PODAS Iceland 2012

Over the past couple of years my favorite hobby, photography, had been lain dormant for various reasons. But early this year I decided to go on a photographic workshop. After some thought I decided that it would be fun to try something new like working with a medium format camera, so I signed up for a PODAS workshop in Iceland.


PODAS, or Phase One Digital Artist Series, is a series of photographic workshops spearheaded by Kevin Raber, and the PODAS experience is something different. Over the course of a week you get to work with a state of the art medium format camera, a 645DF equipped with the IQ160 digital back. A number of instructors will be at hand to help you out, and like Kevin they are all photographers of outstanding merit. All available lenses for the 645 camera, Phase One and Schneider, will be at hand and at your disposal. You get to work with this gear in some photogenic location, be it New Zealand or Iceland, Namibia or USA. Everything is taken care of from you arrive at the airport and till the end of the workshop.

Iceland 2012

The team and attendees

Our instructors were Steve Gosling and Peter EastwayDaniel Bergman, Icelandic nature photographer, doubled as local guide and instructor. Drew Altdoerffer, photographer and tech support from Phase One, was the final member of Kevin's team. The attendees came from all over the globe and different walks of life, all with one common interest, photography. 

The experience

For me it was truly inspiring. On one hand the instructors offering kind advice and food for thought, on the other it was also interesting to see what people were doing at a new site; where would they go to shoot a particular scene. I think Kevin summed up the experience of this workshop really well in the final post about the workshop in Iceland on the PODAS blog

In our opening presentations at the beginning of each PODAS we emphasize our goal of providing the best workshop there is anywhere for our attendees. We stress the time we will be together, multiple instructors, and we stress the word fun, because that is what getting out and taking photographs is all about. This workshop accomplished so much more and also all of our goals. There we were amazing photographs, excellent weather, super instructors and some absolutely beautiful work created by the attendees who had come from around the world. We had Australians, Canadians, Americans, Russian, Norway, Germany, Swiss, Great Britain, Denmark and Iceland represented. There was no politics or even talk, everything was photography and it feels good to know that when individuals come together with a passion, nothing else matters. I’d like to thank my team, Peter Eastway, Drew Altdoerffer, Steve Gosling and Daniel Bergman. Without these folks we would not have had a successful PODAS. We are about to announce a few more PODAS workshops for this year and will announce the 2013 schedule this summer. Stop back here, or even subscribe to this blog so you receive the later news.
— Kevin Raber

You will find more blog entires, with a lot of images from Iceland and of the attendees, covering the Iceland PODAS 2012 under the tag "Iceland" on the PODAS blog

Working with the medium format gear

The first day or two I struggled a bit with the medium format gear. I have grown accustomed to the handling of my rangefinder camera; it is light, nimble and agile. The 645 with the IQ back on the other hand is heavy, and to get the really super sharp images this package can deliver, you have to work with a tripod, a sturdy tripod. And "agile" is not the first word that springs to my mind when I am working with a tripod. It pays to plan ahead and perhaps think twice about what the shot is all about before you get the camera out.

The size of the sensor of the IQ160 is much larger than a full frame sensor in a 35mm camera. As a consequence the depth of field is shallower on the medium format camera than I am used to from the 35mm for a given aperture. This means that you have to use a smaller aperture, and hence a slower shutter speed, to get some depth of field. Little by little I got the hang of it, pushed the boundaries and also worked with the camera without the tripod; super sharp is not always the best approach.

As you would expect with camera gear in this league, the image quality is superb. You have 16 bits color depth, and with the PhaseOne's software CaptureOne, the dynamic range can be extended to almost 15 steps. That may not tell a layman much, but trust me, it gives you a set of post processing opportunities other digital cameras will not provide; any modern camera can handle a perfect exposure - it is how highlights and shadows are handled that separates the wheat from the chaff. 

The tour

We started in Reykjavik, and on our way to Stykkishólmur on Snæfellsnes we made a stop at Hraunfossar. On the Snæfjellsnes peninsula we visited the Black Church at Buđir, Arnastapi, Hellnar and Malarrif. From Snæfjellsnes we drove back to Hvolsvöllur from where we drove out for an evening shoot at Seljalandfoss. The next day we drove out to Skaftafell on the southern side of Vatnajökull making a stop at Eyjafjallajökull, at Skógafoss and at Vik along the way. The next couple of days we visited the Jökulksárlón, Svinafellsjökull and the iconic Svartifoss. We were also treated to a zodiac ride in the iceberg lagoon, the Jökulsárlón, for a close encounter with the icebergs.

The images - a first selection

Below you will find the first selection I compiled from the images I made with the IQ160 equipped 645DF. I compiled this selection during the first few weeks after returning from Iceland. It may not be the selection I would make today, but I have decided to keep it this way after all; it represents the selection I made when the impressions were fresh. You will also find this gallery under the "Galleries" section in the top right hand menu - look for "PODAS-IQ160". I also took several images with my own camera, look for "PODAS-M8" in the "Galleries" section.

I will return to several of these and other images from the Iceland PODAS in blog posts in the weeks and months to come. Stay tuned.