Iceland is the latest photographic expedition location for Hull based photographer Tom Adamson. In this latest SIGMA lounge blog, Tom describes the essential SIGMA lens kit for exploring the land of fire and ice including the new SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Art and SIGMA 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary lens.
My essential kit for exploring the land of fire and ice by Tom Adamson
Iceland is fast becoming a dream location for landscape photographers and lovers of the outdoors. It has been on the top of my location bucket list for a number of years now, and this September I finally managed to achieve my goal of photographing this amazing country. I had a full week of touring the Southern region of Iceland on an epic road trip with some good friends and fellow photographers. Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice and this name is no exaggeration. This mighty volcanic island is strewn with some of the most stunning landscapes you could ever wish to lay eyes on. Volcanoes, waterfalls, black-sand beaches, glaciers, icebergs and not to mention the beautiful, vibrant and rugged terrain. You could spend years photographing this stunning place in all its varying weather and lighting conditions and only just scratch the surface of some of the amazing images that can be captured here.
With so much to take in and see in such a wild variety of scenery, what equipment do you take? The first answer you would jump to, like I did, is take everything! Leave nothing to chance. But in reality this just isn’t possible. With commercial flight baggage limitations, and of course the size and weight implications of hauling expensive equipment around, comes the painstaking task of choosing your essential gear to travel with. I love my wide landscapes as much as I love closer detailed shots. Not to mention the chance to grab shots of some local wildlife and of course the big dream of anyone heading to Iceland ….capturing the beautiful and elusive Northern lights. Because I like to be active when on locations with plenty of trekking and climbing, and never resisting the temptation of getting caught out by crashing waves on the coast, I needed to be mobile and to be able to easily manoeuvre over rugged and awkward terrain. This meant a reasonable sized pack with not much weight. So after much head scratching and various bag repacking sessions my decision was made. My two Nikon camera bodies, my Go-Pro and of course my Sigma lenses. Sigma has always and will always be my go to lenses for any of my photography adventures.
The lenses I chose for this trip are the SIGMA 20mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens, the SIGMA 12-24 F4 DG HSM | Art lens, the SIGMA 24-70 F2.8 DG OS HSM | Art lens and the SIGMA 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary lens. This selection gave me a great range to work with from super wide to telephoto without having to carry too much gear. First up on my list was the SIGMA 20mm | Art lens. This awesome little lens has spent a lot of time in my bag, to be honest, but when we were lucky enough to be treated to a night of stunning aurora displays this lens was my go to lens and was strapped straight to the camera. The F1.4 aperture of the 20mm Art lens made for some beautiful, sharp and vibrant images of the lights. Seeing that aurora display is something I will never forget, and the 20mm Art captured the images perfectly so I can relive that experience over and over again. If you are into astrophotography this lens comes with a very high recommendation from me.
The next lens in the bag was the Sigma 12-24mm | Art lens. This lens is an incredible piece of kit. Ideal for big wide sweeping landscapes with the freedom of that little touch of zoom that helps you compose that perfect shot. This lens came in extremely useful when shooting the many various waterfalls that Iceland has to offer. From shooting dream-like long exposure images of these amazing huge waterfalls, to high-speed hand-held panoramic shots from inside the caves behind waterfalls this lens deliverers. The Sigma 12-24mm| Art produces beautiful colour tones and sharp images that every landscape photographer will love and, as I found, had no distortion.
Next for use was the Sigma 24-70mm| Art lens. I could write a full article discussing why this lens is so amazing! It is an absolute workhorse of a lens and once on your camera you will never want to take if off. From the wide angle landscape range of 24mm to the portrait style of 70mm, the versatility of this lens is excellent. It was an extreme delight to use on the iceberg beeches of Jokulsarlon. It was so useful to have the ability to shoot wide and take in the stunning black volcanic beaches and sweeping landscape, then zooming in to recompose and shoot the big beautiful blue icebergs stranded on the shore with a quick twist of the barrel was invaluable. To top all this off the F2.8 aperture is pin sharp and perfect for pulling out all of those little details in your shot, not to mention giving you the ability to shoot in some very dark conditions which with the Icelandic weather is a blessing. I highly recommend this lens and think it is a perfect for shooting anything from landscape to weddings. This lens will not disappoint and will give you so much creative freedom with your shots.
The last lens to mention and newest addition to my kit bag is the SIGMA 100-400mm | Contemporary lens. The Iceland trip was the first time I used this lens and when I first unboxed this lens I was surprised by how small and light it was compared to its big brother the SIGMA 150-600 | Contemporary. In fact I wasn’t convinced it would cover my zoom needs for the trip but I was proven wrong! This lens packs a lot of action into a little package. First of all the image stability and quality is first rate. Very sharp, crisp and clear. The light weight and compact size of the lens body is perfect for the travel photographer and any wildlife photographer would be pleasantly surprised with the results from this lens. I used this lens for grabbing action portraits of the guys at work to taking images of the famous and charming Icelandic horses. What really brought home the power of this lens was when I used it to capture the wild grey seals playing and swimming in and around the floating icebergs off the shore. This is a fantastic telephoto lens and would rival any other manufacturer’s lenses that are nearly double the price. A lot of lens for not a lot of money in my opinion.
Of course the reviews of these lenses are just my personal opinion. I have traveled far and wide with photography and used various items of kit along the way. Usually there is something missing or something that could be improved on but the above list ticked every box and left me 100% satisfied in the choices I made.
With such a wide range covered in so few lenses I could fully concentrate on photography and take in some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen without having to worry about my equipment. Having the 24-70 tripod mounted taking a long exposure shot while I could have the 100-400mm | Contemporary hand-held on my other body shooting the surrounding details and wildlife was just a perfect workflow for me. These Sigma lenses offer a truly stunning image quality as well as being manufactured to the highest standards. Some people might be discouraged by the Sigma Art label, thinking its only for the fine art photography landscape crowd. This is far from the case. With the design and top end manufacturing of the Sigma Art series these lenses will take on some very tough shooting conditions and keeping coming back for more. I’ve had these lenses out in shooting conditions ranging from freezing while capturing the northern lights at night, to getting completely soaking wet under the powerful mists of huge waterfalls. Each time the Sigma Art series lenses perform perfectly with no reduction in performance. These lenses are a fine addition to any photographer’s kit bag. From landscape to wedding photography. From studio work to extreme adventure photography in the field. The Sigma Art series lenses offer a very robust piece of kit with the fine image quality we are all looking for. I can’t wait to have them back in action on my next adventure.