With long hours of sunlight in the summer, and 4-5 hours of Golden Hour(s) in the winter, Iceland has endless photographic opportunities. It’s no wonder that over the recent years, the country has become a top destination–not only for photography aficionados, but also for regular tourists. The landscape is so spectacular, even photos captured on iPhone look stunning!
For those seeking to elevate their pictures to the next level, I recommend using the following photography gear to capture the true beauty of Iceland!
- DSLR – my pick is the Canon 5D Mark III! This is a sturdy, well built, full frame camera that is perfect for rugged shooting and Iceland’s unpredictable weather conditions
- Compact camera – for day-to-day shooting, or if you don’t want to lug around a chunky DSLR. I use a Sony RX100
- GoPro – handy if you’re doing extreme outdoor activities or for action videos! I use a GoPro Hero 4 Silver
The convenient thing about Iceland is you can get away with iPhone photography and still come away with some great photos, but you really want a camera with maximum control over light input. If you’re only armed with an iPhone, try pairing it with Olloclips or other lens attachments.
Iceland has breathtaking, stretching expanses with gorgeous landscapes. To truly capture the magnitude of it all, wide angle lenses are the way to go. I recommend the following:
- Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM – my go to walkaround lens
- Canon 24mm f/1.4 L II USM – a great prime with really wide open aperture for letting in lots of light
- Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM – wonderful landscape lens that gives a little more flexibility in framing, while still having great aperture capability
Vital, especially for long exposures! You’ll be playing with light, so a tripod for stability is of paramount importance. Choose between:
- A light carbon fiber tripod like the Gitzo GT1542T for mobility
- A heavier tripod (e.g. the Manfrotto 055XPROB) will provide stability especially during windy days. Comes in handy when shooting the northern lights, as you don’t want any shake during those 30-45 second long exposures!
Of course, you can always bring both!
If used correctly, these will really take your photos to the next level! Here’s a breakdown of the most common ones:
- Polarizer – not only does this filter increase contrast in every shot, this is your greatest asset when photographing water! It will reduce the reflection, allowing for more detail to be captured under the surface (unless a reflection is what you’re aiming for)
- Neutral Density (ND) – reduces the amount of light entering the lens. Great when you need a long shutter speed to blur water, but don’t want the image to be overexposed
- Graduated Filters (GND) – available in hard edge and soft edge, these filters are basically ND filters split in half. They are perfect for horizon pictures, darkening a bright sky and preserving detail. One of your greatest assets!
I use the following:
- Extra batteries – the cold really drains battery life, so make sure you bring some extra for long nights of shooting. Your body heat will keep prolong battery life as well!
- SD cards – I always bring at least 3 spare SD cards and rotate them. If you misplace one, at least you don’t lose all your pictures!
- Mittens/gloves – Iceland can get pretty cold, especially during night shoots. A pair of thin gloves for mobility to control the camera functions is handy, along with a pair of thicker mittens
- Remote shutter release – a remote release comes in handy especially when setting up to shoot a time lapse (think northern lights!)
- Camera bag – preferred bags are waterproof, and make sure yours is comfortable enough as you may be doing some light hiking
- Laptop / hard drive – nothing is worse than losing photos! Bring along a place to store and edit your images
- Flashlight – for night photography, a flashlight or headlight is super handy when you’re trying to find where on earth you put that extra piece of equipment in your bag. Flashlights also = light drawing!
Start off with low ISO to minimize grain, then work your way up. Slow shutter speeds will also create beautiful effects with water and a dreamy atmosphere.
I recommend shooting in RAW – it’ll really help preserve detail, and you’ll be thankful when it comes to post-processing!
In regards to editing, I’m a huge fan of Lightroom.
Those seeking to go the extra mile can also craft itineraries to chase the light. Think of arriving at Jokulsarlon early in the morning, just as the sun is rising up above the ocean. The golden rays piercing the ice create unique lighting for every image!
Been to Iceland? Taken some sick pics? Share your experiences and photos below!
For more, see my guide to photographing the northern lights.