Iceland – Photographer’s Paradise

Iceland, the very name causes a shiver as you conger up a view of this harsh and rugged country. Located midway between Scotland and Greenland between the North Atlantic and the Sea of Greenland, this island nation is a relic of Nordic exploration and conquest. 

We were fortunate to visit Iceland in September 2014 for a 2 1/2 week photo shoot. Seeing an entire country the size of Kentucky (or half the size of Wyoming) in a short time requires significant advanced planning. After reading the tour guides, searching the web, and speaking with two friends who each visited more than once, we decided to rent a small RV so we could haul gear and stay at a location to shoot in the evening, night, and early morning allowing us to travel between sites during the mid-day. It was a perfect choice.

Iceland-6165Iceland-6165

Because of our short time table and the fact that an active volcano threatened to close a large portion of the island, we chose to limit our travel to the south coast, the western peninsula, and the north coast skipping the east and northeast coasts and the remote north western peninsula. It took only a few minutes of driving to realize that this rural, volcanic land gave visitors opportunities to visit small villages with tiny churches, majestic coast lines, towering waterfalls, mountains, and huge glaciers all in a couple of hundred miles of driving.

Unnamed Waterfall SouthUnnamed Waterfall South

Wild rivers and streams with spectacular waterfalls are literally everywhere in Iceland, not just the dozens of named falls that are popular tourist attractions but hundreds of unnamed falls that are equally magnificent. Nearly every farm in the sparsely populated agricultural areas is at the base of its own waterfall.  When planning a photographic visit one needs to think of camera and wide angle lenses but also a good tripod, neutral density filters, and cable shutter release for dreamy, long-exposure shots.

Iceland-7665Iceland-7665

Iceland is not a place with abundant wildlife so a long telephoto lens is not necessary. However, at certain times of the year sea birds are common so an avid avian photographer might want to bring the long glass. The beautiful Icelandic ponies and the hilarious, overly hirsute sheep may be other reasons to bring a moderate telephoto lens.

In addition to the rugged landscape and many waterfalls, I wanted to capture the harsh glaciers and a unique freshwater lagoon of icebergs calving from the Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður glacier. Yes, Icelandic is a difficult language (!) but nearly everyone speaks perfect English.

JokulsarlonJokulsarlon

The last item on my shooting list was almost too much to hope for, the Northern lights. As luck would have it, cold, rainy, windy weather prevailed almost the entire trip but by totally dumb luck and no planning or forethought, we found ourselves camped at the iceberg lagoon on the night of a full moon and relatively clear skies. I hoped to capture the bergs by moonlight. After some early test shots I went to bed for a few hours and awoke at midnight. I put on about 5 layers to survive the wind and frigid temperatures and stumbled out of the RV with a full pack of gear for night photography. I shot the full moon over the landscape and the lagoon and then set out to capture the bergs in the cold blue water. After about 20 minutes of shooting my eyes had finally adjusted to the light and I notices strange clouds in the northern sky.  The clouds were actually a phenomenal aurora borealis.

JokulsarlonJokulsarlon

Our trip was complete - great hiking, mountains, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, and the northern lights.

Plan your trip, Icelandic Airlines has direct flights from Denver and the east coast at very reasonable cost. The people are friendly, the scenery beautiful, and the variety of photographic opportunities is amazing.

For many more images in color and monochrome, please check out the Iceland gallery on this site.

Iceland – Photographer’s Paradise

Iceland, the very name causes a shiver as you conger up a view of this harsh and rugged country. Located midway between Scotland and Greenland between the North Atlantic and the Sea of Greenland, this island nation is a relic of Nordic exploration and conquest. 

We were fortunate to visit Iceland in September 2014 for a 2 1/2 week photo shoot. Seeing an entire country the size of Kentucky (or half the size of Wyoming) in a short time requires significant advanced planning. After reading the tour guides, searching the web, and speaking with two friends who each visited more than once, we decided to rent a small RV so we could haul gear and stay at a location to shoot in the evening, night, and early morning allowing us to travel between sites during the mid-day. It was a perfect choice.

Because of our short time table and the fact that an active volcano threatened to close a large portion of the island, we chose to limit our travel to the south coast, the western peninsula, and the north coast skipping the east and northeast coasts and the remote north western peninsula. It took only a few minutes of driving to realize that this rural, volcanic land gave visitors opportunities to visit small villages with tiny churches, majestic coast lines, towering waterfalls, mountains, and huge glaciers all in a couple of hundred miles of driving.

Wild rivers and streams with spectacular waterfalls are literally everywhere in Iceland, not just the dozens of named falls that are popular tourist attractions but hundreds of unnamed falls that are equally magnificent. Nearly every farm in the sparsely populated agricultural areas is at the base of its own waterfall.  When planning a photographic visit one needs to think of camera and wide angle lenses but also a good tripod, neutral density filters, and cable shutter release for dreamy, long-exposure shots.

Iceland is not a place with abundant wildlife so a long telephoto lens is not necessary. However, at certain times of the year sea birds are common so an avid avian photographer might want to bring the long glass. The beautiful Icelandic ponies and the hilarious, overly hirsute sheep may be other reasons to bring a moderate telephoto lens.

In addition to the rugged landscape and many waterfalls, I wanted to capture the harsh glaciers and a unique freshwater lagoon of icebergs calving from the Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður glacier. Yes, Icelandic is a difficult language (!) but nearly everyone speaks perfect English.

The last item on my shooting list was almost too much to hope for, the Northern lights. As luck would have it, cold, rainy, windy weather prevailed almost the entire trip but by totally dumb luck and no planning or forethought, we found ourselves camped at the iceberg lagoon on the night of a full moon and relatively clear skies. I hoped to capture the bergs by moonlight. After some early test shots I went to bed for a few hours and awoke at midnight. I put on about 5 layers to survive the wind and frigid temperatures and stumbled out of the RV with a full pack of gear for night photography. I shot the full moon over the landscape and the lagoon and then set out to capture the bergs in the cold blue water. After about 20 minutes of shooting my eyes had finally adjusted to the light and I notices strange clouds in the northern sky.  The clouds were actually a phenomenal aurora borealis.

Our trip was complete – great hiking, mountains, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, and the northern lights.

Plan your trip, Icelandic Airlines has direct flights from Denver and the east coast at very reasonable cost. The people are friendly, the scenery beautiful, and the variety of photographic opportunities is amazing.

For many more images in color and monochrome, please check out the Iceland gallery on this site.

Solar Eclipse 2014

Click for a larger picture

Click for a larger picture

We enjoyed a lunar eclipse just a few weeks ago but today we in North America were treated to a much rarer solar eclipse. The spectacle today was quite enjoyable in Jackson, WY, even though there were clouds obscuring the event right up to the peak. Then, miraculously, the clouds parted and we were treated to quite a sight.

The peak time in Wyoming was 4:23PM MST.  I’m betting someone got an interesting shot over the Tetons. I’ll bet Mike Jackson or Mike Cavaroc got something good, even though it was pretty overcast over there.

Click for a larger picture

Click for a larger picture

One of the most interesting parts of this event was the very large sun spots nearly in the middle of the sun. As we are in a peak of the sun spot cycle, this made for an especially interesting event. These sun spots are -only- at 2,700–4,200 °C compared to the surface of the sun at a comfortable 5,500 °C. This is the reason they appear so much darker. It isn’t that they’re not that hot, it’s just everything around them is that much hotter.

Live viewing with special filters for those in overcast and invisible areas can be seen on www.space.com. Of course! The most interesting thing visible in the online view was the solar flare or prominence. These are 1,600,000,000 times more powerful and the biggest atomic bomb ever made.  They are 10′s of millions of degrees celcius. Wrap your head around that one. The best part is no scientist knows why they occur. There are still mysteries out there.

One of the best tools for viewing a solar eclipse are these solar eclipse glasses. They’re sold on Amazon and such. Using these, you can actually stare straight at the sun. I have a pair and it’s pretty amazing that you can do that, as they block both the UV and visible light spectrum. You can look at the unobscured sun as well. Of course put them on BEFORE looking at the sun.

Click for larger picture

See the sunspots? Click for larger picture

How did I get these photographs of the solar eclipse? Here’s the gear I used:

Nikon D800

Nikon 80-400mm f/4-5.6

Hoya 77mm NDx400 9 stop filter

Hoya 77mm Neutral Density (NDX8) 0.9 3-stop filter

Manfrotto Tripod and Kirk BH-3 ball head

These filters in combination were dark enough to look at the maximum eclipse without and problems. Once the moon started moving away from the sun, I had to use the DOF preview button on the D800 to keep viewing the event safely. Even adding on my Singh-Ray polarizer on top of these filters wouldn’t have been dark enough without either solar glasses or using the DOF preview.

I then shot all of my images on RAW and the above three are the best that came out. Other than shifting the color a bit to look more natural, these are as they came out of my D800. Normally I photograph jewelry, advertising, architecture and such, but fun sky displays always bring me outside.

WARNING: As always, NEVER look straight at the sun, ESPECIALLY through your camera. Permanent eye damage isn’t fun.

Southern WY Along 191 and Dinosaur National Monument

Juniper Log and southern Wyoming sunrise
Juniper log resting below a fiery sunrise near Highway 191 in southern Wyoming

I’m currently catching up my connected life in Moab, Utah where I’m having a delicious sandwich at Pantele’s Desert Deli (thanks for the recommendation, Bret!), downloading photos, and going through emails. Thus far, the trip has been great! My only regret is not getting a quick interview from a guy named Steven that I met in Dinosaur National Monument when he told me about someone going door-to-door in Grand Juction, Colorado offering to pay residents to put up shielded lighting and having the vast majority of them refuse, even though it came out of his pocket and would cost them nothing. Lesson learned. Thanks for the great conversation regardless, Steven and Bill!

Night sky above dead juniper tree
Stars and night sky spin above dead juniper tree, southern Wyoming

After a late start on Tuesday, I found myself driving south along Highway 191 in southern Utah, a spectacular high desert region blanketed with juniper trees with the occasional bare spot exposing millions of years of erosion along ancient seabeds in the form of badlands. I had always wanted to camp here, and thanks to what seemed like setbacks, were the perfect excuse to get me to only see the tip of the iceberg of the region. I could spend weeks exploring the entire area and still not tire of it. The sunrise the next morning only whet my appetite for more, but it was also time to move on.

Geologic Uplift and Erosion
Layers of sediment and rock uplifted into steep, eroded hills, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

I didn’t go that much farther, relatively. I only went down the highway to Dinosaur National Monument, found straddling the border of northern Utah and northwestern Colorado. Having never been to the Colorado side, I decided to continue that trend and see the Utah side again. After all, it had been several years.

Rather than sticking to the main roadside attractions, I found myself exploring game trails, guiding me to unusual and different views of the park that simply fascinating me as the vistas of the uplift demonstrated throughout the park became more and more evident. The entire region appears as a massive rock shoved out of the ground, eroded over eons, creating immense wavy canyons deep into the stone. Because the area was an ancient seabed, the ground is littered with dinosaur fossils from 149 million years ago, as demonstrated in the Quarry Exhibit.

Fall colors abstract
Fall colors changing near the Green River, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

What will Moab and beyond bring? Time to go find out!

Preserving the Dark Skies of Jackson Hole

Reclaiming the Night – Preserving the Dark Skies of Jackson Hole
Runtime
12:04
View count
768

I recently completed work on my first film, Reclaiming the Night: Preserving the Dark Skies of Jackson Hole. The short film, at just over 12 minutes, discusses the issue of light pollution, how it negatively affects Jackson Hole and beyond, the vast amount of wasted energy spent on it, and how Jackson Hole can benefit exponentially from embracing the night skies, something they have thus far failed to do as demonstrated in the film, despite it being a high priority in the Comprehensive Plan.

The reduction of light pollution is a movement gaining enormous momentum around the world and Jackson has the potential to receive tremendous economic gain by encouraging both residential and commercial areas to begin turning out the lights. If you like this video, or even just the idea of bringing the Milky Way back over the town of Jackson, please contact our local politicians and demand that they use lighting more responsibly.

Thank you for your support!

The film itself was begun this past spring and editing and interviews continued into the summer where the editing process began to build a core story later into the summer. I shot many examples and stills that weren’t able to be used, but was able to find exactly what I needed as the summer began to wind down to create the message I wanted to construct. The final tweaks were made this past weekend, just a couple of days before leaving for the southwest to create the next part of the Reclaiming the Night series. “Antelope Dreaming,” the poem at the end, was written and read by Lyn Dalebout.

TPG Launches “Shoot To Care” Campaign

Teton Photography Group Encourages Responsible Behavior

Launches Local Ethical Photography Principles Education Campaign

Composing a better photo by composing ourselves.

 Jackson, WY based Teton Photography Group (TPG) is joining forces with local and national partners to encourage visitors and residents to act responsibly when taking wildlife photography. Through an active outreach program called “Shoot to Care” the TPG asks photographers and onlookers alike to take a step back and consider the impact on the ecosystem when photographing wildlife.

‘Getting the killer shot’ can be a lifelong dream for wildlife photographers, and the Jackson Hole area including Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) offers unparalleled opportunities within a short drive or hike. What goes unnoticed is the effect on the animals being photographed.  “Shoot to Care” was developed in response to a growing problem.

In response to increased photographer–wildlife conflict, staff at Bridger-Teton National Forest contacted TPG to educate photographers to ensure the safety of both humans and animals and assure continued access to top scenic and wildlife areas. Conflicts have included traffic jams, stressed or frightened animals, injury to both humans and animals, and damage to flora.

Working in conjunction with GTNP, Bridger-Teton National Forest, National Elk Refuge, JH Conservation Alliance, JH Wildlife Foundation, and JH Bird and Nature Club, TPG created the “Shoot to Care” campaign, comprised of a working group of volunteer ambassadors, printed collateral, advertising and media outreach that encourages responsible behavior through education, outreach and incentives, while working to maintain access to the amazing photographic opportunities that surround us.

Dale Deiter, Jackson District Ranger with the US Forest Service stated, “I am thrilled that TPG is helping define behaviors for photographers that promote protection of the wildlife and landscapes that are the subjects of their photos.  The “Shoot to Care” program can reduce the potential for wildlife and resource impacts as well as avoid highway safety issues that could otherwise lead to intervention by land management agencies and law enforcement in order to reduce conflicts.  We do not want to be in the business of regulating recreational photography and want the public to be able to freely enjoy their National Forests and Parks.  Having photographers abide by a set of ethics of their own creation offers the best chance of success in this regards.”

“Our work will be directed at educating the public visiting GTNP and the Jackson WY area about ethical photography principles. As photographers and residents ourselves, we hope to be able to share some of our first hand experience to protect the resource and visitors,” said Loren Nelson, of TPG. “We’ll be enlisting ambassadors to assist in high-traffic areas, as well as distributing information and even rewards for those who embrace the principles to become de-facto ambassadors from and for their hometowns.

 

Links:

GTNP: http://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm

Bridger-Teton National Forest:http://www.fs.usda.gov/btnf

National Elk Refuge: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/national_elk_refuge/

JH Conservation Alliance: http://www.jhalliance.org/

JH Wildlife Foundation: http://www.jhwildlife.org/

JH Bird and Nature Club

Photographing a Rainy Morning in Jackson Hole

Returning Horses
Horses returning to the Moosehead Ranch under a rainbow, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

This past summer, much of my inspiration shifted from the Jackson Hole valley floor to much higher elevations found up in the mountains. While the higher elevations had always been significant motivation for me, this past season saw that motivation become much more pronounced, weening my inspiration away from the roadsides. In addition, there’s also my upcoming TEDxJacksonHole talk and completing my short film on light pollution, both of which demanded a large chunk of my time, forcing me to drastically reduce my work with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris. However, though my days are limited at the moment, I had a recent trip with exceptional opportunities found throughout the valley with a delightful pair of other photographers.

We were off well before sunrise in a downpour that showed no signs of letting up. Rather than stopping at a sunrise mainstay, I continued north, hoping for a break in the rain. As the rain began to lighten up around Elk Ranch south of Moran, we noticed some horses from the Moosehead Ranch had gotten free and were trotting along the highway. Though interesting, there wasn’t much of a great shot, so we continued up the highway a bit as the sun was just beginning to peak through a small hole in the clouds to the east. We soon found ourselves in a small bubble of no precipitation surrounded by rain, prompting me to tell my two guests to keep an eye out for a rainbow. It was only a matter of seconds before the arc of a rainbow appeared majestically to the west. This would have been plenty for us, but the tone for the day was set when one horse, still on the property of Moosehead Ranch was calling out to its freed companions, who began to walk past our car. Hearing the cries of their friend, they crossed the highway, and went to greet their trapped comrade, confused how he was left behind. As they approached the fence, they went directly under the rainbow, creating a dramatic scene of homecoming, glowing with golden light.

Bull Elk in Meadow
Bull elk wandering through meadow near fall aspen and willow trees, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

That would have been enough for us that day, but in just getting started, we continued past the views of Oxbow Bend, where the magic had already faded, and into Cattleman’s Bridge Road to shoot some fall aspen trees. We had the area all to ourselves as the reds, oranges, yellows, and greens created a new composition with each step in any direction. Perfectly happy with the situation, the scene got dramatically better as an elk bugle came from only a hundred yards away. I looked over and saw a cow elk’s head peering over the shoulder-high grass directly at me. I was too slow to capture her, but not the bull that was in focused pursuit. They ran across the open field toward the aspens, where he followed her movements left and right, and ultimately into the aspens, leaving us – and us alone – with the gift of their presence.

Mule Deer Bucks Sparring
Mule deer bucks sparring on Signal Mountain, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

As we rounded by Signal Mountain, a couple of mule deer bucks had attracted a few cars as they intermittently put on a sparring show in between food breaks. Despite a bit of rain, we stopped to watch them for a bit as the occasional bout entertained the few humans that had braved the soggy weather.

Fall Aspen Leaves Abstract
Fall aspen leaves dripping rain water, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Our day finally ended along the Moose-Wilson Road, which, having been closed due to grizzly bear activity, literally opened up right in front of us, allowing us to be the first public car to travel southbound in weeks. The fall colors along the road were exploding and offered all kinds of opportunities and unique compositions as the diverse colors of the aspens mixed with the muted transitions of the service berry bushes. With the rain having subsided, the droplets left on each leaf also created wonderful macro potential.

It was quite the day the morning to be out in Grand Teton National Park. Let that be your lesson the next time you wake up early and rain is telling you to sleep in.