We did a lot of research on Iceland before we left home. Months were spent browsing pictures from 500px, Flickr, Google, and a variety of other sites devoted to showing the splendor of Iceland. We highlighted pictures from Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Vik, Dyrholaey, and the Snaefellsness Peninsula, taking meticulous notes on what was there and why we’d want to see it. All of this was put into a Google Map to help us figure out our itinerary. As we constructed our itinerary, one waterfall really captured my attention catapulting it to the top of my must-see list — Bruarfoss — a small but mighty waterfall in the Golden Circle area.
I asked at the hotel how to get to the waterfall, but no one there had ever heard of it. The guy at the front desk did manage to find the river Bruar. (Foss means waterfall in Icelandic, so Bruarfoss should mean the waterfall on the Bruar River.) I found general directions (with GPS coordinates) in one of Richard Bernabe’s blog posts so our afternoon scouting was supposed to be quick. We followed those directions to a tee, finding the turn and driving though the holiday park to the parking area. The notes said it was a 15 minute hike — and just remember to keep the river on your left. Off we went, down the lane, turning right and heading upstream as instructed. We hiked. We climbed over fences. The path narrowed and we hiked further, and further. After 45 minutes we were entirely sure we were not in the right place.
We got back to the car and re-read the directions trying to figure out the right way. We turned into another holiday park and drove though. We even stopped and asked some Icelanders on vacation if they knew of Bruarfoss. They got a little map of the holiday park and we perused that, looking for any clues of where the waterfall might be. We drove back to the main road and tried another holiday park, curving through gravel roads until they disappeared into grassy paths. We got out and hiked a bit. We found a tiny little waterfall, and our Icelandic holiday-ers who thought we’d found the waterfall we were looking for.
By this time, we’d been scouting for over two hours. The sky was blue and cloudless — not prime conditions for stellar sunset pictures. I was getting ready to give up. We needed a plan B for sunset if Bruarfoss was a bust. We walked back toward the car when I noticed a small sign that included the word “Bru” – meaning bridge. From the pictures I’d seen, there was a bridge over the river. As a last ditch effort, we crossed the small footbridge and hiked a bit. We gave ourselves 20 minutes of hiking before we turned around. To our surprise, we actually found it!
We made a quick trip into town for sandwiches and beer since we knew we wouldn’t make it back to the hotel before they stopped serving dinner. We drove around and took pictures of horses and generally admired the landscape as well as the cloudless sky. Yes, this looked to be another bust on the sunset front.
We parked the car, grabbed our gear and a few beers and headed back to the waterfall. As the sun began to dip toward the mountains to the west and the temperatures dropped, a few wisps of clouds appeared. We took a few pictures from the bridge before making our way down a steep and sloppy slope to the river. As we waited for the sun to drop, the clouds were developing nicely.
For me, this was a very successful shoot. I didn’t get too committed to one spot. I moved around trying different angles and compositions. I tried my hardest to channel all my photog friends on the West Coast who shoot waterfalls regularly.
Here are some of my favorite images from that evening:
View from the bridge with a wide angle lens
View from the bridge with a long lens:
View from the river. Be sure to bring waterproof boots. This water is very cold.
Directions to Bruarfoss:
From Laugarvatn, take 37 toward Geysir. Just before crossing road 355, you go over a bridge – this is the Bruar River. Stay on 37, go past 355 and take the 2nd left at Reykjavegur which is 1.6 km from 355. Take a picture of the map next to the road so you can navigate all the way to the end (at the top of the map). Park where the gravel road ends. Walk a short distance on the grass road to a small footbridge. Cross the footbridge and stay on the path, bearing right at the first juncture. Continue about 10 minutes to the next bridge over the Bruar River at the waterfall.
Happy New Year! It’s that time to take stock of the past year, and in looking back, it was fantastic! From the Eastern Sierras, to India and France, and kayaking, hiking and canoing in the tri-state area, we had a really blast. I had the pleasure of being featured in Serendipity Magazine and getting a solo show at the Southport Galleries. I met several new photographers including Darren White (www.darrenwhitephotography.com) and Arnab Banerjee (www.arnabbanerjee.com). But the year wouldn’t have as fun or productive without the companionship and inspiration from Shamik (www.shamikphotography.com).
Here are my ten favorite pictures of the year (in order by date):
1. Clear Night in the Sierras. This was taken at Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills on a clear night with a full moon. We light painted the arch with our flashlights. The full moon provided the light for the snowy mountains.
2. One Blind Eye. This man was selling water near the temple in central Udaipur, India.
3. Waiting. This is one from the India in Motion series.
4. Ricochet. Taken on the Pacific Coast at Cape Kiwanda. I love the tension in this shot as the wave ricochets off the cliff wall and starts its way back out to sea.
5. Majestic Maine was taken at Portland Head Lighthouse. We were supposed to be canoeing the Delaware River this weekend, but our plans were cancelled due to unsafe river conditions after Hurricane Irene. I’m so glad we decided to head to Maine instead.
6. Rockport Abstract. This was taken the very next morning in Rockport, Maine. A pretty heavy fog thwarted our landscape photography plans. But give me a harbor and I’m a happy camper.
7. The Overlook — taken at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. This was the only day we had any clouds.
8. Lone Kayaker. This is from the Thimble Islands, just off the Connecticut coast. We lucked out on the weather this morning and there was just enough fog and clouds to make Long Island Sound feel like it was the middle of the ocean.
9. Ominous. This was another morning of insane light. Taken at Montauk Point, NY.
10. Earth and Sky. A cold, clear, moonless night at Delicate Arch let us try photographing the Milky Way.
Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2012! Let me know which is your favorite.
This is probably the most common question we hear from beginner photographers, and there are many possible explanations. Here’s the checklist you should run though to make sure user error isn’t the culprit.
1. Is Your Shutter Speed Sufficient? A very common mistake is to get so caught up in the moment of shooting that you forget to check your shutter speed. There’s a rule of thumb to keep in mind when you’re shooting pictures hand-held. Your shutter speed should be 1/focal length of your lens. This means that if you’re shooting at 50mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/60th or faster to get sharp pictures. If you’re shooting at 200mm, you should be shooting at 1/250th or faster.
2. Are You Using a Tripod? To get really sharp images, using a tripod is a must. I agree that not all situations warrant a tripod. For example, street photography is difficult with a tripod. Often, street photographers are trying to be unseen and need to react quickly to situations and scenes that unfold. But in landscape photography, the scene isn’t changing rapidly and a tripod gives you the proper support to shoot sharp images.
3. Do You Have Image Stabilization (Canon)/Vibration Reduction (Nikon) Turned Off? This is the number one mistake made when shooting on a tripod, and I have fallen victim to this one myself. Sophisticated lenses have special technology called IS (Canon) and VR (Nikon) which actually works to compensate for the small movements you make when hand-holding your camera to take a picture. When you put your camera on a tripod and leave IS/VR in the ON position, the lens “thinks” you’re hand-holding and makes the necessary micro-adjustments to compensate. As a result, the images come out slightly blurry. It’s imperative that you turn IS/VR to OFF as soon as you put your camera on a tripod.
5. Are You Using a Cable Release or Your Timer Function? Another consideration is that when you actually push the shutter button, you’re probably moving the camera a little bit, even on a sturdy tripod. One way to eliminate this is to use a cable release button so you’re not actually touching your camera. The cable release button is useful if you’re trying to take a picture at an exact moment. I often just use my 2-second timer function when I’m taking landscapes. The sun isn’t setting that fast that I need to snap the picture at a precise moment.
Running through this check list generally resolves any issues with complaints about image sharpness. If using these techniques doesn’t resolve sharpness issues, you’ll need to consider whether your tripod is sturdy enough, whether you’re using your tripod correctly, or whether you genuinely have an issue with the lens on your camera.
I’ve been thinking about the creative process recently. How do you get out of a rut? How do you find inspiration? If you’re not in a rut, how do you find the next unique image. I think play and experimentation are really important tools.
When I’m out in the field and unable to deliver on my vision I may try panning or zooming. This sometimes reveals some colors, shapes, or textures that are interesting that I couldn’t see with my landscape-reality-goggles on. It can help me find new angles on a scene, and it can help me find something new to highlight in the image.
Another way I get out of a rut is to force myself to use a different lens. If I’m shooting wide angles, I put on the telephoto for awhile. Or, maybe I grab the macro. Sometimes I head out for the morning and force myself, regardless of the location, to use at least four different lenses. It’s not about getting portfolio-worthy shots. It’s about getting outside my comfort zone, experimenting, re-learning something I once knew.
Here’s an image I took in my dining room a few weeks ago. I cut a peony and set it up in a vase with a nice white background for a high key image. I was working with my Speedlight 580EX which can be controlled remotely with the 7D. This was an experiment in off-camera flash and a lesson in managing the flash from the camera using TTL. As I began to try new lighing setups I also turned it into an experiment with my macro lens with extension tubes. I learned a lot about my equipment. And, I liked how I was seeing new things in the peony. With the extension tubes, I stopped shooting a flower and started to look for shapes and light and composition.
NOTE: Before I get a lot of comments about the color. I also did some post-processing. The peony was white or light pink. With the flash, it was basically a black and white image. By chaning the white balance and applying split toning in Lightroom, I was able to create a soothing balance of colors.
Just a quick post to let everyone know that I’m working on a book with Arnab Banerjee. I’m very excited about the opportunity, and it should be out in time for the holidays. Don’t you need to stock up on stocking stuffers? Needless to say, my weekends are suddenly booked up for the summer and into the fall. More on this, and the adventures that will go into this in future posts.
People are always asking where I find my inspiration. It comes from a lot of different places. Life.com just made things easier by posting their 2011 Photo Blog Awards. I’m a reader of several of them, and I’m looking foward to looking into the others. Inspriration comes from a wide variety of places. Spread your wings, explore something new. Enjoy!