Latest happenings

Amazing Northern Lights Display on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula

Martin Sammtleben, 3. October 2013

After the recent solar eruption on 30 September we were eagerly awaiting its effects in the following nights. We got lucky on the night of 2 October: after driving around for a while to find a clear spot in the night sky, the aurora suddenly sprang into action.

It was a spectacular display, the best for us so far this autumn. The peak lasted for about 20 minutes! Images were taken with various cameras at 800–1600 ISO and exposures ranging from 5 to 30 seconds.

This was also the first time we used a Sony NEX-6 for photographing the aurora. This tiny mirrorless camera managed to produce some amazing images. If you don’t want to carry around a big DSLR, the NEX-6 is an excellent alternative.

Aurora Photography – Capture the Northern Lights in Iceland

Martin Sammtleben, 1. October 2013

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis with their changing shapes and colours have fascinated people through the ages. They’re an electromagnetic phenomenon caused by the sun storm entering the earth’s upper atmosphere.

A huge solar flare has just been recorded – check out spaceweather.com – so we’ll hopefully be heading out soon to photograph the Northern Lights. Luckily this has become a lot easier with todays cameras, that have increasingly better low-light performance.

A few tips in brief…

  • You will need a tripod and cable-/remote release, although instead of the latter you can employ your camera’s self-timer.
  • Watch the weather – you’ll want a clear night.
  • Follow the aurora forecast on sites such as Alaska’s Geophysical Institute – the Aurora can show up any time during the dark hours.
  • If possible find a nice location in advance during daytime and take note of interesting spots that provide some foreground interest. Especially reflective surfaces such as water or ice are perfectly suited as foregrounds since they can provide amazing reflections of the aurora.
  • Keep yourself and your spare batteries warm, because you will spend a lot of time standing around waiting; bring a flask with a hot drink.
  • As the lights can stretch across the entire sky, you will in general find wide-angle lenses – fixed or zoom – more useful than longer lenses.
  • It’s very important to remove any filters you might have on your lens! They cause interference patterns.
  • The auto-focus usually won’t work in the dark, so you need to set your lens manually to infinity and tape down the focus ring to prevent knocking it inadvertently. Note that the infinity setting usually doesn’t align exactly with the infinity mark ∞ on the focusing ring. This is best worked out during daytime by enabling auto-focus on the centre point and focusing on something contrasty in the far distance or the horizon. If your camera offers live view you can zoom in to the max and focus very precisely. This can be done successfully even in the dark: just point your camera at the brightest star and adjust focus until the star appears as a small point of light.
  • Unless the aurora is very bright use the following camera settings as a starting point: aperture wide open e.g. f/2.8–4.0, 15 seconds exposure, 800–1600 ISO. Adjust as necessary.
  • The lights can move quickly. In that case aim for shorter shutter speeds around 5–10 seconds. In order to do so turn your camera’s ISO up to the highest value, that will still produce images without excessive noise and open up your lens’s aperture to let in as much light as possible. Fast, fixed-focal length lenses are ideal, but also a zoom with a modest f/4.0 can be used with good results.
  • Shooting RAW is highly recommended. However if you prefer to shoot JPEG make sure to enable long-exposure noise reduction in your camera. Note that this function should be turned off when shooting RAW as it has no effect on RAWs. Instead use the noise reduction features of your software when developing your RAW images.
  • Experiment with the white balance of your images. Northern Lights often look rather greenish straight from the camera and they can change appearance dramatically as you adjust the colour temperature and tint controls. I found the following values to be a good starting point.
    Temperature: 3500 to 4300K, Tint: +30 to +50
    In the end this is very much a question of personal taste, so best is what appeals to you!

Free iBook: A Guide to Photographing the Northern Lights

Much more information on aurora photography can be found in our free iBook A Guide to Photographing the Northern Lights. If you own an Apple iPad, check it out!

If this has sparked your interest, why not join us on one of our northern lights tours in Iceland such as our Northern Lights, Glaciers and Ice Workshop departing in early April and October?

Spectacular Video of the Northern Lights in Iceland

Martin Sammtleben, 26. March 2013

The Guardian posted this amazing video of the aurora borealis taken in Iceland on 17 March. It was recorded in several locations that we visit on our popular Northern Lights, Glaciers and Ice Workshop

We still have a few spaces left on the 2013 autumn departures!

Who Came on Our Recent Iceland Trips

Geraldine Westrupp, 2. March 2013

Ever wondered who your travelling companions might be on one of our trips? Take a look at this gallery to get a bit of a clearer picture…

Nowadays our Iceland trips are almost always full with folks keen to photograph and experience the unique Iceland landscape. Being web based, we reach out to photographers from all over the world. Participants think nothing of travelling from Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Canada and other far flung places on our planet just to join our trips. They come all in shapes, sizes and ages with a slightly higher number of women than men. Although, I have to say, when I check out the various photographic magazines currently on sale I am always a tad dismayed to see how under represented women photographers seem to be in general. We find that women generally make very creative photographers and are not frightened to experiment.

The abilities of our groups range from those just starting out to professional photographers. Here is a gallery of people images that I have taken during our last Iceland workshops, all are taken at our various Iceland locations with different weather and from both autumn 2012 and February 2013 trips.

Thanks for joining us and hope to see you again soon :)

Free iBook on Aurora Photography

Martin Sammtleben, 21. September 2012

A Guide to Photographing the Northern Lights cover

We have just published our free iBook A Guide to Photographing the Northern Lights If you own an iPad check it out!

Who Comes on our Trips?

Geraldine Westrupp, 14. April 2012

Well, I have to say that on the whole our workshop participants are a pretty global bunch which makes for really interesting trips.

Ellen photographing on Snaefellsness, Iceland, February 2012

On our last two trips for example participants came from Spain, Israel, Ireland, England, Scotland, US, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Iceland, Australia. Generally, we also tend to get slightly more women than men. The ages range from 20s to 80s!! Also there is a vast range of experience from first DSLR to full on professional. needless to say the focus is on photography and lots of it, but we always make new friends and have a lot of fun and we are happy that large percentage of participants come back for more. Here is a little gallery I put together to show the sort of places and people on our trips.

New for 2012! Captivating Kerala January Photography Tour

Chinese fishing nets at sunset, Kerala

Geraldine Westrupp, 27. August 2011

We are really thrilled to introduce Captivating Kerala – Colours, People and Landscapes. This is a remarkable photographic journey through the lush and exotic landscape of South India’s Kerala with photographers who know the area intimately and have been traveling here for 15 years – this is a new trip that is firmly rooted in our intimate knowledge and past experiences here; well researched adventure travel photography at its very best.

Cochin with its Portuguese houses, synagogues, palaces, forts and Chinese fishing nets, spread over a charming cluster of islands and peninsulas, the tea plantations, granite domed mountains, spice gardens and wild life reserves of the Western Ghats, a truly traditional and totally non-mainstream Kathakali make up and performance in a tiny village and a memorable journey on the famous Keralan backwaters in a luxurious houseboat. As with our established India Xmas trip, all our accommodation is a wonderful blend of hotels chosen carefully with a blend of the traditional, a dash of luxury and and a huge helping of special ambiance. There is also an opportunity to take a 2 day extension in Kovalam Beach based in the Tranvacore Heritage Hotel.
Find out more about this tour…

This tour is preceeded by our popular Mystical South India – Tamil Nadu and Kerala trip, which runs over Christmas and New Years.

Mystical South India – A Festive Photography Holiday in December 2011 – January 2012

Gurus in Tiruvanamalai

Geraldine Westrupp, 27. August 2011

So happy, re our Xmas India trip just booked flights Manchester – Chennai (India) Quatar 470 pounds return via budgetair.co.uk
We do love a deal!

Now that autumn is approaching we are beginning to get really excited about our Christmas / New Year Mystical South India holiday in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Our location experience here is second to none, we are proud to say that many parts of this journey are totally unique! We’ll be travelling to some of Southern India’s photographically most stunning, spiritual and historical landmarks which will give us the opportunity to practise travel photography whilst exploring some fine locations offering access to a wealth of spectacular, photographic opportunities across a wide range of subjects and natural environments; there will surely be something here for everyone at what ever level.

We have chosen our accommodation carefully, knowing that during the festive period, photographers often like to bring partners along. We will enjoy some unique hotels and locations including, Pondicherry on the Coromandel coast, a restored, attractive, former French colony, exuding a Mediterranean aura with its chic streets, the relaxing Sparsha Eco Resort in Tiruvanamalai for Christmas day, New Years Eve at the inspiring Blackberry Hill Resort in the Cardamom Hills Munnar, a night of sheer luxury at the elegant Heritage Madurai, a fascinating train journey, a final two nights at the delightfully secluded and personal Secret garden, Cochin, plus much more. The diversity of India is a true assault on the senses, a vibrant and sometimes shocking experience. At times it may seem overwhelming but it has left us longing to return again and again: we’re well and truly addicted, see you there!
Read more about the holiday…

This trip will be followed immediately by our new Kerala trip Captivating Kerala – Colours, People and Landscapes

Photographing the Newly Emerged Geothermal Area at Lake Kleifarvatn

Martin Sammtleben, 18. March 2011

Lake Kleifarvatn is quite a phenomenon. It’s located on the Reykjanes Peninsula in a striking landscape of volcanic origin. It’s a seismologically very active area with beautiful geothermal fields.

Every few years at random intervals the lake’s water level drops dramatically over the course of a few months exposing a geothermal area at the south end. Geologists attribute this to tectonic movements widening the fissures running through the lake.

We went on a calm and clear day to explore. Naturally you get great images of the steam plumes and their reflections in the water and ice set against a deep blue sky. But zooming in on the fumaroles also reveals an astonishing amount of detail, that often goes unnoticed. All it takes is a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the drops.
 
You might get wet though.

More Amazing Images and Video Footage of the Eyjafjallajökull Eruption

Martin Sammtleben, 20. May 2010

The eruption is calming down but still emits a vast amount of ash rising high into the atmosphere…, that continues to disrupt air traffic all over Europe.

Christopher Lund again has some absolutely stunning images to share. Also make sure to check out Martin Rietze’s video clips of the eruption.

The Eyjafjallajökull Eruption Continues

Martin Sammtleben, 16. April 2010

… but with a shift in focus.
The fissure eruption on Fimmvörðuháls, that started on 20. March and proved to be a first-rate tourist attraction, is pretty much over for the moment.

Apparently the lava found a new route and on 14. April an eruption began underneath the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap, causing floods and ejecting vast amounts of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. The resulting ash cloud has been slowly drifting over North Europe and air traffic has come to a complete stop in the affected areas.
 
Timelapse of the eruption

Images of the Eruption

Photographer Christopher Lund has posted a superb gallery of the Fimmvörðuháls fissure eruption. More stunning images can be found on the Boston Globe’s Big Picture Blog part 1 and part 2, and on NASA’s flickr stream
Geologist Dr. Erik Klemetti continues coverage of the event on his Eruptions blog

Remarkable Close-Up Images of the Eyjafjallajökull Eruption

Martin Sammtleben, 29. March 2010

And here’s a gallery of images taken at night.

Volcanic Eruption at Eyjafjallajökull Glacier, South Iceland

Martin Sammtleben, 21. March 2010

After weeks of increased seismic activity an eruption started just before midnight on Saturday 20. March.

It is a typical, basaltic fissure eruption currently about 1 km in length. Although the lava shoots up to 300 metres high, it is considered a small eruption. It’s located on the Fimmvörðuháls mountain pass, a popular hiking route, right between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. Since it’s not underneath the glacier cap, there is no immediate danger of floods. Some 500 people have been evacuated from the area and air traffic has been delayed.

RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, has some interesting video footage taken before dawn and later that morning. Another icelandic site has a series of images.

The eruption has been stable so far, but it’s uncertain, how long it will last. Scientists are concerned though, because historically an eruption in this area has always been followed by an eruption of Katla, a much more powerful volcano under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Katla erupts every 40–80 years, but has been dormant for almost 100 years.

For a blog dedicated to volcanism together with first rate information on this latest eruption check out the site of Dr. Erik Klemetti a geologist who spends most of his professional time thinking about magma.

Llanberis Mountain Film Festival Photography Competition

Martin Sammtleben, 8. March 2010

The Llanberis Mountain Film Festival includes a photography competition, and takes place at the foot of Snowdon every other year.

We were delighted to hear, that our submissions won first and second prize in the Flora and Fauna category of this year’s festival. See the Llamff website for the other entries and more information.