Our 10 day trip to Iceland where we took a campervan adventure around the entire country taught us a lot about traveling, the forces of nature, and the necessary camera lenses to capture this beautiful place.
While our forte is photographing couples, their love, their engagements, and their weddings – landscape photography is a passion we both have and are constantly looking to explore. Of course, no trip to Iceland would be complete for a photographer without taking many, many stop offs to capture images of the country. In so many locations, the landscape is so naturally attractive that almost anyone could snap a good, memorable photo.
When traveling to Iceland for photography, it is important to come equipped with the right gear, but also not overburden yourself where carrying needless equipment as some of the locations you will be exploring require a lot of hiking. For most of our trip, we carried a rather heavy backpack filled with lenses, polarizers, and camera bodies – and on our next visit to the country, we will no doubt be packing only the essentials. Click here if your’e interested in knowing more about what photography gear (not just lenses) you should bring to Iceland!
5 Essential Canon Lenses for Iceland Photography
Before we dive in, let us preface this real quick – we photograph with Canon gear, and as a result this article will be specifically referencing Canon lenses that we have used while traveling in Iceland. If you shoot with another brand like Nikon, Sony, Olympus, etc. you should be able to find a comparable lens, so most of the information provided should be useful for you anyways. Also, as we strive to be transparent with you, included in this section will be referral links to Amazon, where if a lens is purchased we make a small commission at absolutely no additional cost to you.
Without further ado, let’s chat about our 5 essential Canon lenses for photographing Iceland:
One of our favorite lenses in general, the Canon EF 70-200mm, is excellent for landscape photography, in particular when your perspective will require zooming in on your subject. Often, photographers who travel to Iceland will first reach for a wide angle lens to capture the large landscapes, but there is no doubt value in getting up close in some areas, and even creating abstract images through a narrower focal length. If you are looking to capture images of people or wildlife in the context of these beautiful landscapes, this can also be a great lens as it allows for maximum discretion. On a few occasions, we couldn’t help but notice couples or people perfectly positioned to show the scale of some of Iceland’s environments – like the Svínafellsjökull glacier.
The Canon EF 50mm is another lens we always have on hand. In the context of photographing Iceland, it provides a really safe focal length for both up-close and landscape photos. As with capturing photos during the wedding day, it comes in handy in particular when looking to shoot at a focal length that appears natural, like the human eye. As a result of this, it provides a very human-like quality that caters well to documenting the environment in Iceland, as opposed to contorting it to look specifically like it is being seen through a photography lens. It is also great for getting up close with some of the scenery. The diverse and colorful plant life in particular is great, and shows well through the eye of this lens.
Our go-to wide angle lens is the Canon EF 24mm prime. For most environments, we found that 24mm was more than sufficient to effectively capture the landscapes like we wanted. This prime lens in particular has beautiful color and clarity, which is why you will find we use it in many, many landscape photos; as well as for some unique and beautiful portraits back home. When faced with giant mountains, soaring fjords, and the diversity of waterfalls in Iceland, a 24mm is a must have.
If you are looking to pack as light as possible, you could probably skip the Canon EF 85mm if you are already carrying the 70-200mm. However, it makes our list, frankly, because it is one of our favorite lenses – and more specifically – because it provides an excellent open aperture perfect for portraits and photos of smaller foreground subjects in the context of the larger natural environments Iceland has to offer.
But wait…what does portrait photography have to do with capturing Iceland’s landscapes? The answer is simple for us. Sometimes, photos just plainly of the environment are not all that interesting, and would benefit from having a subject in the foreground. In simple terms, we like taking photos of Icelandic horses at a wide aperture in order to blur the landscape in the background, creating a creamy bokeh that utilizes the natural landscape to great artistic effect. In one particular instance, we took photos of one another at Berzerkjahran lava field on the Snaefellsness Peninsula – and the resulting background blur creates a painterly effect as the volcanic mountain behind us blends its natural hues to look like a watercolor.
Lastly, the Canon EF 16-35mm is an excellent lens for wide angles of Iceland’s landscapes. During our first trip to Iceland, we did not have this on hand, and in retrospect it is a lens that is really fundamental for capturing the largeness of many of the environments. Additionally, the wide focal length of 16mm is commonly used in photos capturing Iceland’s landscape – and it is obvious when you are there why – especially when standing in front of a massive waterfall like Dynjandi (“the thunderous”) in the Westfjords. Our 24mm was not the most suitable for this particular waterfall, again, especially as we got up close to it – and after the long journey just to get to Dynjandi, we only wish we had a wider lens for capturing it.
Update 8-13-18: The 16-35mm lens mentioned above has turned out to be one of our preferred lenses when we need flexibility in our wide angle shots. In the context of our photo business, we have started using it much more often when time isn’t necessarily on our side to have both a portrait lens (35mm can be used for this) and a wide angle lens. It’s an amazing lens, and could honestly make the need for the 24mm prime or even 50mm unnecessary weight in your camera bag if you want to travel light.
Our 10 day trip to Iceland was breathtaking.
As lovers of nature and hiking, this country is just filled with a ton of things to see. As photographers, this was really enhanced so much as we would often find ourselves stopping frequently on the side of the road to capture pictures of just about everything. While there are many popular sites to visit for photography, you trip to Iceland will easily become your own adventure as you fall in love with the diverse landscapes there. Traveling to Iceland with the right camera lenses is essential for making the most of your trip as a photographer, and we hope our small list of 5 Canon lenses we recommend for this trip will be helpful for you.