Friday, August 24, 2007

Hi - this is Leif in Iceland again. Around August 10th I stayed a couple nights at a very small campsite in the southern-interior of Iceland (called Hólaskjól, and you can check out the map on my blog at I went for a long day-hike as soon as I got there, expecting the sun to persist. The area is quite interesting, with a large gorge and river, and another river with a flat sandy flood-plain. There is also an old lava floe from about 1000 years ago that has been covered almost entirely in thick soft moss (sometimes almost a foot thick, seriously!) Anyways, it started pouring rain just as I was about three hours from my tent and any shelter. So I used the complete rain-shield on my lowpro camera bag for the first time ever, and got thoroughly soaked to the bone, while my camera remained dry.

Much later that day (around 9pm) a heavy mist or omni-directional rain came up, and I remembered a landscape of moss-covered lava not far away. So instead of putting on my soaking boots, I went with cold bare feet in sandals and took some shots. It was worth it, and the landscape seemed very surreal, with light coming from just above the horizon and glowing as though it was only a few hundred metres away. I got very wet again, and there were millions of beads of water on my camera, but thankfully the K10D is water-resistant so I don't have to worry so much about that.

Here are a couple sunsets too. The first is from Reykjavík looking some 100km over the ocean to the Snæfelsness peninsula. The second is from a lake called Mývatn in the north - this sunset took about an hour and a half and was spectacular with lots of colour the whole time. When the colour from the sun had mostly left the sky, the moon rose over the hills. Sunsets here last forever this time of year, so it can be a leisurely process to set-up a tripod and get the shots you want. The light changes constantly though, as the sun moves, so different colours appear and disappear over periods of a few minutes.

- Leif

Monday, August 20, 2007

It may be hard for some of you viewing this blog to understand how nice it is to see rain, even on a Sunday. This is the first rain of any amount this summer and I was not the only one excited by it. Two photos today, the first one, count the geese, and then there is Mr. coyote.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hi there –

My name is Leif. I'm Bill & Sandra's nephew. Currently I'm in Iceland,
learning Icelandic, having fun, and taking LOTS of photos with my
Pentax K10D, which I got back in February of this year. Bill invited
me to post here.

Here's a bit of information about what I'm using:

I have the extra battery & grip – this is a must-have if you're
traveling or camping. I just got back from a three-week camping trip
and only had to recharge twice, after taking more than 6GB of photos!
Sometimes I take the battery pack off when I'm doing day-hikes or
walking around downtown in Reykjavík, and the camera is really small
and easy to carry about.

I also use the infrared remote for sensitive tripod shots, like
puffins, sunsets, and fireworks. It´s much quicker and steadier than
using the 12 or 2 second countdown timers, and you can get just the
shots you want exactly when you want them. The remote cunningly fits
into a slot inside the extra battery pack, along with a space for an
extra memory card: feels very Star Trek-ish! The remote is also nice
for close group photos with yourself included! I used the remote just
last night to get this shot of the fireworks to celebrate Reykjavík´s
birthday. (ISO 100, F8.0, 18mm, 8s.) Reykjavík is the capital city of
Iceland, about 150000 people, with some 300000 in the whole country,
give or take 50000 tourists . . . and far more cameras! Icelanders
love technology, and digital cameras are BIG here.

I met an Icelandic (professional) photographer last night at the
fireworks, and we compared shots. Mostly the same, although he´s done
fireworks photography before (I haven´t) so knew more about which
settings and framing devices would serve best. Anyways, he was using a
Canon DSLR (can´t remember which one – sorry!), and Canon is really
popular here. I only ever see Pentax cameras with foreigners. Because
he already had an idea that 1-3 seconds was a good shutter speed for
fireworks, he got more ideal shots than I did. But our best shots were
almost identical. The major difference in our photos last night was in
how they were made, not what they looked like. He had a wire remote –
I had the wireless. His camera was much bigger and heavier, with a
tripod that could hold a ton and weighed just about a ton – I had been
walking around the festival-filled town all day, so my camera without
the battery pack is small, and my tripod is quite lightweight, fitting
nicely in the holding straps of my Lowpro camera bag.

I use a 28-200 Pentax lens from my Pentax MZ-5n film SLR, and the
18-55 lens that Pentax makes specifically for its DSLRs. I was very
tempted to get the 12-24 or something with a wider angle, and I´ve
regretted not doing so several times. Sometimes you just need a wider
angle to bring context to a shot, or simply to get the building,
glacier or mountain entirely into the shot. Some of these things are
not possible with the 18-55. I brought my MZ-5n with me to get some
wider-angle shots with the 18-55, but that camera broke on my first
shot with it here in Iceland. (Good reason to always have more than
one camera if you can . . .) So I´m using the K10D for all my shots,
and missing some wider-angle opportunities. That said, changing lenses
is a hassle, particularly in dusty environments or in the field, and
although Pentax has a great dust-removal system, I still hate to
change lenses in dusty or windy situations. So it is VERY nice to have
the 18-55, since it is very versatile and suits many purposes, and I
never feel restricted when I´m going out in bad weather with it on. I
know I would feel restricted with the 12-24, since I wouldn´t be able
to get the higher zoom shots.

The powerful & versatile zoom on my 28-200 lens is great for wildlife
shots and landscape shots at a distance. This is a shot I got of a
puffin just last week. (ISO100, F5.6, 200mm, 1/90s.) It was on the
edge of a cliff (as puffins usually are) and I too was on the edge of
the cliff, with difficult angles to get around for a line-of-sight, in
a high-wind situation, over the crashing waves of the ocean . . . So
there was no way I was trusting any tripod to keep my camera from
flying off into the northern Atlantic! I barely trusted myself to keep
myself on the cliff! So I was shaking a bit, and using maximum zoom on
a subject that was in the shade. Pentax´s Shake-Reduction feature is
priceless in such situations! I also took some photos of two puffins
together from a greater distance, using my tripod and the remote. Got
some nice shots with the tripod, although from farther away and with
less detail and not as nice lighting. Otherwise there is no real
difference between the shots with and without the tripod, except that
without the SR feature I would never have been able to get a crisp
close shot in that situation.

That´s all for now!
- Leif