Iceland + criticism needed

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by jair, Mar 30, 2012.

  1. jair

    jair Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 14, 2012
    Edit: As requested here are the RAW files:

    I would really appreciate to see what more expirienced people can do with them.

    First 5 pics:
    From 6 to 10:
    From 11 to 15:
    From 16 to 20:
    From 21 to 26:

    Later I will edit the main post to link the raw file to each individual pic, but I am a bit in a hurry right now.

    First, some background. Up to one month ago I was one of those Auto mode P&S shooters with very ancient Canon P&S camera. No idea about ISO, Aperture, DOF, etc. I had an upcoming trip to Iceland and decided it is a good opportunity to pick up photography as a hobby. The result: GF2+14mm pancake and very active reading, especially here.

    Now that the trip is over I want to share some pictures. I will also try to share a bit of what I have in mind with each picture and some post processing I took in Lightroom. PLEASE, let me know if I have some gaping holes in what I do, this is the only way to learn. Even if they are small holes, I am still beginner and I don't want to pick up bad practices which will be difficult to get rid of later.

    All pictures shot in RAW, with ISO between 100 and 400. I dont feel I am good enough to deal with noise right now and the overall post processing was light, on most images setting were moved 10-15% at most.

    1. Gullfoss, one of the many amazing waterfalls in Iceland. Here the challenge was to get the snow to display correctly. I tried both "cloudy" setting and picking up white balance from the snow. It still look kinda grayish, but I suppose it is ok as the day was pretty overcast. I also tried to shoot with the lowest speed available(max or min f-stop, im always confused which is max and which min) to get that waterfall effect.

    ISO 100, f/22, 1/50

    <a href="" title="Gullfoss by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030670541_cfb685d21d_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Gullfoss"></a>

    2. Northern Lights What is a trip to Iceland without photos of the Aurora? :) This was my main goal, to get good pictures of the lights, I read a lot on what settings to use, what to do, etc. The result is kinda OK in my opinion. Main problem I had was with manual focus. I read that I need to set it to infinity and I did that using MF and rotating the ring till the display showed maximum focal distance. Turned out all pictures were out of focus. Luckily I forgot a few times to rotate the ring and those pictures which were set with the auto setting camera puts when switching to MF were perfect and crisp. I am still puzzled about that, any idea?

    On the post processing front I found it is really easy to abuse Aurora photographs and get all kind of beautiful weird effects. Here I tried to keep it as realistic as possible, i.e. how it looked to me more or less. Blacks were decreased to get darker sky and some clarity was added to pop out the green.

    ISO 200, f/2.5, 25 sec

    <a href="" title="Aurora by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030670779_616aec6709_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Aurora"></a>

    ISO 100, f/2.5, 25 sec

    <a href="" title="Aurora by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884571600_3b27a383da_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Aurora"></a>

    ISO 200, f/2.5, 25 sec

    <a href="" title="Aurora by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030671251_642b9387df_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Aurora"></a>

    ISO 100, f/2.5, 25 sec

    <a href="" title="Aurora by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884572094_c377b37c88_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Aurora"></a>

    3. Reykjavik Here I especially like the color of the water. One of the many things I learned is that 14mm is kinda limiting. Many times I wanted to cut the near field and get more of the far field. I guess I need 20mm badly. I see I did 0 post processing here, I maybe forgot to PP that picture :)

    ISO 100, f/11, 1/250s

    <a href="" title="Reykjavik by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030671649_9d9df0aec7_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Reykjavik"></a>

    4. Snaefellsness peninsula. Very rugged landscape, though we were caught by bad weather. On such photos I find out that Vibrance and Saturation are very nice settings :) I don't have a feel for them completely yet, but they really help get some extra color from the grass, which looked rather bland in the RAW file. Another common thing I did on most photos is increase the contrast and decrease the blacks, to get that color of the volcanic sand to look like the real black it is, not the gray that was in the default file. Of course, doing it carefully to not underexpose.

    ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1250s - picture taken from the moving car, I increased the ISO and shutter speed and gave the camera to my sister, so she can shoot at her will while I am driving.

    <a href="" title="Snaefellsness by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030672043_c955aae656_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Snaefellsness"></a>

    Here I really don't understand the distortion effects, the road surface is like bending in all directions. Another one which would have benefited from longer reach, but I still like it.

    ISO 400, f/14, 1/50s

    <a href="" title="Snaefellsness by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030672359_4b2c6d0282_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Snaefellsness"></a>

    5. South Coast of Iceland. Again, pretty brutal landscapes. You can hardly find a tree in Iceland, but this is what makes it pretty and unreal. Here again i decreased the black and increased the contrast. Also slight boost on all clarity, saturation and vibrance. Very slight decrease in exposure to get some details in the sky.

    ISO 100, f/10, 1/160s

    <a href="" title="Iceland - South Coast by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030672557_ed3b4d5ec1_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Iceland - South Coast"></a>

    Elf houses. Icelandic people have very curious beliefs, majority of them still believe or dont exclude the existance of small creatures called huldofolk, which are something like elfs. Roads are planned to avoid areas where it is believed huldofolk live and on many places you can see small houses build by locals for the elfs. I kinda like the sharpness of this one.

    ISO 100, f/4.0, 1/200s

    <a href="" title="Elf houses by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030672903_1598ed8da7_b. "1000" height="675" alt="Elf houses"></a>

    This one is almost a single color, but for some reason I think it is one of my best looking photos. Again taken from the car, but at least I stopped for a sec and took the window down.

    ISO 400, f/2.5, 1/200

    <a href="" title="Iceland - South Coast by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884573820_6d3205ccd2_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Iceland - South Coast"></a>

    This one is from a hike. I like the three layers of the light foreground, dark middle and white background. Some extra focal length wouldn't hurt here too I think.

    ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/250s

    <a href="" title="Skaftafell National Park by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884574076_8e556a1405_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Skaftafell National Park"></a>

    6. Glaciers The biggest difficulty I had here is getting the blue of the ice to appear in the camera.

    ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2000s

    <a href="" title="Svinafellsjokull by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884574314_721fce5f22_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Svinafellsjokull"></a>

    ISO 100, f/11, 1/100s

    <a href="" title="Glacier Tongue by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884574566_fc9403a1df_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Glacier Tongue"></a>

    Jokulsarlon. This place is amazing.

    ISO 200, f/8.0, 1/60

    <a href="" title="Jokulsarlon by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030674205_2794d86585_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Jokulsarlon"></a>

    7. South Coast again Going back we had some blue skies, it is astonishing how one thing can look completely different when it is lit by clear sun. This is true for all Iceland, the weather is changing constantly and even if you stay at one place you get different view with each weather change.

    ISO 400, f/4.5,1/2500

    <a href="" title="Iceland - South Coast by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030674503_5ec67ab6c9_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Iceland - South Coast"></a>

    8. Reynisfjara Black sand beach. Like real black. The contrast is amazing and to me it is much more pretty then the popular yellow sand beaches.

    The first two pictures are of the same spot. I like the quality of the first one better, but on the second one the small people help put the size in to perspective. Really magnificient place.

    ISO 100, f/8.0, 1/500s

    <a href="" title="Reynisjfara by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030674719_f9bd05ddb1_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Reynisjfara"></a>

    ISO 100, f/8.0, 1/125s

    <a href="" title="Reynisjfara by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030675265_076a8bc88e_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Reynisjfara"></a>

    This one is almost in the same place. I like the nearby rocks and the small hill leading to the bigger hill on the left.

    ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/2500s

    <a href="" title="Reynisjfara by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884575598_2725f1410f_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Reynisjfara"></a>

    The contrast. I decreased the blacks and increased the whites on this pic.

    ISO 100, f/8.0, 1/400s

    <a href="" title="A land of contrast by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884576274_f498916509_b. "1000" height="750" alt="A land of contrast"></a>

    8. Skogarfoss One of the best views in my life. Even the best picture cannot do justice on this spot...and my pictures im sure are far from the best. We were lucky to get the sun shining towards the fall and get a double rainbow just metres away from us. I wanted to go closer with the camera, but there was a lot of spray.

    I took many many pictures of this waterfall and now I see I selected the one that is at fast shutter speed as the best, go figure.

    ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/4000s

    <a href="" title="Skogarfoss by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884576550_78184a1ea7_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Skogarfoss"></a>

    9. Eyjafjallajokull - the famous volcano is in the background. I like how the road leads to building and then to the volcano. Another picture that could have used longer reach...

    ISO 400, f/13, 1/1000s

    <a href="" title="Eyjafjallajokull by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884576758_82a8a8fe31_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Eyjafjallajokull"></a>

    10. Seljalandfoss. This is a waterfall on which you can walk behind. I wanted to capture the raw power of the water crashing in the river, without sound it is difficult to succeed. It was really mighty and noisy waterfall.

    ISO 100, f/8, 1/160

    <a href="" title="Seljalandfoss by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030676361_bc2541ac05_b. "750" height="1000" alt="Seljalandfoss"></a>

    11. Kerid This is a volcano that is not active since long time ago. But it is really pretty with all the colors on its wall and the frozen blue lake in the middle. While I was complaining earlier I need longer lenses, here the lens wasn't wide enough to capture the entire caldera :)

    ISO 400, f/3.2, 1/800s

    <a href="" title="Kerid by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 6884577382_982bc942d7_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Kerid"></a>

    12. Icelandic horse One of my favourite pictures. I tried to use the sunset golden light on one of the golden icelandic horses.They are really calm and almost frozen - perfect models. When you approach the fence often they come slowly and just look at you without moving. Icelandic horses are one the trademarks of the country.

    The sharpness is ok I guess, though I assume it would have been really amazing picture with some shallow DOF. I didnt even experiment with that, im not sure the 14mm is capable at all.

    ISO 400, f/3.2, 1/1000s

    <a href="" title="Icelandic horse by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030677225_8eb74690b2_b. "1000" height="750" alt="Icelandic horse"></a>

    13. Imagine Peace Tower Build by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon. Each year the tower is lit on special occassions - john's birthday, incoming of the spring, etc.

    I have absolutely no idea why I couldnt straighten this picture. If I try to level by the sea then the light is crooked, If I make the light vertical the sea is flowing to the right...Amazing view nonetheless.

    ISO 100, f/2.5, 25sec

    <a href="" title="Imagine Peace Tower by aerohroniki, on Flickr"> 7030677471_ef023686d6_b. "750" height="1000" alt="Imagine Peace Tower"></a>

    This is it. It was an amazing trip and it will take me a while to shake it off. I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them. I apologize if you think I butchered some perfect opportunities :) I think I am officially hooked on photography. I still don't know what is my next purchase though, pana 20mm, or maybe 14-140, or maybe oly 45mm. At the moment I dont have money for any of them, so it is OK. When I get the money I know where to ask for advice :)

    Thanks in advance for all your advice and criticism. Especially the latter.
    • Like Like x 22
  2. capodave

    capodave Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 4, 2010
    Southern Cal
    Beautiful pictures Jair and it looks like a great trip as well.
  3. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Nicely done!!!!

    On a side note,
    I sure do miss living there....:frown: I spent one wonderful year there...:smile:
  4. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    WOW. Not sure what I could criticize. Makes me want to go a travelin'.
  5. azngigolo64

    azngigolo64 Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 16, 2012
    amazing photos. i gotta hop on a plane soon.
  6. playak47

    playak47 Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 4, 2010
    yea I think I am more enamored with all the beautiful places you have visited. The fact that I can visit them through your pics is good enough for me.
  7. sprinke

    sprinke Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 5, 2011
    Pasadena, CA
    A lovely set. Glad you shot them in RAW. You can always get better with Lightroom and keep playing with them.

    My fav is the waterfall ... amazing moment.
  8. scotttnz

    scotttnz Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 16, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Awesome shots!
  9. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    Lovely set. Just a suggestion that when the sky is grey and featureless, don't include it. It doesn't add anything to the shot, and throws the metering off.
  10. grantb

    grantb Mu-43 Veteran

    Really nice journey jair!

    On my screen, most of those images are looking a little too dark. I threw #8. Reynisfjara into Aperture and played around with it a bit. There was a dead area on the right of the histogram, so I increased 1/3 EV on the exposure control, which made everything a bit more lively. A lot of detail in the dark areas was still hiding in there, so I brought up the Shadows slider just a touch, and now I can see all kinds of details on the beach without hurting the overall contrast. Sorry I don't know what the controls are called in LR.
  11. sprinke

    sprinke Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 5, 2011
    Pasadena, CA
    Are you willing to make your RAW files available for people to try their own post processing, like on Dropbox or something? I'd love to try the very first one, and the first glacier pic.
  12. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Great stuff've really been doing your homework in the short time you've been away from P&S and shooting more 'hands on' :thumbup:

    With that last shot.....there may be the chance that the light isn't aimed perfectly vertical thus is not in square to the water, if thats the case then not much you could've done.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. If you ask me, I think you've done pretty well on your own. My only real suggestion would be to consider some different aspect ratios other than the stock standard 4:3. There's a few images which I think look even better in a wider format like 3:2 or even 16:9. Oh, and f/22 (in your first image) is a pretty extreme aperture setting on a micro 4/3 camera and your resolution will start to suffer at larger viewing sizes. The best way to achieve a slower shutter speed in bright conditions is to get an ND filter for your lens.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. ripleys baby

    ripleys baby Part time philistine

    Aug 10, 2011
    Lovely shots. Check your horizons though. One of my most used tools in Aperture is the straighten tool.
    I have the grid enabled in the viewfinder most of the time, it does help.
  15. MexicoMik

    MexicoMik Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 19, 2012
    Great Pics - My wife and I were married in Iceland, on Viday, (where the Lennon beacon is now located) and we go there regularly.

    Re grey snow - anytime you are shooting snow (or anything white) you pretty much need to open up the exposure by two stops compared to what the meter says. If the meter says that with your shutter speed it should be F8, you need to open the aperture to F4 (or change the shutter speed appropriately). Otherwise, as you noted, bright white becomes grey - no matter how smart the camera claims to be! :)

    Really nice pics!
    • Like Like x 1
  16. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    Looking a little more again.

    +1 on the suggestion to get a ND filter, they are relatively cheap. Unless you can get down to about 1 second for a waterfall shot, stopping down that much doesn't help. Plus from that distance away, the rougher water effect from a faster shutter speed works to show the power of the falls.

    For the Lennon memorial, you got it. The opposite shore is a shoreline, not a horizon. It's not suppose to be straight, the distant horizon of the sea should be straight, but a shoreline going away from you will never be straight.

    For shooting with just one lens, you did very well, congrats.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Wow! Just wow!

    Amazing place, and you seem to have captured it very well!

    As to suggestions, you've got the composition side down, which is the hardest part.

    A few minor points: on a wide lens like the 14mm, generally stick to f/8 or larger apertures (i.e. f/2.5-f/8 on your lens). Stopping down doesn't gain much and does degrade sharpness to some degree. Likewise, if you can, stick to base ISO. With a moderately fast lens (like yours), that should be possible for most things in daylight. Finally, a couple of the cloudy/overcast shots have a slight purplish cast, so keep a close eye on the white balance in such conditions.

    Happy shooting, and thanks for sharing!

    • Like Like x 1
  18. jair

    jair Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 14, 2012
    Here are the RAW files. I would really appreciate to see what more expirienced people can do with them.

    First 5 pics:
    From 6 to 10:
    From 11 to 15:
    From 16 to 20:
    From 21 to 26:

    Later I will edit the main post to link the raw file to each individual pic, but I am a bit in a hurry right now.


    Thanks for the nice words guys. I think I have a soft spot for Iceland, this is the only country I visited for two times and probably won't be the last. Thinking next time will be in the summer. I am relatively well travelled and many places look more or less the same with slight variations. But Iceland is a place like no other, it is really amazing how such small country can pack so many different scenic attractions. The other amazing thing is how few visitors there are in the winter, you practically have the place only for you, which only adds to the beauty.

    Back to business. Thanks for all the suggestions. I really looked in to ND filter before I went, but I picked a PL one, which was kinda of a bad move. I read that it can partially act as a ND filter and that it also has a scale, but the one I received didnt have a scale and without viewfinder I couldn't see the effect of the filter on the display. I selected PL one, because often I like to shoot airplanes through terminal windows and the glare is very bad. Figured PL will be more useful in a long run. I will get ND one in the future for sure.

    Also noted the recommendation to keep the aperture open. I wanted to have the slowest speed possible for the waterfall effect, so I put the aperture at 22.

    As for the ISO, I wanted to keep it at base, but the entire trip was hop on, hop off from the car. I made the ISO 400 in the car, so my sister can shoot pictures while we're moving and apparently I forgot to put it back to 100 quite often when we were out. 400 is not that bad, but for a general principle in daylight I will try to stick to base as much as possible.

    For the horizons...believe it or not just 2 months ago we had a running joke with a friend. She will always comment on my pictures with bad horizons and I will always reply to her that im too lazy to deal with that. That was in my P&S era. Now I tried to straighten them, but I guess I need the expirience to pick good reference lines. Also there is a possibility Lightroom ruined some horizons as apparently when it copies settings between pics it also copies the crop and straighten settings. I will keep an eye in the future.

    It is possible that pictures are too dark. Maybe I overdid it a bit here and there as I wanted to increase the contrast.
  19. -Swo0p

    -Swo0p Mu-43 Rookie

    Jan 16, 2012
    i went to iceland last year in april. amazing country. i've also been all over the place but iceland is a huge favorite. saw almost all the same things you did.
    unfortunately the week i was there it was raining quite a bit and was overcast 5 out of 7 days. blue skies turned iceland in to a different world.
    i hope to go back one time in the summer when the weather is nicer (and days are longer) but more green in the landscapes
  20. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    I enjoyed the images. I am envious that you had the opportunity to take that trip. Thank you for sharing.
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