Iceland – What to Take? And More Importantly What Not to Take…

Its only a couple of months now till I leave for Iceland for three weeks dedicated landscape and nature photography (that is if the erupting volcano doesn’t screw up my well laid travel plans) and its time to start thinking about what equipment to take with me for the trip. I learned the hard way on my South Island New Zealand trip last year that excess baggage can prove quite expensive – “Thanks Jetstar… I really appreciated being slugged an extra $300 for the privilege of being able to take my camera gear on my photography trip“. So as the old adage says once bitten, twice shy. So this time I will try to leave the kitchen sink at home and only pack the gear I think I will actually need; which on first blush seems like quite a lot.

My initial check list as follows:

  • Canon 1DSMK3 Camera Body (going to serve as my primary DSLR Camera workhorse for the trip)
  • Two Spare Batteries and Battery Charger (should be heaps – I get over 1000 frames out of a single charge)
  • Canon S90 Point and Shoot (Going to serve as a back-up in the unlikely event the 1DSMK3 falls over – and for shooting some video for my blog during the trip)
  • Canon 17mm TSE Lens (my widest lens for the trip – with TSE a Bonus!)
  • Canon 24mm F1.4L MKII Lens (My Favourite Landscape Lens – sharper than Ockham’s Razor)
  • Canon 50mm F1.2L
  • Canon 70-200mm F2.8L IS
  • Canon 1.4x Tele-Extender
  • Canon Macro Tube
  • Cable Release and Bubble Level
  • An assortment of LEE Hard and Soft Graduated Neutral Density Filters / Filter Holder
  • The LEE Big Stopper 10 Stop ND Filter
  • A couple of Circular Polarisers
  • A Slew of Compact Flash and Mini SD cards – totalling around 100 Gigabytes
  • My Mac Book Pro / accessories and Back Up LACIE rugged hard drive
  • Arctic Butterfly (for Sensor Cleaning)
  • Gitzo Tripod and Really Right Stuff Ball Head
  • My much loved shooting vest
  • Lowe Pro Nature Trekker II Camera Bag (which will hold pretty much all of the above except the tripod and shooting vest)

The above equipment list pretty much covers me for all the major focal lengths – except 35mm. I have been hanging off purchasing a new 35mm lens as Canon’s 35mm F1.4L is overdue for update (so the rumours go). However, if a replacement 35mm lens is not announced soon I may just have to purchase a pre-loved 35mm to tide me over for this trip. I can’t see going on an expedition like this missing one of the key focal lengths for landscape photography. Before anyone comments – NO, the 16-35mm F2.8L is not an acceptable option (I used to own one and sold it because its about as sharp as a bowl of mushy peas on a 21.1 mega pixel full frame sensor – ick).

Total weight of all this stuff…..?


More than 25 kilos. Which, in combination with a bag of clothes and other must haves is going to again put me squarely in the excess baggage department. I am fortunately flying business class to London; which gives me a few precious extra kilo’s; but the flight from London to Reykjavik is cattle class and I will be subject to the normal 20 kilogram limit. At this point in time I really cant see thinning down this list of gear. I just couldn’t bare setting up for a shot and not having the lens I wanted. I know in many ways this flies against the current trend of many photographers to travel as light as possible; typically packing only a zoom lens or two to ease the travel discomfort. But, I am approaching it from a different angle and am prepared to wear the travel discomfort and to some extent the excess baggage for flexibility and maximum quality when in the field. Since I wont be doing any serious hiking and will have a 4WD for the trip moving all this around shouldn’t to bothersome.

Whats not coming at this stage?

  • Canon 85mm F1.2L (I can cover this focal range with the 70-200mm F2.8L IS)
  • Canon 300mm F2.8L IS (Its just too bloody heavy and takes up to much space)
  • Canon 580 EX Flash (I just don’t think I am going to need it)
  • Canon 5D Camera Body (I want to take this… my heart says yes… my head and wallet say NO!)

You know the funny thing about looking at this check list now I have written it out is that my two of my three favourite lens’s are staying at home – the 85mm F1.2L and the 300mm F2.8L IS. The 85mm F1.2L is my favourite lens for portraiture (bar none), but I can justify leaving it at home as this is a landscape expedition and the opportunities for serious portrait work are likely to be limited in the areas I will be travelling to. The 300mm F2.8L IS is another story and is actually very useful for landscape work (although I primarily use it for wildlife) and it is only its excessive weight and bulk that makes me reluctant to take it with me. Were it not for the thought of being fleeced by the airlines for having so much heavy equipment this lens would most definately be riding shotgun to Iceland with me. I can pretty much cover the 300mm focal length with the 70-200mm F2.8L IS in combination with the 1.4 Tele extender, but it just isn’t the same. It sort of like saying the Ford Falcon will get you there.. but why ride in the Ford when you have a Ferrari in the garage. This one is probably going to cause me a few sleepless nights…

3 thoughts on “Iceland – What to Take? And More Importantly What Not to Take…

  1. Hi Josh,
    Very much enjoying your site and blog. You said that the 16-35 F2.8L isn’t all that sharp. Have you used the 17-40 F4L and how do you rate it as I was considering getting one to use on my EOS40D?


  2. Hi Cam,

    Thanks for stopping past!

    The 17-40 is a very good lens – and on a 40D will give you good sharp clean images with all the flexibility of a zoom. I have found that up to about 15 mega-pixels the 17-40 and 16-35 produce great results; but above that the primes really shine.



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