Iceland is a bucket list destination for virtually any landscape photographer. From the expanse of active volcanoes to the famous plane crash on Sólheimasandur, the Nordic island nation offers up plenty of striking photographic subjects. Greek photographer Nick Kontostavlakis wanted to do more than capture Iceland’s unique beauty in his latest time-lapse film, so he chose to focus on the dynamic contrasts of the landscape.
The internet is chock-full of gorgeous time-lapse videography these days, but Kontostavlakis’s Whispering Iceland adds a dimension of drama that helps make it unique. Fast camera motion mixed with rack zooms and quick cuts work together to show Iceland as equal parts beautiful and desolate, a landscape that is somehow welcoming and inhospitable at the same time. This theme is echoed in the music, which punctuates every shot. Kontostavlakis also recorded ambient sound while shooting, which is often left out of time lapse videos but adds another layer to this film.
To create the film, Kontostavlakis spent 15 days in Iceland with a small team, traveling around the country and battling the different elements at each location. “The hardest part for shooting were the weather conditions, not for us but for the equipment,” Kontostavlakis told Digital Trends. “Rain, strong winds, humidity, freezing lenses during night shots. We used sturdy tripods, heaters to keep lens surface dry and clear, and sometimes rain covers for the cameras.”
Kontostavlakis writes in the video’s description that time-lapse photography was the perfect technique for illustrating the “dynamic forces of nature” in Iceland. “Iceland is the place where there is light and dimness, where long summer days with almost 24-hours of daylight are counterbalanced by short winter days,” he writes.
In addition to its numerous active volcanoes, Iceland is home to Europe’s largest ice sheets, a contrast that has earned the country the nickname of “the land of fire and ice,” according to Kontostavlakis. It also offers unrivaled views of the Northern Lights, which comprise the grand finale of Whispering Iceland.
Available in 4K resolution, the video was shot primarily on the Sony A7R II with a Nikon D810 and D800e playing a supporting role. Mostly wide angle lenses were used, including the Zeiss 16-35mm and Nikon 14-24mm. A Nikon 24-70mm zoom was also used. The smooth camera movement is thanks to motion-control rigs from DigiSlider and eMotimo. A variety of software was used in postproduction, including Final Cut Pro X, Adobe After Effects, and the LRTimelapse plu-gin for Adobe Lightroom.
The locations featured in the video include the capital city of Reykjavik, the Black Sand Beach, and, yes, the site of the Sólheimasandur plane crash — among many others.
Kontostavlakis told us he didn’t have a favorite location in Iceland, noting that there was alway something interesting to shoot and that lighting and conditions changed constantly. “Every moment is different. So if you are on a place that doesn’t trigger your imagination, just wait a few minutes and this may change,” he said.
Updated December 16 to add equipment details and comments from Kontostavlakis.
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