View Full Version : Recent trip to Iceland

26-Feb-2008, 04:31
Hi everyone,

On a recent trip to Iceland, I agonised for weeks over what gear to take (dslr, 4x5). In the end I took it all, which nearly killed me humping it everywhere. With lots of time to set up and take photographs, I took probably one of two with the Ebony and 10 with the Canon (and a few with a digital compact for good luck).

Well, after returning home, I have learnt the following:

Shooting colour neg is better than Velvia. The extreme contrast range was too great for the slide film to cope.

Forget the DSLR. I've ended up with 8 really great keepers (by my standards), one's I would hang on the wall, and hundreds of so-so's from the Canon. In fact more keepers from the Ricoh GR digital!

I am confident with the Ebony and see no reason to take the DSLR. It just adds so much weight.

I have learnt now that it is better to enjoy the holiday, set up the 4x5 when there is a real photograph to be had, take my time and enjoy the process. This is something that I was advised on when I posted a question about what to take.

I am now looking for the smallest back pack possible to hold the Ebony 45SU and associated gear.

btw, the film went through Stanstead Airport UK x-rays on the way out and Keflavik airport on the way back with no ill-effects.

One scan of a portra neg attached. I ahve not uploaded a photo before so I had trouble resizing. The image size was less than 650x650 the filesize was still too large. Probably after messing around with it, it will not look great. The original print is so sharp I am really pleased with it.



John Bowen
26-Feb-2008, 04:45

Nice image. It sounds like you had a most enjoyable trip. Thanks for sharing your experiences.


Emmanuel BIGLER
26-Feb-2008, 07:15
Thanks Steve for the feedback. Jokulsarlon, I presume?

I appreciate the idea of enjoying the landscape and taking few LF pictures instead of spending the whole day with the eye riveted behind the eyecup of a SLR or D-SLR ;)

I've been to Iceland in summer only so I would have some questions regarding your winter trip (you say : recent)
- my understanding is that only Road Number 1 is open, but no backcountry roads ; comments ?
- since we are close to the Arctic circle what can you comment on the availability and quality of light at this time of the year ?

26-Feb-2008, 08:54
Hi, it was the only time we could manage to go this year, and had many concerns about the weather. However, we had probably all the different kinds, on some days roughly alternating every half-hour! (Rain, snow, sleet, really strong wind and then glorious sunshine) - it made for great photography! In a week we had 3 days of brilliant sunshine, 2 days of pouring rain and the other days a mixture. Not so bad.

The wind can be strong - so be ready to weigh down the tripod. Mine went over twice thankfully without the camera attached.

At this time of year only route 1 is driveable with a few minor roads and then only so far, and also you can do only the South. But there is still many places and things to see. Overall we had a fantastic experience and I would recommend it to anyone.

All the main places of interest were devoid of people, so it made for easier photography without the coach loads of tourists at the main waterfalls, geysirs and landmarks.

The only downside is that the food is frighteningly expensive!

I was so glad I took my Ebony. It was a real test, but it performed flawlessly in all weathers.


26-Feb-2008, 08:55
Sorry, meant to add that we went just a couple of weeks ago, February 8th to be exact.

Gudmundur Ingolfsson
26-Feb-2008, 09:58
Links that are usefull for those planning a trip to Icedland:


http://www.vedur.is or http://www.cnn.com

Road Conditions:

Emmanuel BIGLER
26-Feb-2008, 11:17
Many thanks to Guðmundur Ingólfsson for first-hand information !
The Icelandic Survey (Landmælingar Íslands) has a nice web site where you can zoom-in to your favourite places ! Superb !
I wish I could visit Iceland in winter some day. So far I only know Iceland in winter from books and magazines...

26-Feb-2008, 12:13
It is a goal of mine to visit Iceland at some point in my life, very intrigued by the land there.

Thanks for sharing your experience, glad to hear you had an enjoyable trip...

Michael Rosenberg
26-Feb-2008, 13:33
I have been to Iceland twice, both in the summer (early July and late July/early August). I had a fantastic time with the long daylight. Even though I was there for two weeks each time I had not made it around the island! The strong winds are a challenge, and I found that carrying a drawstring bag to hold rocks off of the center pole and spreading the legs as far as the gitzo would allow was a great help.

I would love to go back some day, both in the summer and in November and March.

You can see some of my prints on me web site in the Iceland Gallery room.


27-Feb-2008, 15:17
A very nice, and reassuring post that the LF yielded aesthetically better pics than the digital gear! I really must try some colour negative film in LF.

6-Jul-2008, 00:43
Hi Steve,

my trip to Iceland is planned form juli 21th til august 7th ! As you have experience in taking LF gear with you to Iceland...maybe I can pose a few questions:

-Is it wise to ship my gear (Sinar F2 + stuff) to a poste restante adress, or take as baggage in the plane
-Whata is your experience with the x-raying in the aurport in Iceland (or did you find an adress where one can buy 4x5 film and have it develeoped).

Hope to be able to add my experiences in amonth or so.



Paul O
6-Jul-2008, 04:19
Hi Francois. I visited Iceland exactly a year ago and only took LF with me. The experience has lead me to change plans for a forthcoming trip back to Iceland on 7 April 2009. I am happy to share these experiences with you/anyone who is interested :). Warning this is a long post!

I decided to camp during my 2 week stay and this meant that I was lumbered with a great deal of camping equipment as well as my LF gear. The idea was to allow me to "be at the right place at the right time" - but the unpredictable weather (howling wind!) meant that I spent more time sleeping in the rental car than in the tent! Next year I plan on using the International Hostels and have booked a single room for approx 22 GBP per night in a number of locations.

If you plan on renting a vehicle to get around then MAKE SURE you rent a 4x4 - I didn't and although a great deal of the Ring Road is surfaced with tarmac a large stretch is still very rough gravel roads - bone shaking in a regular car.

4x4 rental IS expensive but is the only way to confidently travel around Iceland if photography is the reason for your visit. I consider myself a fairly confident/capable driver (ex-Police) but I had more hairy moments driving at low speeds on "major" roads than I have ever had chasing bad guys! . Driving in Iceland is "an art form" and the capabilities of a 4x4 will ceratinly improve driving confidence without meaning you have to take to the rivers!! I have booked a 4x4 for my next visit

I toyed with the idea of shipping film to Iceland, buying it there or carrying it myself - shipping was expensive, buying sheet film is a non-starter and so taking it yourself is the best option (IMHO). I appreciate that there is a thread on another part of this forum where there is an on-going debate about the effects of X-rays etc. But flying out of Gatwick (London) and the return had no visible impact on the film I used - a combination of Fuji Provia 100 in 5x4 and 120 roll film. But all film was carried on my person!

I carried my equipment as follows: Ebony 45SU body, 4 lenses and 200 sheets of Fuji Quickload film, 25 rolls of 120 roll film in a Lowepro Pro Trekker as carry-on luggage (way over the 6kg weight limit but no-one checked). However, lugging this on the trek through departures at Gatwick was a pain. Quickload film comes in boxes of 20 envelopes, but you can squeeze a few more into each box without damage. I carried a spare envelope in my pocket to show any inquisitive security but it went through scanners without any issues.

I wore a photo vest :o Looked a complete $%&^% but managed to carry an extra 2 boxes of Quickload film and a spare ground glass/frame for the Ebony. I also carried 10 rolls of 120 film in leg pockets on my cargo pants - can't believe I didn't get pulled!

I checked 2 LARGE holdalls as checked luggage and had to pay about 60 extra for excess baggage (but knew this prior to flying and got a discount by paying on-line). These holdalls contained basic food supplies, tent, sleeping bag, inflatable mat, cooker, clothes, etc etc! I packed my Gitzo 1325 CF tripod in its original (heavy-duty) cardboard box and was able to fill the availabe space in the box with odds and ends! I also carried the following photo equipment in Peli Cases (small) inside the holdall - Art Panorama 6x17cms film back and viewer, light meter, spare light meter, Fuji Quickload back, spare Quickload back! cable releases, cleaning kit (a must!), LEE filters and holders and a Fuji 300mm T lens. I tried to cover every eventuality by taking lens spanner, screwdrivers etc too. This proved useful as I discovered (after shooting) a roll of 120 film (after waiting for an hour and a half at a location for weather to improve) that one of the screws/bolts in the casing of the Art Pan back had fallen out - leaving a nice hole directly above the exposed film being taken up on the spool :eek: After much swearing I managed to locate the screw and bolt in the case and was able to replace them - believe it or not the developed roll of film only showed the tiniest amount of fogging on the outer edge of two frames

Cleaning kit is a must!!!!! Iceland should be renamed "Dustland" - so make sure you have an air-blower, lens brushes, cleaning solution and a few microfibre cloths too. If you are planning on shooting near the coast then make sure that you have a cloth to wipe down equipment from spray carried in the air.

So how will my plans change for my next trip?

I've decided against Quickloads - The weight and space taken up by the boxes of film was too great. I plan on taking regular sheet film, 120 roll film and a harrison tent. All film will be carried on my person but NOT WEARING THE PHOTO VEST AGAIN

I'm cutting down lenses to just 3 - a 75mm, 110mm and a 150mm.

I'm taking the Ebony 45SU and the lenses as carry-on (need to find a smaller backpack too as the weight limit on next flight is only 6kgs)

I'm taking one holdall as checked luggage. This will carry the Gitzo CF and Manfrotto 410 head, a small Peli case for the 6x17 back and viewer, peli case for double dark slides (20) and light meter, cleaning kit etc. This will carry spare clothes. NO CAMPING GEAR but will take a sleeping bag - for hostels and (if) sleeping in the car is necessary.

My biggest mistake was in thinking I could "do" Iceland in 2 weeks :o My advice is to research the island and then focus on one end or the other - don't try and cram it all in one visit - just accept the fact that you will have to/want to/need to visit Iceland more than once!

My next trip will concentrate on the south of the island from Vik to Hofn. This stretch looks so short on the map but take it from me the Icelandic road conditions mean that travel times are three times that on normal roads - but much more fun!!

I'll shut up now!!

Feel free to email me if you have any other questions!

Regards Paul

6-Jul-2008, 11:57
Hi Paul,

this is valuable info !!! Indeed I arranged for for 4x4 including hostels to avoid camping in the open air (I've been doing quite a lot of travelling and gained experience the hard way :( . Because of the awful amount of gear I'm going to take with me I decided today to ship of the Sinar with DHL (and start praying in church for the next few days......)
Anyway, since I do not have any experience in driving a 4x4 it'll be an adventure, maybe a quit course would be in place. I'll take your advice and simply sneak the filmmaterial on my body through the safety checks. Further; your're probably right; one cannot 'do' iceland in just a few weeks. I'll siply regards this trip ma first scouting tour; because if half of what I expect is true it'll be worthwhile to come again (as I should to Tasmania, Namibia, Mali, Scotland, Wales, Turkey, Kazachstan, China etc. etc., life is too short I'm afraid :cool: ).

Anyway; thanks for you comprehensive reply, once back I'll report on my own findings (including photographs), and, who knows, we might meet somewhere, sometime !!


18-Jul-2008, 08:15
Thanks for sharing your experience - the picture is really nice.

Dave Jeffery
19-Jul-2008, 03:03
"I am now looking for the smallest back pack possible to hold the Ebony 45SU and associated gear."

I love the Kelty Redwing 3100 backpack as a 2-3 day pack for warm weather.

If you cut a couple if small 1/4 inch slits where the rear focusing knobs go, the 45SU fits perfectly in a small $9 Igloo cooler which has the hard plastic insert and the padding as well. There are a few small ones made so take your camera to the store if you're interested. I use a knee pressure wrap as a pad in front of the camera and packing plastic behind the camera.

Photobackpacker.com also makes really nice camera and lens cases that mount on a backerboard specifically for this pack which are very light and rugged.

Paul O
19-Jul-2008, 04:58
I think I've sorted a backpack for my Iceland trip next April - a Tamrac Adventure 10. This will carry the camera and lenses as carry-on and everything else will be checked. I've ordered a camera case and lens cases from Photobackpacker to fit it out. :D

Dave Jeffery
19-Jul-2008, 05:33
That is a really nice bag for carry on. I'd love to hear what you think of it once you've used it for a while.

Happy Trails!