How to capture the best of Iceland’s natural wonders
We’ve spoken to our partners at Canon to find out how best to photograph the country’s winter wonderland. There are photography tips and product recommendations for beginners, expert photographers and everyone in-between, so you can make sure your snaps truly capture the essence of Iceland.
Braving the elements
The weather across the winter can be unpredictable, make sure you check the weather forecast every day and pack the right gear so that the elements don’t get the better of you.
- Pack a sturdy tripod to withstand the winds and a head torch with a red light - this will preserve your night vision when it gets dark.
- If you’re using a Canon camera, use the free Canon Camera Connect app to trigger the camera – minimising camera shake from cold hands. Consider an external battery pack for your phone if you’re worrying about apps draining the battery.
- Consider using your camera’s white balance during the day for consistent colour with grey skies.
Choose the right lens. If you want to ensure the low light doesn’t get in the way of a good shot, consider an ultra-wide-angle lens like the EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. This lens features a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture, so it’s well suited to working in difficult lighting conditions such as dusk, forest scenes and even astrophotography with the right tripod. You may also want to consider a bag that’s specifically designed for adventure - the Canon Backpack BP10 keeps cameras, lenses and accessories in safe separate compartments, allowing you to transport your gear without sacrificing on style.
The Northern Lights
Few people visit Iceland without trying to spot the magical Northern Lights. While there’s no guarantees, they are usually visible from September until the end of March and sometimes even later. If you’re lucky enough to spot them, follow these tips for envy-inducing holiday photos.
- If possible, venture out on a night with a new moon with no cloud cover. This will give you brighter stars and Northern Lights and the best chance of them appearing. Try to get away from light pollution for the brightest views.
- Use a wide-angle lens or focal setting. Something like a 24mm focal length or wider would give you the best chance as using a wider lens allows you to use a slower shutter speed without creating star trails.
- Slow moving lights? A shutter speed of 20 seconds would be a good starting point, increasing to 30 seconds if needed.
- Lights starting to move quickly? Reduce the shutter speed to 5-15 seconds and increase your ISO to 800-12800. Work on fine-tuning this as the lights change behaviour.
- Focus your lens on infinity and use the widest aperture on your lens (f/2.8 or f/4, rather than f/11 or f/16), allowing maximum light to reach the camera sensor.
- If the lights are quite dim, start with ISO of 3200 or 6400 to get the best chance of them being captured. This will increase your camera’s sensitivity to light to brighten and sharpen the result.
For capturing the Northern Lights, Canon recommends the Canon EOS RP + RF 4-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM Lens. This camera is lightweight for taking on your trip and, most importantly, it behaves extremely well in low light. Features include 4K movies, fast autofocus and an electronic view finder, making shooting on the move effortless.
From huge powerful waterfalls to bubbling geysers and an impressive coastline, hone your photography skills with these tips to make the most of Iceland’s water.
- For a dramatic shot of the geyser experience try shooting from a distance. This will allow you to capture the crowds in front of the geyser to get some sense of scale and occasion. For a quieter shot, you’ll need to get there early. The main geysers are open 24 hours so if you can get there early enough, you could have the whole place to yourself
- Try shooting the geyser before the bubble bursts so you capture the surface tension for a different perspective. You will need a fast shutter speed to capture the resulting spray.
- Iceland has many impressive waterfalls, from the most famous Gullfoss, to some undocumented falls. Keep your eyes peeled on hikes for impromptu sights.
- Experiment with shutter speeds. Slow shutter speeds (1/15 to 3 seconds) will blur the water for a more ethereal look (note that you’ll need a Neutral Density Filter to blur the water during the day). Faster speeds (1/250 seconds or faster) will freeze the movement to show the power and force of the water.
- Consider the seasons. The winter months are popular but bear in mind that waterfalls will be partially frozen. Consider visiting in late spring or early summer if waterfalls are at the top of your list.
Waterfall photography can be tricky. Canon recommends trying the Canon EOS M6 Mark II + EF-M 15-45mm IS STM Lens + Electronic Viewfinder, which is designed to capture fast movements at up to 14 frames per second. There’s also an autofocus option for trying to achieve pin-sharp image quality. Weighing in at 408g with a detachable electronic viewfinder, it is lightweight and portable enough to take off the beaten track to the falls.