Photographing Jokulsarlon Lagoon, Iceland

Large, colorful icebergs have come together to form great walls of ice at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland.

This photo was made around midnight from the shores of the amazing Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in southern Iceland.

It was a lovely mid summer's night and the photo was made while waiting to embark upon a 1-hour zodiac cruise that allowed me to explore many of the wondrous icebergs floating through the lagoon on their way to the Atlantic Ocean.

When Is Color The Best Option?

There's quite a lot of texture in the icebergs and the hillside on the right side of the image.

That much texture would usually suggest the image would be a good candidate for black-and-white rendering.

In this case, the incredible aqua color of the icebergs made color the obvious choice.

Wooden Men, Iceland

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How To Photograph A Big Landscape

The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is big, measuring 1.5 km in length and covering an area of 25 km it has a maximum depth of around 250 meters.

I was happy to have booked the extended 1-hour length cruise to photograph the most interesting ice formations and to explore further afield.

In fact I was taken quite close to the glacier from which the icebergs calve off.

It’s reasonable to assume that the best way to photograph a big landscape is to stand back and try to fit it all in with a wide angle lens.

However, that’s not what my experience has shown.

I find you can tell the story of that landscape, and your experience within it, by moving in close and letting small, interesting areas speak for the larger landscape.  

A Recommended Camera Kit For iceland

For my first trip to Iceland I used a Canon 5D Mark II camera, two lenses and, very occasionally, an extender.

When photographing from the shore I made use of a Canon 70-200mm f4 IS USM lens, occasionally in conjunction with a Canon 1.4x Extender.

While zipping around in the zodiac I employed my then Canon 24-105mm f4 IS zoom lens on a full frame Canon 5D Mark II camera.

The combination of large icebergs and a brilliantly piloted zodiac meant that, more often than not, I was photographing at the 24 mm focal length. And, for me, that means fun.

On a full frame camera 24 mm is a classic focal length that allows for a slight exaggeration in perspective and, as a result, a more dynamic image. 

It’s a focal length I really love working with.

During my second trip I was working with a Sony a7RII camera kit with the following three lenses:

  • Sony/Zeiss 16-35 mm f/4 lens

  • Sony/Zeiss 24-70 mm f/4 lens

  • Sony/Zeiss 70-200 mm f/4 lens

These days I like to keep my camera backpack as light as possible, while not sacrificing on the quality of the gear inside.

Wide Angle Lenses Are All About Perspective

I love the Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. The build quality is excellent and the image quality amazing in this most versatile lens.

It’s a great choice for landscape and architectural photography.

Most of all the coverage offered by the 16-35 mm lens is fantastic, which makes it a lot of fun to work with, particularly at wider focal lengths.

I’ve found the 16 mm end can be a godsend when photographing inside large public buildings and cathedrals.

While a wide angle lens does allow you to stand back and fit more information into the frame, when required, I much prefer to move in close and use wide angle focal lengths to produce more expansive compositions.

The dramatic perspectives achieved by using a wide angle lens in this way is one of things that can really separate your work from the rest of the pack.

Ice and feather on the black sand beach near the famous Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

I'm incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Iceland and the memory of  photographing Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, from both the shoreline and from a zodiac, on two separate occasions was a great thrill.

I’m very much looking forward to me third trip to Iceland. I just can’t wait till I return. 

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru