For several years, I have realised that I was not only taking photographs whilst travelling but starting to define my travels and destinations based upon whether they would be suitable for my photographic interests. This is how it came about that I considered joining a photo workshop to take my photography another level higher. So in February 2016, I decided to explore Iceland with a perspective on winter. During my research, I stumbled upon information in relation to Iceland Photo Tours. A brief look at the portfolio of its founder, Iurie Belegurschi, as well as the cool team of brilliant photographers he had gathered to fill the team, convinced me to sign up for a trip to Iceland.
Photo workshops are great for learning photography whilst travelling. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
Svalbard explorer. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
I don’t know how it is for you, but for me, I had been exploring photography tours and workshops as a way to optimise my time during trips to a particular location. I thought that joining a photo workshop would be the best way to benefit from the knowledge of experienced photographers who would be able to take me to the perfect place at the right time for the best conditions with some additional technical support whilst onsite. I also thought that it would be a good way to be taken to several locations within the same day for almost unlimited photo opportunities while not having to worry about the logistics of travelling. However, it turned out that I was wrong!
Diamond Ice Beach in Iceland. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
Yes, I was wrong as being part of a landscape photo workshop is much, much more than just these things. In relation to the tour experience itself, I was happily surprised to not only be taken to great places at the best time in which to photograph them, but to always receive a brief from our workshop guides before each stop, ensuring that I would be able to make the best of each location.
The Explorer Ship. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
This included advice on the recommended gear to bring along (which is great for people like me who always hesitate that I will be missing one of the required lenses in my photo bag), as well as being able to see the inspiring photos taken in that same location by our guides. This type of inspiration was a great way to get us started, in order to avoid the “white page” syndrome and to give us a bit of a warm-up.
Into the Blue. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
The Glacier Waterfall. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
What I enjoyed most about being onsite was the time allocated for each location. During these times, we had all the freedom that we needed to play around on our own with our cameras, though we always had one of the two photo guides available to either help us solve technical difficulties or simply to give us advice on composition and other techniques.
Snow Storm in Vik. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
For example, last January in Lofoten when the days were short, it was great to have our photo guide Daniel Kordan, a Nikon ambassador, giving me hints on the settings required for special techniques such as auto focus stacking with my brand new Nikon D850. I love how our photo guides (or coaches, as I heard my friend call them) dedicate time to look at your compositions whilst at the location and not after the shoot, when it is too late to try the composition again but from a different perspective.
Collapsing. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
Sunrise over Reine. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
During these photography workshops, I was able to learn much more than through in-field experience. We were also provided with several lectures around composition to help us to solidify our knowledge. One such lecture was in relation to filters, which allowed me to finally understand the role that reverse graduated filters play in landscape photography. The cherry on the cake was probably all of the sessions provided by our guides, during which they shared amazing post-processing tips and techniques.
Walrus has a morning bath. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
Above all, the most priceless gift during these tours (of which I have now attended 4 in total, with many more scheduled to come!), is that I made new photographer friends from all over the world. Not just photo contacts but true friends who, despite living on other continents, continue to regularly interact, exchange information and follow each others photography work. It is no surprise why we continue to plan trips together, even though the end of each tour can be a bit heartbreaking! I can’t wait for this summer, when my now very dear friends from the US and Hong Kong will join the same tour as I.
The Light Snake. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
We all know that being together will multiply our level of fun and enjoyment of the tour, as we will be able to share in many more amazing moments of photography. If you think about it, there is some logic behind joining a group photography tour, as we all share a common passion around photography whilst enjoying unique moments together that we will never forget. I really cherish all of these new photo friends I have made during the photography workshops I have attended, which are truly unique and of high value.
Japan photography workshop. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
It is probably about time for me to tell you more about the tour that made me come back to Iceland many times. Following my initial photography workshop in Iceland, I decided to join an Iceland Photo Tours trip to Japan which was guided by Daniel Kordan, as well as Iurie Belegurschi and his lovely wife, Rhona. It was a festival of colours to discover the amazing culture of Japan!
Travelling for photography in Japan was a rewarding experience. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
How could I best describe this experience to you? It was truly as though I were travelling with friends, rather than teachers. We not only shared time for taking photos but also to have great fun! The opportunity to discover the Japanese culture was my favourite thing about this tour. Having a geisha to model for us in a few locations added to the experience and although I’m not always an early morning person, I have to say that in all of these tours, I have never had any issues with waking up on time, as I am always excited to discover our next move.
Photo workshops take you to amazing places like this. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
So where else have I travelled with Iceland Photo Tours? I once joined an arctic safari in Svalbard (the most northern archipelago of Norway). Some photographers go to Africa for safaris – the only difference between this and that was that we got to replace the Land Rover with a Zodiac and the lions with polar bears!
The Gold Bear. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
This tour was 11 days in length but it went away like a flash. I remember those unique moments when we were on the Zodiac, managed by our experienced polar guide in the waves, to get us closer to the shore where a big polar bear was backlit by the warm sun rays at the end of the day. It was a magical and unique moment, the type of image that I will never forget. I was also able to fly a drone over the blue rivers of the largest glacier in Europe (without GPS) to obtain more unique photos of the region.
Mt Fuji. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
So although my first experience in Iceland gave me a taste of the Northern Lights, it was my overall experience with Iceland Photo Tours that had me returning with them to the Lofoten Islands and Svalbard. To give you a quick re-cap on my time in Lofoten – it was during winter and the burst of aurora activity that resulted in colours moving all over the sky had us excited like children! We were almost too awestruck to take photos and found ourselves standing there, just enjoying the moment.
The S. Photo by 'Marc Pelissier'.
Despite the fact that I am blessed with the opportunity to live and work in a beautiful region such as the south of France, it is an absolute pleasure to travel all over the world with the amazing photography guides at Iceland Photo Tours and the friends which I have made on each new trip. I hope that this article will help you to understand why I have already planned 3 more trips with Iceland Photo Tours and why I warmly recommend their workshops to you for a unique photography experience!
Aerial view over the temple. Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
Should you wish to view more of the photos which I have taken on these trips, please do not hesitate to visit my social media accounts. I would love for you to leave a comment or two and to ask me any questions if needed!
Culture in Japan Photo by: 'Marc Pelissier'.
For more information on Marc's work, visit his Instagram!
Improve your photography skills and see the world at the same time on an organised trip with Iceland Photo Tours. Check out our range of photography workshops!