Virtual Photo Tour: Nordic Edition

While I was going stir crazy and planning adventures I started thinking about a tour through the Northern Latitudes – Iceland, The Faroes, The Shetland Islands and Norway.

Of the four places the only one I’ve visited before is Iceland. I was in Iceland in 2014 but didn’t have as much time to explore as I would have liked. That time I was based in Reykjavik and took trips from there to photograph.

There’s so much to see in Iceland that I don’t want to try to do everything on this first trip. My plan would be to just focus on the coast around Reykjavik and then on subsequent trips see more.

To maximize my time in Iceland I have Michael Levy’s Photography map of Iceland, which will help me find great locations in and around the places that I want to visit.

First stop of the tour is Budir on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, about a 2 hour drive from the airport.

From the notes that I made I would stay at the Hotel Búðir which would be a great base for an exploration of the Peninsula. Impossible to go to Budir and not take at least a few pictures of the black church!

The Black Church of Budir as a Photography Location
The Black Church, Mads Peter Iversen

After 3 or 4 days in and around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula it would be time to move on to Vik.

I’ve been to Vik before and in fact the picture of the church in the banner for the blog page was taken in Vik. I didn’t have much luck when I was in Vik the last time, the weather was shocking, it was pouring and the fog was so thick that even though I knew there were sea stacks I couldn’t see them! I did manage to get a picture (sort of) of the black sand beach though.

After a few days in Vik it would be time to move on to Jökulsárlón and the Ice Beach.

The mouth of the lagoon in Jökulsárlón forms a bottle neck that traps Icebergs causing them to break up into small pieces of ice and to get caught on the beach. I think that this is now a very popular location, not unusual to be shoulder to shoulder with other photographers I’m told. Hopefully not on the day when I visit!

Jökulsárlón and the Icy Beach as Photography Locations
Icy Beach, Jökulsárlón Mads Peter Iversen

After Jökulsárlón it’s back to Reykjavik and home, but not before we stop at some waterfalls. First up Skógafoss, followed by the famous Seljalandsfoss and the nearby hidden waterfall Gljúfrabúi.

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland, Andrey Andreyev

Preparing for the Year Ahead

David Allen has said that the people who take to the GTD system the most avidly are those that need it the least but he notes these are the people, the high performers, that notice even the slightest amount of drag in their world that prevents them from doing as much as they feel they’re able.

Not that I would put myself in the elite high performer category but I do keep fiddling with my personal systems for deciding what I want to work on and tracking the associated tasks. I wrote about my current system here a few months ago. Since then I came across the bullet journal method outlined in the video above, and described in more detail at the bullet journal website here, which marries the GTD methodology with the agile approach perfectly for me. The whole thing may seem a little messy from the outside looking in – it’s a blend of digital and analog – but it seems to be working for me.

I think that the hallmark of any successful system is one that people adopt and modify to suit their own needs and in doing so extend it’s functionality. This is certainly true of the Bullet Journal that has it’s own community on Google+ – read what the creator, Ryder Carroll has to say about this here.

For any system to work for me I have to like the toys that it brings me in contact with. The bullet journal is no exception – lots of cool notebooks to play around with. I’ve been using the Field Notes books mostly for my bullet journal but I also have one of the awesome Japanese Midori Traveler’s Notebooks that I will be working with more in 2015. The original size is a little awkward for me – it’s too big to fit comfortably in any of my coat pockets – but the passport size is perfect. The passport sized midori notebooks are of course an odd size and the Field Notes books don’t fit perfectly inside the leather cover but the ones frin Scout notebooks do.

Check out the short video showing the flexibility of the Midori notebooks below.

Life, A Marathon to Sprint Through

One of the comments I heard recently was ‘This is a marathon that we have to sprint through’. At the time the comment reminded me of the time when, as a student, my academic adviser told me it was ‘time to start burning the candle at both ends’. On further reflection I realize that life, and work, has distinct patterns and rhythms. Recognizing these rhythms and being prepared to sprint when you have is important to success. Even better if you can plan for these periods and be ready for them when they come along.

In my photography life the sprints often come in the form of trips, preparing work for exhibition or magazine submissions. Periods of intense activity that are followed by a period of ‘active recovery’, where I’m working but at a sustainable pace. It’s taken me a while to realize that I need to anticipate and plan for these periods and while it may seem obvious make sure that plan also takes into account what else is going on in my world. Having a whole life schedule rather than a ‘work schedule’ and a ‘life schedule’ make it easy to spot potential conflicts.

My schedule is thought out for about the next 12 – 18 months and that plan is revised each quarter. While it is common sense, I take pains to avoid birthdays, anniversaries, school start dates, and the myriad of other things that are knowable in advance. Obviously life doesn’t always go according to plan and you need to remain flexible to change with changing circumstances. This is not something that I’ve been great with in the past and it has meant missing out on some fun opportunities because I was unwilling to drop anything from an already full schedule.

Having a clear sense of purpose and how things fit and support that purpose makes these kinds of decisions much easier.

Resources for Photographing in Iceland

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Many of us experience new places to photograph in the context of workshops or tours. In those cases there’s often little forethought or planning needed. You book the trip, bring your gear and photograph. Making the most of a trip that you organize for yourself can take a little more work. Here’s the process that I typically use applied to a trip to Iceland.

What have other photographers made of Iceland?

Looking at what photographs others have made can be a touchy subject for some. I know some people who don’t want to be contaminated by the work and ideas of others and prefer to go into a location ‘cold’, which they believe positions them better to make original images. I want to know what the cliche images are for a particular location, what the postcard shot looks like. I know that I’m going to be drawn into making the obvious photograph and accept that, take the photograph and then try to push beyond it to make something that is my own.

For Iceland I looked at the work of Hans Strand, Bruce Percy and Josef Hoflehner. This is obviously a very short list. Who else would you recommend?

Finally spending some time on Flickr could also be instructive. You could also connect with local photographers and ask for advice regarding locations, weather conditions etc. this kind of local knowledge can be invaluable.

What are a selection of potentially interesting locations?

From looking at the work of others I’m looking for locations that look like they have potential for the kinds of images that I like to make and then looking for where these places are on a map. I’m a big fan of large scale paper maps that I can lay out on the living room floor, but you might prefer google maps. For Iceland there’s a great paper map for photographers and an accompanying eBook (eRoadbook). I’m not sure what the map is made from but paper doesn’t do it justice, perhaps a tyvek like paper? In any case it’s very resilient, and waterproof ideal for taking with you on a trip to Iceland.

How to connect these into a workable itinerary?

With a list of places to visit how best to connect them? For me this is the most attractive part of making up my own schedule. I’m not going to be jollied along from one place to the next to the next without having an opportunity to explore each location. Again I don’t think that there’s a right answer here and my bias is obviously showing through. I like to visit and revist locations to learn about a place and how best I might photograph it. Being rushed from one spot to another doesn’t work for me. How do you prefer to work?

General travel logistics?

For general travel planning I use all the resources that the internet has to offer. I will also spend a lot of time with the Lonely Planet and, if they cover where I’m going, the appropriate Moon travel guides to where ever I’m going.