I was lucky enough to spend some time in Iceland in the early spring – the trip of a lifetime, and the chance to take some photographs of the stunning landscape.
This was a photographic opportunity not to be missed, so I thought long and hard about what equipment to take with me. How many camera bodies, which lenses? A heavy tripod or a lightweight one? Or perhaps just a monopod? Which filters shall I pack, should I use a battery grip, and which bag will I put all of this in?
In the end I went against all this and decided to keep it really, really simple. My kit of choice was the trusty Fuji X100, with a wide angle converter attached to give an equivalent field of view of the classic 28mm. Nothing else, that’s it.
There’s something very refreshing about travelling this light with a single, fixed lens camera. Some people may find that they can’t get away without the flexibility of a zoom, but I’ve have always had a soft spot for primes. It’s just one less thing to worry about, one less distraction.
You look through the viewfinder and think more about composing your shot, and if you need to zoom in you move forwards, and move back to zoom out. Also, Iceland isn’t really the place to have to worry about taking a lens off a camera and fitting a new one mid shot. The weather can be particularly wild out there, and personally I’d look to keep the camera weather sealed at all times.
The Fuji wide angle adapter in particular is a stunning achievement by Fuji. Attaching this widens the view from 35mm to 28mm, but there’s no loss in quality and no loss in light – the maximum aperture is still a very useful f2. I attached the adapter before I caught my flight to Reykjavik, and it stayed on the camera permanently until I landed back in Edinburgh ten days later.
As a travel camera I can’t recommend the X100 highly enough. It’s well built and compact, but oozes quality, and produces results that match much larger and more expensive DSLR cameras. It also managed to capture all the features of the very different landscapes Iceland has to offer. It records all the detail in the highlights of the steam emitted from the volcanic fissures, and of the snow covering the mountains, whilst also not blocking out the shadows in the black volcanic beaches along the south coast. It handled everything that was asked of it with ease.
Here are some examples of the images I took, again all on the X100, and all with the wide angle adapter fitted.
Of all the people to post about being patient I’m probably the least qualified. But sometimes the difference between an image that means something and one that’s just mediocre can simply be a matter of minutes.
The image above was taken on the fells of south-west Northumberland, somewhere in between Allendale and Alston. It was a fairly grey day, but the viewpoint was quite a good one – however the scene just looked a little flat and uninspiring. I remember thinking how great it would all look with a clear blue sky, and how perhaps I’d just have to come back another time to get a memorable shot.
Then around two minutes later a break in the clouds drifted east, just enough for the suns rays to shine through and softly illuminate a section of the valley below. This light also caught the tops of the lower layers of cloud, so the scene was instantly transformed into something quite special.
A couple of minutes later and it was gone. So was I lucky, or was my patience rewarded? I’d say I was lucky, but it did get me thinking that if something’s not quite right then being patient and waiting for a short time surely can’t hurt?
An introduction courtesy of Wikipedia:
“A desire path (also known as a desire line, social trail, cow path, goat track, pig trail or bootleg trail) can be a path created as a consequence of foot or bicycle traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination.
Width and erosion severity can be indicators of how much traffic a path receives. Desire paths emerge as shortcuts where constructed ways take a circuitous route, have gaps, or are non-existent.
In Finland, planners are known to visit their parks immediately after the first snowfall, when the existing paths are not visible. People naturally choose desire paths, clearly marked by their footprints, which can be then used to guide the routing of new purpose-built paths.”
Which is why I like this image. To me at least it’s not just a photo of a corn field, it’s an image of a journey.
I’ve recently been on a trip to Croatia, which was naturally a great opportunity to take some photographs from a new place – somewhere different from my usual haunts.
I thought for ages about which camera / lens combination to take with me. At first I was fairly settled on taking my Nikon DSLR with a fixed wide angle lens. If I don’t attach the battery grip or use a bulky zoom lens this is actually a fairly compact setup, but you would still need a bag of some kind for it, and it still is quite heavy for a travel camera.
So instead, I bought one of these. It’s a second hand Fuji X100, and it cost me around £350 from MPB Photographic. I wasn’t sure at first whether to buy second hand, but the worry and guesswork is pretty much taken out of the equation if you buy from a reputable dealer.
I think that it was the best decision I ever made with my photography, and the little Fuji has quickly become my favourite camera. It’s solid, well built, easy to use and takes beautiful quality images (as good as a DSLR). That fixed 23mm lens is a real beauty, and I found the lack of a zoom wasn’t an issue at all.
You can also pop a leather cover / case on it and then pretty much chuck it anywhere – so in a bag, over your shoulder etc. This makes it so easy to carry around but available at a moments notice, which is an absolute necessity when travelling.
Here’s a quick gallery of a selection of some of the images from my trip, all of which were taken on the X100.
Foggy days are usually days suited to black and white. Low contrast and monochrome just tends to go together hand in hand, so this image was originally going to be without colour.
The location is the grounds of Matfen Hall Hotel in Northumberland. I’ve photographed there many times before, usually taking images of the hotel itself (both inside and out) and the golf course, but sometimes in-between photoshoots, when I’ve a little time to spare, I have a wander around the grounds to the east of the Dutch Garden. There’s a cracking little woodland there that I’ve always made a mental note to myself about how great it would look in mist.
I always find the combination of trees and fog early in the morning quite an evocative one. I’m not sure why, I think perhaps it’s something to do with what I feel while I am there capturing the scene.
It always seems very quiet in an environment like this, yet you can still occasionally hear sounds from quite a distance away travelling through the thick air and breaking the silence. You can hear animals moving around under the cover of the mist, you never catch a glimpse of them, but you know they are close.
This photograph is all about vertical lines, and is very simple. There’s not a lot going on in there, but I like the depth as you look through the rows of trees, and see each row becoming subsequently less visible than the one before.
Reflections are fickle things, especially in rivers and moving water. You can spend literally months waiting for the reflection in the Tyne to be just right.
The tide has to be right, as does the amount of water in the river system, the wind, the river traffic and the location of the sun. It’s rare that it all comes together, and when it does you typically don’t have a camera with you!
This is one of those rare exceptions. I was in Newcastle on a photo job and decided to take a 15 minute break on a bench by the river, and the scene pretty much presented itself. This building has always fascinated me, though I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the pale blue colour, or perhaps the blue and red strips running from the roof and along the base. Regardless, I like it, and I especially like it when you can see almost a perfect mirror image of the jagged roof in the river. It’s a very untypical view of architecture on the quayside.
Technically there was nothing to it. The aperture was f8 to get the best out of the lens, the shutter speed was left to the camera and ended up being 1/40 second. All I had to do was make sure I was as square on to the front of the building as possible, and the rest would look after itself.