Ultrawide Heaven: Laowa 17mm for GFX in Saint Peter’s Basilica Italy

On a recent 3 country tour of Africa and the Mid East, I had the chance to take the Laowa 17mm and capture some of the world’s most renowned architecture.  I knew I would be going to Saint Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican, and all my research said bring the widest lens you have.  I knew the GF 23mm (17mm at full frame) would probably leave me wishing for more, so I rented the 17 before leaving.

Saint Peter’s was the “focus” of this trip, so I spent several days there.  First to scout and take some sample images, and then back to polish certain compositions.  Hint:  Arrive early for the best viewing.

Wow is all you can say after touring the marvel of Renaissance art and architecture.  I was so glad I brought the 17mm and after a bit of a learning curve, MF and no tripods, I felt like I came away with many keepers.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Columns and Main Dome

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Columns, Chancel and Main Dome

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Columns and Domes

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Columns and Domes

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Golden Nave

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Golden Nave

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Columns and Side Dome

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Columns and Side Dome

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Wings Leading to the Main Dome and Chancel

Saint Peters Laowa 17mm GFX50s Wings Leading to the Main Dome and Chancel

I felt like the lens was sharp in the center and corners.  Colors were good, but my other lens was the Zeiss 85mm Otus and it’s hard to compare of course.

Canadian Rockies Fall Colors Highlights Part 1 Mount Assiniboine

So I decided to take a friend of mine who had never been up to the Canadian Rockies around Banff for Fall colors.  And a chance to try out the Fuji GFX50s medium format camera in this beautiful environment.

I put together a simple plan starting with two nights in the Mount Assiniboine area and Magog Lake campground.  I arranged for us to fly in from the Mount Shark helipad near Canmore and then set up camp and explore.  We got some nice light, met quite a few great people and did a lot of hiking to check out the fall colors in the area.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on my first visit to the area and was ready to compare to my Lake O’Hara experiences.  What I learned:

Lake Magog tent pads have very sharp rocks.
The water available is unfiltered.
It’s about a half an hour walk to the campground from the helipad.
The common cooking area is un-enclosed and unlit.

These are observations in comparison to the Lake O’Hara facilities and things to keep in mind when packing.  Beyond the camping, the surrounding beauty is unrelenting, especially in the Fall.

To get to the area, you can either hike 13 miles in or take a 10 minute helicopter ride:

Helicopter Pad Heading to Mount Assiniboine

Helicopter Pad Heading to Mount Assiniboine

Our Fjallraven Tent Ready for Anything

Our Fjallraven Tent Ready for Anything in the Lake Magog Campground

An abundance of Fall Colors around the Mount Assiniboine area.  Larches were turning and many more were ready to turn.

Trail Through the Larches Past Sunburst Peak

Trail Through the Larches Past Sunburst Peak

Golden Fall Colors Leading to Mount Assiniboine

Golden Fall Colors Leading to Mount Assiniboine

The main hike in the area is the climb up to the Nub to look back down at Sunburst Lake, Sunburst Peak and Mount Assiniboine beyond.

Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak from the Nub

Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak from the Nub

Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak Beneath Dramatic Skies

Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak Beneath Dramatic Skies

One morning down next to Lake Magog revealed a mist-covered lake that later cleared up to show Mount Assiniboine.

Mount Assiniboine in the Mist

Mount Assiniboine in the Mist

Mount Assiniboine in the Mist Golden Light

Mount Assiniboine in the Mist Golden Light

We spent two amazing nights in the Mount Assiniboine area.  We had to leave too soon for the next leg of our trip but hope to  be back next year for more amazing landscapes.

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:

5 Days in Iceland – A Photographer’s Eden – Part Four

Time to finally check out Stokksnes.  I’d done some image research and decided to go around sunrise at 3:30am to see how the light looked. I arrived at the Viking Cafe, closed of course, and set about figuring out the self pay station.  The land owner charges a small fee to roam his land for photos.

stokksnes iceland

The Stokksnes Self Serve Pay Station. Took a few tries but it worked and only charged me once.

I headed north out of the parking lot, which I later learned was an error.  If you want the typical shot that most people get at Stokksnes, you need to head east towards the Radar Station.  I kind of regretted my error but then no because I got some unique vistas and was able to catch a great sunrise as well.

So I wandered across beautiful black and past the “Viking Village Movie Set along the massive peaks of Vesturhorn.  The beach was mostly dry, with a tiny pool of water showing at this point.  It would grow considerably later on on my way back.  I reached the bog around which I could see Brunnhorn peeking past Vesturhorn.

At this point, sunrise skies were on fire and I was backtracking all over the black sand getting shots. I was in my Salomon shoes, and getting soaked but didn’t care.

Looking back the other way was good too, as is often the case with burning sunrises.

DSC01743

Sunrise clouds above Vesturhorn on the beach in Stokksnes Iceland

I kept wandering back along the beach, while watching the sunrise.  I felt like I got some nice shots even though I didn’t make it out to the typical area.  I was thankful for the solitude, great light and calm smooth beach.

I got back to the pool of water on the black sand which was growing as I watched.  Looking back towards Brunnhorn, it looked like mercury reflecting the skies.

vesturhorn iceland

Vesturhorn sunrise skies reflected on a mercurial pool of water.

Vesturhorn iceland

Vesturhorn and sunrise reflected

I made it back to the van and napped for several hours.  My Salomons were pretty much soaked to the core so I was happy I had several other pairs of shoes with me.  Eventually I ended up back in Hofn for coffee.  Daytime was either sleeping or scouting time.  I did a lot of both.  Checking the weather, I realized that the next morning was to be another day of gray rain so I had to make tonight’s sunset and sunrise count.  I planned on focusing on Jokulsarlon partially because I knew there was more to be found there and the ice had certainly been re-arranging itself. But also because I truly enjoyed being there.

stokksnes iceland

One more view of the beach at Stokksnes

 

5 Days in Iceland – A Photographer’s Eden – Part One

iceland sheep photography

Some of the many sheep I would encounter on my Iceland adventure.

I think I had been resisting  a photography trip to Iceland.  It certainly was the “hot” place to go.  Photographers in a steady stream went and came back with spectacular images. Instead, I went off and did the Everest Base Camp Trek in February and visited Banff in June.  I was certainly more than than happy with the shots I came back with.  A non-photographer friend of mine did the layover in Reykjavik recently and reminded me how impressed he thought I would be with the country.

So I got a call from a client needing my services in London and requesting that I set up my own air and travel arrangements with about a week’s notice.  At that point the Iceland stopover option came up again.  I did some research and looked into renting a camper to go exploring for 5 days.  I gave myself 5 days, considering this a preliminary visit of sorts.  People pointed out to me that I needed weeks or a month even.  I went with 5 days and it felt right.  And at the end of those 5 days I knew I would be back soon.

Day 1

Arrived in Keflavik and gocampers.is, the rental company I had chosen, picked me up at the airport and took me to their office in Reykjavik.  They had a range of vehicles available, and I went with one of the most basic.  A panel van, 2wd, manual trans and a mattress in the back.  My new home for a few days also included cooking utensils, pots/pans, etc for camping.  They also had a nice collection of camping chairs, larger stoves, sleeping bags etc for rent.  I had brought my own bag, a 10 degree down bag I use regularly.  I signed all the paperwork and off I went.  I had brought quite the pile of snacks from home but was pleased to find a market around the corner for some fresh fruit and juice. An hour later I discovered my van had heated seats!

iceland camping van

This was my home away from home in Iceland for 5 days.

Driving out of town was easy, just find Highway 1 and head east.  Drivers were polite and courteous, something I found throughout the trip.  I decided my goal was to get to Jokulsarlon, the Ice Lagoon and then sleep.

The scenery down Highway 1 was a revelation.  I was struck by the broad expanse of it all.  The peaks, the coastline, the highway off into infinity.  The sheep! Everywhere! Along the side of the road, far off on the hillside.  They were a constant companion on my horizon.

iceland camping photography

Heading east on Highway 1 with vast expanses of lush green cliffs.

I continued driving, and eventually stopped at two well-known falls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.  You can see both coming up from the highway so they are hard to miss.  I felt these were very well photographed by others so I didn’t stay long.  In between them on the highway is the parking lot for the crashed DC3 airplane site.  No signage, just a full parking lot and lots of people heading off to the beach.  I decided to catch that on the way back.

Seljalandsfoss falls iceland waterfall

Seljalandsfoss’s long drop into wildflowers

waterfall iceland skogafoss

Skogafoss doing its thing

Continuing towards my goal, there was this long stretch of road, lined with lupine and volcanic remnants.  The vastness of it struck me.  The wind struck me too as I opened to the van door to take a look having pulled off at one point.  I recalled the warning at the rental office about the wind being able to take your doors off.  They weren’t kidding.  On the road you see a lot of cyclists riding around the country.  Its on these windy days, and the car wash rainy ones that would come, that you really get a sense of their dedication.

iceland lava landscape

Lush lava fields off into the distance

iceland road travel photography lupine

Vast meadows of lupine along the road

I reached Jokularlon later that evening.  Sunset wouldn’t happen until 1130pm and even after that it never got dark.  Sunrise was at 330am.  There are two main parking lots at the lagoon.  The northern one has bathrooms but no camping is allowed.  Across the road and next to the beach is where you can sleep.  I parked my camper and pulled out my bag and crashed hard. The beauty created by chunks of glacier falling into the lagoon and washing out to sea and onto the beach would wait until morning.