Sponsored by Elinchrom
Picture this: You’re on a five-day, 44-mile wilderness hike around the remote Langisjór glacial lake in the interior of Iceland with 19 Icelandic locals. You’re 12 hours away from the closest major city. The trailhead is only accessible after a six-hour drive in a 4×4. At night, though the sun doesn’t sleep, you rest iPPn a tent atop a 10-inch-deep moss bed. One of Europe’s largest ice caps, Vatnajökull, stands in silent watch over your group.
This isn’t a typical tourist’s vacation. This was the unique trip on which portrait photographer Felix Kunze recently found himself. “An Icelandic friend invited me to [her group] hike, because she knew of my love for the outdoors and she knew I didn’t just want to go around Iceland on Route 1,” he explains. “I wanted to experience something unique and different.”
Shooting portraits within this otherworldly landscape, Kunze needed to bring lights to balance the gray skies and fill in shadows. Carrying lights across 44 miles of glacial territory may seem an impossible task, but Kunze packed light with the Elinchrom ELB 400 portable flash system and Action Head, the Elinchrom Rotalux Softbox Octa 39-inch modifier and Sekonic Litemaster Pro light meter.
Photographers often have to compromise what lights to bring on location, but this exact combination is what Kunze uses in his studio. “I knew I had to climb up hills, and it was an easy decision to bring this lighting gear because everything is so lightweight,” he explains. And, he adds: “The shoot in Iceland required a combination of equipment that could work in any weather. The ELB 400 has a tremendous amount of power and I can shoot almost any time of day.”
On the last day of the hike, he took a magical shot. He decided to photograph Briet, who, according to Kunze, still looked beautiful after sleeping in a tent for four nights. He photographed her on the side of a mossy mountain, with rivers in the background and wildflowers in the foreground. Her face was in shadow, so, using the Nordic light and landscape as inspiration, he lit her from the side, attaching the ELB 400 and softbox with a straw-colored correction gel to a hiking pole, and asked a member of the group to hold the light for him. His goal was to add to the light of the overcast day without overpowering it. “It was like a soft sunlight, as if light were coming through a thin cloud,” he says. “The meter allowed me to get the whisper of light that I wanted. I didn’t bring my computer to shoot tethered, so the meter was my guide. And I had absolute trust in it working for me.”
He says the key to making any portrait shoot a success is to add subtle light and definition. Using the Litemaster Pro enabled him to balance ambient and artificial light, resulting in a well-lit image that still looks natural. It was exactly what he was going for in an idyllic setting that he refers to as a “photographer’s dream.”
At the end of the day, the compactness and durability of the products is undeniable. “The products look new and I took them on a 44-mile hike, walked over ice sheets and drove through mud puddles,” he says. And, when used together, the synergy of the products is incontestable. Kunze elaborates: “I’ve been searching for years for the perfect location lighting kit. The ELB-400, Action Head, Rotalux and Sekonic Meter combination have been the answer to my prayers.”