what, to photograph this summer (oh well you know the season where the roads are free of snow).

Puffins, or Lundi (Icelandic) were on the top of my list. But I did not want to go to Heimaey (westman islands). One reason is that I was already there and another reason is that with car rental, hotel and the ship it would cost more to go to Heimaey rather than to any other place.

Where else can you photograph Puffins? Westfjords, Látrabjarg bird cliffs. I was in the Westfjords already but in the northern part of them, Ísafjörður.

I really wanted to visit the southern part of the Westfjords and Látrabjarg is located exactly there.

Of course this was one of the last parts of Iceland that I had to visit before I can state that I have seen all of Iceland. Well yes, all of Iceland that is easy to access, Highlands and Askja is still whispering my name, but I will get to it.

The snow have melted and made all of the Westfjords accessible by normal car. So we planned it out to go on a long weekend, booked our guesthouse, booked the rental and off we went.

The one and only negative point about the Westfjords is the distance that they are located from Reykjavik. It takes you 6-8 hours of driving to get to them. But that’s it, that is one and only negative point. Westfjords are beautiful and you should visit them once you have the opportunity to do so.

You will find the pictures in the Westfjords gallery here on my page.

Here is my first attempt to do video blogging and I have blogged about our trip to Westfjords.

 

The trip was amazing. It was good to get out of Reykjavik and spend the long weekend in the Fjords. We nearly did not get any sleep at all during our trip, so much had to be seen.

But the lack of sleep was compensated by the Icelandic Spa. In this case Pollurinn which was just 4km away from our guesthouse in Tálknafjörður. Yep, I will be coming back to Westfjords.

Iceland Round Trip 2017

It’s been a while since my last blog post here. The reason for that is the last month was quite busy for me. My fellow photographer friend, Andreas and me, we both went on an 8 day round Iceland trip. And after that I was able to go for two another trips on the South Coast. Together with EVE Fanfest 2017, it was a very full packed month.

But now I want to take a few minutes and capture my experience in words about the trip around Iceland together with Andreas.

Andreas and me, we went on highland trip last year in October and after that we made the decision to go even on a longer trip together and visit the West fjords, North, East and return over the south coast back to Reykjavik. It was a tour with a lot of driving, flying and hiking.

We started our tour with a Helicopter flight from Nordurflug, Reykjavik summit. Esjan was covered in clouds, so we landed on nearby mountains. I still need to hike up Esjan but I am glad that we went to another mountain as Reykjavik city center together with Esjan covered in clouds, is just majestic.

Norðurflug Helicopter Tours - Reykjavik Summit

After that we continued our way to Ísafjörður were we stayed over the night. It was a very good day, with sun and clear view. But it all changed once we made the turn into the fjords. We drove in to a snow storm that was moving the same direction we were driving. But equipped with a good 4x4 car and constant monitoring of the road conditions, it was more impressive for us to drive in the storm rather exposing us to danger situations.

Near Ísafjörður we visited the Arctic Fox Center were we learned a lot about the beautiful artic foxes and it even spiked the idea to travel to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve for our next tour and stay there for couple of days and get really close to the nature. That is a new item on our “TO-DO”-list.

 

The Arctic Fox Center

After we left Ísafjörður, we had a long drive as we were staying in Akureyri over the night. But yet again we got a beautiful sunny day on our side and when we drove back we were able to stop and get really close to the lazy seals that were lying on the rock formation just before the beach. We were able to get really close and take a few pictures.

 

Seals near Ísafjördur

On our way to Akureyri, we stopped in Hvammstangi and visited the local wool factory, Kidka Woolfactory Shop. It was a very expensive stop as we were shown the hand knitted Icelandic wool sweaters, called Lopapeysur.

According to the sales specialists at the shop, the Lopapeysa finds you (something like the magic wand in all the popular wizard books). And indeed, I have spotted just a sleeve of one Lopapeysa, I liked the color and the size seemed to fit me. So I tried it on and it fit perfectly, it fit so perfectly that it was a bit longer in the sleeves and at the bottom, exactly how I liked it. Well I guess I have found one or the Lopapeysa has found me.

Andreas didn't have luck on the first time, but he spotted one under all the other sweaters and guess what, the color and the size fit. I guess there is some magic going on with the Icelandic Lopapeysur. Andreas and I wanted one for a very long time and now finally we could get our hands on some original hand knitted by Handknitting association of Iceland.

Within Nature - Gljúfrafoss

We arrived quite late in Akureyri. We did a small stop at the groceries store to get something to eat but when we parked near the store we have already spotted the northern lights above us. We ran through the store like maniacs, trying to find something fast in preparing for our dinner. We got us some frozen pizzas and we rushed out of the store and continued driving to get to our apartment, in which we stayed for the next 2 nights. It took us 3 times to find the proper turn, I blame the northern lights and the wish to get to the apartment fast, not blaming Andreas for his navigation skills :) .

When we arrived, we got an amazing welcome by the northern lights in Akureyri. It was so amazing, that I totally forgot that I needed a bathroom for the last 1 ½ hours of our travel. Before we were even able to unload the car, we just took our cameras and tripods, put some warm jackets and started taking pictures of the amazing northern lights show just right across of Akureyri. This was really amazing.

Northern Lights in Akureyri

The next day started a little bit late as we did not have much to visit on this day. We drove down to Goðafoss and decided to make our way to one of the F-roads, F26 to be precise. We wanted to visit the Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. We knew that it was located on the F26 road and that the F-roads are closed in winter. But it was just 3.7km from the road 842. We knew we will have to leave our car behind and walk to it. And to be honest, 3.7km is actually not that much, you walk the same distance to the famous DC plane wreck….. on flat terrain….. with no snow and it takes you about 55 minutes to an hour to get there.

That’s where my navigation skills played a trick on me. I knew that we will have to hike to get to the waterfall, the F-roads are closed. Well guess what, I did not check the elevation. The road went in total over 3 hills, going up and a bit down and up again, and down and finally up to a parking spot, from where you need to go down to the waterfall. Well we all did hike a few mountains, what is special about this one. Well, it did snow quite a lot the night before. We had to hike in snow, so deep that it covers completely your boots and at some places, with the snow drifts, it is so deep that you hike through knee deep snow. If you ask Andreas and me now about how was the hike, we will tell you that it was wonderful, a very good experience, it was sunny, not so much wind and you were in the middle of nowhere, the farm located at the begging of the F26 and our parked car was slowly disappearing with each single step we took.

If you would ask us in the middle of our journey, you would hear quite a lot of swearing in both German, English, Russian and Polish. I think Andreas was quite pissed at me in that moment that I did not check the stupid elevation on the map. I was also pissed for making such a stupid mistake. But we continued and oh boy, I love snow. I really do love snow, for me there can’t be enough snow. The 51cm of new snow that came down in February in Reykjavik, made me quite happy. I wish it would be even more, but only if I don’t have to go somewhere. After this small hike to the Aldeyjarfoss, I don’t really want to walk on snow again, especially up a mountain where you take a step and you slide half a step back.

It took us about 2 ½ hours to get to the waterfall and about 1h and 18m to get back to the car. We were good prepared with our clothes and hiking boots, we had something to eat and drink with us. So it was a really good hike in the end. Ah just one more thing, on the last bit of the straight road that takes us back to our parked car, we saw 2 super jeeps coming our way. The drivers winked at us and nod their heads. They were taking two tourists groups over to the Aldeyjarfoss.

Aldeyjarfoss in winter

We drove back to Akureyri and had a well-deserved meal. On the next day we planned to drive up to Mývatn and visit the Mývatn Nature Baths to get that difficult hike out of our bones.

In the next couple of days we made our way over to Höfn to try and capture Vestrahorn in sunset or in sunrise. We did not have any luck with the weather so we did not stay long at the location, just took a few pictures and continued over to Jökulsárlón where we had an Ice Cave tour waiting for us.

We were actually very lucky with the weather, just a day before our arrival at Jökulsárlón, the wind reached there 40m/s, which is enough force to pick up small stones and catapult them into the cars, breaking windshields on multiple vehicles. Just take a moment and read / view the pictures over here Stríðsástand við Jökulsárlón.

The wind has calmed down to something around 20-25m/s. So nothing was in the way to visit the Ice Cave. However this was one of the last trips to the Ice Caves as the season was ending. But yet again, another item of my “TO-DO”-list.

Ice Cave with Goecco Reykjavik

We continued our journey back to Reykjavik over the South coast and made a small shower stop at the Gljúfrafoss to get soaked wet.

When we arrived back in Reykjavik, the tour was not done yet. We still had some northern lights to hunt and together with my friend and pilot Snorri we went on a sightseeing flight over the south coast, into Thórsmörk, Landmannalaugar and return over the golden circle tour. It was really amazing. Thank you Snorri! You are the best!

On the very last evening we went over to Þingvellir to capture some northern lights with a reflection in the water and I think we have nailed it.

Black mirror - Þingvellir National Park

Summary:

In total it was an amazing trip around Iceland. We had everything, wild animals, northern lights, sun, waterfalls, sunsets, stars, snow, snow storms, hiking and relaxation in hot baths. Even if the weather was not on our side with a clear sky for northern lights, we always improvised, used what we had at hands and had a very good time.

The tour was quite expensive and we drove about 3 100km, visiting all the well-known (but not only) photo locations. Andreas and I had this good synergy going that even after a few days of spending a lot of time together, we still had topics to speak about, jokes to make and complain about the one or other driver on the road. That leaves room for longer tours :) . Hey Andreas, what should we do next? Should we go into the highlands and turn of our phones, leave our watches at home and just spend days in the midnight sun? Or should we prepare for the next volcano eruption?

Grjótagjá cave

Iceland in March is beautiful in its own way. But I need to advise you if you are planning to undertake similar round trip. Iceland in March does not have stable weather. It can be sunny in the south but as soon as you drive up into the west, the weather can change and can change really fast. You will need a 4x4 car, experience in driving on snow / ice and in bad weather and you will need proper winter / hiking clothes with proper boots. You will need to monitor the weather and the road conditions every hour and you will need to have an alternative plan ready if the weather will pin you down at one location.

Be careful, plan in advance what you will be doing and always remember, take care of Icelandic nature, leave nothing behind and take only photographs.

Canon Professional Network – Editor’s Choice 2017 – Public Vote Nomination

To my surprise, I have found out that my picture is nominated, in the category nature and is now online for public voting.

There are 4 different categories for this year’s Editor’s Choice: Nature, Portrait, Sports and Photojournalism.

There are many very good submissions and you should check it out and leave a vote for your favorite:

Canon Professional Network – Editor’s Choice 2017 – Public Vote

Again to my surprise, there are quite a lot of Iceland pictures in Nature category. I can easily spot 3 pictures from Iceland, 2 pictures from Markus van Hauten, ice on the beach probably taken at Jökulsárlón, another picture is the beautiful Vestrahorn.

Another picture from Iceland is taken by Andre Erlich, a beautiful combination of Icelandic lava rocks, hot springs and northern lights. I am not quite sure, but I think this picture was taken at the Blue Lagoon (also on my “to do” list).

I wanted to take some time and write some lines about my submission for this contest. The picture that I have submitted is called “Looking for Þrasi’s chest of gold”.

The idea came in the beginning of January 2016, on my first tour of the year, the South Coast up to Jökulsárlón. We stopped for the night at the famous Skógafoss.

After a nap, to charge the energy for the hunt of Northern Lights at this same location. Unfortunately, Icelandic weather does have its own behavior and was not looking promising, with snow, clouds, hail and strong wind.

Hoping that there will be an opening in the clouds, we still stayed outside and came up with light painting to not waste the time just standing in the cold surrounded by darkness and the strange deep noise of water masses rushing down the hill.

I knew there was a legend about that waterfall and this is how the idea was born: According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend continues that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. The ring was allegedly given to the local church. The old church door ring is now in a museum.

We had a quite strong light source with us but many different aspects just did not fit to capture good results. But the try gave me an idea of what settings to use and what weather conditions need to be met to capture the picture I wanted.

A month later, another South Coast tour up to Jökulsárlón. We stayed at the same hotel and went to bed to get out again later in the night and try to capture some Northern Lights.

But yet again, the weather was not on our side, sky covered by snow clouds and opening again in 10-15 minutes interval. But this time the moon was out and did share some light on the surroundings of Skógafoss.

Equipped, this time with a much stronger light source, we started to recreate my idea of the past visit. It actually did not take us that long to capture a picture that I had in mind. Main difficult part of this picture was, to try and hit that cloud opening to get the light of the moon and have some snow so it reflects the beam of the light source, a little bit of clear sky above the waterfall AND standing still for a 30 seconds exposure. Try that some time when you are in Iceland with strong winds, standing still for 30 seconds is not that easy.

But enough writing, here is the picture: “Looking for Þrasi’s chest of gold”.

Also, don’t forget to cast your votes for the public vote of CPN Editor’s Choice, there are some really good ones.