Vestrahorn Blue Pool – Iceland Landscape

Vestrahorn blue pool

Taken January 10th 2013

This landscape photo features Vestrahorn Mountain from Stokksness. The grass anchors itself in the black sand forming tussocks from the drifting sand. Small pools form after heavy rain or melting snow.

Camera Settings

  • ƒ/11
  • 24 mm
  • 20 sec
  • 400

Background

Vestrahorn is one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. Winter is a great time to photograph it because the angles of soft light are better in the afternoon. The location can be incredibly windy which is unpleasant in the sandy parts. The Winter storms allow the sand to cover the 1000s of tourist footprints and create incredible shapes and contours for the landscape photographer to work with.  After all that, this shot could have easily been taken in the Summer.  The views of the mountain are best from Stokksnes – a small peninsular.

Composition

As you can see, my camera is quite close to the ground on this shot. I am struggling to get a reflection of the misty mountain reflecting in the little pool. The low level eliminates any middle ground, so the composition is all about the immediate foreground and the dramatic mountain peak in the background.  Just having the jagged peaks reflecting was enough to make the shot much more dynamic.  So, even if you have to work hard to get a tiny reflection it is always worth it.  The depth of the scene is increased by the reflected mountain peak.  

Sharpness

F/11 is quite an odd choice when the camera is so close to the ground. But I didn’t require the mountain to be sharp so f/11 was covering only the foreground area. The advantage is nice crisp textures to immediately invite the viewer in.  the very close foreground was not so sharp.  This is the main reson for the 16:9 crop.

Magic Cloth

AV (Aperture mode). Live view with evaluative metering – weighted for the shadows + 2 stops compensation. With my 6 stop ND filter, I had to increase iso to 400 to get 20 sec.

The shutter speed of 20 seconds gives me around 2 seconds to play with the highlights. For example, 0.5 second sky exposure (reflex speed) could help add contrast to such a misty scene, but 2 seconds wouldn’t have burned the highlights, so the contrast could be achieved in post processing. Leaving the sky for 4 seconds would have been close to highlight burnout.

I opted for 1.5 second sky exposure with a karate chop action to cover the whole scene, then a careful exposure from bottom to the horizon (x2). Then I finish off the exposure by gently exposing the bottom corners.

My Camera Gear

This is the camera gear I used for this photo.

Canon 5D - full frame
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 l

Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod
B+W 77mm SC 106 ND

Sign up for News and Offers!

By Tony Prower

Tony Prower spent over 15 years photographing the landscapes of Iceland. Tony Prower is a pioneer of the Magic Cloth Technique and ran thousands of photo tours in Iceland over 10 years.

Leave a Reply