My wife and I traveled to Iceland in June. As with any vacation, the excitement ramped up as our departure neared. What caught me by surprise, however, was the buildup in pressure (no geothermal pun intendend) to “get it right.”
What was “it,” and why did I need to get it right? The answers were “the pictures” and “because of all the once-in-a-lifetime wonders that cannot be found within driving distance from home.”
Like any other self-respecting person who considers themselves creative but does not get paid to take photographs, I already knew that I was a “halfway decent amateur photographer.” I had an autofocus DSLR camera (that was used, at most, once a year), I always followed the Rule of Thirds, looked down my nose at Instagram filters, and never locked my knees. (That’s because a photojournalist and former co-worker at WQAD told me that. Once. In passing.)
Clearly, I knew my stuff. …Right?
In the final month preceding the trip, we were watching just about any video we could find on Iceland. I watched and re-watched one professor’s video on how to pronounce all the ð´s, þ´s, and æ´s until I sounded like the kind of guy who lived to stop a group conversation dead in its tracks to ensure that everyone’s correctly pronouncing Barcelona.
I don’t care. It’s fun to say Eyjafjallajökull.
…The point is, I also saw how unprepared I was to capture the beauty that would backdrop our trip. I set out for a book to help me out. I bought John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography and read that 2-3 times. Once for the gear recommendations, once for the entirety of the content, and once more to double check the gear I actually needed for the trip. While I didn’t follow Shaw’s recommendations like a multiple-choice shopping list, I did feel informed enough to understand why I went a different way with certain things (not that my way was best, it felt like the best for me at the time).
All in all, this book went a long way toward giving me enough of a foundation on which I could work. At the very least, it saved me from second-guessing every single decision I made.
Here are some supplemental lessons I learned, and by “lessons,” I usually mean ´’mistakes’ or ‘misconceptions’ that tripped me up. None of them are life-changing or groundbreaking, but if even one of these manages to save you a headache, then great.
(I’ll be posting a several collections of photos from Iceland over the next couple of weeks, and I’m sure they will determine just how big a grain of salt you should take with them.)