Iceland is a truly unique landscape. The combination of waterfalls, black sand beaches, sea stacks and lava fields make Iceland like no other place on earth. It’s like a buffet for landscape photographers. One giant buffet that offers opportunity after opportunity to capture amazing images of a land that the vast majority of earth’s inhabitants will never have the opportunity to witness with their own eyes. Whether they make the trip to attend a photography workshop or fly solo, photographers who visit Iceland will likely leave with the same opinion. Whatever they were told before they went, the experience itself will surpass even the highest of expectations.
While making an exploratory trip to Iceland to prepare for our upcoming photography workshops in 2020, I decided to test a new drone that I had heard a lot about. The DJI Mavic Air is a portable drone that is about the size of a typical camera lens. This was attractive to me. Having the ability to take aerial photographs and high-definition video with a device that was able to fit in the palm of my hand was almost too good to be true. And while I was known to take chances with drones in the past, often crashing them due to unnecessary risks, passing up the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the workshop prep simply wasn’t going to happen. I was going to leave with stills. I was going to leave with drone footage. Period.
THE MAGIC OF LITLANESFOSS
My shooting list was lengthy. The town of Vik alone offers several outstanding opportunities to capture impressive landscapes. But one waterfall that I had scouted in the past had been a source of anticipation for several weeks. Litlanesfoss, arguably the most geographically fascinating waterfalls in the entire country, awaited on Day 3 of a 12 Day scouting trip.
Surrounded by columns of rock that one would assume could only be created by humans or some sort of deity, Linlanesfoss cuts through basalt columnar jointing formed by ancient volcanic activity. The seemingly perfect hexagonal shapes can leave even the most experienced geologists in awe. As a photographer, I had to take a closer look. Risks be damned. It was time to send up the drone.
Litlanesfoss was, by far, my most challenging drone flight to date. One towering waterfall beneath another, shorter waterfall behind a corner made up of steep basalt columns. One wrong move and the drone would end up a victim of water or a victim of gravity. It wouldn’t be a good ending either way. DJI’s Mavic Air has some of the most sophisticated obstacle avoidance technology on the market. Unfortunately, it can’t make up for this level of operator error. I’ll let the video do the talking for a bit. Please enjoy the waterfall before witnessing the inevitable. Litlanesfoss is absolutely incredible!
After restoring my heart to its normal pace and salvaging what was left of my pride, I made the decision to hike down into the canyon to retrieve what was left after the 90-foot fall. Fully understanding that the drone itself was a total loss, I just hoped that the memory card was still intact. After all, I had just finished capturing aerial footage Litlanesfoss, one of the most amazing waterfalls in the world. The crash was painful, but the footage was fine.
FALL SEVEN TIMES, GET UP EIGHT.
Day 3 of a trip that was scheduled to be close to two weeks of shooting. Iceland is simply too beautiful to pass up, so I did what any photographer who is dedicated to their craft would do. Thankfully, there are several DJI dealers in Iceland so I was able to pick up a replacement. The majority of the finished product was shot after Day 3… with a brand new DJI Mavic Air. The finished product:
Hand me a Nikon and it’s like riding a bike. But hand me a drone and it’s like steering a helicopter with one hand tied behind my back while juggling bananas. But as the Japanese proverb states, “fall seven times, get up eight”.
AJ Harrison. Photographer. Workshop Pioneer. Novice Drone Pilot.