Iceland – Trip Preparation

It was Christmas Day 2011 when I got a text suggesting that Iceland might be a good choice of destination sometime soon. From there plans moved quickly and before the New Year had even arrived we’d booked a trip to Iceland to see the Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights.

To photograph the Northern Lights you have to think more about the conditions you’re going to be shooting in beforehand, and one thing I wasn’t keen on was my current tripod. I knew I’d need to take one with me, but the one I was using was old, heavy and not very flexible. So the first step was to pick out a new tripod. It took a couple of days to decide on what, but eventually the Manfrotto 055CX Pro (with a 084RC2 head) was the one I went with due to it being light weight and well made.

There was also the issue that I hadn’t done a great deal of nighttime photography before so knew that it would be essential to get some practice in before trying to photograph the Northern Lights. With three weeks to go I’d still not got this practice in, but had not yet gotten the new remote for my camera – an essential piece of equipment for getting steady shots with long exposures. It was also recommended to use a fast lens, so I borrowed my Dad’s 50mm f/1.8 mkII lens.

Still, with the assumption that the remote would arrive in time I prepared a list of what other equipment to take:

  • Canon EOS 5D mkII
  • Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
  • Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM
  • Tamron 2x Teleconverter
  • Canon 50mm f/1.8 mkII
  • Sony HDR-TG3E camcorder

To help a friend who was going too, and had only just jumped into using an SLR I set aside a 75-300mm telephoto lens and a spare tripod to take along. Only thing I couldn’t decide on was whether or not to take my Sigma 10-20mm for some wide-angle shots. I’d already decided though to leave the Tamron 90mm macro at home.

I’d also decided that taking dry bags for equipment would be essential as I’d read that you’re likely to get wet in Iceland – very wet in fact. So in addition to the dry bags I’d also set aside the waterproof cover for my camera in the hope of keeping it alive. Unfortunately I hadn’t figured out the best way of keeping my camera warm and would probably have to decide if or when required.