Zenfolio | Martine DF | Interview

Photograph ‘ Alone ‘ – Iceland


  • Where did you take this photo? 

The photo was captured in the magical land of Iceland. Along Route One, the main route across the country, Southeast of Iceland, lies Jökulsárlón Glacier. It literally means "glacial river lagoon". It is a must destination for anyone visiting Iceland! The Blue Langoon and puffin & whale watching are also on that list. I would have loved to go by boat around that lagoon. I think that is for next time.

  • What time of day? 

This photo is probably one of my favourite photos from the lagoon. I love the reflections of the ice shape, it's almost poetic. I guess that's why I refer to the image as 'Alone'. Even though it's a singular ice shape, yet, by its reflection the ice shape is not alone at all.

Before going to Iceland I calculated the time to spend at least 3 hours there. With our schedule and the colder weather, we didn't do a boat tour. I really would love to go back and do this. That would be magical.

We arrived at the lake it was just after early dinner time, this the 20th of May 2014. I didn't realise the lagoon was so close to the road! We parked the car and walked on the rocky hill downwards, to find this magical scenery. We were the only two.  There wasn't a sunset as the light was still bright for the time we were there. This particular photo is shot at 8:47 pm. When we left a few people came down, wondered and being encapsulated by all these scenic ice sculptures.

  • Anything worth sharing about lighting? 

The light was still very bright as it was spring in Iceland. I love the details in the sky, it looks like there is fog or even steam coming from the ice cubes. I wanted for this image to look and feel more mysterious, so added some contrast and details in the highlights in Photoshop afterwards.

I didn't lit up with any flash as it wasn't necessary.

  • What equipment did you use? (Camera, lens, tripod?, flash?, other?) 

The picture was shot with a Canon 7D, with a 18-200mm travel lens: aperture f6.7, shutter speed 1/500 and ISO 400. No other equipment was involved.

  • What inspired you to take this photo? 

Out of the 150 photos I took at the location, this particular image stood out for me. I felt that the composition made it more powerful, unique and crisper. It reminds me of the architectural aphorisms of Architect Mies van der Rohe "Less is More". What to rule out in a picture, by choosing a crop in camera, to bring the focus on what you really want to express. How someone would look at the picture and how their eyes would be guided by the composition, light and lines.

  • Did you do any post-processing? if yes, tell us about it! 

My usual process is first in Lightroom, i.e. correct the white balance, checking the histogram and adjusting highlights, working on the whites and blacks making sure there is enough detail in both. Then I went over the saturation tool bar and accentuated some blues (not too much otherwise the picture would look unrealistic). After that, I exported it to Photoshop and adjusted for contrast and additional detail in the light and shadows of the photograph. I checked and corrected the noise of the image, as I wanted a crisp look.

  • What equipment do you normally have in your bag? 

During my Iceland trip I carried Canon 7D, 50 mm f1.2, 24-7 mm f2.8 and the 18-200 mm f3.6-5.6. I used this overall travel lens, 18-200 mm, for backpacking previously. Although it's versatile, as I have become more experienced and shooting stock photos, I don't like the sharpness of it. Plus being an Architectural Photographer, the lines are bending slightly outwards. Really painful for capturing buildings, specially seeing the images during the post-processing where lines need to be straighter. I was being a perfectionist when it came to that, so I knew I had to upgrade my gear, even though at the expense of more weight. My travel camera bag has since then been upgraded to a Canon Mark III, 50 mm f1.2, 24-70 mm f2.8, depending on the load and project brief, I would bring the 70-200mm f2.8. In addition to the travel bag, I have the 100 mm f1.2 and architectural Tilt-Shift 17 mm f4 lens.

I have lens filters (great for protection of the lens glass) and lens hoods on every lens (good for when it rains, not only for sun-flare). A dust blower, a leather cloth and plastic bag (both for when it rains), a cleaning cloth and a cleaning brush. I place this all, together with my Mac Probook and an external hard drive, in a Crumpler Backpack. I love the backpack as it's not a typical camera bag. Great for traveling unnoticed with camera gear! I also have a Manfrotto travel tripod with a 3 way geared head. I have had it for over a decade, it's a great tool (heavy at times). Great specially for landscape and architectural photography.

  • Any advice for others trying to capture something similar? (The more specifics the better) 

For landscape the best times to take photos are mornings or evenings. You get different light conditions which is perfect for magical places. I do prefer cloudy days as the light is more equal and soft, specially for sceneries like Jökulsárlón Glacier.

It always helps planning with travel photography. I do have an app on my phone now that shows where the sun is going to be at a particular location. So think ahead and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Other than planning, I think as a photographer, it's not really about clicking and getting the most pictures. But noticing the lights and shadows, noticing and reading the location with its shapes and forms. Seeing details, seeing beauty in even ordinary locations, ... Then once done, you need to give your impression of how you see it through your unique viewpoint and crop that view in camera (not in post-processing - remember: 'Get it right in Camera first!'). Bring this vision across to the viewer. Guide them by using lines, colours and light, this to have almost a 'Dance with the viewer's eyes'. On a last note, you need to enjoy taking the photo. Having fun while creating is such a rewarding experience. That passion will easily be seen in what you capture.

Happy Snapping!