Rob Heffer

I work in the corporate world to earn some money, but my passion and my heart and soul is in photography. I picked up my first DSLR camera in 2010 and since then I have had an absolute love-affair with my camera and I try my very best to showcase the beauty that surrounds us on our amazing planet. There is so much negativity and stress that surrounds us and infiltrates our every-day lives, that every fibre in my body seeks to break free from the crush of the greediest and most self-destructive mammal on the planet, namely mankind. Whenever I get out into nature, it is as if my spirit has broken free of those human inflicted bonds and it is just the world and I. I find absolute peace and solace in finding and capturing a magnificent landscape or seascape under the right lighting conditions and I love to share every decent photo that I have taken with other people in an effort to tell the real story about who I am and to share the beauty of this world through my eyes...It is as though every photo in my portfolio is an autobiography of my life because it defines who I am as a person and the wonderful planet that we inhabit. 

I am a firm believer that if you do something, then do it properly, or don’t do it at all. I am extremely competitive, not against other people, but against myself. I strive to continuously improve my capabilities and photographic knowledge in an effort to be the very best that I can be. I am also of the belief that photography is an art and every photographer should strive to develop his or her own style, not to become a clone of somebody else, but rather to let their own uniqueness define them individually. I am not a mass-producer of images and prefer to rather make one great image than a dozen mediocre images. Luckily we are all different in this world and this is what makes photography so amazing, because it allows you to be as creative as you want to be. Sometimes you ride the crest of the wave with creativity and other times you can barely find the inspiration to pick up your camera and that is okay too. I love all forms of photography from wildlife to the more creative types of images, but my heart and soul lies in the landscapes and seascapes. This is what makes my heart and soul sing.

Iceland - The Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland, the enigma. Iceland, a land of extreme contrasts. Iceland, a diverse land, beautifully and intimately sculptured. Iceland, a harsh land, yet a land so fragile. This is a land of the most awe-inspiring beauty, a land with every colour of the artist's palette, a land where the air and water is pure, a pristine land, as it was created, a land where glaciers and volcanoes exist side by side, where the snow and ice run metres deep, yet geo-thermal water boils a few centimetres beneath the earth’s surface in nature’s steaming mud-pots.

Iceland’s population is made up of just 337 000 warm-hearted people who take immense pride in their country. Eight of us from all around the world undertook a photographic tour of the island from Reykjavik in the South, headed in an easterly direction, through to Akureyri in the North and then back around the west coast, returning once more to Reykjavik. 

Our journey started in late winter, at the beginning of March, which is an ideal time to go, in that the land is still mostly covered in snow, but there is enough definition in the landscape to provide you with some mindblowing and interesting photographic compositions. There is something exciting around every corner and I can honestly say that I was like a kid in a candy store, jumping  in and out of our transport vehicle like a rabbit. We had an extremely energetic guide, Johnathan Esper, an American who knew the island like the back of his hand. His knowledge of all the great places to visit was phenomenal. We didn’t get much time to sleep, in between leaving the accommodation by about 06h00 and sometimes only returning to your next overnight stop after 02h00 if the auroras were gracing the night skies with their presence. Even then, sleep is not immediate as you still need to download your images (onto 2 separate hard drives for safety sake) and then charge all your camera batteries and prepare again for the following morning. There is plenty of time to sleep when you return home and you cannot afford to miss a single photographic opportunity by lying in.

Speaking of the auroras, if you have not witnessed them dancing across the sky, this has got to be the most singular jaw-dropping and emotional experience that you can witness on this planet. As the sky lights up with its green glow, your jaw drops and your eyes fill with tears at the sheer and utter beauty of this phenomenon. You need to remember sometimes to press the shutter button on your camera. We were fortunate to witness the auroras on about 5 nights.

There are waterfalls all over Iceland, but there are some that are just so spectacular and with a slower shutter speed, you can get some pretty awesome images. It is hard to single out any particular waterfall, because each has its own special beauty, but I have to admit that my two favourites are Godafoss and Skogafoss. There are so many different compositions at each waterfall in Iceland that it is essential that you take images from above as well as below, or even close-up’s work well too.

Then, what can one say about some of the incredible ice caves that you can get into under the glaciers. It is worth an extra cost to go with a guide to some of the more remote and more beautiful ice caves because, whilst they are all beautiful, you get the caves more or less to yourselves. It is also heaps of fun to walk over the glaciers for several kilometres to get to the more remote caves. Guides are essential as the glaciers can be dangerous places to hike and you most certainly don’t want to fall into a hole and spend your last hours on earth looking up at the sky above, unable to climb out. The extraordinary blue-green colours from within the caves from the diffused light shining through the ice is incredible and the experience is unforgettable. It is hard to believe that the caves, which change every year, are no more than underground rivers in summer as the ice melts and the water gushes under the glaciers until the following winter when they freeze up once more.

Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon and beach is another particularly “other-worldly” experience. The calving icebergs flow down into the lagoon and eventually out to sea, where they break up and wash back onto the beach in smaller blocks of ice, although some are larger than a human and others are just little bits and pieces...It is also known as “diamond beach” because, as the light filters through the icebergs, they come alive and shine like diamonds and provide the most extraordinary images imaginable. Another feature of Iceland are its famous black volcanic beaches, which provide amazing contrasts with the white water or the snow and ice.

Iceland is cold, but because of the warmer ocean currents, temperatures range between +1 degree C to around -5 degrees C at that time of the year. Wind chill factor can add to the cold, but with a good down jacket, thermal clothing, ski pants, gloves and down head-gear or beanies, there is no reason to ever be cold. You tend to need to get wet many times too and so waterproof waders are essential.

For my camera gear, I used a full range of lenses from 16mm through to 200mm on at least 2 camera bodies. My “go-to” kit was probably my 16-35mm wide-angle lens on my Nikon D850 body, but you are changing lenses all the time. It is important not to get lazy by not changing lenses as you will miss some interesting compositions if you don’t change them. It is also important to use a range of neutral density filters and graduated neutral density filters to get a more even balance of light into the image and to slow down your shutter speed somewhat to get some nice streaky effects in the images which have water in them. A polarising filter is also a must have. I use the Nisi filter system which is amazing, mainly due to their great design and lack of colour cast in them.

Iceland is spectacular and should be on every photographers bucket list. It is not cheap, but with careful planning, it is possible not to break your bank account.