April 2014 - Smjor

Category: Newsletters 25 April 2014

The solitary figure of Mrs Wendy Noton scouting for passing minke whales on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Western Iceland. Canon 5D mkIII, 24-70mm lens.

Did you know the Icelandic for butter is smjor? Maybe not. You also may not be aware that the distance from Wellington, New Zealand to Reykjavik, Iceland via Shanghai and London is 12,933 miles. Practically speaking there are no places further apart on the face of our planet, a fact lost on most of us, but not one recipient of this mail; f11 Member Michael Brown. That's the journey he made a few weeks ago to join us on our Icelandic Photographic Adventure for just one week, before flying all the way home again. Madness? Well, I think so; I mean doesn't New Zealand have its fair share of glaciers and volcanic emissions? As we waited in the middle of the night for the geyser to douse us and our cameras yet again with sulphuric smelling spray I quizzed Michael on how Iceland's bubbling mud compared with Rotorua's. He dodged the question as we stamped our feet in the cold and gazed to the heavens, hoping for the clouds to part to reveal the Aurora. They didn't that night, but a few previously we'd been treated to the most spectacular display I'd ever seen, and over the Vatnajökull ice cap to boot. The gasps of awe from our posse was enough to warm Wendy's and my hearts, as were the glowing colourful displays on the back of their cameras. I guess the Northern Lights are one thing New Zealand doesn't have, along with artfully sculpted icebergs on black sand beaches, and a national dish of rotting shark's fin.

f11 Member Michael Brown on the Langjökull Glacier,
a long way from home.

As we drove out of Reykjavik in our Monster Truck with ridiculously large wheels on Day One of the Workshop the banter was already flowing, but I'd already decided I hated Michael Brown. Don't get me wrong, Michael is an affable Kiwi we already knew well from last year's Exmoor Course (insert link), but the expectation his long journey from the far side of the world belied was a burden on my shoulders. We needed to deliver, but would Mother Nature oblige?

A week previously Wendy and I had been holed up in a hotel at Dyrhólaey, snowed in and going nowhere. I had when piecing together the final details of the Adventure with our support crew in Reykjavik months before been concerned that a week spanning the spring equinox would be too late in the season for Iceland to be true to its name, but with our little 4x4 with puny wheels struggling to cope in the deep snow my worries had shifted to wondering if we'd make it back to Reykjavik in time to meet our group. Thankfully we did after scouting some of the ground we were due to cover, and some epic sessions behind the lens working on my own photography.

Waves breaking on Reynisfjara beach, Southern Iceland.
Canon 1Dx, 200-400mm f4 1.4x lens.

On the last full day of our Adventure Workshop Asgeir, our driver, was negotiating the ascent of the Langjökull Glacier. As we halted to allow him to reduce the pressure in the huge tyres the group fanned out over the expanse of virgin white surrounded by jagged volcanic peaks. By now following epic sessions featuring ice in all its forms, multiple fosses, crashing waves on black sand, jagged sea stacks, twinkling stars and pulsating aurora, not to mention tilting, shifting, exposing to the right and much jocularity the burden of expectation had lifted and I'd decided Kiwi Michael was a great guy after all. It hadn't all been plain sailing; Katie had fallen asleep when I was droning on about signal to noise ratio, Peter had discovered L series lenses don't float, Jan from Norway's head snapped off, and my resolve to learn a word of Icelandic a day hadn't got much beyond smjor. But as first Workshops in Iceland go it couldn't really have been better. We'll be doing it again next year, and, would you believe it, Michael's already talking about making the journey again. Thanks a bunch Michael; no pressure then.

Our Iceland Adventure Workshop group on the Langjökull Glacier.

Talking of Workshops you'll have noticed we don't do many; there's only so much time in a day, week, month or year, and and all the f11 stuff keeps me very busy. The next Workshop on the cards is our Exmoor Photo-Explorer Adventure in the autumn, closely followed by our just announced next Jurassic Coast Capture to Print Digital Workflow Workshop in November. Actually on that topic I'm now fresh from spending a day in front of the cameras filming Printing Tutorials for Canon. I learnt a lot doing it and am looking forward to passing that newly acquired knowledge and enthusiasm for the lost art of printing on to our f11 Members and Workshop Guests. The Jurassic Coast Capture to Print Digital Workflow Workshop will be an opportunity to do just that. It is the course where we take our guests right through the process from exposing on a cliff top at dawn to the moment a big beautiful print churns out the printer. If the black arts of post production seem a daunting minefield this is the course for you.

Join us on our next Jurassic Coast Capture
to Print Digital Workflow Workshop

We're working on the details of next year's Iceland Adventure now before going Live for bookings next month. If you can't make Exmoor, Dorset or Iceland be aware there's always the option for arranging bepoke one-to one or small group tuition to suit your needs. That's exactly what I'll be doing early in May with a small group on Jersey. I may have been to Patagonia and Tasmania, but never the Channel islands, so I'm looking forward to that mini-adventure. First though by the time you read this we'll be in Paris, working on a 4 Days In... Feature, video blog and tutorials in the City of Light for our f11 Member's Chasing the Light Online Magazine.

An image from this month's Chasing the Light Online Magazine. The Milky Way over Iguazu Falls, Argentina. 
Canon 1Dx, 14mm lens.

In April’s Issue of the Chasing the Light Online Magazine, we travel to the breath-taking Iguazu Falls on the Brazil-Argentina-Paraguay border as I try to do photographic justice to this magnificent landmark, dodge Park Wardens, and negotiate monkeys with G&Ts. In Stepping Back I recount the travails of a particularly fraught trip to the Taj Mahal in 1994. In Seeing the Light I contemplate mixed lighting, where the photographer must grapple with the vagaries of light coming from multiple sources. In the follow up to last month’s Hot Legs article and Video Blog, I and my Workshop Accomplice, Jonathan Gooding present a brand new Video Blog that explores tripod heads. In addition there are three of our usual post-production Video Tutorials, a feature of our magazine that seems highly popular amongst you f11 Members.

f11 regular David Taylor continues his Taylor Made series with an article that reiterates the benefits of shooting raw. For this month’s How It’s Done feature, world-class surf photographer Brian Bielmann shares with us the story of his stunning shoot at the Banzai Pipeline, Hawaii in December 2013. And for this month’s Guest Feature we are delighted to welcome French mountaineer/ photographer Alexandre Buisse, whose speciality is photographing the majesty of mountains and the exploits of fellow climbers whilst hanging on the end of a rope.

An image from this month's feature on
mixed lighting in the
Chasing the Light Online Magazine.
The Font Magica & the Palau Nacional at night,
Montjuic, Barcelona, Spain.
Canon 1Ds mkII, 70-200mm lens.

There's plenty more coming your way in the next months. If you've not yet twigged the Chasing the Light Online Magazine is published monthly for our registered f11 Members Membership is not free, it will cost you all of £36 a year, but for that you'll get access to every back issue, all 27 and counting of them, with all the features, videos, tutorials and a free download of my Composition Tutorials eBook. You'll also qualify for discounts on all sorts of stuff, like books, films, prints, filter kitsand more. By the way we currently have our filter kits (made by Lee Filters) in stock.

The Northern Lights over the Vatnajökull ice cap, 
Eastern Iceland. 
Canon 1Dx, 14mm lens.

After the Iceland Course finished Wendy and I had 4 delightful days of photographic self-indulgence on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, communing with nesting kittiwakes, curious seals and even a passing minke whale. Then two days after returning from Iceland I was standing in front of an audience in Newton Abbott presenting the latest incarnation of our Chasing the Light Road Show. I'd managed to incorporate a few Iceland images, edit a new introduction and insert some new video sequences, all of which seemed to go down well. Of course every time I put new stuff in I have to remove something else; a tough choice. I have to say though I'm pleased with the latest Show; by the time we present it in Preston on May 2nd, Hungerford on May 8th and Nottingham on May 27th it will have evolved still further.

In between those Shows we've a trip north, to old and new stomping grounds in the Scottish Highlands. Its all the name of producing fresh content for you, our f11 Members. The Online Magazine is where all the best stuff gets published. Every Issue represents a mountain of work to climb, but I'm loving doing it, and we're committed to just making it better and better. Lets face it if you're prepared to travel all the way from New Zealand to spend time with us you f11 Members deserve it.

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Every month we publish an issue of our unique magazine Chasing the Light exclusively for f11 members. With features from behind the lens and on the road with David Noton it combines stunning photography with David's unique style of writing. Technical features, humorous anecdotes, travel notes, a member's gallery, news and the stories behind the pictures make it an entertaining, informative and inspirational monthly read and information resource for all who love photography and travel. All this for less than the price of a coffee and a biscuit a month. F11 members can also download other exclusive content such as Despatches+ and video blogs for free as they become available.

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