Category Archives: scenery

Iceland – Land of Ice and Fire has a release date!

first off, apologies for the lack of activity on here for so long, many reasons, main one being that its been very time consuming going through the post production process! its not the most dynamic thing to watch either, a computer screen, but I will do a post on all the tech workflow in due course.

Anyway, the good news is that we have our transmission date set!!!!

…..fanfare/drumroll……

It will be broadcast in the UK on May 1st, BBC2 at 9pm

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There will of course be a US release in due course on Animal Planet, as soon as I get it I’ll pass it on. in the meantime, here is a link through to The Natural World BBC website

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnnh

and the BBC Earth website is always a good place to visit

http://www.bbc.com/earth/uk/sections/on-location

The Natural World is one of the gems in the BBC’s Natural History Unit, its the longest running series from them in fact, making a dozen or so films every year on a huge range of subjects To them variety is the key, its not restricted to looking at one habitat, species or animal. Anything goes really, as long as it makes a decent film! Hopefully our film will live up to the high expectations, only the viewers can decide that, so tell all your friends and make a date for friday night BBC2 9pm!

You’ll meet the fox family, some very cute ducklings being trained by Thor and his family, the iconic and special Icelandic Horses with Halldor and Snorri, and of course the spectacular Bardarbunga eruption in all its nightime glory.

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more details about extra clips coming soon!

The Horse Roundup

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So the big day arrived, it was roundup time!

The morning dawned fine and chilly, overnight snow had dusted the mountain tops, the first snows of the oncoming winter, bringing a timely reminder that summer was over and winters icy grip was just round the corner.

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We’d spent the week preparing for the event, working out exactly how we were going to film 500 wild horses and 200 ridden horses as they thundered from one valley and moved about 4km to the pen where they would be sorted and returned to their owners. There they would spend the winter down on the lowlands around the farm.

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The Icelandic Horse is more than capable of enduring the winters here, but only the fittest would survive, so the youngsters are given the best possible chance of making it through the winter by living in the slightly more comfortable lowlands and away from the harsh extremes of the mountains.

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Hallador and Snorri’s family and friends had all gathered at the farm house, their horses saddled and ready to go, children laughing and playing, there was a great buzz about the place. The roundup is a very big event in the social calendar here in Skagafjordur, this is a very prosperous agricultural area and the only county in Iceland where horses outnumber people so there is a very rich tradtition of horsebreeding and horse training. With such a long history. Its no surprise that to the families that have lived here for centuries, Horsemanship is a highly prized skill, and something that Hallador and his family have running deep and strong in their blood.

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The day started for them with a huge pot of lamb stew (one of the farms own lambs, no supermarket imports here) prepared by Maya very early that morning. It was delicious, and was something we’d come back too at the end of the day for the après roundup party, washed down for the riders with a bit of fortifying Brennevin and beer. Then the group (about 30 family and friends) mounted up and set off for the mountains, to join the other riders rounding up the horses.

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Much of our time had been spent planning the filming operation. It was turning into a bit of a military operation, with bits of paper, maps and weather reports lying around the place. There’s only the 3 of us, with the option for some fixed cameras (gopro and timelapse), we had no “air support” (though someone did fly a camera drone over the roundup bizarrely, much to the consternation of the horses) so everything had to be done from the ground. With a river crossing, a huge valley, a roundup pen and over 2000 people to work around, we had our work cutout!

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Neil drew the short straw (and took time off from his riding lessons, plus he’s the youngest and fittest of us) and hiked up the nearest mountain to set up a timelapse and film into the next valley, whilst Ian and myself stopped filming bullocks and went off down towards the river crossing in the van, buoyant in the hope we could predict exactly where the horses were going to cross. A couple of GoPro’s were placed in likely spots and were ready (sort of!), the wait began.

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Now as waiting goes, this has to be one of the most spectacular places to play the game. The snow capped mountains and wild carved valleys are stunning. Time slipped by and we were rewarded with the sight of wild horses coming up the valley towards us and the crossing point.

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Things never go quite to plan of course and the horses decided to make a last minute adjustment to their crossing point, leaving Ian with a mad 100 metre dash to get back into position. As the the horses made their way up and out of the valley, Ian and myself got ourselves back to the roundup pens, meting up with a very out of breath Neil who had made his descent from the mountain.

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The horses were corralled into a field and the huge crowd got themselves into position to se the horses being sorted. Its done in batches of 50 or so as they wouldn’t all fit in at once.

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There was an intense level of excitement around the place, you could feel the adrenaline levels going up. on a blast of a horn from Hallador, the first horses were led into the central arena to be sorted, and then the madness starts as horses rush headlong around the arena, pursued and herded by their owners…its a bit like jumping headlong into a wildebeest migration!

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This part of the proceedings is a very ancient custom, it was one of the few times of year when all the farming families were gathered in one place. Inevitably, it was a place where scores and disputes between farms and farmers were settled, in a gentlemanly fashion, with fists, horse trades were made, and the young men were able to prove their worth by wrestling errant horses away from the melee into their pen, much to the admiration of a potential suitor. Nowadays of course, things are a little different, but it’s still a time of great celebration, with singing and large quantities of your favourite tipple being consumed, and of course the girls are still there to be impressed!

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Its really quite something to see people boldly going into a throng of wild horses in a confined space, separating them out with great skill (and sometimes brute force – no easy task with a wild horse) and then preparing for the next group.

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The love and care lavished on these horses is plain for all to see, and despite the vast quantities of Rum, Beer and Brennevin being consumed, order is maintained throughout by the gentle but firm hands of the roundup King and his lieutenants. No-one mistreated the horses or misbehaved at all, their love of horses is too deeply ingrained and they were enjoying the day far too much

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Those that have enjoyed the liquid refreshments a bit too much take advantage of the Icelandic Horses legendary abilty to “go with the flow” of their riders swaying, skillfully predicting their owners unsteady movememnts so they don’t fall off. Its certainly an unusual sight, but an impressive one nonetheless, and a superb way of getting back home when slightly worse for wear!

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Music and happiness filled the air here throughout the day, some outstanding singing was done by various groups of men and women, breaking into a traditional song of derring do and legends of old. Its one of those times when you can sense the atmosphere is one of excitement, joy and thanks that a great summer has passed.

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Its tinged of course with the mark of winters approach, the knowledge that for them (the farmers) the most difficult part of the year is to come. A time when the tourists have gone, the roads have disappeared under a metre of snow and farm life revolves around surviving through til spring. For the moment though, its about enjoyment. The day came to its end, the sun dipping away and the riders heading back to the farm.

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Another huge bowl of Lamb stew fed us (Ive got the recipe by the way if anyone is interested) and evening turned to night with lots of singing and more than a few bottles opened, drunk and discarded. It obviously fell to our little British contingent to sing a song too, but Im not sure that Neil and my rendition of Beatles tracks holds a candle to traditional Icelandic folk songs, even if Hallador and Snorri were perhaps generous with their applause.

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For us it was a massive privilege to have been part of this, Ive fallen in love with these horses (my daughter may yet get her wish to own a horse now!) and the warmth and hospitality of Hallador and his family will stay with us for ever, so it was with a smile but a tinge of sadness that we left to continue towards our journeys end….

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For Fox Sake!

Filming wildlife is rarely easy.

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Once again it would be nice to leave it at that but it would make a very boring blog post. So with that in mind, here we go, let us delve into the utter frustrations, grumblings, mumblings, reflections, magical moments, wins and losses of a fairly typical wildlife shoot.

Where to start….

I may or may not be alone in saying I have a love – hate relationship with filming wildlife. It is one of the best jobs in the world if you like travel, photography and the natural world. However in my humble opinion it is often offset by frustration and the feeling that somehow everything from the wildlife, the elements and even the viewfinder is secretly conspiring against you. There is a lot to live up to if you are a wildlife cameraman/woman there are some legends in the game! Between them they have filmed the worlds most iconic and beautiful films, sequences and stand alone shots. Big shoes to fill and a lot to live up to. Although this does not directly impact on a shoot, there is a certain expectation to maintain the level of craftsmanship and skill these guys have spent years perfecting. I only started filming a few years back, so I still have a lot to learn and I have a lot of respect for what wildlife camera folks and film makers have done before I showed up and snuck in the back door. I suppose it is an added pressure or perhaps just one that only I feel. Who knows.

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I’ve recently spent a month filming Arctic foxes at Hornstrandir nature reserve in the Westfjords of Iceland. Arctic foxes have a fascinating history in Iceland and are an incredible animal one which I have really come to admire far more than I expected. We have been lucky enough to be working under the guidance of Ester Rut Unesteinsdottir from the arctic fox center in Sudavik arcticfoxcenter.com (their website is full of interesting facts and historical information on the Icelandic fox). Ester is more like an arctic fox than she would like to admit, fit as a fiddle, feisty, determined and highly intelligent. Esters knowledge of the valleys, foxes, secret spots and the trolls of this beautiful nature reserve is second to none.983A8073
A month may seem a long time to film a sequence but if you have been to Iceland and know what the weather can be like, and if you have filmed Icelandic foxes before then you will know (unless you have been very lucky) that both can be rather difficult!

I should mention at this point that Neil and Andy had gone to film Salmon and I need to introduce a new character to the equasion for this blog post! Ben (The Viking) York. Ben is from Films@59, a very well respected post production and camera kit hire company from Bristol (www.filmsat59.com) The boys and girls who run the hire department are a fantastic bunch of people and really know their stuff when it come to banter, cameras and glass and making cups of tea. I digress, poor old Ben is constantly sending out kit 24-7 to wildlife and drama film crews, all happily filming in some far flung corner of this wonderful earth while he and his colleagues work their nuts off in the office in Bristol, so we thought it only fair to get the old boy out of the technical warehouse and into the Icelandic wilds for a baptism of fire and also so he could see what it is like on the other side of the televisual fence.

So he hopped on a plane, met me in Isafjordur, and we made our way to Hornstrandir nature reserve.
After a smooth boat journey of about three hours we arrived safe and sound with no signs of sea sickness.

All Ben and I had to do now was start filming! Ohhh no wait… I need the toilet. See you in half an hour? The “Toblerone” as it is affectionately known is the only toilet in Hornstrandir and is a stiff 30 minute walk from the scientists camp site, if you leave the door open you get a wonderful view, so it is worth the walk. Now all we had to do was set the camp up, put up 5 tents carry the fuel, generator, tripods, lenses, cameras, food and stuff, stuff and more stuff. Why is there always so much stuff, how is it possible to have so much stuff? I blame Ben. Luckily we had some help from the team researching the foxes under the guidance of Ester and also another film crew from Iceland attempting to film the foxes.

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After an extensive recce of the Hornstrandir valleys which takes a good day to hike Ester found a few dens in the research area around Hornvik but only one sighting of a cub and a few glimpses of a very skittish adult male in the far off distance. Not the start I’d hoped for.

Over the coming days, with support from Ester, we made the decision to film at a den which, thanks to Esters confidence it could work, we had a good feeling about….sometimes you have to go with your instincts and trust those in the know. A surprising but rapidly encroaching problem was the vegetation that was growing at an alarming rate. Because the foxes had denned slightly later it meant that if new fox cubs popped out to see the world the chances are you would not even see them let alone get juicy shots for the telly box. Just that one thing is enough to make your shoot really difficult. You can’t go in and chop down the vegetation or disturb the den. In reality there is not much you can do, foxes do not like any type of interference around the den and it is very easy to disturb them, forcing the adults to move the cubs, which is not how we like to roll.

Luckily we had foreseen the vegetation problem in the highly technical (that’s going to F *** us up radar) and had chosen an area which was slightly behind in growth terms giving us a fighting chance. The foxes at Hornstrandir appeared to be denning slightly later than previous years possibly due to the very heavy snow fall during the winter so in the typical fashion of most things conspiring against you, the first obstacle to overcome was the fact that no cubs are showing at the dens.

Getting to the den site is a good hike, Ben loved it! for the first day. The hike is fairly easy without kit, but with everything you need for a day and evening filming is a different matter, luckily Ben turned Viking pretty quickly and was a great help lugging the kit and working as an assistant, he also made a mean hot chocolate and chicken tikka packet meal….

I may or may not be alone in saying you enter into a strange time vortex on a shoot like this, days and weeks roll into one, and a single hour takes six to pass, the five days you have left to finish the shoot seems to take a year or two. You give up shaving or caring what you look like, you eat like a caveman, drink from the glacial rivers and all in all become a slightly odd creature (maybe thats just me). The drive or determination to nail the sequence is something all wildlife cameramen/women understand very well and it is a highly important characteristic needed for this type of filming. Wildlife camera folks have been doggedly chasing these sequences for years and only by this determination do you get to see all the beautiful footage on wildlife television series and films. Hats off to all those men and women working so hard to showcase the natural world.

Ben and I got to know our foxes pretty well over the coming weeks and started to gain some trust mainly with the female but not so much with the wily old male who always kept distance and a beedy eye on our movements. Observing how the foxes behave to see if any patterns emerge always helps with planning a days filming but just like the weather in Iceland, soon as you think it is sunny it clouds up and starts raining, snowing and blowing a gale, then the northern lights pop out and a volcano erupts! It is a crazy place. The foxes are the same as the weather, they change behaviour like the wind, I suppose that is what makes them so unique but also so difficult to film, they are very unpredictable just as you think you have a pattern it changes. That is wildlife for you.

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We had good days and bad days in terms of filming. It was not unusual to sit in the rain for 13 hours with only one sighting of a fox. That is just the way it goes, some days we saw very little, but stuck it out till then evening when you would be rewarded with a fleeting glimpse. Wildlife cameramen/woman have a ridiculous amount of patience, or like our mate Charlie Hamilton-James said “we are just very good at being bored”

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We filmed some lovely stuff at the den over the coming weeks but its was really hard work to get footage. We filmed some very tender moments of life at the den, and watched as the male and female struggled at times to keep it all going. I must say at this point that I do admire the Icelandic arctic fox so very much, it is hard to put into words just how tough, adaptable and durable these fascinating little animals really are. A remarkable animal which is able to survive and prosper in the wildest of places in Iceland. Hornstrandir is one of those wild places, wild in spirit, but what I really mean is wild in the sense of it’s unpredictability, unable to be tamed, the elements are in control and not people.

After a “groundhog day” lifestyle two and a half weeks went past and it was time for another change. Andy and Neil had finished filming with the Atlantic salmon, Andy returned to the U.K to edit a film on Asiatic lions and Neil arrived with much needed refreshments and support for the tired and weary fox crew. A few days later Ben looking more like a Viking than a Viking did left on the boat to head back to the U.K after a real adventure in the wilds of Iceland. The sea had started to pick up and white horses had arrived pounding the huge stone beaches, we waved Ben off as he sailed into the distance and Neil and I carried on filming the fox family.

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The weather had been continuing to build and became steadily worse towards the last week of the shoot, huge sea fogs began rolling in and high winds started to pick up making filming the fox more difficult and more dangerous. The sea cliffs around Hornstrandir are huge well over 300m and the landscape is not to be taken lightly, it is a beautiful place, but also volatile and the weather can snap in an instant. The Fog can be so thick it is not possible to see the ground or the small pathways to navigate back to the campsite. Many travellers head to Hornstrandir to enjoy the landscape and hike the mountains and most of the time they are rewarded with clear skies and spectacular views of this remote nature reserve. Most of the adventurous tourists are prepared and experienced hikers and usually led by highly knowledgable Icelandic guides, some tourists arrive woefully underprepared wearing jeans and t-shirts which is not advisable.

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We had carried on filming the foxes until the wind, rain and fog prevented us from hiking to the den site, we heard news from a small house on the reserve and from the park ranger that some very bad weather was heading towards Hornstrandir. There is no phone signal or internet at the nature reserve and most information comes from radio or from the park ranger so we sat out the first few day of the worsening wether huddled in tents mopping up the drips and battening down the hatches.

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I am not sure any of us expected the weather to be quite so bad, but with warnings from the Icelanders not to venture into the mountains we stayed put and trusted their judgement, they know best, it is their home and they know it better than anyone. Gradually the wind and rain increased and started to batter the coast and our campsite, one by one, the tents started to blow away! The now one-man Icelandic film crew which had also been filming foxes were having a bad run of luck and struggled to film any material at another den site on the nature reserve. Then things got worse, Buppy the Icelandic cameraman’s tent blew down, when I say blew down, it literally snapped the carbon fibre poles all the way down the tent. It was lashing with rain and the wind was gusting at gale force speeds. It was chaos, Neil and I rushed out of our own battered tents to help him secure his film kit and possessions. The tent was a right off.

Buppy trekked to one of two houses at the nature reserve to ask for help whilst Neil and I made do sheltering in our leaking and damaged tents and securing our tents with what ever we could find. Every time the wind picked up from the sea and forced a gust into the valley the tents shook with a thundering crack and bent sideways under the strain, water was now pouring in and everything was getting soaked including our dry clothes. Sleeping was impossible. Buppy returned late, to inform us he could stay with a family at the house for the night. Neil and I sat it out in some mildly faint hope it would die down and and we would wake up to a beautiful summers day….

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That did not happen, one by one, our tents blew away and broke down until we had nothing left. The generator was soaked and stopped working and we could not charge any equipment.

The weather was getting worse and we had no choice but to ask for help from the family staying the their holiday home on the reserve. We arrived completely wet, cold and very tired. We met up with Buppy who introduced us to Stigur one of the owners from the house. Stigur is a top man, very kind, welcoming and genuinle decent guy and more than happy to help out. His house was full, eleven adults and children all of which had come to holiday as they do every year, however they had arrived the day before the storm hit and had been stuck inside ever since. Stigur only had one place we could sleep – an old but sturdy boat shed down on the beach. He made us a fire and allowed us to get our clothes dry and let us use the shower, first shower in almost four weeks for Ian.

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Over the course of the day and night we took down what was remaining of the camp and moved all our kit to the boat shed under gale force conditions.

Film crews never travel light! and moving a whole camp with filming kit, kitchen, expedition kit was no easy feet. Finally we were holed up in a boat shed in the most remote part of Iceland in a storm Neil, Buppy and Ian. Just enough room for three sleeping bags and a mountain of kit. Looking back now it was quite funny, apart from Buppy snoring! I am not sure we had more than a few hours sleep that week, the wind was shaking and battering the boat shed to the point where we all though it was going to take the roof off. But Icelanders know how to build a boat shed! Super shed took all the wind and rain and shrugged it off. We spent four days and nights all going slightly mad and sheltering in the boat shed waiting for the storm to drop. Search and rescue helicopters had been flying looking for stranded tourists in terrible conditions, again we tip our hats to the men and women out doing this work it is truly incredible and very brave.

Neil and I took a bottle of whisky to the house to say thank you to Stigur and his family for helping us out. At first he said “no you don’t need to give me anything, this is what we do, Icelanders always help people, it is just what we do” Then he gave a wry smile and said ok come in. We met all the family and sat in a warm house surrounded by lovely people and drank whisky and ate some very tasty dried fisk with butter. The guitar came out, songs were sung, voices were raised and whilst the weather raged outside Neil and I felt very happy and safe. Until the morning when we woke up with a massive headaches.

We heard news the next day from the captain of the boat they were going to attempt to sail out to pick up the family depending on how bad the sea was looking. We waited all day and into the evening without word. Around midnight we heard from Stigur the boat was coming. We lugged all our kit to beach in the pouring rain and wind and waited with the family to be picked up. The guys who sail the boat are amazing, trying to get people and kit into a zodiac in crashing waves is very difficult, Neil did a great job helping the boat guys standing in crashing waves pushing the zodiac out from the shore full of kit and people. We did maybe ten runs in the zodiac before all were safely on board.

The journey back was rough to say the least. Nearly everyone on board was sea sick apart from the old hardened Icelanders and Neil and Ian! we must have the old celtic sea fairing genes!

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Well, thats all I have to say about that right now, apart from a big thank you again to all the Icelanders for looking after us, Stigur, Ester, Thor, all the guys and girls in the office back at H.Q

Left to right: Ian, Ester, Ben and Neil.

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next time, we catch up with the horse at their annual roundup…quite a spectacle I can assure you!

The Highlands

 

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Landmannalaugar lava fields and mountains flushed with colours.

Neil and Ian recently finished a filming trip to the highlands of Iceland, with particular focus on the area known as Landmannalaugar but also taking in  many sights and sounds along the way.

Above is one of Neil’s (aka “MILKY” as he was affectionately named by one of our friends Maggi on the island of Grimsey) very nice photographs of the lava fields and mountains.

We started our highland trip from a beautiful waterfall called Aldeyjarfoss not too far from another famous waterfall Godafoss in the North of Iceland driving our trusty 4×4 along the rather bumpy dirt roads and tracks. If you are reading this and planning a trip through the central roads of Iceland it is well worth doing a lot of research. The roads are great fun to drive but you will need a decent wagon and it needs to be a solid 4×4, the bigger the better! it is easy to get stuck out there and if no one passes for a few hours and the weather turns which it will! it can be a long wait for passing help. Take plenty of supplies and be prepared. And remember to stay on the tracks and roads it is strictly forbidden to drive off road, the terrain and vegetation is extremely sensitive and does not recover for hundreds of years.

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Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. Skirted by basalt columns, blue skies and fluffy clouds. Beautiful.

Above is milky’s photograph of Aldeyjarfoss as we arrived. It is a real beauty and a great place to stop and film and take in that dramatic landscape.

Iceland is a great place for landscape photography full stop, but it is also worth putting the camera down and soaking it all up! Whilst filming scenics we usually spend a good day or much longer at one location waiting for better light and moving about to get the best out of the situation. Sadly we are not as mobile as DSLR photographers, our filming kit is heavy and big and it takes time to get the best out of a situation. Spending all this time in one spot we are able to do a fair bit of tourist spotting! It is interesting to see how little time people actually spend having a sit down and taking it all in! Usually it is a quick pit stop, 150 photographs from one or two spots, a plethora of selfies all taken in record time then off like a rocket to the next recommendation in the guidebook! Perhaps it is due to time constraints or being on a tour of sorts, but it does seem a shame to not have a moment to contemplate, relax, and be in the nature, and we did spot a lot of people in hired 4x4s just turn up, take a look over the edge and leave. Neil and Ian could happily spend a week just here waiting for the best light to make her look even more beautiful. Good light is rare, and when it happens it is just magic. Most landscape photographers are always chasing the light, early light, late light, moody light, dramatic light. Sometimes it is best to just wait a little while longer it will pay off in the end and you will have a much better photograph for it and spent some time with your eyes and mind open and relaxed.

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Large areas of the highlands are like a lunar landscape, something you would expect on a newly found keplar planet in a distant galaxy. As you leave the martian plains of the highlands things start to change, colours emerge from the black, and white landscape, reds and greens emerge, rivers are riddled with coloured veins of vegetation, moss, cotton grass and flowers start to show.

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colours and shapes crafted by the elements start to appear.

Along the journey to Landmannalaugar we helped a fair few people who had got stuck or had broken down. The Icelanders are a nation of people willing to help tourists and hikers, on countless occasions we have been helped by the really cool people of Iceland so we have a lot of respect for the Icelanders and the rescue teams.

We met a German couple travelling by motorbike who had flagged us down requesting help. The motorbike was stuck in the mud. Now when we say stuck, we mean seriously stuck, buried past the engine in thick black volcanic mud. It had been raining on and off all day so the ground was saturated and the rain was getting heavier, the couple had been in the rain for a good few hours desperately trying everything to get the bike free from the sinking mud, but the more efforts they had made the bike had sunk deeper. They were exhausted and cold wet and in need of a good old cuppa tea! We have pretty much everything in the Van to survive for weeks even months. We fired up the boilers and made tea and chocolate, a doctor once told me have a culpa tea and a bit of chocolate, you will feel much better! Sadly or van had no chance of pulling the bike from the mud, our van would just become stuck trying, so we waited and kept the guys warm till a super truck approached. Luckily it was a beast of a truck with very large tyres, even so it took 3 men and a super truck to pull that big old BMW out of that mud it just didn’t want to let it go! Some more tea and biscuits and we were on our way only to find a cyclist with a snapped bike and a glum face at not being able to finish his journey into the highlands, we chucked the bike in the back and took him to the campsite at Landmannalaugar.

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Landmannlaugar is an incredible landscape. The sheeps seem to like it too!

Arguably one of the best locations to visit in Iceland, Landmannalaugar is a breathtaking landscape. Summer is a busy time in the area, a lot of people come to hike, camp and enjoy the landscape. So much to do and see, there are excellent trails, hikes and locations to visit. It is a national park and is simply beautiful. The lava fields are incredible, covered in moss hundreds of years old, ptarmigan hide out in the lava fields, wagtails, redwing and pink foot geese are to be found in the area.

The Landmannalagar area is not too far from the Bardarbunga volcano which  has been all over the news for the last week. The volcano is situated in the northern part of mighty Vatnajokul the largest glacier in Europe. For more info on the seismic activities in Iceland you can check this link http://en.vedur.is/

We are aiming to head back to Iceland in a week or so to cover the horse round up and other spectacles so stay tuned for updates, and still to come a blog about the foxes at Hornstrandir and the ups and downs of filming wildlife.

Foal play in the North with the Icelandic Horse

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A slightly different week has just flown by. In the great tradition of Producers disappearing off on jollies leaving the crew to get on with the real work, Andy went on holiday last week with his family…

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(note from Andy – had a great time with whales in Husavik, horse riding in the mountains, did the Geysir, Hot springs, Gulfoss etc etc, but did get a bit stuck finding the only snow drift left on the roads here, had to reverse a mile downhill…in a whacking great camper van, nice)

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Meanwhile, Ian and Neil started work on one of the main characters in the film, The Icelandic Horse.

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It is that time of year when new life appears everywhere, birds are nesting, flowers budding and the rather unique Icelandic horses are giving birth.

Icelandic horses are interwoven with the landscape and history of Iceland and the people are passionate about them. They are the only breed of horse allowed in Iceland and if a horse is exported, its not allowed back, all to preserve the bloodline of this horse thats been here since Viking times.

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Some of these cute little fellas are friendly, perhaps a little too friendly at times! which can make filming them almost impossible. For some reason they love the front element of a telephoto lens. We use a canon 200-400 F4 on our F55 and most of the horses love to stick their faces into it. They also love to creep up behind you and nudge your arm for attention, which ruins your shot! this has happened so many times. The first 5 were funny,  the other 347 less so…to say the least.

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Luckily for us, there was only one trouble maker and the rest of the herd were very wild horses, which meant we had to make friends with them to get close to the new born foals, Ian thinks he has become the new horse whisperer!

The first day in the mountains with the horses was tough, soon as the horses spotted Ian and Neil carrying a massive camera and tripod they moved further and further away and quickly disappeared over the horizon. Errrrrrm plan B.

The old fashioned way….bit by bit and slowly, slowly catchy monkey (horse) over the course of a week we finally gained their trust and they allowed us to to film the very cute, clumsy and beautiful foals up close. one little fella in particular has become quite a star, more on him throughout the year.

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These horses are not riding horses or trained by man in the sense that we are familiar with horses in the UK or US. They are wild horses and when they have new born foals they are nervous and very wary of people. When the horses are getting ready to give birth they leave the main herd for a few days, find somewhere quiet and out the way to birth, then slowly head back to the herd.

We stayed on Brimnes farm with our friend, a true legend and “King of the round-up” Halador, along with his son in law Snorri (named after one of the most famous vikings of old). They told us these wild horses would be tricky to film, especially the youngsters, and tricky it was, but very rewarding. Halador and Snorri are great guys, old and new generation Icelanders, both passionate about horses, farming and snuff. They insisted we have a little try of the old stuff! a few coughs and splutters followed by watering eyes was very funny. Apparently Ian and Neil are good at sniffing snuff and Snorri and Halador were suitably impressed with our individual techniques.

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The shoot was brilliant, seeing the foals born into the wild, take their first steps, their first milk,  with no human intervention or contact was pretty cool. We will follow the guys and horses later in the year when the big horse round-up happens in September which is going to be awesome. We will cover that event in much more detail closer to the time.

Heading off to meet Thor today, he’s on a little island in the Westfjords  getting ready for Eider time, raising chicks and gathering down from the nests. Promises to be be very cool, mind you stuff with Thor generally turns out pretty cool

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Skoll!

Editors note – the use of snuff in this blog is entirely fictionalised, we are not making a snuff movie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grimsey

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40km off the north coast of Iceland lies the island of Grimsey, our home for the next week whilst we film the extraordinary seabird colonies here.

A small fishing community has scraped a living from the rich fishing grounds here for centuries, so filming the people is as always high on our priority list.

The journey over here was spectacular, we had left the comfort of our beds (and seaweed baths) in Reykholar at the unearthly hour of 2.30am to get to the ferry by 8.00am, boarded and set sail into flat calm waters and bright sunshine

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leaving behind the snow covered mountains around Dalvik, our three hour crossing was a pleasure, whales abound around these waters, surprisingly close to shore, and we had 2 full breaches, 6 full tail dives from Humpbacks, numerous Minke surfacing, and lots of white beaked
dolphin. As per usual with whales, Continue reading

a little clip in the meantime

Our plan for filming Eider nest building has taken a bit of a pause, largely because its a bit early and a bit chilly for them, so while we’re waiting for them to start nesting in earnest, we thought we’d put up a couple of clips on the blog to prove we are still doing something and haven’t slacked off entirely.

first up a shot of the hot springs

and next,  a few shots of some the very cute lambs from here in Reykholar. Tumi, the farmer who owns the land we’re staying on, and his family have been working day and night as its lambing season. The results of their endeavours are quite endearing! And for the lambs its definitely their first look at a GoPro..

good news is there are amazing numbers of birds massing on the shoreline, and feeding on the mudflats at low tide, a rough count would number the eider up in the thousands in this area alone. Birdlife here is extraordinary, more on that (and some interesting seaweed stories) later.

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