Aerial Photography in Iceland
Seeing Iceland’s natural wonders from a bird’s eye view is one of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, one will probably never forget. The world looks so totally different and surreal from the air. It is hard to believe that all those colorful glacial rivers meandering across the dark volcanic sandy plains are not just part of a gigantic abstract painting. The textures of the bluish and sometimes green, yellow or milky glacial waters twisting and swirling over deep black ash are incredible. In places reddish, rich in iron streams join the blue “veins”, for instance along the River Thjorsa (Icelandic: Þjórsá), or lush green islands dot the river beds (see image above). Besides the beautiful river deltas and tree-like abstracts along Iceland’s south coast, be sure not to miss the Lakagigar craters as well as Landmannlaugar’s rhyolite mountains and the glacial river Tungaá at the Icelandic highlands - all of them truly out of this world places!
Most of our aerial images from Iceland (stay tuned, more new work from June/July coming up soon!) were taken from an altitude of about 100-400 m above ground level (300-1.300 ft). During our 5-hour-flight last September we had it all, rain, snow, gusting wind but also great moody atmosphere in the highlands. This summer we enjoyed mostly sunny weather while going around in "endless circles" at the south coast.
If you consider doing aerial photography and boarding a little aircraft, do not forget to take some ginger gums or stronger medication against airsickness with you. Shooting downwards in a Cessna feels pretty different than just riding on a big jet plane and also the "breeze" in Iceland can be "slightly turbulent"! ;-)
Here some additional advices for aerial photography:
- Try to hire a high-wing (!) aircraft where you can open the window for photography. Shooting through plexiglass will most probably not result in sharp high-quality images free of reflections and distortions. Bring along warm clothing and a cap. Selfoss near the river Ölfusá at the south coast is a good place to start your journey up in the air!
- Check out the forecast carefully for stormy weather and rain; the better the forecast, the smoother the conditions over the highlands (but even in summer it might be foggy and raining/snowing there!).
- A zoom lens is our favorite choice; 24 mm (full-frame) is as wide as you will get without any disturbing parts of the airplane ruining your compositions (wing, wing strut, wheels, etc.).
- Try to keep the shutter speed at 1/640 s or faster if you can (especially if you are flying at lower altitude)
- Keep the lens out of the air stream and do not lean against the plane to avoid additional vibrations. And better secure the equipment around your neck. We were told there were already several lost cameras spread all over the Icelandic highlands...! Luckily not ours! ;-)
Image data: 1/1250s at f/8, ISO 800; Canon 24-105 mm, 1:4 L IS USM at 47 mm, Canon EOS 5D Mark II