The first AP Photography Holiday in partnership with Zoom Photo Tours to Iceland took place in February – as Geoff Harris discovers, it was a creatively rewarding trip that yielded great results

With travel now a lot easier globally, AP has teamed up with world-renowned tour specialists Zoom Photo Tours on a wide variety of photography trips, both in the UK and abroad. The first tour, Iceland Winter Magic, took place from 12-18 February this year. It was led by top Swedish landscape photographer Hans Strand, and Florian Warnecke, another accomplished landscape shooter from Germany.

Having two highly experienced photographers to seven participants meant there was plenty of individual input, which was important as the students had a range of technical abilities.

The participants bagged some great shots in spectacular locations. Image: Florian Warnecke

Iceland Winter Magic took in some stunning locations, as Hans explains. ‘We were basically photographing along the south coast, starting in Reykjavik, and through to the eastern-most location of Vestrahorn. On the way we stopped at Jökulsárlón, where icicles lie on the beach like diamonds, the iconic Skógafoss high waterfall and also Dyrhólaey, where big, dramatic waves crash in. Then there are the ice caves near Jökulsárlón, where you can walk right in – it’s like standing inside a big glass sculpture.’

Great images by design

As mentioned above, there were a range of abilities on the trip. ‘For the less-experienced photographers, we went through basics such as the exposure triangle, while for the more photographically confident people, I concentrated on how to build the image in terms of composition and use of light.

Vestrahorn, by Hans Strand 1/13sec at f/11, ISO 64

A good image should have a good architecture, so that there are no disturbing elements or distractions on the edges of the frame. Objects which are too bright or too dark will be like magnets for the eye… So I go more into the actual “design” of the images. Depending on the student’s experience level, I find a good way is to stand next to somebody in the field and show them by moving the camera around, pointing out angles, diagonals and elements in the frame.’

While a lot of landscape photographers would still use filters on an Iceland trip, Hans is not a fan. ‘I seldom need filters and prefer to balance exposure if necessary, at the editing stage – filters can also end up inadvertently darkening areas of the image.

‘The only time I need a filter is when I want to extend the shutter speed and then I will use a neutral density filter, especially if it’s a bright day and I want some motion in the water. With very dense ND filters you can lose motion altogether.’

A stunning image of an ice cave, Jökulsárlón, by tour participant Owen Cochrane. 1/125sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

Participants certainly get their money’s worth on Zoom Photo Tours, with long days spent shooting out in the field. In the evening, there is time for feedback from the experts and photo-editing sessions (after a well-earned dinner). As you can imagine, being out in sometimes inclement weather all day working hard on your photography can be tiring – but as Hans notes, everyone was keen to ‘bring home the bacon!’

Recommended gear for a trip to Iceland

Hans notes that most of the participants on this first trip to Iceland had mirrorless gear – ‘often newer gear than me!’ – while some were even shooting with medium forma cameras. So what kit does he recommend to other AP readers who are keen to make the most of an Icelandic trip?

As the other course tutor Florian Warnecke reveals here, ice patterns are hugely photogenic. 1/30sec at f/8, ISO 100

‘Whether you use a DSLR or mirrorless, the quality of zoom lenses is now such that you can get away with just two or three of them. A wideangle zoom, such as a 14-30mm, along with a 24-70mm and 70-200mm will definitely do the job. You don’t need longer than 200mm to get good pictures of Iceland unless you are shooting wildlife.

‘Just as important is a very stable tripod, however, as the Icelandic wind in winter can be quite a challenge,’ Hans notes, adding, ‘I often find on tours that people bring along quite light tripods and they can then struggle to keep their camera stable in high winds.’

Snow-covered stones by Hans Strand. 1/15sec at f/11, ISO 64

‘It worked out really well’

One of the participants was Owen Cochrane, who is also president of Inverness Camera Club. ‘This was my first photo tour and I booked it on AP’s recommendation. With all the Covid problems, I wanted to get away and do something different. I’ve had mental health issues and photography has been key to helping me get out there again.

I was a bit worried about going on the trip – but it worked out really well. Everything was so well planned and it boosted my confidence for travel. In terms of photography, I know my camera, so the ideas and instruction from Hans and Florian were more along the lines of suggestions, trying new angles – they didn’t spoon-feed me.

A picture of the tour taken by Owen Cochrane

They tailored their guidance very well. It certainly wasn’t a very regimented approach, e.g.‘point your camera there, use this f stop.’ Trying to visualise a shot in the Icelandic weather was tough at times, but again Hans and Florian really helped me learn to look differently at winter landscapes and to appraise the image before I took it.

There were also some great discussions around shutter speeds, focal lengths so you bring the background closer to the foreground, and so on. Some evenings we shared photos; Hans was unbelievably good at appraising the images and offering constructive critique. I really want to go back to Iceland, and think about how I could change my approach. The tour also made me realise I tend to get stuck to the spot trying to get the perfect image of one thing, so I sometimes miss other great subjects.’

Sunrise at Reynisdrangar by Owen Cochrane, 1/640sec at f/8, ISO 250

AP Photography Holidays

A full range of Zoom Photo Tours are scheduled for rest of this year, taking place in the UK and abroad. The list is diverse; everything from Birds of Bempton Cliffs with David Tipling from 12-14 June, or for the adventurous, Expedition Papua New Guinea with Ulla Lohmann from 17-29 November. For full information on all other trips, see

Further reading:

Top 10 reasons to go on AP Photography Holidays

4 reasons to visit Glencoe

Steve Winter on his sensational career and Tigers Forever tour

Follow AP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.