Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon South Iceland – Long Exposure Photography

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Iceland’s River Canyon

For my long lost son, Noí Þor 151209

Fjaðrárgljúfur is a river canyon in South Iceland. The incredible shapes of the gorge walls were formed over thousands of years of glacier floods from the huge Vatnjokull Glacier. Vatnjokull glacier is home to a few large volcanoes and is some 50 miles behind the gorge. The result is an open zipper shape in the Icelandic landscape. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is often closed to the public. The last 8 years of heavy tourism in Iceland has taken its toll on Fjaðrárgljúfur and the surrounding area. Who knows when photographers will again be allowed to venture down to the river to create beautiful landscape photographs.  My preference was always from the lower ground floor.  I felt that looking up gave the walls of Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon more regal shapes.  Like a row of bedrock Gods. They remind me of the stone heads on Easter Island.


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I was thinking of the three elements of Earth, Air and Water.  In my composition, I wanted the river to fill half the frame with water.  The white of the shallow rapids really makes the river interesting.  There is also reflected colours on the flatter parts of the river which gives interest to the Fjaðrár River right up to the illuminated rocks.  The real treat for me was having some colours in the sky.  So many times, I visited this spot with a plain grey sky and it’s just not the same.  I was please to be able to get a really good amount of cloudy sky into the frame.

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Long exposure

If you are near water such as a river, beach or waterfall, then a long exposure can help to communicate movement in the water. The flowing water creates lines that often complement a landscape photograph and the motion blur can be contrasted with the fine detail of a stationary rock, for example.. A slow shutter can be achieved with a dark filter (often called an ND filter), or by taking the photograph in low light, such as evening or night time.

Maybe you like to avoid burning the highlights in the sky like a average sunset scene, the Magic Cloth Photography is a good tool to have in your pocket and flexible for your needs. Magic Cloth Photography is a fantastic technique to record a high dynamic range scene.

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Long Exposure Gear:

Recommended camera gear.

Choose the right equipment for Long exposure photography. Your camera must be able to take a long exposure and live view is a bonus. A lens that can take filters is also important if you want slow shutters in daylight.

  • Sturdy Tripod – essential for long exposure work. I recommend Really Right Stuff or GITZO
  • Dark Cloth or card (larger than the front of lens and with a straight edge).  A black mouse mat is ideal!!
  • A 6 stop – ND filter – Like this: B+W 77mm 1.8 ND MRC 106M Filter For daytime work.
  • Full Frame Camera – full frame sensors work better with wide-angle lenses
  • Wide Angle Lens – to include foreground and sky.

Canon 5D – full frame

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 l

Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod

B+W 77mm SC 106 ND




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