New Horizons Part III: The Leica Monochrom

It’s been a while since I’ve now had the Leica Monochrom (Typ 246) and as such, I’ve had some time to collect my thoughts about the camera. My path to owning this latest iteration of Leica’s purely monochrome camera was a bit long-winded. I originally bought a used copy of the original Monochrom from the Leica Store Miami. Having used it for a good four months or so, I traded it in when the new version was finally available in stores. In the following post, I will give my thoughts on both and my reasons for the upgrade.

Moody Lofoten Mountains | MM 246 | Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar

A brief consideration of Leica

The history of Leica is well-known and does not need much mention. But history would not offer much solace if the current line-up of products did not offer some semblance of quality. In the last few years, the landscape of digital photography has changed massively and even the traditional players such as Canon and Nikon are facing strong challenges from new players such as Sony with their competitive mirrorless cameras.

Leica has a strange place in this new landscape. Re-branded as a luxury brand, it is nonetheless a brand that has embraced simplicity and has a strong connection to its traditional film-based past. The cult of Leica is therefore attributed primarily as one for the rich that seems to ignore the masses that could perhaps truly fulfill the potential of its rich pedigree.

Enter the Monochrom

This brings me back to the topic at hand – the Leica Monochrom. A digital camera boldly released in 2012 as a camera bereft of colour, recording only luminance data – a pure black and white camera. However incredulous the decision was perceived back then, the camera was a success for Leica and three years later, we have a new version, upgraded to the CMOS architecture of its color sibling.

In general, this not a traditional review but more of a collection of thoughts based on experiences with both versions of the camera substantiated with some of my results with both.

Manhattan At Night | M Monochrom | 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE

I snapped up the original used copy of the original Monochrom from the Leica Store in Miami as I mentioned above. With the release of the new version, a lot of the older copies were rapidly arriving as refurbished copies at (relatively) competitive prices for such a highly regarded camera. The assumption was that I had 30 days to use the camera and return it at any time in this period without penalty. Of course, returning a camera once loved is hard to fathom and that is what happened to me.

My first time out with the camera was one of trepidation. I snapped a few pictures at home as soon as the battery was charged, then pointed it out the window and snapped a few more before I eagerly copied the files onto my computer to check the results. It was at this moment, the reality sunk in that I was dealing with a purely monochromatic image. There was no way I could temporarily switch to color to equate the image, then artistically re-interpret it as black-and-white. All I had in front of me was a greyscale image that at first glance, looked a bit bland. Of course, these were just test images and a bad photograph is a bad photograph no matter the treatment and it was moot to expect these to exude magic where there was none. Until I shot something a bit more meaningful.

The original Monochrom had a reputation for creating relatively flat looking DNG files – the real power however lay in the fact that the dynamic range was sufficient and a bit of post processing would really bring out the depth and richness in the files. And it was true – the blacks seemed to have infinite range and an underexposed image at base ISO could be lifted up to 5-stops if necessary which is quite impressive.

But there is a technical reality to be aware of. Unlike other digital cameras, the Monochrom records only a single channel of luminance data and as such, highlights once clipped cannot be recovered. My solution was to always shoot with a -1/3 exposure compensation and take advantage of its post-processing flexibility to bring up the shadows at a later time and this worked out quite well in the time I had the camera.

The other exciting aspect of this camera was that I could now, just as the traditionalists did in the film days, use color contrast filters to affect the look of the image. Think Red filters for those images with dark skies and contrasty clouds. Or Orange and Yellow filters to brighten up a human face and soften facial blemishes.

And so I did. I bought a set of red and orange filters. Red was intended to be used for my landscape photos since I had enjoyed creating that faux look in my mono conversions in the past. The orange filter was meant to be used as a general purpose filter to enhance contrast and portray faces more gently. The consequence was that the files I now played with in Lightroom had a lot more contrast and generally a much better straight-out-of-camera look that I was quite pleased with. Suffice it to say, after this revelation, I loved using the camera and, besides using it for landscapes, used it at a couple of events for photographing friends and family.

Moody Evening | M Monochrom | 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE with Red Filter

Although a lot of my photography pertains to landscape photography, the Leica is a classic for street photography and sometimes, this is a great opportunity to maximize the luscious bokeh and character of the lenses. Below are a few random shots with the M Monochrom.

As you can see, the images are rich with detail and there is a lovely roll-off of tones from the DNG files. It’s hard to directly quantify but color conversions to black-and-white generally feel a tad more “pushed” and you lose some of the delicacy of a true mono image.

And why I switched to the new version

My fascination for the Monochrom had initially begun after Leica had launched its campaign for the new Typ 246 camera. Featuring the luscious photography of Ragnar Axelsson, I was blown away by the depth of the images and the unique look. It was unlike most black and white imagery I had seen, and the quality of the tones was miles away from the look of popular color-to-mono conversions. Featuring a country such as Iceland in deep winter obviously helped and I began to follow news tidbits regarding the camera vociferously. At this point, I was still in the camp of skeptics that couldn’t swallow the asking price for such a camera but I put myself in the waiting list for the camera nonetheless – Leica is notorious for producing units of their cameras in extremely small quantities and it is quite common for people to wait for 6 months to a year before they can even get their hands on the model.

In this case, it was a good six months before pre-orders were informed of availability – a period during which I had already procured the old version at a relative bargain and got a good feel for the big question – would I be satisfied with a purely black and white camera or did I prefer the easy route of color conversions instead? The answer to this was an emphatic YES! The not so clear question was whether the upgrade was worth it. The new camera, being three years newer obviously meant that it came with a lot of technological leaps forward. But the real nuances also lay in the curious case of what makes a Leica unique… and limiting at the same time.

Hamnøy I | MM 246 | 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE

Hamnøy II | MM 246 | 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE

To Leica users, the following is quite basic knowledge. Leica M cameras are rangefinder cameras that use only manual focus lenses. The main difference with SLR cameras is that while SLRs allow you to look through the lens and see exactly what you are framing, the M rangefinders instead have a little window that looks at the scene with frame-lines to help compose the image. The most obvious limitation is that this window is just barely wide enough to frame a 28mm image. For anything wider, an external viewfinder is necessary – becoming rather cumbersome in the process. 35mm and 50mm lenses are the easiest to use while telephoto lenses like the 90mm become increasingly difficult to frame for because of the tiny frame-lines and often require a magnifier to work with.

Of course, this discussion opens up the conversation to a much larger conversation of how incredibly limiting and frustrating this can be – a conversation that is quite deeply personal and I will not go into at this moment.

However, this begins to highlight the main reasons for my shift. The new version had Live View and the possibility to add an external viewfinder and thus the ability to use extreme wide-angle and telephoto lenses quite easily. For regular photography with a 35mm or 50mm, the old Monochrom was quite fantastic and totally sufficient – in fact, using the rangefinder is quite charming because it forced me to pre-visualize the scene before the shutter click. But for landscapes, it was quite imperative to frame accurately and get a good sense of the resulting image.

The other factor is to do with the usage of graduated filters and polarizers. With the old Monochrom, there is no way to gauge the effect of a polarizer until after the image is taken (unless you buy another very expensive Leica accessory). Grad filters are also impossible to gauge without shooting a test image – unless you choose to bracket exposures and combine in post which I am not a huge fan of. The new version however, is perfect because you now can use the Live View to do exactly this. It still has a minor irritation that the center focus point is the only one you can use to check your focus but in general, it’s a huge improvement overall.

Jackson Lake And The Tetons | MM 246 | 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE

I guess there is just one more area to touch on briefly how different are the two cameras? Although both cameras record pure luminance data, it seems the files generated by the two are fundamentally quite different. The original Monochrom seemed to generate a pure image that seemed a bit bland at first but had enough latitude for post-processing and could generate fantastically rich files. Moreover, using contrast filters like Red and Yellow filters gave you a much richer file right off the bat.

The new Monochrom (typ 246) seems to have a lot more contrast in the files by default with the midtones tending toward to the darker greys, resulting in moody tones with sharp accents of black. Contrast filters also seem to react slightly differently and the adjustment to the new look took me some time although I now love the look of the new files. But in writing this blog post, I am reminded how the older files seem somehow a bit smoother in general while the new files feel moody and gritty. But these are just ruminations for now and I may explore this again in a later post.

Shooting in Mono

Although I am old enough to have shot with film cameras before the onset of the digital age, I had never shot black and white film in the past and my first experiences with Tri-X and Ilford HP5 are comparatively recent. I guess I am one of the nouveau sorts that has re-appreciated black and white for it’s ability to deal with tonality and texture with a strong emphasis on composition.

In a time when digital cameras shoot color, it has become fashionable to convert images to black and white. The possibilities of conversion are endless – even more so than true black and white at times. I have converted tons of images that looked rather bland in color to black and white to dramatic effect in the past. In such a paradigm, shooting with a purely monochromatic camera may thus seem limiting. The decision for me has been intensely personal – and not without an element of risk considering the camera does not come cheap.

Fence | MM 246 | 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE with Red Filter

Farmhouse And the Tetons | MM 246 | 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE with Red Filter

The main limitations of such a medium also become its strengths. Black and white is all about light and shadow, and texture to a certain extent. Since there are no dramatic colors anymore, it is almost essential to visualize a scene in terms of tonality… and if necessary, use color contrast filters to accentuate a scene.

Having only had the camera for a short time, I can’t really say I am an expert in any way. In fact, during my recent trip to Norway, I found it hard to pull out the Monochrom because the light and soft colors of the Arctic landscape were so pretty to ignore. But it is a fact that is growing on me that in most cases, a well taken monochrome photograph could be just as powerful as one in color.

The Grand Tetons | MM 246 | 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE with red Filter

The image above is a great example of a bright sunny day image that would be pretty but quite unassuming in color- but has a majestic quality in black and white.

The three day long storm in Norway allowed for some dramatic imagery with raging waves crashing against the shore.

Vareid | MM 246 | 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri Elmar

Stormy Lofoten |MM 246 | 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri Elmar

And wildlife too!

 

Arctic Fox | MM 246 | 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE

This has been a long post and I have mainly used images to justify my decision. Understanding black and white like the masters of old is a long path but it should be a fun journey. And since I have rambled on for long enough so I will finish this post off with some more images.

New Horizons Part II: Enter the Leica alternative

After having used the Leica M for a few days, I must admit I kept poring over the images I had shot (and salivating effusively at the image quality). I was in a tricky position – for one, I was quite aware of the “elite” status of Leica in the camera world and I was having a bit of a hard time figuring out if the camera – lens combination was indeed special or if it was just me being overly enamored by it’s “special” quality. I kept looking at the pictures (I had shot more than I posted; quite a few of my girlfriend wife but she’s not too keen to be plastered over the internet) and trying to figure out if they were indeed special – I felt it but could not define it.

Angel of Calvary Cemetery II | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron ASPH

Angel of Calvary Cemetery II | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron ASPH

 

It reminded me of when I first used Carl Zeiss lenses on my Nikon D800 body. Back then, the main distinction was that they were sharp – inhumanly sharp. The 21mm f/2.8 Distagon must be one of the sharpest wide-angle lenses around and the 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar is a beauty. The detail from both lenses is quite spectacular and their reputation is well deserved. But besides how sharp they were, they also have beautiful colour rendition. I finally sold my Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens recently just because I was relatively “disappointed” with the results a lot of the time. I know it’s rather harsh to knock off a lens that is quite a steady and strong performer – the images were quite sharp and the focal length is an extremely useful range on 35mm. But something about the color rendition seemed “muddy” and I felt I always needed to play with the colours in post to make it more appealing. In contrast, 90% of the images I shot with the Zeiss 21mm were beautiful straight out of camera and rarely need much post beyond some contrast and shadow/highlight adjustments. In short, the myth of Carl Zeiss was true.

Good Morning Vestrahorn

Good Morning Vestrahorn | Nikon D800 | Zeiss 21mm f/2.8

And that brings me back to the Leica. What I noticed with my in-focus shots from the Leica was that they too were sharp. But unlike the Zeiss lenses, they had a different character to them. They were sharp – yet soft at the same time. It is how I like to describe the look. Wide open, the image was sharp where in focus, but the detail was also soft – giving the images a lovely filmic look. It helps that the M has no anti-aliasing filter but the quality from the lens was very evident.

And so begins a new stage (almost – wait for part 3 of this series). I couldn’t afford the M (and even though I lust for it, it is a high price tag for something that will depreciate rather rapidly; and I must say, the electronics seemed a tad fiddly and not as robust as my Nikon). But I did begin to look at the alternative – a body that could mount a Leica lens with an adapter. After all, 99% of the magic is in the lens. And perusing the internet, there were 2 very good options – Fuji and Sony.

I already had good experience with Fuji cameras having owned the X100s (which is now my wife’s). Of the modern crop of digital cameras, I really liked the direction Fuji was heading. Their cameras are a mix of classic nostalgia and clever innovations in the electronics. They also handle beautifully and are a joy to use. I even played around with my friend Chris Palazzo’s XT-1 for a bit. He had the entire kit – the 14mm, 18mm, 23mm, 35mm and 58mm lenses (and if I weren’t such a fool, I’d say the Fuji 35mm 1.4 is a beauty of a lens. And it has auto-focus. See the pics below – it’s quite stunning).

DSCF7705_fuji1

Navi | Fuji XT-1 | 35mm 1.4

DSCF7719_fuji2

Surprise | Fuji XT-1 | 35mm 1.4

 

But there is a catch – they sport APS-C sensors. And I wasn’t too keen on losing a third of the outer area of the lens because of this crop-factor- not least the fact that I would need to compensate a 35mm to a 50mm equivalent. Also, I was a fan of the subtle vignetting that the Leica lenses produced and I loved how they brought the focus inward.

Reluctantly I started pursuing the second option – the Sony. Being a staunch Nikon fan, I was snobbish and had haughtily dismissed the Sony full-frame cameras until now. But it remained that the Sony was a full frame 35mm camera and I was reading glowing reviews. I started my next major internet study, of which there was one man who had a ton of reviews and experience with various gear – Steve Huff. In general, I try to keep an open mind whenever I read a review and try to distill it with my own experiences and requirements. But Steve had reviewed the A7ii (and the older A7 and A7s) and seemed to present a very compelling view of the camera-lens combination. Other sites such as Mike Evans’ blog at Macfilos had also presented the pros and cons of this combination – main among them the fact that the Sony sensor seemed unable to sufficiently resolve the edges of the frame and hence, the sharpness reduces a bit on the fringes. The other major con was that the sensor was not capable of using lenses wider than 35mm without serious vignetting and color overlay issues.

However this combination was not (yet) intended to be a complete replace of my Nikon system. I still intend to shoot my landscapes with my sturdier and proven Nikon gear. The Sony-Leica combination was intended to be a step into street photography and a light travel combination. Something I could carry with me much more regularly because of it’s small size. And the fact that the edges were soft didn’t bother me much. I had spent the first few years of my photographic hobby obsessing over sharpness and my Zeiss lenses were the answer. This camera however was to be used for more casual photography or even some portraiture. And the edge drop-off didn’t matter – the edges would most likely be blurred from shallow depth of field anyway.

And so I bit the bullet. I looked around for the newly released A7ii (I favored the newer model primarily for its much more ergonomic grip). It was a bit of a quest actually since it seemed out of stock almost everywhere – until I found it on Newegg. I found a used 50mm Summilux on ebay and then a grand “deal”  for a like-new 35mm Summilux from a well known Leica dealer by the name of  Ken Hansen ( his ebay store is a good place to look for used Leica gear or you can just email him at the afore-mentioned email).

Next up was the choice of adapter – there were several options but a lot of them seemed to be a bit iffy. The one adapter that was considered solid was the relatively more expensive option – the Voigtlander M-E close focus adapter (as Thom Hogan likes to say, if you are going to buy equipment, buy the best – otherwise you will end up constantly upgrading and ultimately spending more over time than the one initial expense).

Sony A7ii and 35mm Summilux ASPH with Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter

Sony A7ii and 35mm Summilux ASPH with Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter

The combination is NOT light. The camera has a surprising heft to it, given the combined weights of the body, the adapter and the f/1.4 lens. Everyone who has lifted this tiny combination has been surprised at how “dense” it is. But it feels about right in general – solid and reliable and not cheap and plastic-like.

But enough chatter. Here are some images; some of these are casual street shots mixed with a couple of landscape shots.

The Red Hats | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

The Red Hats | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Daytime Stroll | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Daytime Stroll | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

 

Snowman |  Sony A7ii | 50mm Summilux pre-ASPH

Snowman | Sony A7ii | 50mm Summilux pre-ASPH

Motorcycle in Snow | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Motorcycle in Snow | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Black and white conversions come out with beautiful clarity and with minimum obsession in post.

The Art of LevitationI | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

The Art of Levitation I | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

The Art of Levitation II | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

The Art of Levitation II | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

What up? | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Patience and The Goodbye Kiss | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Patience and The Goodbye Kiss | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

And finally some landscapes, my most familiar theme.

Manhattan Sunset | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Manhattan Sunset | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

 

Add Content here

Add Content here

Frozen New York I | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Frozen New York I | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Frozen New York II | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Frozen New York II | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH

Deep freeze | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH at f/1.4

Deep freeze | Sony A7ii | 35mm Summilux ASPH at f/1.4

This has perhaps been my longest post, rambling along as I get accustomed to blogging and writing about my experiences. In short, and given my initial misgivings about Sony, I must say I am quite pleased with the Sony-Leica combination. A lot of people online feel it is a bit pointless to use such a combination given that the lens collection for the Sony is growing and many point to the stellar performance of the Zeiss 55mm 1.8. And I would agree… if auto-focus and speed were of the essence, then yes, a good autofocus lens is the solution. But choosing a Leica lens is not really about speed and efficiency. It is about taking your time and understanding your objective and using the distance scale to understand depth-of-field in a way modern cameras do not. Plus the images that the Leica lenses generate are so beautiful that most of the time, I do not feel the need to touch them in post.

What are your thoughts?

New Horizons Part I : A day out with the Leica M (Typ 240)

A little over a month ago, I had the opportunity (or should I say, misfortune) to spend a day testing out a Leica. The Leica store here in New York has a program that allows you to test drive a Leica camera for an entire day. The obvious intent is to allow people like me who had never used a rangefinder before to try one, and obviously entice us to procure one for the future.

The kit I received consisted of the digital Leica M (typ 240) and the 50mm Summicron f/2 lens along with a battery and charger (in Leica jargon, a f/1.4 lens is a summilux, an f/2.0 lens is a summicron and a lens in the range of f/2.5-2.8 is an Elmarit). For people not too familiar with Leicas, these are rangefinder cameras where, unlike SLRs wherein you view directly through the lens, here you view through a separate window with frame lines based on the focal length. Focussing is done by aligning the double image within a small rectangle in the center of this optical viewfinder. But since this view is only a representation of what you can shoot, a lot of Leica newbies (myself included)  take a photograph without realizing the lens cap is probably still over the lens.

After a short handling period while I got accustomed to shooting with my new borrowed toy, my girlfriend wife and I took the subway to Jackson Heights to run a few errands for the day.  I tried some discreet shooting techniques using just the distance scale on the lens but my efforts were probably a bit too early during my brief time with the camera to be of any interest. Out in Jackson Heights though, we stepped into a couple of saree stores and one gentleman in the store was kind enough to let me take a snapshot.

The Gentleman in the Saree Store

The Gentleman in the Saree Store | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

I am not (yet) much of a portrait photographer but it is something I am definitely interested in; something to do in the off-months when I am not travelling. This is a black and white conversion from the DNG file in Capture One.

The next stop was the New Calvary Cemetery, a location I had been meaning to visit for a long time now. It was also nearing sun-down and I was excited to shoot images in the soft evening light. Something that was beginning to be apparent to me from the photos I was taking was that there was something definitely special about the system; or perhaps it was the lens. The colour was always quite beautiful and the images (when in focus) were always sharp; but unlike the aggressive contrast seen in some other outputs, the tones were very soft – something that I now refer to as the sharp yet soft look; very film-like even. Enjoy the following shots from New Calvary Cemetery. They haven’t been touched in any way and are straight out of camera from the original DNGs.

Winter Strol |Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

Winter Stroll |Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

Angel  of Calvary Cemetery  | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

Angel of Calvary Cemetery I | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

Angel of Calvary Cemetery II | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

Angel of Calvary Cemetery II | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

A Little Prayer | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

A Little Prayer | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

Backlit Statue | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

Backlit Statue | Leica M 240 | 50mm summicron

These images are very different from most of the images in the main galleries. As of now, I still am not sure how they fit within my style; the blog is definitely my best approach to sharing my more casual photography for the moment. Do drop me line below in the comments; and also any thoughts about the imagery in this and future post. Until the next post, cheers!

New images in the Wildlife gallery

Quite a few new images added to the Wildlife gallery. A couple of those were ones I had forgotten to upload (you must excuse me… I had a set of over 6000 pics from my trip, and over a hundred selects). These are a few mono conversions of pretty much the only maned lion we saw on our safari. We saw loads of lionesses and young males but just this one, older and wizened male.

Vogue

Vogue | Nikon D800 | Nikon 80-400mm f/4-5.6 AF-S

Framed

Framed | Nikon D800 | Nikon 80-400mm f/4-5.6 AF-S

 

Besides these mono selects, I also had a wide selection of images of gazelle, wildebeest and zebras that I hadn’t uploaded. And for a change, I decided to preserve the original colour. There were moments during this trip when the lovely monotone of the endless savannah contrasted beautifully against the soft blue of the sky. The Ngorongoro Crater was another extremely photogenic site – even shots at midday were amazingly beautiful with the shimmer of the lake and the blue haze of the crater edge contrasting beautifully against the stark and semi-barren grassland.

Here is a preview of some of these images.

 

 

And our friendly neighborhood hyena!

Happy New Year and welcome to the 2015 refresh of my site

Happy New Year and I have finally refreshed the look of my site that I started early last year around the same time.

Back then, I had waded into the unknown waters of WordPress and bought a  CSS theme to help kick start the process. It was a good start; however the theme wasn’t the most user friendly and the interface was all over the place. For a year, my site stayed stagnant while I contemplated the next step.

Enter 2015 and I ditched custom design approaches or external sites such as Squarespace and decided to try wordpress again. I had been looking at a theme for a while and I finally bit the bullet and bought it – in this case, the Enfold theme by Kriesi – which had a very nice clean look to it. The setup was initially quite quick and the result was elegant enough. However, setup is never as simple and I did run into a few stumbling blocks, some of which I am hoping to resolve over the coming weeks. For starters, the in-built gallery options were a bit weak and I decided to go with Nextgen. The main issue with all these external plugins is that there are always some limitations in the user interface approach and currently some of my galleries have unevenly distributed thumbnails.

But at least it’s a start and I am hoping to kick this blog into action and provide insight into my travels – past and present – and perhaps some tips and tricks of photography.

Until then, here’s an image from Iceland not in the main gallery. It’s from Jökulsárlón, the famous glacier lagoon in Iceland.

Cornucopia

I shot this one evening after the peak aurora displays had waned a bit (I couldn’t possibly turn away from the Northern Lights, now could I?). The green haze of the northern lights meant there was still a fair bit of activity, albeit not as strong. Since the lagoon faces North, it seemed perfect to try to shoot the Milky Way against this amazing backdrop of floating ice. It was a cloudy night and I only managed a few exposures before even this part of the sky was under heavy cloud cover (which is fairly typical in Iceland).

The little bonus however is the reddish-orange glow on the far right. I only realized much later (thanks to David Thompson and Miles Morgan) that this was not glow from the nearby town but the volcanic pollution from the Holuhraun lava fields in the Vatnajökull glacier. I guess you would class that under “historic”, perhaps?