Visiting the Icelandic Highlands Landmannalaugar Fuji GFX50s Part II

If you are here, you have to hike a bit to see the surroundings.  So I did some research and found a vigorous loop that would take me around the area and provide amazing views from above.  One source recommended Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil, one of the longer hikes, but with a huge payoff.  I set out early hoping to be in the views around dusk.

The first part takes you up and over several peaks with incredible vistas in every direction.  Each peak seemed to be better than the last.  I largely had a place to myself, only running into four other people.

Hiking the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands

View towards Bláhjúkur, Brennisteinsalda and Laugahraun along the hike.

Lone Hiker Along the Suðurnámur mountain ridge, Icelandic Highlands.

Lone Hiker Along the Suðurnámur mountain ridge, Icelandic Highlands.

Hiking the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands

View along the Jokulgilskvizl between the Barmur Ridge in the Icelandic Highlands.

About an hour into the hike, I got hit by a strong rain squall.  Fortunately I had my parka with me and slipped into it.  There was enough wind that I figured it would pass, and it eventually did.  I talked to two hikers who said the rest of the way was sunny and clear.

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Two hikers I talked to about the weather…

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 100-300mm lens

Views over the ridge at Frostastaðavatn lake and beyond.

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Massive geological features along the trail and the lava fields of Graenagil to the left

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Golden light on the green landscape of Landmannalaugar.

The trail and its views were captivating.  I lost sense of time, except for the sunset coming on brought me back.  The rain had indeed passed.  I started to descend to the valley below, taking care going down the slopes slick with loose gravel.

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Trail to the valley below in Landmannalaugar

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lens

Tiny sheep on the golden hillsides of Landmannalaugar.

Views from the Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil in the Icelandic Highlands. Fuji GFX50s and 32-64mm lensIt felt good to be descending but I also missed the views from up on high.  More in Part III.

Visiting the Icelandic Highlands Landmannalaugar Fuji GFX50s

I have been enjoying my Fujifilm GFX50s camera since the moment I bought it last January.  I knew I had to get back to Iceland with it and see how it captured the fascinating landscapes there.  I also wanted to visit the Highlands around Landmannalaugar for the first time along with my many usual favorite locations there.  So I booked a sturdy 4×4, did a ton of research and off I went in early August.  I also packed two drones to capture the vast landscapes.

Drones and Luggage Heading to IcelandI got into Iceland and quickly heading along the Ring Road and then to the Highlands via F Road 208.  30 miles to Landmannalaugar it said.  How bad can that be?  Well its about 3 hours of rocky rutted road with 6-7 stream crossings deep enough you leave a wake.  Crazy but incredible.  The scenery began to change to wild hillsides of contrasting green and brown with occasional blue.  This was what I was after.  I put the drone up to see how it looked from above.

Driving to Landmannlaugar Iceland Drone Views

Driving to Landmannalaugar Iceland Drone Views

Driving to Landmannlaugar Iceland Drone Views

Driving to Landmannalaugar Iceland Drone Views

I reached the campsite area around Landmannalaugar and set about capturing some dusk light images of the area

Landmannlaugar Iceland Blue Mountain Fuji GFX50s

Landmannalaugar Iceland Blue Mountain Fuji GFX50s

Landmannlaugar Iceland Half Moon Rising Fuji GFX50s

Landmannalaugar Iceland Half Moon Rising Fuji GFX50s

Landmannalaugar Iceland Plains of Barmur Fuji GFX50s

Landmannalaugar Iceland Plains of Barmur Fuji GFX50s

Landmannalaugar Iceland Blue Mountain and Campground Fuji GFX50s

Landmannalaugar Iceland Blue Mountain and Campground Fuji GFX50s

Landmannalaugar Iceland Plains of Barmur Fuji GFX50s

Landmannalaugar Iceland Plains of Barmur Fuji GFX50s

There are many hikes in the area and I decided to take on the most rewarding but also roughest one. Suðurnámur mountain ridge and Vondugil is a 4-5 hour adventure with spectacular views in every direction.  I planned on doing it in the evening for the best dusk light.

More on that in my next piece.

Fuji GFX50s Camera Sunrises and Sunsets

I have to admit my Sony a7r2 has been abandoned in the gear closet.  Why would I do this in favor of the relatively massive Fuji GFX50s and lenses?  Image quality.  Details, tones and colors.  Mostly how all this adds up to spectacular sunrise and sunset captures.  The GFX50s has been thrilling me with how it captures one of my favorite subjects:  Landscape sunrises and sunsets.

These images really take me Back There and what the Fuji does with colors, details and tones in Velvia setting is simply beautiful to me.

Some recent samples:

California Coast With Fuji GFX50s

We needed some time out of town and Cannon Beach didn’t seem far enough away so we headed to Big Sur and Carmel, California.  I was really looking forward to getting some time with the Fuji GFX50s medium format camera and various lenses along the coast for some hopefully dramatic shots.  To quote Fstoppers:

The best camera isn’t the one with you, it’s your best camera, so make sure that’s the one with you.

So that’s why my A7R2 is in the closet at the moment and I can’t seem to be separated from my GFX50s…

Lens lineup for this trip was as  follows:
Fuji GF 23mm (18mm in 35mm terms)
Contax Zeiss 100-300mm
Contax Zeiss 50mm f1.4
Canon 16-35mm f4

Also brought a fistfull of ND and polarizer filters for the lenses and my Gitzo 0540 tripod.  And my Kipon AF adapter to make the non-native lenses play nice.

In retrospect, I used the 50mm and the 23mm the most.  I really like the rendering and colors of these lenses, and their compact size.  I could have done without the Canon 16-35/4 and might eventually replace it with the Fuji GF 32-64 lens.

Now to some photos from the trip:

Purple Echium Blooms Along the Beach in Carmel - Zeiss 50/1.4 on Fuji GFX50s

Purple Echium Blooms Along the Beach in Carmel – Zeiss 50/1.4 on Fuji GFX50s

The Lone Cyprus Along the 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach - GF 23mm lens on Fuji GFX50s

The Lone Cyprus Along the 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach – GF 23mm lens on Fuji GFX50s

Bixby Bridge and Highway 1 in Big Sur California - Zeiss 100-300mm on Fuji GFX50s

Bixby Bridge and Highway 1 in Big Sur California – Zeiss 100-300mm on Fuji GFX50s

Big Sur Wave Motion At Point Lobos - Zeiss 100-300mm on Fuji GFX50s

Big Sur Wave Motion At Point Lobos – Zeiss 100-300mm on Fuji GFX50s

Surf Drama and Wildflowers at Point Lobos - Fuji GF23mm on Fuji GFX50s

Surf Drama and Wildflowers at Point Lobos – Fuji GF23mm on Fuji GFX50s

Black and White Cyprus Grove at Point Lobos - Fuji GF23mm on Fuji GFX50s

Black and White Cyprus Grove at Point Lobos – Fuji GF23mm on Fuji GFX50s

Garrapata Coastal Dusk Scene - Fuji GF23mm on Fuji GFX50s

Garrapata Coastal Dusk Scene – Fuji GF23mm on Fuji GFX50s

Calla Lily Soft Light Bokeh - Zeiss 50mm 1.4 on Fuji GFX50s

Calla Lily Soft Light Bokeh – Zeiss 50mm 1.4 on Fuji GFX50s

Flowers Montage Soft Light Bokeh - Zeiss 50mm 1.4 on Fuji GFX50s

Flowers Montage Soft Light Bokeh – Zeiss 50mm 1.4 on Fuji GFX50s

Various Zeiss Prime Lenses Adapted Onto the Fuji GFX50s

..and one very old Canon prime.

How did this happen?  Well my Sony a7r’s second shutter blew apart during a sunrise timelapse and I found myself looking into another camera body. I was going back and forth considering another a7r2 or even the a7r3.  Looking around, I came across the Fuji.  I’ve always wondered about digital medium format for landscape photography.  I rented one for the weekend and set about adapting my various Canon-mount Zeiss lenses to it.  Adapting lenses onto the GFX50s leads one into the myriad of adapters available with their pluses and minuses.

As we know, renting can lead to buying, and within a week I found myself with an almost new GFX50s.  My initial challenges were figuring out the menu system and dialing in manual focus.  Most of the online tutorials seemed to leave out an implied step or two.  Eventually I got there.  I tried adapters from Fotodiox to Viltrox and eventually settled on the Kipon AF adapter.  I meant to try to the Fringer but ordered the wrong size and by then, I was happy with the Kipon.

I adapted on my Zeiss 85 and 28 Otus lenses, my 135mm f2 ZE lens and even my old Contax 50mm f1.4.  The 28 Otus had the most vignetting.  All lenses performed well. I was especially happy with the AF using my almost 30yo Canon 200mm f1.8 lens.  Much snappier and more accurate than the Sigma MC11 or Metabones IV adapters on my Sony a7r2.

A few photos from my first few days with the camera.  Very impressed with the details and tonality.

Smith Tower Blues Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 85mm Otus lens

Smith Tower Blues Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 85mm Otus lens

Seattle Sunset Fuji GFX50s and Contax 50mm lens Handheld Shot

Seattle Sunset Fuji GFX50s and Contax 50mm lens Handheld Shot

My Contemplative Cat Fuji GFX50s and Contax 50mm lens Handheld Shot

My Contemplative Cat Fuji GFX50s and Contax 50mm lens Handheld Shot

Second Beach Sunset Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 28mm Otus lens Handheld Shot

Second Beach Sunset Fuji GFX50s and Zeiss 28mm Otus lens Handheld Shot

Smith Tower Dusk Fuji GFX50s and Canon 200mm f1.8 lens

Smith Tower Dusk Fuji GFX50s and Canon 200mm f1.8 lens

Lake O’Hara Fall Colors Camping

For the second year in a row, I decided to head to Lake O’Hara for some camping and fall colors photography.  I love this place.  Alongside awesome scenery including towering peaks and golden larches, access is restricted so its not too crowded.  Two ways to overnight at the lake:  Camping in the campground or staying at the Lodge.

Having no luck with the Lodge waiting list, I decided to camp for a few night and hope for good weather.  After an 11 hour drive from Seattle I was ready for an adventure.  I learned a lot from last year’s Lake O’Hara camping.  First was that it pays to bring real food and cook it at the campground.  Second, bring the warmest gear you have.

In the end, I overpacked a bit and got a lecture from the staff before boarding the schoolbus that takes you up the fire road to Lake O’Hara.

banff, lake ohara, camping, gear

Lots of gear and ready for cold overnight temps

I setup my tent on pad 26 and got situated for the days ahead.  There was a little less snow than last year so people were socializing around the campfire.  I relaxed for the rest of the evening since the skies were cloudy and the light wasn’t good.

My Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault tent at Lake O'Hara

My Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault tent at Lake O’Hara

I peeked out of my tent around 5am the next day and saw stars above so it was on.  I geared up and headed for the Opabin Plateau.  Having seen and photographed the view from the Plateau over the lakes, I decided to explore the larches and lakes farther in instead.

I found a winter wonderland of larches, frozen tarns and towering peaks.  A few of these are below.

Almost Frozen Opabin Lake and First Light on Peaks Beyond

Almost Frozen Opabin Lake and First Light on Peaks Beyond

Mount Huber Catching First Light

Mount Huber Catching First Light

Mount Schaffer Catching Morning Light Above Lake Opabin and Golden Fall Colors

Mount Schaffer Catching Morning Light Above Lake Opabin and Golden Fall Colors

Opabin Plateau Golden Larches and Towering Mount Schaffer

Opabin Plateau Golden Fall Colors  Larches

I wandered along the frozen trails for about an hour before the light lost its softness.  then I headed back down to the campground for breakfast and some rest. The lakeside cabins of the Lake O’Hara Lodge were basking in warm morning light.

Lake O'Hara Lodge Cabins Reflection Just After Dawn

Lake O’Hara Lodge Cabins Reflection Just After Dawn

Part 2 coming up…

 

Learning To Fly: DJI Inspire Pro and Mavic Pro Drones

My first drone a few years ago was pretty basic by today’s standards.  Low quality camera, a few minutes of battery life.  No object avoidance:  You were truly on your own.  I flew it a few times, then it went in the closet.

Something about the DJI Mavic Pro made me want to check it out.  I got one and took it to Iceland where it flew once.  My mind was elsewhere.  Back home, I flew it up around Mount Baker and down at Mount Rainier.  Drones had clearly come along a way.  Tons of features, compact and easy to fly.  A reasonable camera for the price.

Of course, coming from Sony a7r2 and Zeiss lenses, I wanted more from the camera.  I looked around and realized I needed a DJI Inspire.  What I really wanted was the included X5 camera which allows different lenses and a nice micro 4/3rds sensor.  It comes with a Leica-ish 30mm kit lens and I recently added an Olympus 90mm 1.8 lens as well.

So the journey begins in drone photography and videos.  Here’s a sampling of what I’ve come up with so far.  Honestly, it’s a bit daunting sending that much money up in the air.

Salt Marsh Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Salt Marsh Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Tideflats Colors Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Tideflats Colors Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Tideflats Colors and Patterns Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Tideflats Colors and Patterns Aerial Photography DJI Mavic Pro

Aerial Photography Drone Rainier White River

Aerial Photography Drone Rainier White River DJI Mavic Pro

Above the Forest and Road

Above the Forest and Road DJI Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

Above the Lake Tipsoo and Road at Defrost DJI Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

Drone Photography Road Through the Forest Dji Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

About to Land through Sunlit Trees DJI Inspire Pro

Drone Photography Rainier at Sunrise 90mm

Drone Photography Rainier at Sunrise DJI Inspire Pro 90mm

drone photography, aerial photography

Mount Rainier and Yakima Peak at Sunrise DJI Inspire Pro

aerial photography, drone photography, iceland photography

Aerial Photography Fresh Snow on Peaks in Iceland DJI Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

Nooksack River Heads to the Sunset DJI Mavic Pro

drone photography, aerial photography

Smaller Rivers Lead to Larger Ones DJI Mavic Pro

And finally a video from Rainier this morning