Many people often ask me how I travel to my Roamin’ with Roman Photo Tours workshop locations with my camera gear? I’ll try to answer that with the gear I brought with me to Iceland on my just concluded workshop. Iceland is fast becoming my favorite landscape destination mostly because I can travel light! This year, I traveled there with just four Sigma lenses; the 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM II, my new 24mm F1.4 DG HSM Art, the 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art, and the 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary. These four lenses would allow me to capture everything from the grand waterfalls to the puffin and Icelandic horses with everything else in between. The image up top of Selandjafoss and the colorful boat below are good examples of the ultra wide-angle view the Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM II making it my favorite lens when I want to capture that extreme view. I do not run perspective control (although I easily could) on the lens, as I really like the extreme look.
The go-to lens on most of my landscape workshops has to be the Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art. Its versatility of focal range allows me to compose and recompose quickly especially when I am in a location such as Jökulsárlón and the ever-changing icebergs. Photographing the begs on the black sand beaches can be challenging as you never can really tell if the bergs are moving as the light get’s low. I really like dragging the shutter to get the water to look silky so I used a Vü Sion circular polarizer and a 3 stop solid neutral density filter to get the look I was going after in both of the images below. Yes, the ice really is that blue on overcast days. I desaturated the ocean to a B&W in the top image.
The Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art is usually the first lens I grab when I have to hike and don’t want to carry much gear because of it’s great versatility and sharpness. Combined with the Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM II, I feel I have most landscape situations I will encounter out in the field covered!
One of the lenses I was most excited about trying on this workshop was my new Sigma 24mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens. Even though I wouldn’t be able to use it for night photography on this trip (it never gets dark enough!) I still wanted to get a good feel for the lens before I take it to Yellowstone and the Tetons in the fall and really put it though its paces. As a zoom lens fanatic, it took me a while to get used to moving myself rather than just zooming in or out but the sharpness and performance won me over very quickly. I am especially excited on trying this lens out for night landscape photography. As in most cases in landscape photography, you really have to rely on the clouds, so when they cleared out during a shoot at one of the many waterfalls, I simply placed a Vü Sion 10 stop solid neutral density filter and the circular polarizer in front of the Sigma 24mm F1.4 DG HSM Art allowing me to really slow the shutter speed down even during bright sunlight! This is where you are really happy to have a stable tripod because even slight movement during a 25 second exposure will ruin the image.
The day before, we had some diffused sun, which provided us with a very nice rainbow for a brief moment!
I really like the silky look water gets when you do long exposures and even though I have photographed the waterfalls near Mt. Kirkjufell many times, I am always looking for new angles especially when the clouds aren’t cooperating! When I headed out of the truck, I had mistakenly left the 3 stop solid ND filter behind so while I was happy that I still had the 10 stop filter along, I would definitely make sure I wouldn’t make the mistake again.
In the image below, I really had to be careful with my shutter speed because it was a bit windy. I used just the circular polarizer to still get a pretty silky look but avoid having the lupine blurry due to motion.
The last lens I brought with me to Iceland was the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary, which I would use for the puffin, horses, and even maybe some close-up work on ice. Even though the weather can be a bit rough, I chose the contemporary over the Sport to save the 2 pounds of weight allowing me to hand hold the lens much more comfortably and also allowing me to leave my gimbal head at home. The location I visit for the puffin can be a bit challenging as you have a black bird set against a black lava background. The auto focus performed like a champ and provided me with hundreds of keepers of these comical looking birds as they brought in food for the young.
The puffin weren’t the only attraction there as we came across some Great Skua with a day or so old chick. In the image below that, the chick is probably only a few hours old with a crack visible in the second egg. We didn’t hang around but for a minute or two so as not to disturb this incredible moment for long always keeping the birds well being first.
As usual, the stars of the show are the Icelandic horses. My two previous workshops to Iceland before, we never got that wonderful golden light near sunset to coincide with the horses being out in the open with a good background. This year we had amazing light for just a bit over an hour with some absolutely beautiful and somewhat cooperative horses.
I often use the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary to isolate landscape objects, like the small iceberg below, after I have photographed the scene with a wider-angle lens. I look for patterns in ice or in this case was drawn to the almost metallic look of the ice and the paint like reflection of the ice in the water.
I will leave you with one final image from Iceland, which was actually an idea of one of my clients from last year. I tried to put my own twist on it by using the Sigma 12-24mm at 12mm with the camera, lens, and me lying on the ground.
I really enjoyed traveling light this year and as you can see, the versatility of the four Sigma lenses I took allowed me to cover a variety of subjects and be prepared for everything the weather and the beautiful country could throw at me. Watch out for sheep on the road!!! I am already looking forward to next years return in both the spring and late fall.
About the Author
Roman Kurywczak is a professional nature photographer for over 12 years. A highly sought out national lecturer and proud member of the Sigma Pro team. You can find a complete list of his workshops, lectures, galleries, e-books here.