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Photography Gear for your Iceland Trip

A few months ago I was preparing for a three week landscape photography trip to Iceland. I had never been to Iceland, so I wanted to be fully prepared. Both in terms of clothing and photography equipment. I'm now back from the trip, and wanted to share what I found very useful during my trip. My trip was in the Autumn, so it wasn't brutally cold but neither was is balmy. Depending on the time of year you go, adjust the number and thickness of the layers accordingly. First up I'll cover my photography equipment, then ​in another post I'll cover the clothing I took with me.

​One thing to keep in mind is that you will need a wide range of focal lengths for landscape photography in Iceland. For example, a lot of my photos were taken with my ​Nikon 24-70, which is a great zoom lens. But, you also want to get close into some details and that's where the 70-200 comes into play. And on occasion, such as for Northern lights, the ultra-wide Tamron 15-30 is a great option. ​If you have a lens longer than 200mm, it might come in occasional use, but don't sweat it. 

Sometimes people wonder with digital photography if you still need physical filters. My answer is yes, they can be beneficial. For example, during a sunrise there's likely a large exposure difference between the sky and foreground. Throw on a 2 or 3 stop graduated neutral density (GND), and you can capture both the sky and foreground in one shot. And depending on the scene, you may need either a hard stop or soft GND. I suggest you have both, so you can use what's best for the scene.

​Photography Equipment

Camera gear will vary widely depending on what brand of camera you use. I shoot with a Nikon D850, so I'll cover lenses and accessories specific to that body. Other gear like filters are more generic in nature.

  1. Primary Camera body - Nikon D850 - One of the best DLSR cameras on the market. High resolution, high dynamic range, and fast. Great for sweeping landscapes.
  2. Backup Body - Nikon D850 - Backup body is important as Iceland is sparsely populated and if you damage your camera or it has a technical problem you are pretty much out of luck. Strongly urge a second body, even if it's just a rental. A backup body could be a step or two 'down' if cost is a major factor. 
  3. Tamron 15-30/2.8 Wide angle lens - Arguably a bit better quality lens than the Nikon 14-24/2.8, as the Tamron has vibration reduction. Note, both of these lenses need special filters as they have bulbous front elements. An alternative that can use regular filters is the Nikon 16-35 F/4 G ED.
  4. Nikon 24-70/2.8G ED - Amazing build quality, vibration reduction, but also fairly heavy. Super sharp lens.
  5. Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR - The latest 70-200 lens that is widely acclaimed as one of the best and sharpest zoom lenses ever made. Very heavy, but really is an exceptional lens.
  6. For neutral density (ND) filters I really like both Wine Country Camera and Breakthrough Photography X4 NDs. Both brands offer circular and 100mm slide-in filter versions. I recommend 3-stop, 6-stop and 10-stop NDs. In Iceland you really want long exposures for the waterfalls, so that usually means whipping out a filter. You should also get four more filters: 2-stop soft graduated ND, 2-stop hard ND, 3-stop soft graduated ND, and 3-stop hard ND. These are very good for controlling the sky exposure. So yes, that's 7 ND filters in your kit. 
  7. Breakthrough Photography Circular Polarizer - Their X4 line is really stellar, and no color cast. They also offer 'dark' CPLs, which is a combination of a CPL and a solid neutral density (ND) filter. Really great products. Useful for cutting out reflections on water, but less useful for skies in Iceland.
  8. For both 100mm and 150mm filter systems you need a good holder system. For that I strongly recommend Wine Country Camera. They, I think, have hands down the best filter holder system. It's not cheap, but you get what you pay for. "Light tight", exceptional ergonomics, and outstanding build quality. Can't go wrong. They've had a 100mm system for a while, but their 150mm system (for ultra-wide angles, such as the Nikkor 14-24 and Tamron 15-30) is brand new. The 150mm system will also work regular threaded lenses. Their 150mm system is 3D printed to perfectly fit unique lenses. 
  9. Microfiber cloths - You will need a lot of these, specially if you are shooting near waterfalls. Make sure you have a number of them with you at all times to keep your camera and lenses dry. You will likely encounter situations where you need to constantly wipe your lens to keep it dry.
  10. Altura Camera Rain Cover - It can rain A LOT in Iceland. Even if it's not raining, if you are shooting near a waterfall you may encounter heavy spray. Have this on you at all times to keep your camera dry.
  11. Thinktank battery holder - Perfect for holding your camera batteries.
  12. Thinktank memory card holder - Keep track of all your SD/XQD memory cards.
  13. EN-EL15a batteries - As the weather can get cold and you may be shooting a lot of frames, stock up on spare batteries. I had 4 with me at all times.
  14. Newmowa dual battery charger - Two of these will let you charge all 4 of your spare Nikon batteries at the same time via USB power.
  15. ROR Optical Cleaner - Keeps your filters and lenses clean.
  16. LensPen - Quickly dust of lenses and filters.
  17. Zeiss pre-moistened wipes - Great for on the go cleaning.
  18. Sandisk 1TB External SSD -  Use as a backup for all your digital photos.
  19. Sandisk hard travel case - Perfect for the SSD above.
  20. Epicka Universal Travel Adapter - 4 USB ports plus a plug adapter for Iceland. Perfect for charging your batteries and other USB accessories.
  21. Really Right Stuff carbon fiber tripod - Extremely well built, expensive, but light weight. Pick one WITHOUT a center column for maximum stability.
  22. Really Right Stuff BH-40 ball head - A must for your tripod. Don't skimp here.
  23. Really Right Stuff L-Plate for D850 - Great companion for the other RRS products.
  24. Dawn Di-GPS GPS receiver - Automatically geotag your pictures.
  25. Favorite memory cards and memory card reader. Always have several backup memory cards. I prefer Sony XQD cards and reader.
  26. Peak Design camera strap - An amazingly high quality and adjustable camera strap. I love the quick release feature.
  27. MindShift Gear FirstLight 30L - Stellar camera bag for all of your gear. Holds a bunch of lenses, 2 bodies, and accessories. If you want one that's a tad smaller, check out the MindShift BackLight 26L.

​Summary

​As you can see, that's a heck of a long list of camera gear. Missing is a flash, which I did have with me but never used while in Iceland. A big tip here is to pack two or more of ​critical gear such as your camera body, memory cards, and batteries. Most of Iceland is the wilderness, so don't think you can swing by a camera shop and pickup gear you forgot. Next up in this mini Iceland preparation series is clothing. 

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