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Itineraries: The Meticulous or the Messy?

The answer to many questions which I raise on this blog often lie in between the two extremes presented. I feel that Marianne and I can talk to this subject because we have transitioned between the two modes of holiday planning with a gradual drift toward the meticulous side. This is largely due to the presence of Charlotte but also in part due to creating ‘backup’ plans photographically. There are notable advantages and restrictions to both approaches which I thought I might highlight through some past experiences. The short stories are examples of planning gone right or wrong.

Back in 2002, our first trip to Vietnam originated from a plane ticket in , a plane ticket out and the first night’s accommodation. Everything else in between, was completely up for grabs! Fast forward to this year and I’m coming up with spreadsheets of various aspects of the trip. I never thought of myself as OCD but perhaps there are elements….

Accommdation planning!

Accommodation planning!

In 2009, our icelandic trip was hampered photographically with the early loss of the 5dmk2 to waterfall spray. Sharing one camera between two photographers was very trying for our patience. We used ‘open voucher’ tickets with Iceland’s excellent hostel network. This allowed us to spend more time at certain locations and to wander ‘off course’ to places such as Breidavik in the West Fjords where a fortuitous snap has since become one of our most popular images.

Breidavik in shifting light

Again in 2009, we didn’t account for a May public holiday which meant all accommodation in Seydisfjordur was occupied. As a result, we had to drive an hour further to the remote property ‘Husey’ where we enjoyed some great conditions for photography. This was not without stress as we rang around for quite some time before securing any accommodation whatsoever. This shot would never have occurred if we had adhered to a predetermined itinerary!

Early morning at Husey

In 2010, we prebooked every single night in Iceland over a 5 week trip. Had we known just how incredible the West Fjords would be, we would have altered our schedule somewhat! As it was 2 nights at Korpudalur was enough for us to chance upon this scene.

Onundarfjordur in the West Fjords

In 2011 , we visited Tasmania while Marianne was 20+ weeks pregnant. By this stage , most of our trips had accommodation prebooked before leaving. We wanted to travel in relative comfort compared to our previous trips given that this would be our last hurrah without a baby in tow. Hence the actual accommodation took preference over its exact location. We do wish we could have stayed longer and closer to the West Coast than Burnie though! Burnie was our base for the series of shots from Couta Rocks.

Couta Rocks – while based in Burnie

In 2012, Charlotte was well and truly part of our lives. Free wheeling accommodation was no longer a realistic possibility and so the level of planning rose further. We found that ‘overnighters’ at any given location was just too much of a hassle. By the time everything was unpacked for ourselves and Charlotte then repacked the following morning, our arms had received a great workout but that’s where the positives ended. It was a struggle to find the motivation to get out and about on these evenings and dawns. We would have loved a couple of nights at Moeraki for instance.

More Moeraki would have been great!

This year, the level of planning went up further! In order to maximise time with photography and family, I tried to plan the direction of our travel so that tides and moon phases would match certain parts of our trip. Instead of heading north to Kaikoura first, we chose to head through Arthur’s Pass to coincide with a new moon and the chance for some milky way shots. Similarly , instead of heading straight to the glaciers, we decided to stop at Greymouth for a couple of days to take advantage of low tide at dawn and dusk. Despite these plans, we would have loved to have spent more time around the west coast due to the bad weather which had us indoors for much of our time at Punakaiki. Conversely we could have spent one less day in Glacier country except for Charlotte’s run in with a nasty chest infection.

A planned millky way shoot

More time for Starfish with this light next trip?

So what’s my conclusion then? I feel that an open itinerary gives you so many more opportunities to take advantage of conditions photographically. This may not be the best option for you if you feel the need for security of a guaranteed roof over your head for the next evening. With a trip involving an infant though, this would result in a potentially unsettled child whose behavior could then spoil the trip. We try to overcome both problems by simply staying longer at any given location and hoping that the conditions suit at some stage during our stay. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts both as solo travelers and family travelers with children at different ages.


Scenes like this are on the cards for a brief week in the Pacific North West later this year!


Our New Website is LIVE!

We are pleased to announce that we have now launched our new website!  With a sleek new look and easier navigation, the best thing about the new site is that you can now order prints online!

To celebrate we are taking 20% off ALL PRINTS, so head on over to and browse through the landscape and panorama galleries.  Use coupon code EP20LAU during checkout to activate the offer.  Most items ship free within Australia (except for large stretched canvas prints), and international shipping will show up once you have completed the address fields.

We are still adding more images to the site, so if you can’t find the print you’re after, just send us an email with a link to the image (from 500px, flickr, facebook, any other site you’ve seen the image!) and we’ll add it to the site for ordering.

This offer is only available until December 31st, so hurry!

Our new website's homepage

Our new website’s homepage


Photographing Iceland – What You Need to Know (Part Three)

For those of you waiting patiently for the last in this 3-part series, here it is!  As some of you may know we have been a bit side-tracked with the birth of our baby girl, Charlotte, in the last 5 weeks – and I can’t say I’ve mastered the art of one-handed typing just yet!

This last post was going to be a summary of the key points of the previous two articles, but I think it may be more beneficial instead to run through an equipment list and some last minute tips.  You can find information on general logistics in Part One and some suggested itineraries in Part Two; these will open in a separate window.

What to Bring

Every photographer has different interests, but I will assume that since you are following this blog and have gotten this far in the series that you are primarily interested in nature landscape photography.  Most of the time the wide angle lens is my lens of choice, and its attached to the camera body about 90% of the time.  However, you will find that the vast landscapes in Iceland sometimes require a mid-zoom, or even a moderate telephoto lens to capture details that you will lose in a single wide angle composition.  Here’s a list of some of the key items that we brought along:

Telephoto perspectives condense planes which can emphasise the scale of natural features such as the glacier at Hvitavatn

Camera body:  Yes, a bit silly, of course you need one of these.  If your’s isn’t weather-sealed, you will need to take extra care in the damp environments of the waterfalls you’re going to shoot, and the salty black beaches you’ll be wandering along.

Wide angle lens:  Self-explanatory.

Mid-zoom/telephoto lens: Use the mid-zoom (e.g. 24-70mm) for taking multiple frames to stitch into a panorama, and the telephoto (70-200mm) to really hone in details in the distance.  Dylan sometimes even used a 2x extender attached to the telephoto to get SUPER close-ups.

A Farmstead at the base of Eyjafjallajokull taken with 70-200 with 2X extender

Polarisers:  These are pretty much permanently attached to our lenses.  Great for cutting out glare and increasing saturation and contrast, and one of the filters whose effect cannot yet be replicated by software.

Varying the degree of polarisation can dramatically change the quality of reflected light

Tripod:  Essential for long exposures and getting crisp, sharp images.  If you have a fancy one with legs that can be extended any which way and/or lowered to ground level, it will also allow for unique angles and compositions.  We use a tripod for about 95% of all our images.

A steady tripod is required for sharp long exposure images such as this exposure of Seljalandsfoss

Graduated Neutral Density filters:  A must for controlling exposures, especially for dawn and dusk shooting sessions.  We each have a set of 3 that roughly add up to 9-10 stops between them: my favourite is the Hi-Tech 4-stop soft, whereas Dylan likes to stack a 3-stop and 2-stop combo.

The exposure of skies can be made much more dramatic by use of GND filters

Neutral Density filter:  For those totally boring scenes in the middle of the day, but you won’t have time to return to – sometimes the ND filter can make a difference.  We have a 9-stop and a 10-stop ND to use with the appropriate lens.

Bruarfoss was already beautiful but a dense ND filter gave it an even more dream like quality

Raincover:  You MUST have one of these to shoot the waterfalls and geysirs.  After having to send our 5DMkII for repairs following our first trip to Iceland, we used a raincover any time we got within 50 metres of any water (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I wanted you to realise how important this point is!).  Even if your camera body is weather-sealed (like the 7D is supposed to be) I still wouldn’t take the chance.

Keep your camera safe from the elements such as the spray from Dettifoss

And because these really added to our comfort:

Waterproof boots:  We lived in our’s.  It sure makes things a lot nicer when you don’t have to contend with wet socks and frozen toes.  Most of the time, anyway.

Waterproof outers:  If you can get your hands on the Goretex Extreme line of gear, you will not regret spending the money on it.  These are windproof as well and when worn over your two thermal layers and fleece, you’ll be nice and toasty at 1am shooting the most awesome aurora you’ve ever seen.

Hanging up the outers at the end of a day's hike

Last Reminders

  • Allow yourself enough time to explore your chosen locations.  There’s nothing worse than having to hurry along and wondering if you’d have got the shot if only you had more time.
  • Try to scout possible locations if you really find that you have more than enough time on your hands.  Try different angles with your setup.  Maybe your first location or composition isn’t the best one.
  • Don’t forget to book your accommodation in advance if you’re thinking of hiking the Laugavegur Trail at the Ferðafélag Íslands website (
  • If you run into trouble with your camera gear, head to Beco in Reyjavik – this store stocks just about everything (the website is in Icelandic, so here’s a link to their Facebook page with their address).
  • Make sure you check road accessibility:
  • Check the aurora forecast here:

The Absolute Last Word…

Accept that you will return to Iceland.  Maybe not for another year or even another 10 years, but you will.  It’s inevitable.

Maybe we’ll see you there.  🙂


See you in Iceland! Perhaps in the cotton fields of Landmannalaugar?