Friday, September 17, 2010

Brian Rueb's two-month journey across Iceland should prove to be one for the book

As an enterprising professional wildlife and landscape photographer based in Northern California, Brian Rueb recently decided it was time to do a book. "Following much discussion with my family, I decided to embark on what would be my journey of a lifetime -- a two-month photography trek this past summer in beautiful and hauntingly mysterious Iceland.

"Iceland is an amazing country dotted with glaciers, expansive moss-covered lava fields, crystal blue rivers, thundering waterfalls, and lagoons filled with icebergs. Not to mention the miles upon miles of coastline. It really is a landscape photographer's playground, and I intended to see as much of it as possible. The image above was captured at Lagarfljót, a large lake in eastern Iceland. Many believe a large Loch Ness monster type creature lives in the murky green waters, which may be the reason this house sits abandoned on its shore. On this night I saw nothing but a horse that followed me around as I photographed the shoreline.

"One of my favorite spots of the trip was a little area called Borgarfjörður Eystri, a series of mountainous areas along the Eastern Fjords of the country. A small bus dropped me off on a Friday with a promise it would return on Monday morning; and if I needed to get out before then, I could try to hitchhike. I spent the next few evenings exploring the many trails that covered the area. It's possible to hike here for hours and never see another person. One of my favorite aspects of photographing Iceland was the light. During most of June and July, it never gets dark, and on pleasant evenings you can expect a sunset lasting up to five hours… full of light, color and all the magic that seems so fleeting on a typical landscape shoot. On this particular night I had spent a solid 2 hours photographing fog and alpenglow on an adjacent ridge of mountains and was heading back towards camp when I noticed the light and clouds over these mountains. I walked around for a few minutes until I found this little tarn that fit nicely in the foreground. I used my Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo to polarize the water and add some reflection to it. I also used a 4-stop soft-step ND Grad to balance the bright sky with the darker foreground. After this image was taken, I still had 2 more hours of similar sunset lighting. I actually went to sleep because I had run out of things to photograph. How crazy is that?

"One of the goals for this trip was to head to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the western fjords region of the country, hoping I could photograph the Arctic Fox. The Arctic Fox has been hunted extensively in most regions of the country. One of the last areas where you can see them is Hornstrandir. On my first evening in the area, I set out to scout the area and get an idea where the foxes were living. Then I would figure out how to photograph them. As luck would have it, two minutes into my hike I almost literally stumbled on this little guy. He was only 2 feet away from me and didn’t seem too concerned that I was there. Within another minute I was photographing the fox. I followed him around for over an hour. He got so used to me that at one point he even took a nap while I sat patiently 8 feet away... waiting. One of the filters I used to photograph these animals was the Singh-Ray LB Color Intensifier. Not only does the filter provide a bright image in the viewfinder, it helps with the autofocus capabilities, and allows for a faster shutter speed than I could use with a conventional color enhancing filter. This filter also added a little more intensity to the orange eyes of the fox, and the lush greenery behind him. While I think most people use the filter for landscape images, I think it's perfect for wildlife.

"I also used my Color Intensifier for this last image of Skogafoss, a very large and iconic waterfall surrounded by lush green foliage in southern Iceland. I’ve seen various shots of this waterfall photographed mostly from the front, which made me eager to find a different angle. After a failed attempt to cross the river to get to the far side of the waterfall -- the water was too fast and murky -- I finally decided on a little perch about 2/3 of the way up the trail to the top. I carefully walked out a small dirt path to the edge of the cliff where I composed this image. Thankfully, there was no wind that evening and I didn’t have to battle mist from the falls in addition to my fear of heights. The Color Intensifier was the perfect filter. Since it only added about 2/3 of an f-stop to my exposure, I could use a sufficiently fast shutter speed to avoid over-blurring the water -- it’s critical to find that shutter speed that shows some water movement, but doesn’t overdo it. The Color Intensifier gave me the creative control I needed to get the image I had in mind as I crept out on that very scary ledge.

"This trip to Iceland was an amazing experience, and one that I’m now working to document in a book. Spending hours each day making photographs was both a creative challenge and a lot of fun. It truly would not have been possible without my filters. The unique light and weather conditions presented many challenges every day. Even though the good light lasted for hours, it was critical to have my filters on hand to help balance out very tricky exposures. I spent over a year planning this once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I had to be sure that I came home with the types of images I saw with my eyes. I knew it was imperative that I had my Singh-Ray filters with me to make sure I didn’t miss any of the amazing things I was going witness. To keep me busy while in Iceland, I took on several local projects with the Reykjavik and Fosshotel Hotel chains where I provided photographs in exchange for the occasional comfy hotel room to break up the many nights I spent in my tent."

You can see more of his work and follow Project Iceland for updates on new images and progress on the book at his website and follow him on Facebook as well. He also teaches a variety of landscape workshops at the Aperture Academy.

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