A photography workshop is a great way to explore a new location, learn a new technique, or shoot without the strain of having to plan anything.
Earlier this year I attended Casey Kiernan’s (from Joshua Tree Workshops) Iceland Workshop. I had such a wonderful time that I wanted to share my experience with you.
What Made Casey’s Workshop Unique
The unique part about Casey’s photography workshop had nothing to do with his extensive knowledge of the country. Nor his experience in photography, or the detailed guides he provided us with. You’d expect that from any high-end workshop. No, the most unique part was our mode of transportation. The camper vans.
Unlike traditional photography workshops where you would stay in hotels or campsites, crossing fingers that the weather plays nice (it rarely does in Iceland), we took to the road and had the freedom to explore.
We were a pack of five different vans, and every day, we would check the weather, pick a location that had what we were looking for, and drive. Most nights we would scout out the Auroras, often driving late into the night, chasing them down.
Over 8 days, I drove a total of 2,500 kilometers, exploring the eastern and southern parts of Iceland. At the end of it, I came away with some of the most stunning photos of my life.
What I Loved About Casey’s Photography Workshop
A few weeks before we left for our trip, Casey provided us with a detailed PDF of everything we would need. This included:
- detailed information on the different locations we would and would not visit together (great for those of us who were arriving early)
- clothing to bring – I would have frozen without my ski pants, headlamp, two pairs of gloves, and waterproof boots
- camera gear to pack – I invested in some ND filters which made all the difference to my photos
The guide really made all the difference. The weather was brutal when I arrived, and without it, I would have been very lost and very cold.
The Location Scouting
Casey has been to Iceland several times, and his knowledge of which spots to go to and during which weather conditions really made all the difference. Not only were we able to go to a bunch of locations that you would never have spotted from the road, but we always arrived in the most favourable conditions.
Kirkjufellfoss looked great in the snow, but the 3km trek out to B-52 Fuselage would have sucked in the rain.
The Settings Help
Casey could tell you which camera settings to use for any shot off the top of his head. I assumed at first that we would need long exposures of 30 seconds or more for northern lights photography, but the truth is that they move faster than clouds, dancing around above you. With his help, I settled on a high ISO, a wide aperture, and a shutter speed of between 2 and 5 seconds per exposure.
The Editing Help
This trip was when I first realised that I wasn’t really doing my photos justice with my editing process. Casey would sit down with us most days, walk us through editing the photos we had taken, and show us his methods to make the most out of them. This was a huge help, so much so that we later even made a course on it.
What Could Be Improved in the Future
There’s very little that I would have changed about this trip, but there’s one thing that’s worth mentioning.
I have never given a camera such a hard time in my life. I lost part of the mode dial and my eyepiece, and cracked the end of a lens hood. Icelandic weather is brutal. We had two Canon 5Ds break during this trip. I think it was due to moisture, and we were lucky that with some extensive drying they came back to life.
Had photographers not had backup cameras, their trip would have been ruined. There wasn’t really an emphasis on this in the PDF that Casey sent out.
Remember your cameras are weather sealed, not waterproof!
Here’s some of the locations we visited. The photos speak for themselves, and it was really one of the most exciting trips of my life. I was like a giddy child when I first saw the Auroras. Consider that bucket list item checked off!
This trip was really special. Sure, the weather was harsh, the living conditions weren’t comfortable, and the Wi-Fi was unreliable, but I came away with some truly stunning photos and improved as a photographer.
That’s all I can ask for from a photography workshop. I want someone to show me the best locations, plan everything for me, teach me something new, and help me produce some amazing new photos. Casey ticked every box.
The workshop was by no means cheap, but it was worth every penny. I will enjoy the photos I took then for decades to come.
I also fully intend on taking more photography workshops with Casey, and I hope to see you there!
You can check out Casey’s workshops here.
If you’d like to learn more about how to take great photos of the Milky Way, check out our Complete Guide to Milky Way Photography.