Landscape photography for some is a way of travelling and exploring the world. For Belgian photographer, Sven Broeckx, capturing the beauty of the world has become an enjoyable experience much like hiking. With a passion for photographing the Northern Lights and practicing long exposure photography in the waves, Sven has taken his country by storm with his unique visionary take on some of the planet's most incredible landscapes. In this interview, he discusses what drives his love of photography as well as where he hopes to journey in the near future.
Hello Sven! Thank you for chatting with Iceland Photo Tours today. Tell us a bit about yourself and your career path. How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to doing it professionally?
I am still not doing it professionally (and I am not planning to do so). But my photography started after I had hiked the Laugavegur hiking trail in Iceland in 2013. That was the first holiday I started to photograph sunrises and sunsets. Then in 2014, I went on my first real photo trip to the Lofoten Islands in summer, to go hiking in the mountains and photograph from mountain tops. Since 2014, I have been on multiple photo trips each year.
Who were the mentors who helped to shape your photography?
When I started photography, Flickr was the place to be. Two photographers whom I have followed from the beginning are Dylan Toh and Örvar Atli Þorgeirsson. While in Lofoten, the Aurora master, Arild Heitmann, gave me some tips to photograph the Northern Lights. I have also followed the work of Max Rive & Alex Nail for a long time.
When Sven first started out in photography, Flickr was the place to be. Photo by: 'Sven Broeckx'.
What is your earliest memory of photography?
The first time I took a photograph with a DSLR was in a national park in France. I was shooting a waterfall in the middle of the day with hard shadows. But back then, I liked the long exposure effect on the water… The picture is terrible!
Long exposure is an effect that Sven enjoys creating. Photo by: 'Sven Broeckx'.
Can you describe a bit of the process you went through in your early years as a photographer to get noticed? Did you enter competitions? How did you start building your portfolio?
I always liked and still like the combination of hiking and photography. There is one big advantage if you do this – your pictures will be much more unique than, for example, a classic shot from Mount Kirkjufell.
I almost never enter competitions...
Another subject that has always intrigued me is the Northern Lights. I have made many trips to photograph them and as a photographer from Belgium, this of course gets noticed in my home country. So most of my portfolio is built around those Northern Light trips.
Wide angle photography, such as panoramas, are another of Sven's pursuits. Photo by: 'Sven Broeckx'.
What draws you to landscapes rather than other types of photography or subjects?
I just love being around in nature and be at amazing locations in the most beautiful light/moments. For me, nothing beats watching a sunset/sunrise from a mountain top.
What kind of landscape is your favourite to photograph and why?
Chamonix in France. Photo by: 'Sven Broeckx'.
Tell us a bit about your favourite locations for photography in Iceland.
The Fjallabak Nature Reserve… this is by far my favourite area. So many different landscapes. Rhyolite mountains, black sand deserts, green valleys, big waterfalls. And there is so much still to discover!
What was one of the most rewarding locations you have shot?
My most popular shot is shot near a mountain lake in Chamonix, France! When i got out my tent to shoot sunrise. A male ibex was standing in front of my tent. I managed to frame him in front of some of the highest peaks in Europe.
Kallur lighthouse (Faroe Islands) is another location that was very rewarding. On my first visit I saw an almost circular rainbow at sunrise.
Faroe Islands. Photo by: 'Sven Broeckx'.
Do you think over-photographed locations have anything to say anymore, or can new talents and new techniques make a difference?
They are over-photographed with a reason. So it’s not that I don’t visit them. But I will only shoot those classics when the light is really special. And also new gear and techniques definitely makes a difference.
As an example, my Kirkjufell panorama with the Northern Lights was not possible for me 2 years ago. The Sigma 14mm F1.8 lens and the new Canon EOS R were letting me use a shutter speed of 1.0 seconds without getting too much noise… Two years ago, I probably needed a shutter speed of 6 to 10 seconds and then the Northern Lights wouldn’t have been so crisp.
Can you walk us through the actual process that you use to set up a landscape photo?
First I look around to see where the best light is, then I look to the ground to see a nice and interesting foreground. Then I take out my camera, install my filters if needed. Adjust my settings in manual mode to those I wanted and take the shot. If the foreground is ‘busy’, I use Live View to compose my shot.
Northern Lights over Kirkjufell. Photo by: 'Sven Broeckx'.
How do you capture the essence of the landscape and get past the traditional popular or Instagram shot?
I never liked instagram. And I try not to be influenced by it too much. But I always try to visit locations that aren’t photographed a lot on each trip. As an example, on my last trip to Iceland, I went to Stokksnes, but not for the regular Instagram shot, but I hiked for a small hour to visit the Batman mountain.
Tell us about a project or accomplishment that you consider to have beeen the most significant in your career.
I think my project ‘Iceland’ is the most significant in my career. Because of those images, I have spoken on stage for lots of people and been in a lot of magazines with those shots. And also my first workshop in 2016 with Northscapes (only for Dutch-speaking photographers) went to Iceland. And it is probably also the reason I am writing this interview!
The magnificent Highlands of Iceland. Photo by: 'Sven Broeckx'.
Do you have any tips for an aspiring photographer who’s picking up a camera for the first time?
Just do what you want to do, and not what social media or others want you to do! Just have fun, invest in lenses instead of cameras and filters, and follow video tutorials from photographers you like. Post processing is so important these days!
What are your hobbies outside of photography?
I have always played football. I was even able to fund my photo gear by playing football.
Lofoten Islands in Arctic light. Photo by: 'Sven Broeckx'.
If you could take your art in any direction without fear of failure or rejection, where would it lead? What new thing would you try?
I started to build my portfolio with images from Iceland and Lofoten (Norway). In the future, I would love to visit lots of new locations. Namibia, Bolivia and Canada are on top of my list! I just want to see the world...
See the world as Sven does when he travels for photography! Check out our range of international photo tours and photography workshops.