Guide

Grenland: 10 things to know before visiting Ilulissat. by Gustav Thuesen

Ilulissat is one of the most visited places in Greenland - with good reason. The main attraction being the UNESCO World Heritage icefiord with its huge icebergs, rich sea life and interesting history makes for a unique experience! Here are a few things that are good to know before visiting: 

There are no polar bears.
Polar bears are insanely rare in the area. It would be cool to see a polar bear in real life - but the Disko bay is not the place. There are plenty of whales though and you might be lucky to see an arctic fox.

You will not understand a word.
The Greenlandic language is interesting. Listening to a conversation is an experience in itself. The words can easily contain 20 characters. You will most likely not understand anything.

It’s not cold in the summer.
I was there in peak summer from late June to late August. It definitely wasn’t southern France, but it wasn’t dead cold. Many days were spent in shorts and a t-shirt. Although if you are going sailing it will be colder, so bring something warm and wind stopping. Wind-wise it is like an on/off switch – either it is dead silent or storm, usually dead silent though. I experienced only a few days with precipitation during my stay, so it was nice and sunny 85% of the time. Sounds like it's all sunshine and rainbows, right? The weather can change to storm-like conditions within minutes, so be prepared.  

There are no roads.
#Vanlife is not going to happen anywhere in Greenland. In Ilulissat the longest stretch of connected tarmac is 5 km / 3 mi - then there is only backcountry. So it would rather be #boatlife as the ocean is the highway of Greenland.

Don’t pet the dogs.
They are more wolf than dog. And they are hungry. Enough said.

The smell of fish.
Fishing is the biggest industry in Greenland so naturally the smell of fish is present! If a local smells fish in the air, he/she will probably say “It smells of money!”. A dedicated fisherman can make a significant amount of money in Greenland.     

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Stay out of the water.
There happens to be quite a few gigantic ice cubes floating around so the water is a bit chilly. You will only survive for a few minutes if you aren’t in a survival suit - if not, you will probably die. So stay out of the water. 

Stay offline.
It is not a choice. Internet connection is insanely bad. Forget about streaming videos, if you are lucky you might be able to download half of your incoming mails. If you are lucky… Don’t get mad - embrace it and enjoy a little time offline.

“I will be there when I am there”.
Generally people will (try to) be on time. Although if one ask when someone will arrive the answer can be “I will be there when I am there”. Due to the dynamic natural environment it’s hard to predict travel times as fog, wind and ice might get in the way. Rarely planes are on time – a multi-day delay is not uncommon.

Everything is expensive.  
Want that delightful pint while watching the icebergs? Well, you have to dig deep into your pockets. Want to buy anything else? You have to dig deep too. Everything has to be sailed or flown in so most things are expensive. Fish is cheap though if you buy it fresh from “Brættet”.    

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Bonus: Everything is spectacular! 

If you have any questions feel free to contact me!
I have more photos and stories from Greenland on my Instagram and I made a video while I was in Greenland which you can watch on my YouTube channel

Stay curious! 

Gustav

7 Days in Iceland - What to see? by Gustav Thuesen

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Iceland is very beautiful. I think that is a fitting opening statement. But at the same time very vast. Unfortunately, most of us are limited on the days we have to explore this spectacular country.
I was travelling with my good buddy, André, who had pitched me the idea of going to Iceland. I was game!
We had only made a rough plan before taking off. In fact, the only thing we had booked was our return flight. It gave flexibility to go where the road took us. Our plan was to head north the first day and then go southeast into the country and from there hit the coast and head back up north to Reykjavik. We had a few places we would like to visit which functioned as fix points.   

Access Google Maps with the route, camp spots, hikes, places to see etc.  here

Access Google Maps with the route, camp spots, hikes, places to see etc. here

So, if you have 7 days in Iceland how do you make the most of them? Here is my bet:

Day 1, Snæfellsjökull
As we stepped out of the airport lobby it was obvious we were in the arctic. Although it was start of August it the clean air was a little chilly. We quickly got our rental car and headed north towards Snæfellsjökul.
The roads were nice and the Icelandic landscape surprised around every corner: Flowing rivers, rugged mountains, black sand beaches and colourful rainbows in an endless stream.  We drove around Snæfellsjökull and stopped along the road to explore caves, tiny volcanoes and the coast.

We ended the day pitching our tent in the backcountry, which is allowed in Iceland. Remember to leave no trace and respect “no camping” signs. After a hot meal for dinner we went to sleep for what would be a very windy night! I was seriously concerned about the tent breaking. If you plan on camping make sure to bring a quality equipment – it will probably be stormy at some point.

Click the photos to enlarge. 

Day 2, Off-Road Adventure to Þingvellir
After a quick breakfast, we were on the road again. We both wanted to see Kirkjufjell and the foss next to it. In fact we drove right past without knowing. Bummer. Onwards.
The next stop was Þingvellir National Park (Þ is pronounced ”th”). We didn’t want to drive the same road twice, so we found another road which would lead us to Þingvellir. It was a dirt road which was fine at first but after a while it worsened. Not the best idea in a tiny rental car. It was doable but we only met 4x4 on this road.
In Þingvellir 2 tectonic plates meet which creates some cool rock formations and fissures. While exploring Þingvellir massive steam clouds in the distance caught our eyes. We decided to try to find them.
After a bit of driving around we finally found the source: A geothermal power plant. We found a trail that lead into the mountains behind the plant. We packed our backpacks and headed up to explore and to find a place to stay for the night. As we moved through this weird landscape the smell of rotten eggs from the geothermal activity was ever present. After an hour or so we found a place to pitch the tent where the smell wasn’t too bad. We enjoyed the view of this otherworldly landscape as we ate our dinner. After a long and adventurous day we were tired which helped us fall asleep in the light arctic night.

Day 3, Tourist Challenge
We woke up fairly early as we had decided to visit the places on the golden circle tour which is the most touristy spots in Iceland. To beat the other tourist we made an early start. Most people don’t like waking up early, so did that to get the places somewhat to ourselves.
The plan worked out somewhat, but after Geysir the clock turned 10 and the busses from Reykjavik started arriving. When we made it to Gulfoss it was pure madness. All of these places are truly beautiful and unique – and worth a visit. But you will not have them to yourself.

After Gulfoss we headed towards the coast. It was late afternoon and we started to scout for a place to sleep. As got closer to the coast the land flattened and turned into mostly farmland. So we tried our luck and found a road going back into the country. An hour of driving through a flat desert like landscape we met a 4x4 only sign. Damn. It was getting late. Frustratedly we turned around and turned into a small parking-area-thing in the side of the road where we could assess the situation. I opened the door and stepped out the car to stretch my legs. As I stood out a weird noise came to my ear. Out of nowhere in this desert like landscape came a river with a flowing waterfall. Along the river was a trail. It was like winning the lottery. We quickly decided to put on the backpacks and head along the river until we found a fitting campsite. After a short hike, we found the most incredible spot. Perfectly flat, close to the river and a volcano in the background. We downed the dinner as we enjoyed this lucky strike.

I went out to shoot some photos of the sunset, then went to sleep for 2 hours to wake up again at 2 in the morning to shoot a few night-ish photos (it never gets truly dark). Then slept 1,5 hours to wake up and catch sunrise. Then go to bed again.

Day 4, Waterfall Extraordinaire
I was tired after not really sleeping so we slept in that morning.
This day we would visit one of Iceland’s most prolific waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss. It is a 60m waterfall where you can walk behind the actual fall – so of course we had to try that (together with all the other tourists). A really cool experience!
We saw a few people walk away from the waterfall. That piqued our attention. We went in the same direction and found what I would consider an even more incredible waterfall: Gljúfrabúi. The waterfall itself is hidden inside a canyon. You can see this waterfall by either walking into the canyon through a narrow slot or by climbing a steep path up the cliffs. The cliff path is a little sketchy, so please be cautious. While all the other tourists are busy at Seljalandsfoss you can have the Gljúfrabúi waterfall mostly to yourself. This is a must visit – much cooler than Seljalandsfoss in my opinion.

After some waterfall action we had headed to the Sólheimajökull glacier not too far away. I apparently didn’t shoot any photos there – maybe because it was a sad sight. A big black tongue with white spots here and there and a massive river coming from it. Oh I felt bad flying to Iceland and driving around in a car. A reminder that we have to take better care of our planet. Worth a visit before it’s gone…
After a nap overlooking the glacier we decided to head back towards Seljalandsfoss and find a campsite on the way. We didn’t find any but earlier at Seljalandsfoss we had spotted a road going up behind the waterfalls and made the decisions to go up there and find a spot for the night. That was a good decision! An epic view with a colorful sunset made for an unforgettable experience sitting on the edge of the 60m drop.

Day 5, Hike to the Snow
This day started where the last ended – a waterfall. We started the morning by driving to Skógafoss which is probably the most famous waterfall in Iceland. This is due to its sheer size: It is massive. But other than its size I didn’t find it particularly exciting. What was exciting was the trail we spotted after we had climb the long stairs to the top of the fall. We quickly agreed to give it a shot. Down we went, packed a day pack, up again.
This hike turned out to be spectacular! Tons of beautiful waterfalls and deep canyons with the mountains of the highlands in the background. We decided to walk until we found snow. And after 3 hours we did. We continued a bit further after that until we hit a bridge where the trail diverged from the river and went towards Landmannalaugar - which was the point we decided to turn around. It is interesting to see how the crowds thin out as soon as one must put in some work to see the sights.
As we came back it was late afternoon and drove to Vík to find a campsite and maybe a hot shower. But we didn’t find it particularly intriguing. So we went back to Skóga and pitched the tent in the area above the waterfall. Which meant we had to go up and down the stairs once again. But is was worth it!

Day 6, Crash and Canyons
We started this day by searching for one thing we had been really looking forward to: The crashed plane. You have most certainly seen a picture of it.
It was a bit hard to find the start of the road towards the site - it is just a gate in a fence along the ring road. But we found it nonetheless (the exact point is in the Google Maps link). We turned down the gravel road but the rental car found its limit quickly. We politely parked the car and went out on foot. We followed the markings of the road into what looked like a never ending black desert. We were in doubt if we were the in right place as we couldn’t see any plane or signs. But suddenly a shiny metal cylinder showed up in contrast to the black landscape. It took us around an hour to walk there. There were a few other people there. I wanted a personless photo so we waited around. We chatted with a German couple, who were also waiting and they offered us a ride back in their 4x4. Thanks! After we got the photos we drove back to the car. It was now noon and about time to have some (very late) breakfast.
Then we drove towards Fjaðrárgljúfur, which is a spectacular canyon! A quite long drive but really beautiful sight. The shapes of the rocks were just spectacular. After another short nap, we decided to drive back towards Reykjavik so we didn’t have a super long drive the next day.

We found a spot along the road to pitch the tent – definitely not the most interesting campsite of the trip but not too bad either.

Day 7, Spa Day
As you might have noticed I haven’t mentioned anything about hotel rooms or organized campsites. Which meant the we hadn’t have a shower for quite a while – we had jumped in a little icy river at a point but we needed a shower (badly).
The Germans who gave us a ride had suggested some hot springs called Reykjadalur. It was on the way to Reykjavik/Keflavik so we decided to give it a go. We parked the car at the trailhead, packed a bag with towels and off we went.
About 1.5 hours later we arrived to a steaming hot river. Wooden platforms surrounded the river and made it feel like a real spa in the middle of the wilderness. There were of course other people but the hike in shaved off the masses.
We couldn’t wait to jump in. We found the best looking spot and dipped the toes – but it was too hot! We walked a bit further down and found a small pool where the temperature was more moderate. After spending a few hours here relaxing in the hot water we were onward to the next and final location: The most touristy spot in Iceland, The Blue Lagoon. Super commercial, but super nice after week in the wild! (Remember you have to make a booking...). 
After this you are fairly close to the airport and can return your rental car and jump on a plane. Or as we did return the car and jumped on bus and spend a few days in Reykjavik – I would say about 2 days is sufficient in Reykjavik as it’s not the biggest city.
  

That was how we spent the days in Iceland. I feel like we got a nice tasting menu of Iceland - but I still feel like there is so much more to explore. When travelling I always get more curious - what if I turned right instead of left? The world doesn't become smaller, it grows. 

Drone Photography & Videography 101 by Gustav Thuesen

Drones are a game changer. That’s a bold statement to start with. But they have democratized the entire aerial media industry. For a relatively small amount of money photo and video professionals have the possibility to capture beautiful video and photos from a bird’s eye view.
After a while considering getting a drone I finally pulled the trigger on a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced. I still consider the cheapest option, that can produce useable shots at the time of writing.
Never having flown one before I was a little cautious about making the first take-off. That was soon forgotten as I got in the air. I was blown away by how easy it was to maneuver. Having played video games as a kid the controls were very intuitive. The drone stayed fixed in position when let go of the controls.

Another thing that’s great about these systems is the portability. Being able to strap the Phantom on a backpack and head on an adventure is great. The future looks very promising with improved portability and making it possible to capture unique aerials from remote areas. The DJI Mavic and GoPro Karma are clear signs of where things are going. In the future photographers will not leave the house without a drone in the pack. 

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But where is the “but”? The but comes here: But drones are not wonder machines they have their limits too.

Camera.
The dynamic range is limited on the cameras (on the "affordable" drones). Which makes it hard to get good looking footage in harsh light e.g. high noon on a sunny day, where there is strong contrast between the bright highlights and the dark shadows. To get the best looking footage utilize natural soft (diffuse) light which means: Shooting during golden hour or when it is overcast where the light is “softer” . I prefer golden hour as it creates a more “magical” feel but it of course depends on what you are shooting and what feeling you want to evoke with the shot.
Another solution to the low dynamic range is to do bracketing. Bracketing is where you shoot several photos at different exposures and blend them in post production. Basically you shoot an exposure for the shadows, the mid-tones, and the highlights and merge them. Apparently this only works for stills unless you want to do some black magic in post production with the video footage.
Too little light is also a big challenge for the camera. The tiny sensor produces a lot of noise when the ISO goes up. ISO 200 is the limit for clean footage. With that said I would rather have a noisy shot than no shot at all. I have pushed the ISO way too high just to get the shot. If the shot is spectacular most “regular people” wont notice the grain.
When shooting stills the most important thing setting-wise is to shoot in RAW, which gives you much more room to play with in post production.
But watch this space! Things are moving rapidly in the drone industry. 2013 Phantom 1 was released. With a 10 min flight time and a GoPro mounted directly on the drone. Now the flight time has close to tripled and underneath sits a gimbal stabilized 4K camera which is improving rapidly! The Phantom 4 Professional can shoot 20 megapixel RAW stills with almost 12-stops of dynamic range and 4K video at 60fps with a 100 mbit/s bitrate. To say it in non-technical terms: It's a great camera!    

A noisy shot is better than no shot. Here I'm flying under the midnight sun in Greenland.

A noisy shot is better than no shot. Here I'm flying under the midnight sun in Greenland.

Speed.
Another “but” is the limited speed. The Phantom 4 and the Phantom 4 Professional does approx. 70 km/h in sport mode which is fast. I have done some tracking shots of cars with the Phantom 3 and the limited speed is, well, limiting. If you need more speed the Inspire 2 can do 107 km/h according to DJI. That is fast (and possibly dangerous), and demands a very skilled pilot. But the slower drones can work just coordinate the speed with the driver or just skip the tracking shot and spend the time and battery life on some other shots.

Battery. 
Now I mentioned battery life. I can safely fly for around 15 min. on one battery depending on the conditions. That sounds like a short amount of time and it can be. So to make the most of it you have to plan ahead. Having a clear vision of what you want to create is important. Naturally this can be hard in the beginning as you don’t know what is possible but with more flight time this gets easier. A good idea is to view others work to be inspired and to see what is possible. Although batteries and efficiency is getting better which means more flight time per battery. The Phantom 4 Professional can fly 30 min. according to DJI. Subtract 5 min and you have a realistic flight time of 25 min. depending on the conditions.

The Creative
The basics of photography composition theory still apply when shooting with drones. Look for patterns and shapes around you. This is actually a little challenging as you have to envision how it will look from above. The classic drone photo perspective is the top-down shot which works really well as it is very graphic and shows a different perspective on everyday objects. 
When it comes to video the same apply but to create those gorgeous cinematic shots, motion with strong parallax works really well. Parallax is “a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight”. If you put a finger out in front of you and move your head from side to side you will experience parallax. Parallax shows the relationship between objects - it creates depth and size perception. The closer you are to things the stronger the effect - which requires a lot of pilot skills. I have had my share of close calls. Here is one:

Drones are definitely a part of the future. With drones becoming very accessible from a monetary and a user friendliness standpoint it is a tool everyone should have. With that said there is still room for improvement especially regarding the quality of the cameras but things are changing rapidly so in a few years that will not be a problem. But knowing what the flaws are makes it possible to work around them and creating spectacular results. So what are you waiting for? Ready for take-off? 

Understanding Exposure: Get out of Auto by Gustav Thuesen

Many people look at the M on the mode dial with awe. Maybe they have tried it once and the photos ended up either underexposed (dark and blurry) or overexposed (too light). In this blog post I want to give a primer on how to take control in manual mode. I will not go too much in depth I just want to give you the basic tools to understand your camera and expand your creativity. 

Cut to the bone a camera has three settings that matters:

ISO
_Light: Adjusts the light sensitivity of the sensor. The higher the number the more sensitive to light.
_Superpower: Can lighten up dark scenes at the cost of image noise.  

Aperture
_Light: Adjusts how “open” the lens is. Think of it as an eye. Large pupil takes in more light. The lower the number the larger the pupil - more light is let in. 
_Superpower: Can blur out the out of focus parts (low number) or make everything in focus (high number).

Shutterspeed
_Light: Adjusts for how long time the sensor will be exposed to light. Too slow shutter speed makes for blurry photos.  A general rule of thumb is: the shutter speed should be at least the same as the focal length i.e. 50 mm focal length = 1/50th, 200 mm = 1/200th and so on. 
_Superpower: can freeze high speed action or make some artistic slow shutter speed photos with e.g. light trails. 

This holy trinity all affect the final exposure.  Adjust one and it is necessary to adjust at least one more to get a correct exposure. 

These three settings are often referred to as the exposure triangle. Let’s say to have a perfect exposure this triangle has to be perfectly equilateral (all sides are equally long).  

I’ll make an example:

First I have perfect exposure.

But there is too much noise in the image. So, I lower the ISO. 

Now the photo is underexposed. So I have to adjust at least one setting to get the correct exposure again (equilateral triangle). I need to freeze the action, so I want to maintain the shutter speed. 

So I adjust the aperture to get more light through the lens (open the pupil - lower f number). And now we have a equilateral triangle again - a perfect exposure.  

Hope this gives an insight on how your camera works and gives you the tools and confidence to start expanding your photographic knowledge. When you master these settings a world of photographic opportunities will wait for you. So get out and experiment. 
See you out there!  

How photography can grow your business by Gustav Thuesen

There has generally been consensus that photography is just something that businesses will do themselves with a point and shoot camera or is bought off of some online photo licensing service cheaply. This will ultimately not help the business but rather damage the business. Customers will think it looks unprofessional and cheap. It will deplete the brand. Here are three reasons why photography is important for businesses: 

Professionalism. Want to look professional? You better get a professional to shoot your photos. Most people will notice if the photos are shot by a professional photographer. I’ve seen a ton of businesses which have bought a DSLR to shoot photos for the business. What they forget is that just because you have a DSLR camera you don’t shoot good photos. Pop-up flash, mixed color temperatures, bad lighting and no thought what so ever to composition is common.
Another thing is the amount of time (and money) that is used only to get sub par results. It would most likely take a good chunk of time (and money) to achieve results that are somewhat close to be on par with a professional photographer.  
 

Stand-out. Many businesses struggle to stand out from the competition. The most important impression is the first impression. Today the first impression is often online. A wall of text doesn’t make a business website stand out - it makes people leave. Compelling photographs will make the site stand out and the visitor will remember it as the-page-with-the-nice-images. Furthermore photography is a point many businesses skimp on so it is an easy area to stand out from the competition. 
 

Branding. Want a strong brand? Use strong photography. The biggest businesses in the world has a very clear brand. Their visual profile is clear. Do you know it is an Apple commercial before you see the logo? Probably. Their visual profile is consistent. This consistency can be hard to achieve. A professional photographer will know how to create this consistency. 

To look professional you got to have photographs that look professional as well. You can do this yourself but often it will be faster and cheaper to get a professional photographer to do this. This will help the business to stand out from the competition. In the end strong photography will help build a strong and easily recognizable brand.