Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice. On this particular trip, it was also the land of rain and wind. On our 10 day trip around Iceland, it rained for 8 days. We also had quite a few days of high winds with gusts up to 50mph.
So how did my OM Systems / Olympus gear fare in this weather? How did I use the computational photography features of my OM-1 to capture the beauty of this country in less than ideal conditions?
Let’s start with the OM Systems gear that I brought to Iceland.
OM Systems / Olympus Gear That I Took to Iceland
- OM System OM-1
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III converted to infrared
- Olympus 12-100mm f/4 lens
- Olympus 8/25mm f/4 lens
- Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 lens
- Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8. (For photographing the Northern Lights)
- Olympus 1.4x & 2x Teleconverters in case there was an opportunity for birds or wildlife.
This turned out to be a good selection of gear for the photography trip to Iceland. I used everything except the 2X teleconverter. I was hopeful that not all the puffins had left. However, that was not the case as we did not see any puffins. I did use the 1.4x teleconverter with the Olympus 40-150mm lens to photograph red-headed ducks.
The Olympus 12-100mm f/4 was a good all around lens for the landscapes, and the 8-25mm lens was great for close up, wide angle shots of some of the waterfalls and icebergs at Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. What’s nice about the compact OM System zooms is that you can stick one lens in your pocket instead of taking your entire kit on some of the longer, steeper hikes.
Even though it is not OM System / Olympus gear, I have to mention the iPhone 13 Pro. The iPhone is terrific for taking panoramas and quick videos of the beautiful landscapes in Iceland. The iPhone will also record the GPS location, which is handy since the OM-1 and OM-D E-M1 Mark III do not have GPS tracking.
The OM System OM-1 has IP53 weather sealing. Iceland put the OM-1’s weatherproofing to the test. Like I mentioned in the blog intro, it rained most of the days while we were in Iceland. On some days, the OM-1 and lenses were completely soaked after hours in the rain.
Also, with the high winds the camera was pelted with sea spray and fine sand from the black sand beaches. Through all this the OM System OM-1 and Olympus lenses were unscathed. A good practice is to wipe down all your gear with a damp towel after photographing in the sea spray. Salt water can be harmful to all photography gear.
One of the main industries in Iceland is tourism. There can be several large charter busses at many of the popular waterfalls near Reyklavik, and in the south of Iceland. This can lead to limited space for tripods for some of the best compositions. With Live ND, you can get that milky waterfall look without a tripod. You can also use it while holding the camera over the top of a railing or at the bottom of a bridge rail to get that perfect composition. Live ND can also be used to smooth the water on beach scenes.
The strong winds in Iceland also made it difficult to use tripods as well, and it is easier to keep the lens free of water spots from the rain and mist when the camera is not mounted on a tripod.
Northern Lights Photography
Starry Sky Autofocus can be used to focus at night. If your Olympus camera does not have Starry Sky Autofocus, you can also manual focus using the moon or other bright stars. Use the magnify function and focus peaking to get the right focus using the moon. Stars are in focus when they are there smallest point.
Night View Mode (OM-1 and OM-5) / Live View Boost (OM-D Series) can help with your composition during night photography. I like to turn it off once I have my composition as there can be a lot of static with this mode turned on.
Live Time is great for photographing the Aurora. You can watch the exposure progress on your LCD. I generally use the histogram in Live Time to determine when to stop the exposure. I change the Live Time refresh interval to 2 seconds when photographing the Aurora since my exposures are generally around 12-20 seconds long. You can only refresh the screen a maximum 24 times during Live Time Mode depending on your ISO. The refresh rate can be changed for Live Time by pressing the Menu button.
I like to add the settings for photographing the Northern Lights to one of my custom modes on the OM-1. That way I don’t need to remember to change all my settings back when shooting landscapes the following day.
Landscape Focus Stacking
The built in Focus stacking is frequently used for close up or macro photography. Focus Stacking can also be used for landscapes with a very close foreground object. This OM System feature was perfect for photographing icebergs at the Glacier Lagoon in Iceland. There many smaller pieces of ice along the shore of Glacier Lagoon that can be used as a foreground with the larger icebergs in the background.
For this feature, I did use a tripod and the RM-WR1 remote to make sure the camera was completely still during the capture of the stack. I found about 7 exposures with a differential of 3 and an aperture of f/7.1 worked well for this type of landscape focus stack.
Handheld Exposure Bracketing
With the terrific Image Stabilization of Olympus / OM System cameras, especially with the Sync IS using the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 lens, handheld exposure bracketing can be a great tool when photographing scenes with high dynamic range. In the above photograph, I used handheld exposure bracketing to capture the details in this sheep landscape photograph close to sunset.
Dog and Cat Subject Detection
There are numerous Icelandic sheep and horses grazing in the fields as you drive around Iceland. These make great compositions both up close and with the beautiful Iceland countryside in the background. I found that even though horses and sheep are not dogs and cats, Dog and Cat Subject Detection works quite well to focus on and track these animals.
Overall, my Olympus gear worked quite well with the challenging conditions during my Iceland photography trip. The camera fared well with the adverse weather I encountered while photographing Iceland. The computational photography in my OM-1 also helped to create great images of the incredible Iceland landscapes.
Written by Martin Belan
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