Chris Schmid On Preparing to Photograph Iceland

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All images by Chris Schmid. Used with permission.

When it comes to adventure and landscape photography, Chris Schmid has to be one of the best that there is out there. Having just completed a special project in Iceland, Chris did what every photographer does when they market themselves–contacts editors, art buyers, etc to ensure that he can get work. Naturally, we wanted to know about the trip and preparations for it.

Chris tells us that he used 500px and Google Maps to find the best locations for him to shoot on the limited time he had.

Phoblographer: We know you shoot lots of adventure photos and have done lots of it with drones, but the Iceland images are more down to the ground. What do you particularly think attracts you to scenes to actually pick up the camera and take a photo of it?

Chris: Well, that’s a tricky question. I think what attract me to pick up my camera and choose to take a specific photo is the ability to tell a story with the images. Photography is a fantastic story-telling medium. Whether you’re telling a story with one image, a sequence, a series, or an entire portfolio, the possibilities are endless. Just ask yourself what story you want to tell, and you’ll see it’ll be much easier to choose what to capture during your travel. This is very exciting how each person will have a different story to tell. Put 100 photographers in the same place and you’ll get 100 different photos. Unfortunately I couldn’t use the drone as much as I wanted in Iceland due to the very bad weather condition we’ve experienced. So I was more focusing on ground images during this trip.

Phoblographer: Your Iceland photos seem to go through various terrain types. Besides camera equipment, how did you prepare for the rigors that nature might throw at you?

Chris: Sometimes getting the shot doesn’t just mean having the right camera equipment, it means also all the preparation around to take this shot. When you take pictures you should stay focused on taking pictures. What I want to say is that if you’re starting to be cold or uncomfortable, your brain will be not 100% focused on the images. If you want to come back not only with great shots, but exceptional images, you need to be at 200% of your capacity.

That’s why I’m very careful when I prepare my baggage and what I’ll bring. For example I always bring some headache pills with me, it doesn’t take any place but it can be quite useful. I also bring a torch and a knife because you never know what can happen when you’re leaving for some days out. Looking at forecast some days before departure can also helps to know what exactly I would need on place. I’m using Gortex jacket from North Face, they’ve the ability to be windproof and waterproof, they’re also light to transport which is a big advantage. If I’m going to the cold, I’ll add an insulated jacket under the Gortex in order to keep warm. That’s the kind of things you can use.

Phoblographer: How did you go about finding the locations that you did? Foot work? Google Maps?

Chris: When I’m travelling to a country for the first time, I’m always trying to do research on the internet first about the interesting points. I also do research on 500px to give me some examples of places. Then I use Google Maps to find the exact locations and start to make my route. I also buy the Lonely Planet guide because they can be quite useful for the accommodation or camping. During my first trip, I always bring a notepad with me so I can note some interesting places. The first travel is always more like a preview of the country. I always tell to my friends that it is better to be concentrate on a small part of the country than travelling all around the country. In my opinion if you really want to know a country you visit it minimum two times. For example in Iceland I was concentrate the two times on the South of the island, next time I’ll go to the North, and then I’ll comeback again to the North with a better vision of what I can do.

Phoblographer: What were the images for? A personal project?

Chris: The images we made in Iceland was a mix of assignment and personal project. We needed to create two short movies for Sony with the ActionCam. So Iceland was a good destination in order to test the ActionCam in harsh weather condition. And it was really harsh!!! Our car windows were broken by a storm, we’d wind up to 180km/h!

Our personal project was to complete the photography from our shoot made last August and also to record images for the future short movie called Capturing the Wild.