Author Topic: Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l  (Read 55169 times)

Offline Yehoshua

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Aug 2011
  • Posts: 9113
  • Total likes: 73
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
I know you guys are waiting for the "meat" of the TR to begin :D...

There are two "planning" posts nearly done (just waiting for minor edits), then one more short post. After that the real stuff begins ;D.
Thanks for the update.

Offline 12HRS

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Jun 2013
  • Posts: 4043
  • Total likes: 108
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 6
    • View Profile
I know you guys are waiting for the "meat" of the TR to begin :D...

There are two "planning" posts nearly done (just waiting for minor edits), then one more short post. After that the real stuff begins ;D.


but, but, but summer is over   :'(

Offline whYME

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: May 2008
  • Posts: 2568
  • Total likes: 172
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 3
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
but, but, but summer is over   :'(
Considering how drenched in sweat I am right now I might disagree.

Sorry guys, I think I'm the one holding things up now...

Offline 12HRS

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Jun 2013
  • Posts: 4043
  • Total likes: 108
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 6
    • View Profile
Considering how drenched in sweat I am right now I might disagree.


Lol

Offline 3yummyboys

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Apr 2013
  • Posts: 1736
  • Total likes: 23
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
Can't wait :)

Offline Something Fishy

  • Global Moderator
  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • **********
  • Join Date: Jan 2011
  • Posts: 5431
  • Total likes: 566
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 39
    • View Profile
    • My Flickr Page
  • Location: Not Brooklyn
[Something Fishy] Serious consideration had to be given to our choice of clothing. Iceland in the dead of winter is not to be trifled with; being ill-prepared for the weather can be deadly. Interestingly enough, the main danger in Iceland is not the temperature; that stays within relative reason (at least for a New Yorker). The issue here is the wind; it's not uncommon for winds to reach 50 - 60 MPH, or even higher. Not having adequate protection could lead to serious consequences.

So the general idea is that no matter the weather, as long as you're dressed properly you'll be snug as a bug. And indeed, even in the crazy weather we ended up having, we were nearly always perfectly comfortable standing for hours outside, even in wet and icy conditions.

For a base layer, the gold standard is Merino wool. Nothing compares to it as far as warmth retention and moisture wicking. Problem is that Merino is crazy expensive, and for a 3-day trip we weren't gonna blow $150 on what's essentially fancy underwear. We found Merino wool socks at REI for $12ish a pair, so we bought two pairs each. For the top and bottom, we found a 30% Merino blend from ColdPruf on Amazon (link to everything below) which had great reviews and so we bought those at $50ish for both. In the end these preformed incredibly well and I highly recommend them.
[whYME] With all my "natural insulation" I was actually more worried about being too hot in all these layers rather than too cold. I ended up using a lighter version of the ColdPruf base layer which was ~$30 for the pair.

The next two layers were tougher. The mid layer is in charge of the bulk of insulation, while the outer later on the other hand is responsible for two crucial things: keep out both water and wind. As I've said earlier, these are the main enemies we'd be facing in Iceland.

We kept on running into two problems: size and price. All of us are over 6' tall, and between us we must have weighed well north of 800 pounds ;D; there simply were't to many options. And whatever was available, was incredibly expensive.

After much searching, we came across the Columbia Eager Air jacket, which was a perfect solution for both layers. It had an incredibly warm fleece liner, and a removable water- and wind-proof shell. Best of all, it came in sizes for all of us.

For pants, the only thing available in my size was a snow bib. These are insulated, water- and wind-proof coveralls and are fantastic. Kept me warm and dry all the time.
[whYME] I went a little lighter here as well. I used rain pants for my outer layer and when necessary put on a middle layer underneath.

For boots I wore my 10-year old pair of Sorels. Incredible stuff, rated to -40°F; weighs a ton but is totally worth it. [whYME] I wanted to get Sorels but IIRC I couldn't find them in my size. (well it was either that or I was just being cheap, I seem to remember that I couldn't find any that I liked.) I ended up getting redneck Baffins. What I didn't realize at the time, but learned the hard way later in the trip, was that the ones I got are not at all waterproof above the rubber bottoms, but that's a story for later...

Gloves were problematic as well, as we needed to be able to control our cameras without exposing our fingers. I ended up getting a pair of thin, water- and wind-resistant glove liners. Used in tandem with my trusty old old pair of photographer's  gloves (the fingertips roll down) I had a perfect setup. [whYME] I was able to borrow a pair of mitten/liner glove combo (you can kind of see them in the "promo" picture, I'm wearing the liner glove and the mitten is hanging down) made for skiing/snowboarding. I find them great for cold weather photography; when I need my fingers I take of the mitten and keep the thin glove on, to warm up I put the mitten (which has a built-in hand warmer pocket) back on. Too bad I can't seem to find them for sale anywhere, eventually I'll probably just buy gloves and mittens individually and just tie them together myself.

A waterproof neoprene balaclava completed the lineup.

Figuring out all this took multiple trips to REI and Campmor, and countless Amazon orders and returns. Of course the Friday before half our things hadn't arrived ;D... But thankfully by the time Sunday came around we were all set up and ready to go.


[whYME] Countless Amazon orders and returns indeed. Here's one day's haul of mine:



It was kinda funny, my cousin was just joining the IDF at the time, and was having stuff shipped to my house. He was ordering a lot of the same stuff I was ordering and at first it got me very confused. I was looking through my arriving orders and thought they had sent the wrong thing(s)/sizes until eventually I figured out what was going on.


[Something Fishy] To this day, I'm still in awe how absolutely comfortable we were in one of the least hospitable places on earth, during its worst weather. We spent a tremendous amount of time and effort figuring all this out, but it was well worth it. And to anyone planning a trip like this - make sure to take the time and prepare properly. It'll definitely be the difference between being comfortable or miserable, and could even save you from far more serious trouble as well.

For the curious, here's a link to the exact items I used.


[ChAiM'l] Given that we don't have stores as comprehensive as REI and the likes in the UK, I was basically limited to doing online research and shopping. Based on SF's research I had a pretty good idea of what was necessary. I found an online store (http://www.mountainwarehouse.com/) that sells mostly their own brand stuff at reasonable prices. I stocked up from there on the base layers, waterproof insulated hand gloves/liners.

I also bought a pair of Sorels, which as mentioned above are veeery heavy. Walking in them at first feels like you have a pair of weights strapped to your feet. After a while you get used to them and they keep you very warm.

Finding the right jacket in the right size was quite the challenge, especially as the Columbia gear aren't sold in the UK in the larger sizes. I chanced upon this one which was Ł75 at the time. It ticked all the boxes and I wasn't disappointed by the warmth and protection it provided.

I also stocked up on hand and foot warmers, which came in very handy after I lost a glove in the Auroral excitement.
[Something Fishy] Premonition alert; by the time the trip was over Chaim'l would be practically half naked ;D.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2015, 12:37:23 PM by Something Fishy »
Check out all my Trip Reports here!

Offline Something Fishy

  • Global Moderator
  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • **********
  • Join Date: Jan 2011
  • Posts: 5431
  • Total likes: 566
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 39
    • View Profile
    • My Flickr Page
  • Location: Not Brooklyn
[Something Fishy] With the flights and transportation/lodging out of the way, it was time to get to the Photo part of the PhotoDO. Camera gear!

We each needed a relatively high-end camera (preferably full frame, as it needed to be great in low-light) and a couple of lenses. A wide-angle zoom for general landscape photography, a long telephoto zoom for landscape details and compression, and a very wide, very fast lens for auroras and stars. Additionally, we would need rock-solid tripods and head, as well as filters, headlamps, many spare batteries, memory cards, lens cleaners, and so on.

On a trip like this, it is absolutely crucial to have backups of everything important. The rule is simple - if a piece of equipment is important enough that the trip will be messed up if it fails, you bring a backup. This includes camera bodies, lenses, and tripods.
[whYME] And laptops .

Mostly we each already had the gear we needed, but we all ended up having to borrow some things and "borrow" some others ;). Serious-camera-wise, both Chaim'l and myself owned full-frame cameras - a Nikon D610 and D600, respectively. whYME, on the other hand, only had this lousy, useless, so-called-camera "Canon" thing. It was time to bring him over to the dark side.

[whYME] The truth is, I had already known for a while that I needed to upgrade from my Canon T3i. It served me well as a beginners camera but it was time to move on. After a few attempts at capturing the Milky Way it was clear that I really need something with better low light ability (well, that and I needed to up my skill level  ;). ) One thing that became clear after a little "research" (i.e. a discussion with Something fishy ;) ) Is that I should move on to a full frame camera. It seemed to me that I was definitely heading in that direction, and sinking any more money into my APS-C system would just delay the inevitable and make things more expensive in the long run.
I know it sounds easy and simple, but the truth is it was not an easy decision. There would definitely be advantages to sticking with APS-C. Just about everything in the full frame ecosystems are bigger, heavier and far more expensive. Ultimately I did decide that it's time to cut my "losses" and move on.

So now the question was Canon or Nikon?

With the switch from crop sensor to full frame I was really starting anew, almost nothing in my kit that was specific to Canon would carry over to full frame. There was the Nifty Fifty and a couple of Shutterboss remote cables. Everything else was either incompatible with full frame, or would work with both the Canon and Nikon ecosystems. I wasn't going to be swayed in such a big decision by $100 worth of equipment.

Ultimately there were two things that swayed me to Nikon:
A. Their sensors are slightly better for low light.
B. Both Something Fishy and Chaim'l have Nikons which would make things far easier for me on this trip (and all future trips with Something Fishy :) )
I settled on a used D600 with a refurbished Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 as my "everyday" lens.


[ChAiM'l] I had most of my kit prior to this trip, however I was still missing the fast, wide-angle lens necessary to best capture the Aurora. SF suggested the Samyang/Rokinon/Bower 14 f/2.8 which is great for night photography, so I went ahead and bought that.

I also needed an intervalometer. Until now I had made do with various IR remotes which seemed to have done the trick. There were however the obvious limitations to the longer exposures we would need etc. They also tend not to be 100% reliable IME. Both whYME and SF (jinx?) recommended the Vello Shutterboss as a solid device and I duly ordered the wireless version.

Tripod - My tripod is an Oben carbon fibre which is great for travelling. It extends to very tall (I'm 6' 4")
([Something Fishy] HAHAHA LOL shrimp ;D ;D ;D) ([whYME] At 6' 2" I'm not accustomed to being the shortest one in the group ), is quite light and has served me well on my travels. It was no match, however, for the ferocious Icelandic winds. It needed some serious stabilisation and at some points (particularly on Vik beach) I really had to grab onto it to prevent it from tipping. I would therefore recommend if you are planning to shoot in very windy weather, to stick with aluminum. ([Something Fishy] Spot on. This is exactly why I took along my monstrous aluminum Manfrotto as the main tripod, and the carbon fiber Oben only as the backup.)

  • Nikon D610
  • Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
  • Nikon 70-200 f/2.8
  • Nikon 16-35 f/4
  • Samyang 14mm f/2.8
  • Nikon TC-14 Teleconverter
  • Oben CT-2481 Tripod
  • Oben BE-117 Ball head
  • GoPro Hero 3 Silver
  • Surface Pro 3 (for memory card backups)




[whYME] I still had plenty of equipment to buy or borrow. My "Costco" travel tripod wasn't gonna cut it for this trip (though I did bring it along as a spare) and I didn't have the lenses I needed.

Sorry for the bad picture, my phone's camera is absolutely horrible,   but here's my gear before I loaded it in to my Lowepro Fastpack 250:




  • Nikon D600
  • Nikon 16-35mm f/4
  • Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 (In the end I didn't bring this lens along, as I didn't expect to need it and SF was already bringing his)
  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 (which Amex graciously sponsored)
  • Not pictured: Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 (borrowed from Chaim'l)
  • Oben AC-2361 tripod
  • "Costco" Dolica Proline 57" Traveler tripod
  • GoPro Hero 3+ Black with a whole pile of mounts etc.
  • Vello wireless Shutterboss
  • Various accessories such as headlamp, batteries, chargers, lens etc cleaners
  • Random things I keep in my bag "just in case" e.g. Aspirin, Caffeine pills and Protein bars. (Only a few of the chocolate mint ones are pictured but I made sure to bring plenty so something fishy would have enough  ) [Something Fishy]  Arrgh! Nightmare fuel.



[Something Fishy] I ended up taking the following (sorry - no picture of everything, I forgot to take one):
  • Nikon D800
  • Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 lens
  • Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 lens
  • Nikon 85 f/1.8 lens
  • Nikon 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 lens
  • GoPro Hero 4 Silver
  • GoPro Hero 3+ Black [whYME] I'm not convinced you actually brought a GoPro along :P
  • A bunch of 64GB and 32GB memory cards (around 300GB in total)
  • Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod
  • Oben BC-166 ballhead
  • Lowepro ProRunner 450 backpack
  • 1TB hard drive (for memory card backups)

Together we also had a vast collection of accessories. 3+ batteries per camera, chargers, filters (circular polarizers various NDs), remotes, GPS geotaggers, headlamps (with red LEDs to preserve night vision), car power inverters, camera rain covers, Capture Clip systems, cleaning stuff (cloths, Lenspens, and blower bulbs), hot shoe bubble levels, gaffer tape, and miscellaneous screwdrivers, allen keys, and a Leatherman.

We also brought along a number of spares. Since we were all now shooting Nikon full frame, we were able to mix and match spare parts, thereby cutting down on the amount of stuff schlepped. For lenses we didn't have any backups per se, but being that we were all shooting the same system, had we had a lens failure there was always a different one to borrow.


  • Nikon D600
  • Oben CC-2391 tripod
  • Manfrotto 488RC2 ballhead
  • A bunch of quick-release plates
  • Camera batteries
  • Wireless remote
  • 5-6 remote cables
  • Smaller capacity memory cards
  • Filters
  • Capture Clip

And lucky we did. In the end, our casualty list included one frozen tripod head, whYME's laptop, a lost 64GB card (empty, thankfully!), a broken battery, a lost Capture Clip, a quick-release plate, and nearly all the remote cables.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2015, 12:56:21 PM by Something Fishy »
Check out all my Trip Reports here!

Offline benjie1305

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Dec 2013
  • Posts: 6142
  • Total likes: 11
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 15
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: NY Area
more more more more
Work hard, Play harder!

Offline Marco Polo

  • Dansdeals Lifetime 10K Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Jul 2012
  • Posts: 13608
  • Total likes: 5
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 104
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
How was the picture of all the camera gear taken :)
Quaerite et Invenietis.

Offline David Smith

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Jun 2015
  • Posts: 8287
  • Total likes: 199
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 13
    • View Profile


How was the picture of some of the camera gear taken :)
Ftfy

Who do you think you are fooling? You think you are going to pull a quick one on your Creator? Good luck with that.
JTZ

Offline Moshe123

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Sep 2012
  • Posts: 4525
  • Total likes: 53
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: NYC
  • Programs: Lost
okay, let's read the update

Offline whYME

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: May 2008
  • Posts: 2568
  • Total likes: 172
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 3
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
How was the picture of all the camera gear taken :)
Sorry for the bad picture, my phone's camera is absolutely horrible

Offline A3

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Nov 2009
  • Posts: 3208
  • Total likes: 26
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 5
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Add new reports to Wiki Please

Offline yakrot

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Dec 2013
  • Posts: 1609
  • Total likes: 4
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
    • View Profile

Offline Yehoshua

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *********
  • Join Date: Aug 2011
  • Posts: 9113
  • Total likes: 73
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
Wow, that's a lot of detailed specs. I'm not (yet) super into photography, but I'm sure those who are really appreciate everything. I sure appreciate the end results that are coming in a future post (hopefully soon).