Author Topic: Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l  (Read 55192 times)

Offline VacationLover

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FTFY
Seriously? Did one of you really hit 10k?

Online Something Fishy

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Seriously? Did one of you really hit 10k?

I hit $15k+
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Online Something Fishy

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[Something Fishy] While the other guys are working to finalize the next part of the TR (the first day in Iceland), I figured I'd put together a quick post on how I find locations to shoot, and how to plan all the details beforehand.

There are three parts to planning a photoshoot for me:
1. Finding interesting locations.
2. Determining when the best time to shoot is (seasons, time of day, etc.), and if this fits in with my travel plans.
3. Having all that information organized and readily available, both while planning and on location.

Finding interesting locations: Easy enough to do, generally. My main tools are Flickr, Google Earth, and photography blogs.

For Flickr I use an iPad app called Flickr Studio. Unlike Flickr's own site, this app lets me search my map properly. This is my first step - I check out an entire area and see what's interesting around there. The good pictures give me a good idea of the pictures I could expect to get, and an idea of the lenses/settings that would be useful there. The bad pictures, on the other hand, give me other valuable information. A badly-composed image will show me which things I could expect to get in my way - garbage cans, fences, crowds. Sorting the results by date gives me near-real-time info; for example it could show me if a certain waterfall froze over for the winter already or not.

The sheer amount of pictures available make this an invaluable planning tool:




I use Google Earth for some of the same things as Flickr - namely finding location ideas on a map. But its real value lies in the ability to show me the precise topography and lay of the land for any spot on Earth. Ideally I'd scout the location before the actual shoot, but more oftne thannot the is impossible due to time constraints. Google Earth lets me do this visually, ahead of time. There have been times when I've shown up to a pre-dawn shoot in the pitch dark, and recognized every rock and inch of shoreline even though I've never been there before. Being able to set up my tripod and wait for the light in the precise spot I wanted is an incredible thing.

Of course there are things Google can't show you - on occasion I've gotten to the perfect spot, only to find the entire view blocked by fresh vegetation... But overall it's still a very important tool in my box.

Once I have a couple of locations in mind, I look around for photographers who are either local or specialize in that location. More often than not their blogs are a treasure trove of tips and suggestions that only someone closely acquainted with an area could know.

Of course all this is for ideas and inspiration. I am not interested in creating a duplicate of a picture I liked online (although I will take the time if I have it to go for the "trophy shot" that's been done a million times). Looking at pictures and locations is what tells me if a spot is worth to see and explore or not, and what kind of priority I should place in visiting it.

Videos are useful as well. Professional productions on Vimeo give me ideas, shaky clips on YouTube show me the surrounding areas, and locally-produced travel videos on Amazon Prime often teach me of out-of-the-way places.

For Iceland, though, Amazon failed me :D:




That's Icelandic for you ;D...


[whYME] The last time I saw that screenshot was in response to my whatsapp comment "I'm really looking forward to using the GPS just to hear it try and pronounce these Icelandic names "

Determining when to shoot: One of the most important things to plan for a photoshoot is when to be there. In general, landscape photography works only when the sun is low. Depending on the location and season, this is generally around an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset (often called the "golden hour"). This is when the light is soft and golden (hence the name), and shadows sculpt the landscape. During the day, the light is harsh, hazy, and flat.

The next thing to determine is if the location is a sunrise or sunset (or thereabouts) spot. For example, the Tetons in Wyoming are indisputably a sunrise location. Why? Since the park and the best views are to the east of the mountains, this means that you'd be shooting facing west. Now, since sun rises in the east, it means that it will illuminate the mountains opposite with wonderful morning light. For sunset, on the other hand, the sun will set right over the mountains. So before it has set, you're shooting directly into the glare - not ideal. The instant the sun slips behind the mountains, they'll be in deep shadow - again, not a good picture. This is not to say that you can't get incredible sunset pictures in the Tetons; only to point why sunrise if far more ideal and productive. (FYI - I plan on doing a greatly-expanded version of all this in the Learn Photography thread in the near future.)


[whYME] I feel like I should make a version of that video with the spanish guy laughing his head off with subtitles along the lines of "He said he's gonna update it in the near future... and they believed him again!"

In order to figure all this out, I use an app called The Photographer's Ephemeris. I use their app, but they have a free desktop version as well. This is a very powerful tool and tells me everything I need. First it gives me the times for everything - sun and moon rise/set, civil/nautical/astronomical twilight (vital for nighttime shoots), and the like. It shows me where the sun and moon will be at any given time in relation to my chosen location, and the length of the shadows throughout the day.

Additionally, I could place a second pin on the map and have access to more advanced features. For example, I could see if a certain nearby mountain will be casting a shadow on my location, and for how long. I could find the exact date to shoot the moon rising between two specific buildings. Etc., etc.:




Organizing everything: I always have a bunch of running lists in Evernote where I drop in anything interesting I find about a location I'm interested about, even though I don't have any immediate plans. When this trip was being decided upon, I already had two years' worth of notes waiting for me. As the shoot list became more focused, the Evernote list became more organized.

Since on this trip we were going to be covering a lot of ground, planning an efficient route was critical. I used Google's My Maps to drop in locations as I found them, using a different color or shape for each type of spot (ocean, waterfall, etc.). Helps plan everything once your see them all laid out:




I also created a spreadsheet of our highest priority locations. For any two location pairs it listed driving time (Google's estimate), kilometers (so the road signs and odometer makes sense), and mileage (so that it made sense to whYME and myself). The sheet proved to be very valuable once bad weather moved in and we had to make difficult choices:
 


If you're wondering, the longest drive we ended up taking was Jokulsarlon to Kirkjufell (6:30, 540 km, 335 m). Of course it ended up taking nearly 11 hours due to all the stops we made on the way. [whYME] I think driving through the mountains in the snow in whiteout conditions might've had a little something to do with that as well.

[Something Fishy] For this trip I also found the Alaska Geophysical Institute's website very helpful for aurora forecasts:



[whYME] And all this is (one reason) why I go with Something Fishy if I want to get good pictures:)
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Offline Yaalili

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Very informative post, I enjoyed it, thanks.

Offline Joe4007

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Very informative post, I enjoyed it, thanks.
+100

Offline Yehoshua

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Wow, such detail in planning! Seems that app is made for real experts in photography. While I'm not anywhere near even good at photography, it's nice to know such an app exists.

Thanks for sharing!

Offline MosheD

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Holy ****
So good photography is not just about knowing how to use expensive gear. The amount of work put into this is amazing!

Offline Super Speed

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This is getting more unreal with each post! Keep it coming!!

Offline srap

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I am truly in awe.  No words (pretty rare for me  :o ).
My admiration for you and your work just went from 10 to 20.  (on a 1-10 scale)
Love the detail.  Waiting for more.

Offline AharonInIsrael

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Wow. Learning so much. Thanks!
SF, you are an organizational expert :-)

Offline csl1

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Thanks for all your information about photography and travel preparation.  i'm actually in the process of insuring my relatively inexpensive gear ( $1800 )in preparation for a trip next month.  Will the insurance company pay for the price i paid for my camera and lens, which was purchased 4+ years ago?  I also purchased the   SLIK SPRINT PRO-II TRIPOD (GUN METAL)/REG 89.55 89.55 at B&H along with the hammock for stabilization - would that work for winter /windy conditions although not quite as stormyas you put your gear through?

thanks alot

Offline Emkay

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Wow! The preparation you put into this is astounding

Offline AJK

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Good. Lord.

I thought I was organized. This last installment, though, takes planning, attention to detail, and diligence to an entirely different level. And therein lies the beauty of an SF TR...

(i) planning/attention to detail/diligence;
(ii) talented photography; and
(iii) the ability to retell the story in a clear, grammatically correct, and compelling way.

A TR can be great with only the last of these, but if a TR has all 3? Special things happen.

Well done, SF.

(That said, I think I'm losing patience... I need to see the meat, baby!  :D)
2015: 116K bkd | 1.6M brnd | F: OZ,NH,AA,EK | J: UA,CA,TK,DL,TN,AF,VA | LIH,NRT,ROR,PEK,CNS,BOB,MEL,TLV & Pacific Hopper

Offline Toasted

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Good. Lord.

I thought I was organized. This last installment, though, takes planning, attention to detail, and diligence to an entirely different level. And therein lies the beauty of an SF TR...

(i) planning/attention to detail/diligence;
(ii) talented photography; and
(iii) the ability to retell the story in a clear, grammatically correct, and compelling way.

A TR can be great with only the last of these, but if a TR has all 3? Special things happen.

Well done, SF.

(That said, I think I'm losing patience... I need to see the meat, baby!  :D)
+3

How about adding TR points to ddf profiles? It involves far more work than copy/pasting from SD to get an HT. 500 for sf.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2015, 11:27:08 AM by Toasted »

Online Something Fishy

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Thanks everyone for the feedback, it means a lot ;D. These things are mighty hard and time consuming to put together, especially with three people involved...

(That said, I think I'm losing patience... I need to see the meat, baby!  :D)

The meat will be served starting later today iy"h.
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